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Texas drag performances, particularly those where children are present, increasingly became the target of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric during 2022. Far-right extremists have labeled drag artists as “groomers,” insinuating that queer people are pedophiles. The lie that our community is “sexualizing” and “indoctrinating” children will be repeated endlessly during this year’s nationwide legislative battles.
In Texas, Republican lawmakers have spent years targeting LGBTQ people through bills that would restrict our rights. These attacks continue ahead of the 2023 legislative session, where State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) has filed House Bill 643, which would classify any venue in Texas that hosts a drag performance as a “sexually oriented business”—the same category that strip clubs and sex shops fall under. According to the
Texas Tribune, that means those businesses could not allow minors to enter their premises, and would have to pay the state comptroller a $5 tax for each customer who enters. Allowing a minor inside would be considered a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 or up to a year in jail.
But the show must go on, and Texas’ LGBTQ community—including our intrepid drag performers—will not give up the power to showcase their talents and encourage others to freely express themselves. A champion in this movement is our January 2023 cover star, Mistress Isabelle Brooks, a Houston native who will appear on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 later this month. Writer Sam Byrd interviewed the up-andcoming superstar, while photographer Victor Contreras captured images of the queen at O utSmart ’s photo studio.
In other local news, almost 300 Texas congregations of the United
Methodist Church (UMC), representing about half of the Houston region’s 600 UMC churches, officially disaffiliated from the UMC after congregational voting last month and joined the more conservative Global Methodist Church. Writer Ryan M. Leach chats with Rev. Emily Chapman, senior pastor at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in the Heights, whose congregation remained in the UMC in hopes of finally seeing the denomination officially endorse the full participation of its LGBTQ members.
Because the beginning of the new year is a great time to reprioritize your life and set some new physical- and mental-health goals, our “Body & Mind” feature spotlights seven out wellness experts who will motivate you to follow through on those goals for a healthier 2023. Writers Jenny Block, David Clarke, Zach McKenzie, Ryan Leach, Lillian Hoang, and Connor Behrens interview Dr. Elaheh Ashtari, Kent
Kalogera, Liam Adair, Dr. Alex Barrera, Exy-Fable Mars, and Ty David Lerman and Shane Hennessy, respectively.
We also feature astrology columnist Lilly Roddy’s annual overview of what’s in store for the new year. Roddy’s Zodiac insights are complemented this year by multimedia artist Adrian Hernandez.
Finally, this January O utSmart issue kicks off our 30th year in publishing. We appreciate your continued support, and hope you’ll enjoy all of the exciting content planned for 2023!
QUEER THINGS to DO
For a ofroundupweekly happenings,LGBTQvisit www.OutSmartMagazine.com
STAGE January 25–March 3
This year, Cirque du Soleil returns to its circus origins with their new show Under the Big Top at Sam Houston Race Park. KOOZA combines acrobatic performance and the art of clowning, while exploring fear, identity, recognition, and power.
The performance tells the story of an Innocent’s journey, which brings him into contact with comedic characters from an electrifying and visual world full of surprises, thrills, audacity, and total involvement. Brit-
ish daily The Independent says that “KOOZA blends, almost to perfection, its subcontinental sounds, its stunning lighting and costumes with theatrical ingenuity and acrobatic wonder.”
Tickets to the 100-minute, familyfriendly performance are available now. Additionally, attendees can take their Cirque du Soleil visit to the next level with the VIP experience, which includes exclusive access to a VIP suite and some of the best seats in the house. tinyurl.com/4ueyaycd
RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE PREMIERE
Season 15 of RuPaul’s Drag Race premieres on MTV, this year featuring Houston native Mistress Isabelle Brooks— the first queen from Space City to be featured on the show. tinyurl.com/3ycukac7
CHEVRON HOUSTON MARATHON
Join thousands of runners and spectators across Houston for the 51st annual Chevron Houston Marathon, Houston’s largest single-day sporting event. tinyurl.com/yu7x6umb
January 1, 8, 15, 22
Muffy Vanderbuilt III hosts her weekly drag experience at BUDDY’S. Each Sunday features a different theme and a rotating star-studded cast. tinyurl.com/mu2x8vv6
ART AT HOBBY AIRPORT
Join the Visual Arts Alliance at Hobby Airport for a tour of artwork on display conducted by Alton DuLaney, the Houston Airport System’s curator of public art. Dulaney oversees nearly 350 works spread across multiple campuses. tinyurl.com/hmevsybt
TWELFTH NIGHT CELEBRATION
The Krewe of Olympus kicks off Mardi Gras season with its annual ball at Resurrection MCC featuring a silent auction, open bar, and friendly camaraderie. tinyurl.com/ehhh4n44
NO STRAIGHT LINES
Vivian Kleiman’s No Straight Lines documentary debuts on PBS. The film explores the lives of five LGBTQ comic-book artists—Alison Bechdel, Jennifer Camper, Howard Cruse, Rupert Kinnard, and Mary Wings— who have used art as a tool for social change. tinyurl.com/4t5nwp9w
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
Holocaust Museum Houston observes International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of AuschwitzBirkenau. Museum admission will be free for this annual commemoration to honor six million Jews, gay men, and other Holocaust victims. tinyurl.com/2j4nexv2
DITA VON TEASE: GLAMONATRIX
LGBTQ fan favorite Dita Von Tease is bringing the “world’s biggest burlesque show” to downtown’s Bayou Music Center. Glamonatrix is a full evening of comedy and sophisticated striptease that features performers of all gender identities and expressions. tinyurl.com/fx867nxh
COMIC BOOK CLUB
Gulf Coast Cosmos Comicbook Company (GCC) continues its monthly comic book club, where attendees discuss their favorite writers, artists, and characters. GCC is a local and online retailer for major and indie comic books, graphic novels, fan art, apparel, and more. tinyurl.com/2cwavcz3
BILLY JOEL & ELTON JOHN
Micheal Cavenaugh, who was hand-picked by Billy Joel to star in the hit Broadway musical Moving Out, brings his Billy Joel and Elton John tribute show to Jones Hall. tinyurl.com/3kvejps8
RISE Rooftop presents a night full of Taylor Swift. The event features tunes by Swift, remixes, lasers, neon lights, balloons, and more. tinyurl.com/2why4sxk
RAJA LIVE AT REBAR
CT Productions brings RuPaul’s Drag Race star Raja to Houston for a performance at ReBar. Meet-andgreet with Raja before the show. tinyurl.com/t8s64nsa
VALENTINE’S DAY IS TERRIBLE
RuPaul’s Drag Race star Alaska 5000 brings her tour to House of Blues Houston. Tickets to the three-city Valentine’s Day-themed tour are on sale now. tinyurl.com/2ysn7e7h
February 16 BIG
Indie rock band Big Thief performs at White Oak Music Hall. The band’s guitarist and vocalist, Adrianne Lenker, who identifies as queer, has written love songs dedicated to people of all gender identities. tinyurl.com/35m8xdmw
SUMMER AND SMOKE
Houston Ballet unveils the world premiere of a new one-act ballet inspired by gay playwright Tennesee Williams’ poem Summer and Smoke. The show is choreographed by internationally recognized choreographer Cathy Marston, whose works are often inspired by literature. tinyurl.com/36yvv72w
Texas Drag Shows Become a Target of Rising Extremism
LGBTQ Texans respond to right-wing propaganda intended to incite hate and violence.By TRENT BROWN, TEXAS TRIBUNE
On a recent Saturday afternoon, four drag performers gathered in a hotel lobby that doubles as a bar just west of the University of Texas at Austin. It was time for the monthly Divacakes Drag Revue show, the first since a gunman killed five people and injured more than 20 others at a queer club in Colorado.
“It’s absolutely horrendous and awful, and it’s terrifying,” said Noodles, one of the show’s hosts. “But you can’t let things like that make you not keep doing what you’re doing because otherwise, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
The act of violence sent shockwaves of grief and fear through the American LGBTQ community. But on that Saturday in November, the Austin performers strived to shift the mood while lip syncing for a small crowd—Noodles emoted to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” after her co-host, Diamond Dior Davenport, nailed every single beat of Lizzo’s “About Damn Time.”
Dior Davenport said drag is about self-expression—and spreading lighthearted fun.
“I like performing to give them that,” she said. “I like to bring joy to other people.”
While there were no protesters outside the Divacakes show, Texas drag performances, particularly those where children are present, have increasingly become the targets of antiLGBTQ rhetoric this year. Far-right groups have labeled drag performers as “groomers,” a homophobic and transphobic slur that insinuates LGBTQ people are pedophiles, and fanned baseless fears that they’re “sexualizing” children and “indoctrinating” them into queerdom.
This comes after Republican Texas lawmakers have spent years targeting LGBTQ people—particularly transgender Texans—with bills that seek to limit everything from which public restrooms they can use to whether they can access gender-affirming care. GOP lawmakers have already filed a bill ahead of next year’s legislative session that would ban children from attending drag shows and classify show venues as “sexually oriented businesses.”
“Like any form of art, drag can be modified to be appropriate for children,” said
Brigitte Bandit, an Austin drag queen who has performed at family-friendly events. “We are smart enough to know what that is.”
Drag performers and LGBTQ advocates say the groups targeting shows are misrepresenting what happens at them. They say demonstrators are using children as an excuse to propagate hate and violence against queer people—something that people calling for protests and claiming that drag shows are never appropriate for children deny.
“It seems like any comment that opposes allowing children to be exposed to sexually explicit events with scantily clad men dancing provactively is going to be deemed as ‘hateful’ by those who disagree,” wrote Kelly Neidert, the executive director of Protect Texas Kids, a nonprofit that organizes protests at all-ages drag shows, in an email to the Texas Tribune Misinformation experts say these protests are the first phase of a rising wave of rightwing extremism.
“This hate does not happen in a vacuum,” said Jay Brown, a senior vice president at the Human Rights Campaign who is transgender. “In Texas—an open carry state—we see multiple armed protests in opposition to LGBTQ+ bars, culture, and events each week. These attacks in Texas aim to perpetuate lies about who LGBTQ+ people are, and set a dangerous precedent of singling out members of the community that will only result in higher instances
Far-right extremist groups and white-nationalist hate organizations like The Proud Boys and Patriot Front have become more engaged in anti-LGBTQ demonstrations, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which tracks political violence and protests.
“Demonstrations are over four times more likely to turn violent and/or destructive when far-right militias or militant social movements are involved,” ACLED wrote in a November report.
This coordinated online targeting and political rhetoric has left performers and venues across Texas to choose between canceling shows for their own safety or performing anyway.
“I think some of these people that are mad about kids being at drag shows think that we’re trying to get children at the drag shows to the gay bars at 11 p.m. at night,” Bandit said. “That’s not what anybody’s fighting for.”
Today, drag performers say their work is valuable as both a means of queer expression and joy, and a form of constitutionally protected speech about societal gender norms.
“I think the importance of drag is expressing yourself through aspects of gender and art,” said Nayda Montana, a Dallasbased drag queen. “It’s a political statement
against what gender is supposed to be, and also a celebration of your gender and the artistic ways you can create.”
Drag queens who spoke with the Texas Tribune acknowledged that there are plenty of drag performances that are not appropriate for children. Particular performers and regular late-night shows at venues across Texas are known for raunchy banter and references to sex, which is intended for the adults who attend these drag shows at nightclubs and bars that already don’t allow children inside.
But performers say that’s not what happens at daytime, kid-friendly shows. Bandit said drag appearances and shows where kids are present aren’t about sex at all. They’re often about exploring the fluidity of gender expression. “Just like you have movies that can be G-rated and R-rated, you have drag shows that can be appropriate for kids, and you can have drag shows that are not appropriate for kids.”
Days after the shooting in Colorado, Matt Walsh of The Daily Wire, a right-wing digital media outlet, described drag as “inherently sexual and ideological” and suggested drag artists—and all queer people—stop expressing themselves to avoid attracting future violence. While these ideas are effective at winning many to the side of extremism, drag performers and misinformation experts agree that these arguments aren’t based in reality.
“This idea that it’s indoctrination is just hate. It’s just mindless,” Bandit said. “I think it’s kind of stupid. I think ultimately it’s sad, because [they] are ignoring the real issues and the real problems that actually do hurt kids, you know?”
A Litany of Threats and Protests
Extremists are targeting drag performers as just the latest in “a long line of threats” to the LGBTQ and trans communities, said Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Elizabeth Bibi.
“What we’re seeing is that these threats are starting online, kind of being perpetrated by a select few extremists who are then kind of siccing their followers on LGBTQ events and medical providers and drag shows and dragqueen story hours and all of these people, and it’s leading to offline violence,” Bibi said.
While the LGBTQ community is one of the main victims of rising extremism, they’re not the only group suffering from it.
“What we’re seeing is a full-scale rise in discriminatory rhetoric and harassment online,” Bibi said. “It’s targeting the LGBTQ+ community. It’s targeting the Jewish community. It’s targeting migrants. It’s targeting anybody who may be a little bit different than the people that are perpetrating this misinformation and disinformation.”
An HRC report from August found that the use of “groomer” rhetoric about the LGBTQ community increased by more than 400 per-
cent following the passage of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law in March.
Protect Texas Kids, the group that Kelly Neidert leads, alerts its followers to drag shows advertised as kid-friendly or open to all ages. Its aim is to combat attempts to corrupt children’s identities and turn them queer, its website says. Its mission statement includes misinformation about gender-affirming care for trans minors and public education’s “leftist curricula.”
“Our goal as an organization is to protect Texas kids from indoctrination and exposure to harmful, inappropriate content,” wrote Neidert, a well-known conservative figure on the University of North Texas campus, in an email. “Our goal is to get drag shows for kids banned; we believe these shows should only be open to people 18 and up.”
While a bar in Denton canceled its Disneythemed drag brunch after receiving threats spurred by Protect Texas Kids calling attention to the show, Neidert refuted the nature of the messages her group encouraged its followers to send.
“I did not personally see anything that would be deemed a ‘threat,’” she wrote.
Neidert also said she attended drag shows to capture footage of the performers, but had never seen a full show. In the past, Neidert has called for attendees of Pride events to be “rounded up” on social media. Since then, her Twitter account has been suspended.
Far-right social media personality Tayler Hansen recently released a video from a drag show in San Antonio, alleging the performers were inappropriately interacting with a child in the audience. The venue canceled all of its drag shows for the rest of the year out of safety concerns after being “bullied and threatened” and “made to feel unsafe in [its] own space.”
“We stand by our queens and the sentiment that there was nothing wrong done at this past Friday’s toy drive,” the venue said in a statement published to social media on Sunday. “The story is being twisted into something disgusting to fit a political narrative. It’s sad, frustrating, and disappointing.”
The San Antonio incident follows several family-friendly or all-ages drag shows that have been protested, canceled, or threatened this year. In June, demonstrators gathered outside a Dallas bar where the performers encouraged children in the audience to walk alongside them
during the show. In August, protesters and armed counter-protesters clashed at a Roanoke distillery.
In September, a progressive church in Katy hosted a drag-bingo night to raise funds for its free closet for transgender and questioning members of the community. The church’s senior pastor estimated around 300 people showed up to protest, including a prominent Houston neo-Nazi and others holding anti-Semitic signs. In October, footage of a drag show in a Plano bar went viral because a young girl was spotted in the audience while a queen performed to an explicit song. The bar’s owner said the girl’s family understood what they were going to see. A right-wing group similar to Protect Texas Kids even created an “alert system” for Texans to report drag shows happening in the state.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a terrorism bulletin last week that said the country is in a heightened threat environment as “lone offenders and small groups …continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat to the Homeland.” LGBTQ people and spaces are among potential targets of ongoing violence.
“Following the late-November shooting at an LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we have observed actors on forums known to post racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content praising the alleged attacker,” the bulletin said.
Texas Lawmakers Target LGBTQ People
In the 2021 Legislative Session, Republican lawmakers pushed a slate of bills that sought to restrict or punish genderaffirming health care like puberty blockers. Most of the bills didn’t pass, though LGBTQ advocates said the mere idea of such measures becoming law damaged the mental health of transgender people.
Earlier this year, Governor Greg Abbott directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to open childabuse investigations on parents who provide gender-affirming care to their kids. Abbott’s order largely can’t be enforced as a court challenge plays out.
Already, Republican lawmakers are targeting LGBTQ people ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session, including drag performers. State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) has filed House Bill 643, which would classify any venue in Texas that hosts a drag performance as a “sexually oriented business,” the same category that strip clubs and sex shops fall under. That means those businesses could not
Counter protesters form a barricade outside of a drag-queen story hour in Denton on Nov. 19 (photo by Shelby Tauber).
allow minors to enter their premises and would have to pay the state comptroller $5 for each customer who enters. Allowing a minor inside would be considered a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 or up to a year in jail.
The bill would legally define a drag performance as one where “a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers, and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.” This definition encapsulates many drag performances, but not all of them. Many drag artists perform under a drag persona whose gender expression matches the gender that the performer was assigned at birth, even though many others do not.
Patterson declined to comment.
“They don’t really have any grounds to hate gay people other than the fact that they’re gay, so they’re using this as a weapon to weaponize [against] queer people and be like, ‘Well, look at what they’re doing with our kids,’” Montana said. “They think that they can use this as something that will make us look like bad people in some way, when really we’re just living our lives.”
State Rep. Jessica González (D-Dallas), the vice chair of the Texas LGBTQ Caucus, said the bill would have “significant implications” for queer Texans.
“Drag shows are sometimes the only place LGBTQ individuals feel comfortable expressing their true selves,” González wrote in a prepared statement. “This bill is another attempt by Texas Republicans to try to shut out the LGBTQ community from existing.”
Refusing to Retreat into the Closet
The Divacakes show in Austin last month avoided controversy. There were only a handful of attendees, including one mother who brought her 2-year-old daughter. The performers joked with them and made sure to prance by the mother’s table during their numbers.
At one point, a performer asked the girl if she wanted to walk with them. She didn’t, but at another point, she got up and handed one of the performers a dollar bill after some encouragement from her mother.
Dior Davenport and Noodles made sure to keep their language and stories kid-friendly when they bantered. The young girl was under her mother’s supervision the entire time, and none of the performers exhibited inappropriate behavior toward her. They did not force her to
A Divided UMC
interact with them, their outfits were not revealing, and their performances were not sexual or suggestive.
Montana said entertaining people does make her worry about her safety, but she’s willing to risk it for her art.
“I’m going out and doing what I love, and that’s what matters,” she said. “If something happens to me [while] going out and doing what I love, then at least I was living honestly.”
Each drag performer whom the Tribune spoke with agreed that the show must go on. They refuse to give into fear and retreat into the closet.
“They’re not going to win that from me, at least,” Montana said.
For LGBTQ mental-health support, call The Trevor Project’s 24/7 toll-free support line at 866-488-7386. You can also reach a trained crisis counselor through the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.
This article was originally published in The Texas Tribune at texastribune. org/2022/12/09/texas-drag-shows-allages-family-friendly.
Rev. Emily Chapman ’s LGBTQ-affirming congregation will remain a part of the United Methodist Church.By RYAN M. LEACH
Almost 300 Texas congregations of the United Methodist Church (UMC), representing about half of the Houston region’s 600 UMC churches, officially disaffiliated from the UMC after congregational voting in early December. Most of these churches will now affiliate with the newly formed Global Methodist Church, a more conservative conference of local churches, while a few will start operating independently. This move represents a significant and precipitous decline in UMC membership, both in Texas and across the country.
The reason, according to some church leaders, relates to a long-standing internal disagreement about whether the church should ordain openly LGBTQ clergy and perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.
“Essentially, the UMC, since 1972, has been infighting about ordination and marriage equality for LGBTQ+ folks,” says Rev. Emily Chapman, 39, who is the senior pastor at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in the Heights. “Certainly in the time I have been a United Methodist pastor, it has been the primary conversation in the denomination.”
According to the UMC website, homosexuality was first discussed during the church’s General Conference in 1972, four years after the formation of the denomination through a merger with the Ecumenical United Brethren Church. This resulted in the addition of the UMC’s first official statement on homosexuality that reads, “Persons of homosexual orientation are persons of sacred worth
who need the ministry and guidance of the church,” but then adds that the Methodist Church “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Since 1972, several subsequent General Conferences (which happen every four years) have tried to resolve the highly contentious issue—a conversation that happens globally, thanks to a significant UMC presence in ultra-conservative African countries. During the 2016 General Conference, 100 pieces of legislation were considered by the 864 elected delegates who grappled with questions about fully including LGBTQ people in every aspect of church life and worship, including whether queer people can be ordained and whether same-sex weddings can be performed. Also discussed was whether a pastor’s defiance of these church laws could lead to a church trial where a pastor could be stripped of their UMC ordination. Although these issues had strong supporters on both sides, the discriminatory UMC position was maintained.
In 2019, during a special session, that anti-LGBTQ stance was even strength-
ened in regards to clergy ordinations and mandatory minimum sentences for a guilty finding in a church trial. This led to a growing resistance among progressive delegates who opposed what they felt were punitive and discriminatory church laws.
In 2020, the issue became so heated that the splinters among progressive, centrist, and traditionalist factions started to split the church apart. An agreement to hold in abeyance complaints related to homosexuality was put in place while the church figured out a way forward. However, the pandemic postponed that General Conference to 2024 while tensions grew. In May 2022, the conservative Global Methodist Church was created. Although it is unknown how many of the disaffiliated UMC churches have joined that new denomination, the assumption is that a large number of them have made that decision.
“We don’t totally know [what the end result will be] yet,” says Rev. Chapman, whose inclusive Heights congregation is typical of the remaining UMC parishes. “It changes the landscape for United Methodism in the United States and all over the world. We don’t know what it will mean for a while. [For Texas United Methodists], it means we are a smaller operation. A personal hope is that [the current Book
of Discipline] language will change and we will be free to do weddings for whoever God calls. I hope it means change for the Church. It doesn’t automatically mean that. Church law takes time to change. The only time United Methodist Church law can be changed is every four years at the General Conference, and there isn’t another one until 2024. Had the one in 2020 not been canceled, things might have been different. This is part of why it feels so messy and chaotic.”
Although this UMC debate has been ongoing for 50 years, it is no coincidence that the conservatives’ push to separate from the UMC rather than find a compromise comes at a time of deep political divide in the wake of the pandemic. This created a space ripe for conservative groups to add fuel to the fire on the debate, expediting the split.
Sadly, the UMC split is not unique. Other Protestant denominations have experienced similar splits over sexuality issues—and in doing so, create a bubble for their entrenched followers to live in. On one hand, the UMC could pave the way for a more progressive and inclusive Methodist Church in the US. But for now, both the UMC and GMC flocks will operate in insular bubbles that they will be less likely to break out of any time soon.
Conservative extremists cozy up with Republican insiders.
Last month, Donald Trump woke up and found himself having lunch at Mar-a-Lago with Ye (aka Kanye) West and his pal Nick Fuentes, the whitenationalist Oath Keeper guy.
Trump claimed he had only invited Ye to lunch, and that he had no idea who Fuentes was. And also that he’d met Ivanna Trump a time or two, but they weren’t all that close. (Okay, so I made up that last part, but by gawd, it’s about as credible as his Fuentes story.)
So this brings up a larger conundrum: why didn’t a single one of Trump’s fawning enablers warn him that he was about to be seen with a rabid white-nationalist Nazi sympathizer? Perhaps his clueless staff could use my handy checklist for their next dinner party:
How to Know You’re Dining with a Nazi
• They tell you their AR-15 is more than just a fashion accessory.
• They insist on DNA testing for all cooks and servers.
• They ask for a tour of your underground bunker.
• They shoot so many secret hand signals that other people assume they’re deaf.
• They have 12 shirts in their closet, and 11 of them are brown.
• They are trying to grow a goofy little mustache.
• They have a tattoo that says Trump Chump.
In other news, it was revealed that Supreme Court Justice Brett “I Like Beer” Kavanaugh attended a party with House Congressvarmint Matt Gaetz, Trump’s former White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, and Trump flying monkey Stephen Miller—the man who helped write Trump’s January 6 speech and is the likely source for every bonkers idea Trump has zever had.
That revealing guest list was seen by most lawyers as one of those Holy-crap-what’s-hethinking moments. One newspaper headline actually read “Brett Kavanaugh Partying with Matt Gaetz Raises Questions.” In my mind, it doesn’t raise questions. It answers questions. Questions like: Is the Supreme Court totally corrupt? Yes.
I had a great Christmas, and I hope you did, too. My daughter-in-law gave me an Apple Watch that is so Dick Tracy. Back in the ’60s, they promised me
flying cars and didn’t deliver, but having Tracy’s magic watch is almost as cool. Just by glancing down at it, I know today’s date, the day of the week, and if I have any appointments today. It also tells what my pulse is, if I have recently fallen down and can’t get up (or maybe if I’m just drunk), the temperature outside, the weather forecast, my phone messages, and (as an added little detail) the time. And that’s all without even opening an app.
Honey, if you know any old stoners like me who need all the help they can get, this is the perfect gift. Hell, if the AARP was worth a damn, they’d send one of these gadgets as 65th-birthday gifts. And for those of you who worry that Elon Musk and Rudy Giuliani might be listening to us through our magic watches, just take a cue from me and realize that the world would be a better place if somebody would listen to us, dammit.
Finally, as you kick off this politically questionable New Year, keep in mind that QAnon is just Scientology for hillbillies.
Susan Bankston lives in Richmond, Texas, where she writes about her hairdresser at The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc., at juanitajean.com.
SMART HEALTHBy DARYL SHORTER MD
New Year, New Opportunities to Serve
Volunteering is a great way to boost your emotional well-being.
The new year marks a time of self-reflection and an opportunity for change. We take stock of the previous year, looking at past mistakes in hopes of avoiding a repeat of those pitfalls. Hopefully, we also use this time to acknowledge the things that went well— personal and professional victories, improvements in our relationships with others, or meeting challenges and achieving goals. As we look forward to the new year, we can use all of these experiences to craft a plan for continued development that will enhance our health and well-being.
While inward reflection is certainly critical, perhaps this is the year to also consider how turning outward can have an even greater impact on ourselves and others. Service, broadly defined, represents an opportunity to solve the real issues facing our community. It also benefits our mental health by enhancing our sense that we have a deeper meaning and purpose. Furthermore, serving others can help to release a bit of our despair about the sometimes depressing conditions in society, giving us fuel to fight bigotry and injustices both big and small.
Scrolling through social media, it’s abundantly clear that people have strong opinions on issues affecting LGBTQ folks. Is there a cause that carries particular meaning for you, perhaps based on your experiences or those of a friend or family member? Consider moving your activism from Facebook or TikTok to real life. Are there organizations that could benefit from a bit of elbow grease supplied by volunteers like you? Absolutely. Making a commitment to service in 2023—through a favorite organization and with other people—could be one of the most important resolutions you make this year.
Studies have shown that volunteering has a positive impact on society, on those receiving a service, and on the individuals who are donating their time and talent. Community service provides exposure to people from many backgrounds and across generations. Volun-
teer experiences expand our understanding of different cultures, contributing to a more honest perspective of both ourselves and the world.
Ideally, volunteers will be mindful of the ideas and values of those they are serving, so that rather than swooping in to “save” people, volunteers can work collaboratively to find mutually agreed-on solutions.
Also, being of service is habit-forming. The people who are most likely to volunteer are those who have volunteered in the past. There is something about the experience that fosters a greater sense of connection with others, and contributes to a rewarding feeling of altruism.
Consider your own talents. What strengths can you offer to individuals and communities? There is something positive about evaluating your skills and deciding what it is that you can offer. In truth, no gift or talent is too small or insignificant. This is an opportunity for you to evaluate your place in the broader community and decide exactly how you can best be of service.
Approach your volunteer work not only
with a sense of service, but also with a sense of adventure. Perhaps you can begin by selecting several organizations to become involved with, and try a different one each month. When you find an organization that really connects with your values, starting a deeper relationship with that community should naturally follow.
Incorporating a renewed sense of service into your goals for 2023 can be a fantastic way of ringing in the new year. Rather than just focusing on going back to the gym or changing your diet, think about how you can connect with the broader community. You’ll be off to a great start on the path to gratitude and mental wellness.
Daryl Shorter, MD, is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is board certified in both general and addiction psychiatry. His clinical practice focuses on veteran care, and he lectures widely on LGBTQ mental health. Dr. Shorter can be reached at email@example.com.
A Financial Checklist for the New YearMONEY SMART By GRACE YUNG, CFP
The beginning of a new year is typically a good time to make a “fresh start.” This can include reviewing and updating your financial plan to ensure that you are on the right track, and that it correlates with your present situation.
With that in mind, scheduling a time with a financial-planning professional to go over your savings, tax, and legal strategies can help you put the right tools in place—both for yourself and for those who may be depending on you.
The Four Critical Areas
While everyone’s financial strategies differ, based on their unique needs and objectives, there are four primary areas that everyone should pay attention to:
Reviewing Account Titling and Beneficiaries – Making sure that your financial accounts and other assets are properly titled is a vital step inkeeping your plan on track. This is because account titling can make a big difference in how things are handled when various changes occur. In fact, many people unwittingly title accounts in a way that could undermine their overall financial, retirement, and estate plan. “Asset titling,” by contrast, refers to an asset’s legal form of ownership. The most common account titling options are:
• Individual accounts – If some or all of your assets are individually titled in
your own name, it means that you are the one who solely makes decisions about them. When assets are titled in your name alone, they will often pass according to the terms of your will or trust, provided that the assets do not include a specifically named beneficiary. The assets that are in an individual account will also be added to your overall estate value. It is important to note, though, that funds and property in individual accounts can also be subject to probate upon your passing.
• Joint tenants with right of survivorship – Assets that are titled as joint tenants with right of survivorship will pass directly to the other individual(s) who are named on these accounts when one of the account holders passes away. While opposite-sex married couples often use this form of asset ownership, it can also be beneficial for same-sex unmarried couples, or even two (or more) related or unrelated individuals, as the assets bypass probate and the account continues in the survivors’ names.
• Tenants in common – Tenants in common own the percentage of assets in an account that is in proportion to what they contributed. So, for instance, if Jane contributes $3,000 to an account, and Julie contributes $7,000, Jane will own 30 percent of the account value.
When you pass away, assets in these types of accounts can pass to others according to your will, and other account holders are not automatically entitled to them.
Another key aspect of reviewing your accounts is checking to make sure that the beneficiary designations are up to date. There are several account types that have named beneficiaries, such as IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts), employer-sponsored retirement accounts (such as a 401k), and life insurance.
It is absolutely essential to review beneficiary designations at least once a year—or even more often if you have gone through a major life change such as marriage or divorce, the death of a spouse or partner, or retirement. Otherwise, you may find that an ex-spouse or partner ends up with money or other assets that are no longer intended for them.
Budgeting for Holiday Spending – It is recommended that you budget for these expenses, and that you have a plan in place for paying down this debt. If you put a significant amount of purchases on multiple credit cards, you should first focus on paying down the card with the highest interest rate. That way, you can better manage and reduce the interest you pay to credit card companies.
Start saving now for next year’s holiday
Some tips to keep your financial plan on track.
spending. Saving just $50 per month starting now can yield $600 by the time December rolls around.
Reviewing Savings and Investment Plans
– The end of the year is also an ideal time to review your savings and investments. If you have been putting off “paying yourself first” (i.e., contributing to savings rather than only paying bills), now is a good time to start.
This strategy can also include contributing the maximum amount that you can to your employer-sponsored retirement plan, if one is available. That is because these, as well as IRA accounts, allow the growth to take place tax-deferred or tax-free. This can help you grow your savings much faster, compared with fully taxable accounts.
Implementing or Updating Legal Documents
– Although reviewing legal documents is not typically appealing, it is a necessary part of your overall financial and retirement planning. In this case, if you do not yet have a healthcare proxy and/or financial powers of attorney set up, it is essential that you do so as soon as possible. These legal safeguards allow someone you know and trust to make important decisions for you if you are no longer able to do so yourself. These protections are particularly important for LGBTQ and other types of blended modern families. Otherwise, important decisions could be made by people who may not necessarily abide by your wishes.
Are You Financially Ready
Growing and protecting your finances can require many “moving parts” to fit together seamlessly. For this reason, many people shy away from doing anything about it. But this can be disastrous in terms of your future financial security, as well as that of the people you love and care about.
Given that, it is important that you talk over your objectives with a financial-planning professional who can guide you in the right direction. Working with a professional who is also well-versed in planning for LGBTQ individuals and families is key to making sure that all of your specific objectives are included in your plan.
Grace S. Yung, CFP ®, is a Certified finanCial P lanner practitioner with experience in helping LGBTQ individuals, domestic partners, and families plan and manage their finances since 1994. She is the managing director at Midtown Financial Group, LLC, in Houston.Yung can be reached at grace. firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit letsmake aplan.org or midtownfg.com/lgbtqplus.10.htm.
Remembering the Past to Shape the Future
Librarian Joel Bangilan raises awareness about ongoing human-rights issues at Holocaust Museum Houston.By SAM BYRD
Librarian Joel Bangilan arrives each workday at the Holocaust Museum Houston and logs in to the WiFi using the password “Hope is greater than hate.” That simple affirmation speaks to the museum’s overall message of survival, evolution, and human growth.
“People say to me, ‘Oh, you go to work at the Holocaust Museum. Isn’t that depressing?’ I tell them that my job really isn’t depressing because our message is one of hope,” he explains.
The Holocaust Museum highlights Holocaust Remembrance Week this month, starting on Monday the 23rd and culminating the following Friday on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Bangilan, an openly gay man, sees the museum as an entry point for further research about the 6 million people who died in the Holocaust, as well as the lessons gleaned from this gruesome history that are still relevant today.
“What attracted me and kept me here is the complex curiosity many people have regarding the Holocaust. They might have read The Diary of Anne Frank, but many people don’t have a complete picture of the Holocaust,” he notes. “What happens here at the Holocaust Museum is that they have a chance to discover things they may not have known before. Once they go through the exhibits, the museum’s library serves to extend that experience and give them something to take home that they can read on their own to satisfy that self-driven curiosity.”
The museum is very specific to Houston, as it was founded by Holocaust survivors who have resided in the Greater Houston area. This local emphasis can be seen in its collection of survivors’ testimonies from those who came to Houston after the war. The museum has preserved both video and written testimonies, as well as artifacts donated by these survivors.
Spanning 57,000 square feet, the museum ranks as the nation’s fourth-largest Holocaust museum, and it is unique in offering fully bilingual exhibits in English and Spanish. The three-story property contains a welcome center, four permanent galleries, two galleries for temporary exhibits, classrooms, a research library, a cafe, a 187-seat indoor theater, and a 175-seat outdoor amphitheater.
The artifacts contained in the museum and library show the many different facets of the Nazi regime’s unspeakable human-rights abuses, including the barbaric treatment of gay men.
“One of our goals is to have a library collection that reflects art [from] our community, as well as the people who’ve been left out of history,” Bangilan adds. That includes looking at the treatment of gay men under the Nazi regime, [as well as] some of our own [local Houston] survivors. The Nazis treated the Jewish community one way, and gay men were treated in a very different way.”
Bangilan explains how the Nazis persecuted gay men, but did not systematically persecute lesbians. “If you’re Jewish, you were viewed as an enemy of the state. Gay men were perceived as enemies only because they didn’t procreate in the way that [so-called “Aryan” Germans] did in their eugenics program,” he says, adding that approximately 100,000 Holocaust victims were gay men who were arrested and killed.
“The great thing about the museum is that we have tools to help you understand that those people were real. There’s evidence of their existence, and these were individuals who contributed to culture and society on a global scale,” he says.
Bangilan posits that the Holocaust was not just an isolated incident but an ongoing human-rights issue, with genocides continuing to besmirch human history. The United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights in 1948, but the conditions it denounces still exist to this day.
“Human rights [abuses] affect all of us across the world. There’s the situation of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. We have the transatlantic slave trade. Much of the oppression that’s happening across the world, and specifically in South America, is causing an influx of people who migrate north through Mexico and into the United States. Then in American society, we have the human-rights issues of the LGBTQ community. Human-rights issues are inclusive of a lot of people; this is not just one singular event. Hate is a global disease throughout all of humanity.”
He also believes the lessons learned from the Holocaust can help us be more vigilant about the current mistreatment of marginalized groups.
“We’ve seen the pattern of the Holocaust and other genocides throughout history,” Bangilan adds. “Studying the history helps us identify the warning signs—heavy amounts of censorship, marginalizing and separating people. Understanding this history gives us the insight to say something else is coming up, and that’s not the course that we want our country to go in.”
Despite the ongoing human-rights violations, Bangilan still references the hope he holds for the future. “Nelson Mandela said education is one of the best tools to change the world. I think our role here at the museum is to let people educate themselves, find out more, and elevate their awareness.”
What: Holocaust Museum Houston Where: 5401 Caroline in the Museum District When: Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free to members, and the museum is free to all on Thursdays from 2 to 5 p.m. Info: 713-527-1614 or visit hmh.org
“I THINK OUR ROLE HERE AT THE MUSEUM IS TO LET PEOPLE EDUCATE THEMSELVES, FIND OUT MORE, AND ELEVATE THEIR AWARENESS.”
First, psychologist Dr. Elaheh Ashtari encourages readers to remain motivated and hopeful during challenging times. Then Kent Kalogera talks space-age fitness and creating LGBTQ representation at NASA. Holistic practitioner Liam Adair inspires others to develop the internal power to nurture spiritual well-being, while local yoga instructor Dr. Alex Barrera and online fitness trainer Exy-Fable Mars are both making fitness more accessible to queer folks. Finally, therapists Ty David Lerman and Shane Hennesey promote prioritizing mental health in the new year.
Passionate PsychologistBy JENNY BLOCK
Having been born in Shiraz, Iran, clinical and forensic psychologist Elaheh Ashtari is finding the current atrocities going on in Iran unbearable. “My family fled Iran’s oppressive regime to Germany in the early ’80s when I was 2. My uncle lived in the US at the time, so he was able to file for Green Card sponsorship for all of us and we moved to Texas when I was about 4,” Ashtari explains.
Iran was a free country governed by a monarchy before the Islamic Revolution of 1979 changed everything. “Luckily, my parents had the forethought to know we couldn’t stay,” she says. “So we literally left everything we ever had or knew, and fled.”
Elaheh Ashtari, 40, was raised, alongside her sister, here in Sugar Land. “My dad raised us to always be true to who we are, share our heritage with others, and make sure people learn that Iranians are good people—and that the Iranian regime is not representative of who we all are. I am fortunate to have been raised with such strong values and morals.”
Of course, being raised in America by Iranian parents was not easy. Her parents struggled to acculturate, while she longed to be an American. The conflict created a wedge in their relationship. “I did not always understand them, and they did not always understand me.”
Ashtari’s parents also wanted her and her sister to adopt aspects of the Iranian culture. “But that was really hard for me while growing up. I recall putting on my Discman headphones to listen to my American CDs whenever they listened to Iranian music.”
When she turned 18, she finally had the opportunity to visit Iran. She spent a month there and discovered what she had been missing while living in the US: “The love of extended family, including over 80 first and second cousins I got to meet upon arrival; the beautiful mountains of Tehran; Persepolis; Iranian pizza; Persian food; and the green, lush mountains of Shomal in Northern Iran. I could
go on and on.”
Ashtari’s cultural identity was greatly influenced by her visit to Iran. “I finally got what my parents were trying to share with me all those years. I came back refreshed in my sense of self—as well as weighed down with immense guilt, because I acknowledged my privilege to have had the opportunity to live in the US while all of my family in Iran was deeply oppressed.”
Ashtari holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology (with honors) from the University of Houston, and master’s and doctoral degrees from Adler University in Chicago. Along with being a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, she is also an associate professor of psychiatry at UTHealth’s McGovern Medical School, and serves as the vice chair of their diversity and inclusion program.
“I primarily teach psychology and psychiatry trainees, as well as provide psychological services at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Additionally, consistent with my values and commitment to social justice, I was just recently appointed to the Equality Texas Board, where I hope to be able to affect change in Texas as it pertains to LGBTQ+ Texans.”
Ashtari has experienced emotions ranging from elation to deep sadness about the violent uprising going on in Iran right now. “The silence has been deafening—the degree to which the media have avoided this important news story. I am sad because the regime is murdering my own people who are simply fighting for an ordinary life—a life where they can kiss their partner in public; a life where they can get a job and provide for their family in a sustainable way; a life where they can impact change through legitimate elections; a life without a dictatorship; a life where they can practice any religion they wish and have a choice in wearing or not wearing a hijab, consistent with their personal values and spiritual beliefs.
“The initial uprising has become much larger and more meaningful than [a protest over women being required to wear] a hijab,” Ashtari emphasizes. “We cannot protect
women and have a feminist uprising without considering our LGBTQ+ community. I hope my community considers this in the journey toward a free Iran. This revolution is for all people’s freedom and civil rights.”
Living in Texas during this revolution in Iran has been a mixed blessing for Ashtari. “I feel relief because there is no going back; there cannot be a regression to the regime’s Iran. This uprising—and now the revolution—is unprecedented in Iran. I also feel grief because I am aware of my privilege. [But I] have tried my best to amplify these Iranian voices so they can get the acknowledgment and support they need for a free Iran. ‘Zan, Zendegi, Azadi’ (Women, Life, Freedom) is the revolution’s chant.”
She wants to remind readers that they can also help amplify the Iranian protesters’ voices. “If you see a news story, re-post it. Say, and hashtag, the names of the people who are being unlawfully detained or executed for fighting for their freedom. Write your senators. Use hashtags. Talk about it. Demand that the US refuse any further talks or negotiations with this regime so the regime can realize they are no longer relevant. Demand news coverage from your local and national news channels.”
The protesters in Iran truly need people everywhere to amplify their voices, because their oppressive government is doing all they can—including executions and internet shutdowns—to silence them. “The people of Iran need our support, and they need to see they are not fighting alone,” Ashtari adds. “If it weren’t for the people and media amplifying their voices, however minimal it may have been, the UN may never have [felt pressured] to remove the Islamic Republic of Iran from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. This was a direct response to the brutal crackdown on the women-led movement in Iran, and [the UN’s response] is considered a huge victory in this movement.”
And because all of this unsettling news
Dr. Elaheh Ashtari ’s Iranian heritage and commitment to social justice have influenced her career in serving others.
“IF WE DON’T SEEK HELP WHEN WE NEED IT, THOSE EMOTIONS PILE UP AND EMERGE IN PHYSICAL ILLNESS. SEEKING THERAPY IS TRULY THE BEST GIFT WE CAN OFFER OURSELVES.”
—Dr. Elaheh Ashtari
can negatively affect our emotions and our mental health, Ashtari offers readers a few New Year’s tips for remaining motivated and hopeful. “If we don’t seek help when we need it, those emotions pile up and emerge in physical illness. Seeking therapy is truly the best gift we can offer ourselves.”
• Talk to someone. Find a trusted friend or therapist, and share your experiences with them.
• Engage in activities you used to enjoy as a child. We might think that we’ve grown out of them, but the activities we experienced as kids often brought us great joy. Did you paint as a kid? Do it now! Did you like roller skating down your street? Do it now! You will find that same joy can emerge again.
• Remind yourself that no emotion lasts forever, even if it feels like it. So when you have an uncomfortable emotion, you don’t have to act on it and you don’t have to sit in it forever. Choose to remind yourself that pain and joy are both temporary. You might engage in an activity just for distraction, but also consider doing a healing activity.
• Exercise self-care. Self-care means small acts of self-kindness, and also self-nurturing. For example, be mindful of your nutrition intake every day, move your body through exercise or other fun physical activities, drink plenty of water, take care of yourself before taking care of anything or anyone else, and say No when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do! Take breaks, and practice self-compassion.
• Practice realistic and kind self-talk. Let’s not forget how awful we can speak to ourselves—things we would never say to our best friend or loved ones! Be real with yourself, do your work, and be kind when you self-reflect.
• Do something nice for someone else. Contributing to others’ joy can also help us feel better, but only after we have met our own self-care needs.
• Take a hot or cold shower, and practice mindfulness using your five senses throughout the whole experience. Smell the scents, feel the suds on your skin, and every time you get distracted with internal thoughts, just redirect your attention to what is happening right then and there with the sensations.
For more info, visit tinyurl.com/3xsn4pzv.
Who among us didn’t dream of working for NASA and being an astronaut as a child? Well, openly gay International Space Station (ISS) Exercise Hardware
Lead Kent Kalogera is proof that dreams can become realities. “I remember going to Kennedy Space Center as a kid, and it was the happiest place on Earth for me,” Kalogera says.
To chase his dream of being an astronaut, he started college with a concentration in aerospace engineering—before realizing that electrical engineering was more his calling. He graduated in 2008 as the economy was crashing. “At the time, my goals in life were, number one, to be an astronaut, and number two, to work in Mission Control,” Kalogera recalls. “So I applied to 51 jobs across the nation, and nobody called back. Then, due to a friend of a friend that I went to college with, I put my résumé in at Mission Control and got the job doing power systems.”
During his time at NASA, Kalogera has gotten to work on a handful of fascinating projects. He has been a Space Station flight controller, a Robonaut team member (where he performed testing on the Space Station’s humanoid robot), and now he’s engaged with
Shooting for the Moon and Beyond
Kent Kalogera provides space-age fitness and LGBTQ representation at NASA.By DAVID CLARKE Photo by KENT KALOGERA/NASA
the ISS department handling human health and performance. “My job is looking at how we get to the Moon and Mars from a physiological standpoint,” Kalogera explains. “How do we make sure that we humans physiologically survive when we stand on the Moon for seven days, 30 days, or [when we do] the three-year mission to Mars?”
Of course, NASA already knows what it takes to safely get humans to the lunar surface
and back, but now they’re looking into what it takes to actually colonize the Moon and beyond. “When I say the word exercise, you think of what you like to do as exercise,” Kalogera adds. “But when I talk about exercise and countermeasures for the lunar surface, you have to think muscles, bones, and aerobics. You have a sensory motor [system], which is the yaw, pitch, and roll in your head [controlled by] your inner ear canals that say up, down, left and right.”
We are acclimated to gravity on Earth, so these are things that just happen for us naturally without our noticing. But in microgravity (which NASA defines as “the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless”), these human systems get impacted. “We use the countermeasures hardware technology and new ways of exercise to counteract the effects of microgravity,” Kalogera explains.
Before you spin off into a sci-fi fantasy landscape of the imagination, note that Kalogera isn’t working with astronauts in gravitycontrol rooms or giant swimming pools. In actuality, Moon missions will include a microgravity resistance exercise machine called the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED). “Pneumatic pressure is used to [simulate the force of gravity] so crew
members could do bench presses, squats, deadlifts, bicep curls, tricep extensions, and the gamut [of exercises] that you can do here on the ground,” Kalogera explains.
Beyond ARED, Kalogera works with NASA on exercise equipment for astronauts that includes the T2 treadmill and the Cycle Ergometer with a Vibration Isolation and Stabilization System (CEVIS). “When you’re running on a treadmill, you have the natural forces [of Earth’s gravity] that we don’t think about. When you’re up in space, it’s something you absolutely have to think about. By using springs, dampers, or dash pots, which are kind of like pneumatic air brakes, [NASA can] make sure that [things don’t start flying around] when a crew member is running or squatting.” Without this, components like the ISS solar-array wings could shift unintentionally.
In addition to his work for NASA, Kalogera recently became co-chair of Johnson Space Center’s Out & Allied Employee Resource Group, which fosters LGBTQ representation within the organization. “They’ve launched Pride flags up to ISS,” Kalogera notes. “Having that kind of representation, and a safe space to express yourself and be who you want to be, really just lets you flourish as a person.”
This Out & Allied group also helps combat the perception that NASA is a conservative place where diversity is not welcome. “If you’re spending energy to hide who you are, [that’s energy you can’t spend on] getting us to the Moon,” Kalogera emphasizes. “NASA has done a really great job at understanding that their people are their most important assets, and their people are going to be [accepted] as they are. And being LGBTQIA+ is just another expression of who you are.”
Lastly, since so many of us have New Year’s health and wellness resolutions, we asked Kalogera for three pieces of advice. “Consistency is first. You have to just show up every day, whether you feel like it or not. Put it on your timeline, put it on your calendar, and just do it,” he says. “Second, have accountability. Have someone—a friend, a family member, coworkers, the internet— keep you accountable, and then be open to them making you accountable for it.”
Kalogera’s scientific brain kicks in as he shares his final tip: “Data,” he states. “This is something that we look at quite often with our astronauts and space. We collect data on how they exercise, and the point of the data is to use it the next day or the next week [as part of an entire fitness plan]. Because if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Keep up with Kent Kalogera on Instagram @kent_in_his_story.
“NASA UNDERSTANDS THAT THEIR PEOPLE ARE THEIR MOST IMPORTANT ASSETS, AND THEIR PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE ACCEPTED AS THEY ARE. BEING LGBTQIA+ IS JUST ANOTHER EXPRESSION OF WHO YOU ARE.”
— Kent KalogeraLiam Adair, surrounded by crystals, gemstones, and singing bowls, was photographed at Sesh Coworking.
As a child, Liam J. Adair, HHP, ACC, had a hobby of collecting rocks. Little did he know, this early introduction to gemstones and crystals was setting the stage for his journey to becoming the first Black transgender board-certified holistic health practitioner in Texas. Today, Adair is on a mission to help his clients regain control of their lives and develop the internal power to find a space of spiritual well-being. He is also the well-established author of several books, including Fear Rules My Life and Crystal Healing for Your Chakras: The TRUE Call of Nature, published to give readers the ability to begin and maintain their own wellness journey.
“Being a holistic health practitioner means taking the resources that we’ve been given from the universe to create a whole being—a well-balanced being,” the 38-yearold professional explains. “We are spiritual, energy-based, and all connected with every other person and thing. When we look toward holistic health and wellness, we are looking to reconnect with our surroundings by using these tools and resources that nature and the universe provides.”
Adair is confident that the universe commissioned his career path years ago. “Back in 2005, my mother started making jewelry using crystals and gemstones. Once I connected my first bracelet and necklace set, I was hooked as far as learning and being able to understand what crystals and gemstones could do. I realized that [many of] the rocks that I used to collect were those same crystals and gemstones, and I was able to make that connection.”
A work-related injury that led to a depressive state, coupled with weight-loss surgery,
Holistic HealerBy ZACH M c KENZIE
led Adair to make a major career shift from IT to holistic health care. “I realized that I could not go the conventional route of healing what was wrong with my body after my injury. I could not absorb a lot of the Western medications because of my weight-loss surgery. My body would just reject them. I needed to find a natural route,” Adair recalls. “That led me on a self-discovery journey where I realized, ‘Oh, you have tools. You were researching these years ago. You’ve been collecting them since childhood.’ I got more into what crystal healing and meditation could do in terms of healing the physical and the spiritual body.”
The results were undeniable. “That’s what led me to go to school to learn more about it in a structured environment, [and that training gave] me the courage to open up my own practice.”
Having received a bachelor’s degree in holistic health science from Quantum University, Adair offers services ranging from crystal healing therapy to hair analysis, nutrition plans, Reiki touch healing, and more. “My favorite part of what I do is the silent exchange
I have with my clients. The moment where we are in contact, our energies are communicating, we are mellowing out and integrating. That would be my favorite part—that connection,” the holistic trailblazer says. “Most people believe that when you are meeting someone, it’s the handshake. But we actually meet before we pound a fist or shake hands or give a hug. Our energies are actually mingling with one another. Energy is what I read, and what I feel, and how I work.”
The benefits, according to Adair, are an overall sense of balance in one’s self that can also affect personal and professional relationships. “Once you work through the programs that I’ve designed and have added the additional energy-balancing methods, you have a better sense of control over your own thoughts, and therefore your own actions,” he explains. “You can implement these techniques when you come into contact with varying situations, and understand how to respond—versus just reacting. You learn how to keep your peace, as well as handle your business without causing any additional friction. You are able to assess the situation at the drop of a dime, and pull out the tools that we’ve worked through to respond appropriately so that you’re not adding any negativity to the situation. You’re able to get the job done, or complete a task.”
Adair’s expertise, guidance, and services provide a wide range of holistic benefits to those he serves. He hopes that they can ultimately find the power within themselves that has always been there. “I want my clients to gain their sense of personal power. We often walk through life as if someone else is holding the master key, but that is not the case. We can be influenced by someone else’s actions and words, but we are the orchestrators of our own thoughts and actions. We don’t have to take on someone else’s negative energy or thoughts about how we should react to different things in the environment,” Adair explains. “We can stand in our own power and make those changes. I want my clients to see the path that they can take, that is available to them, in order to reach their goals. I want them to understand that this power is within them.”
For more information, www.whliam.com.
Liam Adair breaks down barriers and builds up his clients.
“BEING A HOLISTIC HEALTH PRACTITIONER MEANS TAKING THE RESOURCES THAT WE’VE BEEN GIVEN FROM THE UNIVERSE TO CREATE A WHOLE BEING— A WELL-BALANCED BEING.”
—Liam AdairLiam J. Adair’s books are now available on Amazon.com
The Down Dog Dentist
Dr. Alex Barrera promotes healing, both in the dentist’s chair and on the yoga mat.By RYAN M. LEACH Photo by DREA GONZALEZ @DREAGONZAPHOTO
LGBTQ+ health advocate Dr. Alex Barrera, 30, leads a double life as a dentist and a yogi. If you meet him at Legacy Community Health, he is likely asking you to “open wide” so he can take a look at your chompers. And if you encounter him at Black Swan Yoga, he’s probably asking you to “open wide” for a bigger breath or a longer stretch. In either place, he is there to help you achieve a better, healthier you.
“My goal as an LGBTQ+ health advocate is to empower queer people to live healthier lives. I want to make it easier for LGBTQ+ people to access primary care like regular visits with a doctor or dentist,” says Barrera.
Originally from Laredo, Barrera came to Houston in 2013 to attend dental school at the University of Texas School of Dentistry. He
ended up falling in love with the Bayou City for its diversity and opportunities, and he’s been here ever since.
“I’m a general dentist at Legacy Community Health. I knew from an early age that I wanted to do something in the medical field,” he recalls. “I went to college at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) in Laredo, and that was where I realized that there was a huge need for dental and oral health care around the country, especially among Hispanic communities along the US-Mexico border.”
While he was in dental school, Barrera started to learn more about the health disparities faced by marginalized communities and made a promise to himself to dedicate his career to helping those who are underserved. Aside from working for a Federally Qualified Health Center at Legacy, he also furthers that
career goal as president of the Houston Equality Dental Network, a nonprofit organization started in 2019 to address the lack of LGBTQ representation in dentistry. The group creates a presence in both the medical and queer communities by hosting social events, educating dental professionals, posting online resources, and providing oral-health tools for the local LGBTQ community.
“My role as president is to lead the organization by establishing our goals and vision each year,” Barrera notes. “Our vision is to end LGBTQ+ discrimination in dentistry through awareness, education, and action. We hope to do this by increasing access to oral health care, increasing representation in the profession of dentistry, and ensuring that we teach dentists and students how to
be better allies to the queer community.”
According to Barrera, LGBTQ patients tend to have a history of discrimination or fear when it comes to seeking out health care, and since dental care is such an intimate experience, many queer patients tend to delay oral health care until it’s too late. This leads to higher incidences of pain, dental emergencies, and financial struggles.
“Queer people—specifically those of lower socioeconomic status—have higher incidences of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, and are much more likely to experience mental-health issues such as depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders. All of this leads to higher incidences of oral-health problems,” says Barrera.
The other role that this LGBTQ health advocate has is as a yoga teacher. He initially turned to yoga as a form of self-care, and eventually decided to expand his practice and become a yoga instructor.
“I first started doing yoga during a difficult period in my life when I struggled with a lot of anxiety,” Barrera admits. “I wanted to start yoga as a way to decompress and be still by focusing on my breath and tuning into my body. Little by little, I started to find yoga to be something challenging, rewarding, and beneficial to both my physical and mental health.”
After four years as a student of yoga, he decided to enroll in the yoga teacher training program at Black Swan Yoga, where he fell in love with yoga and realized how transformative and powerful it could be. He has been teaching there for over a year now.
“My favorite thing about yoga is helping people discover their intuition and give them space to sit with their thoughts and emotions. We all live busy lives, and it’s hard sometimes to remind ourselves to pause, breathe, and listen to our needs,” he says.
Barrera’s love for helping people, and especially the LGBTQ community, extends itself to both practices. “Being queer plays a huge role in both my dental and yoga practices. Dentistry has a tradition of being a very conservative profession, especially in Texas, so I struggled at first trying to balance my identity with my profession. Patients want a healthcare provider that sees and understands them. By being out about my sexuality, I’m able to help other LGBTQ+ patients feel safe and accepted while also showing the world that I am proud of who I am.”
“Growing up, I always felt uncomfortable in my own body. I was taught that what my body, in its natural state, wasn’t seen as good or acceptable. Being gay added a whole new layer of [self-esteem issues]. Yoga taught me to embrace the parts of myself
that I spent so much time trying to hide.”
There is still work to do in achieving equity for LGBTQ patients and potential yogis, since this community is still underserved by healthcare professionals. Many queer individuals might find it difficult to access affirming health care based on their location, finances, or fear of discrimination. Queer people face different health burdens that require specific responses. Barrera’s goal as an LGBTQ health advocate is to empower queer people to live
As we enter 2023, Barrera has some thoughts for people to consider as they contemplate the next 12 months.
His first piece of advice: ditch the resolutions. “Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, make a set of New Year’s intentions Instead of pressuring yourself to meet unrealistic goals, focus on how you want to feel in this new year. My intention for all my yoga students is that they promise themselves that they will never stay in a room, relationship, job, or conversation that requires them to abandon their true selves.”
Barrera also recommends reconsidering your approach to self-care. “Self-care shouldn’t be something that you resort to because you’re so stressed or exhausted that you have no other choice. Self-care should be something we incorporate into our everyday lives. In regards to physical health, that means finding joy out of what your body can do. Whether it’s going for a walk, taking a group fitness class, or practicing yoga from home, finding a sustainable way to move your body will help you feel your best going into this new year.”
Barrera can be found in his white coat at Legacy Community Health if you need dental care. And those looking for a more relaxed (but probably sweatier) environment can find him teaching yoga classes on Saturday mornings at 10:15 a.m. at CrossFit Live Oak, and on Sundays at 3:00 p.m. at the Black Swan Yoga location on Kirby Drive.
Follow Barrera on Instagram @thedowndogdentist.
“BEING QUEER PLAYS A HUGE ROLE IN BOTH MY DENTAL AND YOGA PRACTICES. BY BEING OUT ABOUT MY SEXUALITY, I’M ABLE TO HELP OTHER LGBTQ+ PATIENTS FEEL SAFE AND ACCEPTED WHILE ALSO SHOWING THE WORLD THAT I AM PROUD OF WHO I AM.”
—Dr. Alex Barrera
Tailored TrainingBy LILLIAN HOANG
Daniel Levine reached out to personal trainer Exy-Fable Mars because he wanted to build muscle and lose weight. Thanks to Mars’ coaching, the Houston man was able to do more than just define his muscles while shrinking his waistline. Levine built up his endurance after catching COVID, and he can move his neck and shoulder without the pain he’d been experiencing for years.
Levine’s child, wife, and mother have also become clients of Mars, a nonbinary queer coach who uses xe/xem/xyr pronouns. Levine encourages anyone looking for a respectful and inspiring coach to reach out to Mars.
“I recommend Mars because I think xe has a spectacular ability to listen and balance what the client says they need [and] want,” Levine says. “Exy-Fable observes [xyr clients’] physical movement and performance to develop programs that are truly individually focused.”
Mars, owner of the business Every Minute Stronger, focuses on injury prevention and pain management. Xe also practices traumainformed coaching that prioritizes xyr clients’ mental health. Xe works with seniors, people in the LGBTQ community, neurodiverse people, and more—from athletes to office workers—offering both virtual and in-person one-on-one training as well as group coaching.
“I really enjoy being able to help people live without the pain they thought they were going to have forever,” Mars says.
Mars focuses on xyr client’s health and meets them where they’re at to achieve realistic body-image goals. Relief from chronic pain is often a focus for Every Minute Stronger clients.
“Based on what my people are going through on that day, the workout could change from what I had decided previously,” Mars says.
Christene Kimmel came to Mars in
2015 after tripping while running up a set of stairs and injuring her back. Mars has helped Kimmel, an active triathlete, recover from reconstructive shoulder surgery, on top of other injuries. She also works on building strength with Mars as she navigates Graves’ disease, an immune system disorder that can cause anxiety, heat sensitivity, hand tremors, and more.
Mars was the first and only trainer who recognized that Kimmel needed to work on her core muscles after she reported experiencing injuries every 8 to 12 weeks. “Exy-Fable is different from other trainers, due to how xey personalize [a client’s training] and care for them,” Kimmel notes.
Mars became a personal trainer after another trainer helped xem learn more about xemself than xey thought was possible. That trainer pointed out that Mars’ shoulders were hurting because xe spent all day hunched over a table as a freelance writer. Exercises and tips to improve posture ended up alleviating xyr pain.
“I thought of training as a workout and weight loss, not as a way to help you move better or help with pain. So I was interested in that, and I wanted to be that kind of trainer for people,” Mars admits.
Mars went on to earn many certifications
to better help clients, including a certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Xe is also licensed to help clients who need or have had hip replacements, or people who are experiencing shoulder injuries.
Mars has studied exercise techniques that can help other neurodiverse people and those struggling with mental illness. Xe inspires clients to go beyond simple weight-loss techniques by helping them create realistic goals such as showing up to a certain number of sessions in a row and drinking enough water every day.
Mars is currently working with a client who has misophonia and experiences distress brought on by common noises that the average person is unaffected by. During a virtual workout session, the client became agitated due to the slamming sounds of nearby gym equipment, and her heart rate started picking up. To help her calm down, Mars advised her to pay attention to a certain spot on the wall and focus on her breathing while sprinting, which helped her relax and better tolerate those repetitive noises.
Mars is collaborating with a therapist to create programs to help neurodiverse people who experience sensory issues and struggle
Exy-Fable Mars creates personalized fitness plans to meet every client’s needs.
to stay motivated to keep exercising.
“The programs will focus on dismantling shame while navigating executivefunctioning issues, sensory issues, and other challenges experienced by neurodivergent folks on a daily basis,” says Jess Storm, a therapist and longtime friend of Mars.
Since gyms are often hostile to people who are not cisgender men, Mars is proud to offer clients a space where all are welcome. Xe once trained a nonbinary client who was on testosterone and had just recovered from top surgery. The client came to Mars to strengthen their upper body, and Mars helped them build muscle by working on their chest, back, and arms.
Mars has become close friends with several clients, two of whom xe now considers to be chosen family. Xe urges people to find a trainer who meets their needs, rather than put up with someone who does not provide encouragement. “It’s hard enough to get exercise in the first place, so find something that makes you happy.”
Mars also encourages people to find a reason to get outside and get some muchneeded sun in the new year. “Find a movement that makes you feel good, like dancing around the house, taking your dogs out for a walk, playing a sport you like, or exercising with a virtual trainer that’s really cool,” xe laughs. “Don’t push yourself into an allor-nothing approach, because that’s never going to get you far. Do little things that make you and your body happy, and that feel good.”
For more information, visit everyminutestronger.com.
“I THOUGHT OF TRAINING AS A WORKOUT AND WEIGHT LOSS, NOT AS A WAY TO HELP YOU MOVE BETTER OR HELP WITH PAIN. SO I WAS INTERESTED IN THAT, AND I WANTED TO BE THAT KIND OF TRAINER FOR PEOPLE.”
Mindful ResolutionsBy CONNOR BEHRENS
At the start of every year, millions of Americans plan to work on their New Year’s resolutions.
While many focus on weight loss as a top goal, local health experts suggest focusing on something just as important as our physical well-being: our mental health.
According to Mental Health America, about 20 percent of adults—equivalent to nearly 50 million Americans—are experiencing a mental illness. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic did nothing to help the mental state of millions across the world, with the World Health Organization reporting that in the first year of the pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25 percent.
Ty David Lerman, a licensed professional counselor supervisor in Houston, agrees that the pandemic only worsened the current mental-health problem, and that the stigma around seeing a therapist has unfortunately prevented more people from reaching out to get help.
“We need to normalize the fact that we are all struggling with our own issues,” he says. “We are still fighting this stereotype that the only people that go to a psychologist, a therapist, or a psychiatrist are people with serious mental illness. We are still struggling against this mindset. It’s polarizing, and it is false. If you are struggling and your current efforts are not effective enough, that is a legitimate reason to talk to a therapist.”
Mental health has long been neglected, and the prolonged pandemic has not helped the problem, Lerman emphasizes.
“There is so much grief and loss that we haven’t registered or recognized,” he says. “People haven’t done the work to deal with that grief and loss. People haven’t taken the time to deal with that hurt.”
Lerman says people need to find healthier, more positive ways to deal with their anxiety and depression if they want to improve their mental health in the new year.
“You have to ask yourself, ‘Is what I’m doing bringing me joy?’” he says. “If that answer is no, it is likely past time to reconsider yourTy David Lerman Shane Hennesey
daily routine. Make more time for yourself and what you enjoy doing. It’s the power of choice. You get to decide where you spend your time and energy.”
A prominent mental-health problem that has likely been exacerbated by the pandemic is binge eating, Lerman notes. Even before the pandemic, unhealthy eating habits increased across the globe. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, worldwide eating disorders increased from 3.4 to 7.8 percent between 2000 and 2019.
“Binge eating is a pandemic in and of itself,” he says. “We, as a society, do not do well with regulating our stress in healthy ways. It stems from a lack of awareness. I think we are so out of touch and out of tune with our internal processes, and what is going on internally. We put our blinders on. We don’t stop. We don’t slow down enough to check in on ourselves.”
This growing problem is the main plot point of Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. That film, currently in theaters, tells the story of Charlie, a reclusive 600-pound gay English teacher who is trying to reconcile with his estranged daugh-
ter. Charlie’s weight is the byproduct of binge eating after the death of his partner.
Shane Hennesey, a licensed professional counselor, says binge eating is just one way that many people try to deal with their problems. “It’s not just eating. It’s anything that is compulsive. Sex, internet, shopping, eating— it doesn’t really matter. It’s the [underlying] process of numbing out anxiety that’s driving [all of that binging].”
Body image issues can affect all types of people, but it is especially prevalent in the gay community. According to research from The Trevor Project last year, LGBTQ youth are at greater risk of developing eating disorders, and this can affect their mental health as well as increase their risk of suicide.
“In our capitalist society, where marketing drives a lot of how we think about ourselves, body dysmorphia and eating issues are going to be present,” Hennesey notes. “When you see a billboard for a gym, they don’t show the hard work, the sweat, and the pain. They show you the beautiful body on the other side. That’s a typical marketing
Therapists Ty David Lerman and Shane Hennesey encourage focusing on mental health in the new year.
strategy, regardless of the product. It sets up this mentality of lack, or not being good enough—something that a lot of gay men struggle with.”
Lerman agrees with these sentiments, as he has seen many people from the LGBTQ community suffer from various types of body issues.
“Our community really does struggle with this,” he emphasizes. “We view our self-worth through our attractiveness, through our body. That is where a lot of body dysmorphia comes from. We believe we are only as good as our attractiveness. It’s a big problem. Women have been struggling
with this forever, and are frequently degraded in terms of their effectiveness being attached to their attractiveness. Unfortunately, the gay community has adopted that mindset, too.”
It’s important that someone struggling with anxiety and depression understands that there are many people struggling with these problems, and they turn to a variety of coping mechanisms, Lerman explains.
“I want to validate it,” he says. “They are not in any way a freak, or alone in that effort. There are tons of people out there who struggle.”
Hennesey suggests practicing an “acceptance and commitment” type of therapy tech-
nique in the new year that could help resolve the issues they are experiencing.
“The idea behind that modality is increasing psychological flexibility and psychological space, not trying to get rid of things,” he explains. “The short-version phrase I give to patients is, ‘When you take the fight out, you take the bite out.’ People should redirect their attention to things that are neutral until they can disconnect or unhook from what they think is so terrible.”
Hennesey agrees with Lerman that there is a stigma around speaking to a therapist. For people who don’t feel comfortable speaking to a healthcare professional, Hennesey suggests talking with friends and family.
“There is a certain benefit from talking to another person, even if it’s just a friend or family member,” he says. “They can help navigate what you’re going through.”
For help with eating disorders, go to nationaleatingdisorders.org/ help-support/contact-helpline
For assistance with feelings of anxiety and depression, go to mentalhealth.gov/get-help/immediate-help
OVERVIEW 2023 ASTROCASTby LILLY RODDY Illustrations by ADRIAN HERNANDEZ
This is going to be a significant year with Pluto, planet of death and rebirth, the cosmic enema and detoxification, entering the sign of Aquarius. This will begin a significant transformation for the fixed signs of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius.
It will take Pluto about 21 years to move through Aquarius. We can expect changes in technology, redefining population groups, a major shift for “royalty,” and people disconnecting from the grid. The last time Pluto moved through Aquarius was from 1778 through 1798—the years that the newly independent United States of America began to create its history!
Mercury will be retrograde as the year begins, which will delay instituting our New Year’s resolutions. Mercury will be retrograde again April 15–May 20, August 17–September 23, and December 8–January 13, 2024. Plan ahead!
Besides the Mercury retrogrades for this year, Venus, the planet of love and money, goes retrograde from July 9 to September 17. This will be a time to review our investments and examine our relationship commitments closely. As with all retrogrades, this is a time to look back and review rather than start anything new.
Saturn, planet of career and structure, enters Pisces for the next two and a half years. Saturn will have an impact on the mutable signs of Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces, giving these signs more direction and a better goal orientation.
Jupiter, planet of growth and mental expansion, will be traveling through Aries and Taurus this year. This will add to the opportunities for better jobs, more social activity, and a greater sense of optimism.
When the outer planets—Saturn, Jupiter and Pluto— change signs, we experience a shift in what is significant in our society.
MARCH 21–APRIL 19
The beginning of the year may start off slowly, but you are on your way after mid-February. The planet of growth and expansion, Jupiter, travels through your sign from the end of December 2022 through May 2023, signaling a positive influence in all areas of your life. Jupiter helps to magnetize your energy, so people are drawn to you for work, friendships, and potential relationships. This is a better time for education, travel, and promoting your services. After May, you are better at investing and improving your skills.
Your internal spiritual purpose has been an area of focus over the past three years, and this year you are going to direct your focus toward developing a routine of improved self-care and better boundaries with your work and schedule. You will still be as busy, but you are less concerned about others’ demands. This can be a very good year to get back into an exercise and improved eating program. You are improving the temple that holds your spirit.
Your community, support groups, and friends are going through a time of clearing. Your sense of community is being challenged as you shed negative patterns from the past. You will withdraw your support from organizations that are not living up to your expectations. This can also be a time when you feel that you want to let go of technology and live closer to the land.
You continue to work on eliminating debt from your life. This is a better year to market your skills, particularly if you are working from an electronic platform. There could be an upsurge of activity in this area after May.
The eclipse cycle is beginning to have an impact on you in April and again in October. Eclipses open up new areas of interest in your life. If you are single, this can be a time of finding potential partners. If you are involved, this is a time to renew bonds and set new directions for your future.
APRIL 20–MAY 20
This will be a mixed year for you. There could be major shifts in your workplace, so you are looking to make changes in your career. You may be leaving your old position and striking out on your own. For older folks, this can be a time of cutting back or considering retirement. You may feel out of touch with society and its current goals and methods of doing business. The theme of change continues as you may consider remodeling or relocating.
Your relationship goals will also need to be reset to correspond with where you both are at present. In difficult partnerships, this can be a time when you are ready to disconnect and find a connection with someone who represents the person you have evolved to become. In positive partnerships, this is a great time to renew goals and directions, and to update your dreams for your relationship.
In the first half of the year, you are in more of a retreat mode. You are questioning what makes you happy. You may be revising your routines and even opening up to talents you have yet to explore. Your spiritual development and need to explore other paths is very strong at this time.
In the latter half of the year, you are moving into a very positive time that will carry you through the middle of 2024. This period is good for most every activity. You should have more work and career opportunities, relationships should be easier with improved communications, travel is positive, and you are expressing your creative energies more fully. In other words, you end the year being more positive and successful in all your activities.
Your ruler, Venus, will be retrograde July 9–September 17. This will activate your need to review your choices, attract people from your past, and try to make your home more comfortable. You will always want the best!
MAY 21–JUNE 21
This year begins your rebuilding time. You will be exploring long-term plans and career goals. For the past few years, you have been in a period of personal reflection and retreat. You will now be entering a time when you build on your dreams and expectations.
Since Mercury is your ruler, you should always pay close attention to the Mercury retrograde periods. The year opens with Mercury in retrograde, and you are exploring your resources and how to improve them. Mercury will also be retrograde April 15–May 20, August 17–September 23, and December 8–January 13, 2024. Those times always represent a period when you should be focused on yourself and reviewing past actions and previously made plans.
Career will be a very strong focus for you over the next two and a half years. You will want to improve your current situation. For some, this could be going back to school or taking additional training, while others will be looking for more responsibility. This could also be a time of stepping back, retiring, or just cutting back on the time you devote to your work. This is true even if you are an at-home parent. You will step into your role with a clear sense of direction. For parents of older children who no longer require your constant supervision, this may be the time for you to step back and seek other satisfying ways to occupy your time. You will have less patience with foolishness and people who waste your time. Boundaries will be your keyword over the next couple of years. You will be looking to set new goals for your relationships, both business and personal.
From January until May, you are feeling more social, so connecting with others can be very beneficial. This is a very good time to take a leadership role as you connect with others in your community. This applies to business ventures as well, where you may find that others can be very supportive of your endeavors. This is also a better time for traveling or vacations.
Your spiritual interests are more active in the latter half of the year when you are generally more open to new information and ideas.
JUNE 22–JULY 22
You will be wanting more from your relationships this year. You will want to know what’s behind others’ motives and drives. Your desire for more intimacy and truth will help some of your partnerships grow, while other partners may be fearful of revealing too much. Personally, you are more willing to strip away your body armor in order to know yourself better.
This can also be a good year to work on debt management, investments, and working within a budget. This could be a good time for you to find investors or loyal supporters who can assist you in your shared goals.
For the next couple of years, you are open to new ideas and information that you can put to good use. This is a great time for going back to school, teaching a class, writing, developing a social-media page, or becoming a mentor and sharing your skills with younger people. You may challenge your existing belief system and search for a more relevant philosophy. You may possibly encounter people who try to convince you that you are wrong and that they know better. Choose your judges and critics wisely.
Your career energy is very strong in the opening five months of the year. This is a very good time to promote your services, seek out other more profitable positions, or potentially start something on your own. This part of your life will continue to be active as the eclipse cycle begins to activate your career and home sectors. The eclipses in May and October may open doors to new opportunities. Your natural magnetism is stronger during this time.
In the latter part of the year, you are more connected to your community, either through business or social consciousness. You will want to make a difference by expanding social justice and equality—either through a group or simply by sharing your views with others.
LEO JULY 23–AUGUST 22
You are beginning to feel more social this year and over the next couple of years. You are moving into a time of leadership where you exhibit your strengths at work and in your own family. You will want to start living according to a higher principle.
You are beginning a period of self-discovery and coming to terms with your own shadows. You will want to be more honest and direct with others, even if that is not always so comfortable. Unstable relationships will be left to perish at the side of the road.
Financial matters are the focus this year as you observe the uncertain global economy. It may be harder to get loans. Even if you are doing well financially, you will feel the need to be more conservative with your spending.
In the first half of the year, you are open to travel, expanding your view of the world, and exploring others’ views. This sector is being activated by the eclipses in April and October. You will want to share your views with others. This can be a good time to connect with others and work together for a larger purpose.
In the latter half of the year, your career sector is very active. This can be a great time for promotions, finding a better position, or even starting your own business. The eclipse cycles are also influencing this area of your horoscope in May and October. You have been looking for a satisfying career that doesn’t just pay the bills.
Venus, the planet of values and relationships, will be going retrograde in your sign July 9–September 17. This will be a time of rethinking your commitments and relationship choices. In a positive relationship, you will want more intimacy. In a negative partnership, you will want resolution. Plan ahead!
AUGUST 23–SEPTEMBER 22
This year you are extending your reach and expanding your contacts for business, friendship, and shared interests. You are going to use your time better and focus on goals that you may have put on hold.
You are already focusing on improving your health regimen. You will want to deal with any problems right away. Some of these problems have been with you for a while, and now it’s time to solve them. You may be revising your work environment. This may be a time when working from home requires you to improve your electronics and online connections. You will be more outspoken at work, and will be more direct with those around you.
Relationships are needing to be updated with new directions and intentions. In positive relationships, this is a time of rebonding with your goals and purposes to fit where you are now. In difficult partnerships, this is the time to find a reasonable solution—or you may go your separate ways. You will want to have a meeting of the minds. This energy applies to business partnerships, as well, and even to close friends.
In your career, you are getting clear about setting new goals. You will want to complete tasks you have been avoiding that will serve you well for the future. You will have better boundaries there, as well. You will focus on your responsibilities and not be as willing to pick up after others, even if that’s what you did in the past.
In all of these areas, you are more open to new ideas and points of view. Initially, you are more open to new investments and ways to reduce your debt. In the latter half of the year, you are ready to be both a student and a teacher, expand your education, teach classes, start your novel, do some traveling, or just learn more about your culture and tribe. Working with foreigners or multinational companies can be very good for you this year!
SEPTEMBER 23–OCTOBER 23
The first half of the year is going to be a busy one, with many opportunities for better jobs, improved relationships, and social contacts. The eclipse cycles in April and October repeat this same theme. With relationships, this is a time to improve your ongoing partnerships. If you are single, the first half of the year is a very good time to meet new folks, even if it is only for friendship. In the latter half of the year, you are seeking more intimacy, closeness, and truth in your partnerships. This should also improve your sex life, as well.
Your health routines will need to be improved, so you will be working toward a better overall approach to your health. This will include not wanting to be around coworkers or clients who are always having problems but aren’t doing anything about them.
In the latter half of the year, you have more access to funds, loans, and support from close friends. The resources seem to be more open. This is a much better time for your finances. You may be seeking a raise or increasing your fees for your services. The eclipse cycle is also influencing this area as well in May and October. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities!
Your children may be seeking their independence from you this year as you are reviving your own inner child. You will want to connect to hobbies and activities that you enjoy. And you may not want to manage the emotions of those who are closest to you. This will be very strong in May and June.
Lastly, your ruler, Venus, will be retrograde from July 9 to September 17. This is a time for you to rethink your commitment to people, activities, and career. You may feel that you are not being heard, and that your requests are being ignored. It may also be a time when people you have not seen in a while turn up in your life.
OCTOBER 24–NOVEMBER 21
This is a big year of change for Scorpio. For many of you older folks, the life path you chose in the 1980s is being tested for durability and how it works today. For all you Scorpios, one area that will be impacted is your family relationships. You will see your parents more as people instead of just “Mom and Dad.”
This will give you more freedom from the restrictions that you have brought with you from childhood. This can also be a time for home repairs, relocation, and even retirement for some of you.
In the first half of the year, you are making improvements to your workplace. In May, relationships and social activities are improved. If you are involved, this will be a great time to enjoy your partner. If you are single, this is a very good time to meet some new folks.
If you are having problems, this can be a time for a resolution to improve your situation. This is also a better time to look for new jobs, travel, improve your skills, or maybe even teach a class. The eclipse cycle is still active in your sign, especially in May and October. Those periods can reveal some new opportunities for you!
You are moving into a time when you are going to want to put more effort into your hobbies, or even take one of your hobbies in the direction of a career. You will be creating better boundaries so that you have more time to take care of yourself and those entrusted to you. You may write more, study metaphysics, or begin spiritual explorations.
From July 9 through September 17, Venus will be retrograde in your career sector. You will be rethinking work commitments as you become clearer about your own interests, rather than trying to help everyone around you.
N OVEMBER 22–DECEMBER 21
After a long period of questioning and exploring different options with work, relationships, and career, you are moving into a period of decision-making and boundarysetting. This activity will be strong for the next two and a half years, and can help you rebuild your life.
You are dealing with changes in the family hierarchy. Older members may be moving on, or are more willing to allow others to take over. Your point of view will have a strong impact on the family, whether they like what you say or not. This can also be a time when you are considering moving, downsizing, or buying something new.
You are rethinking your original career motives. You may be looking at starting something on your own, taking more of a leadership position or, if you are older, cutting back on your schedule. You will want a better balance between your home and work life.
You are becoming more direct in your conversations and getting to the point much sooner. You may also find that you are not as patient with people who don’t listen. These energies can also influence you to update your office equipment or even change how you operate. This can be a great time to confront bad habits and clean up your daily routine. You could even make some big changes in your diet this year.
The eclipse cycle is affecting the areas of group affiliations and your children’s attitudes. You may find that you are drawn to causes that promote justice and freedom. This will be very active in April, May, and October. If you have older children, this may be a time of marriage or expanding the family.
Mercury will be retrograde in your career sector August 17–September 23. This will be a time when work issues come to the surface so they can be addressed and resolved. You will definitely be more outspoken about those issues.
DECEMBER 22–JANUARY 19
Capricorns have been going through a huge time of change, shifting attitudes, and completely reimagining their relationships and career directions. This has actually been going on since 2008 and is finally coming to a close in 2023. You will still be under the influence of this change until January 2024, but you will get a big break from the push of this energy in May and June. That will give you some time to take a breath and figure out what you are going to do next. But a lot of the constant confusion is slowly coming to an end.
You will be reworking your skill set so that you are more marketable this year. This will also push you to relieve yourself of debt and other financial obligations. This could be the time to consolidate debt or refinance your home or business.
In your daily life, you are going to be improving your boundaries. At work, you will be sticking to your own job and not trying to intercede for others or even doing their work. You may feel tired and in need of more rest. This is an excellent year to improve your schedule so that you have some time for yourself. You will also have much less patience for immature people or childish activities. You will want to slow down some and have more control over what you agree to do. And you won’t mince words!
Home and family improvement will occur in the first five months of the year. This would be the perfect time to relocate, do some remodeling, or spend more time with your family. Family members are more open to resolving old family issues. Starting in May, you are looking to have more fun in your life. This can be a great time to be with your kids or to entertain your own inner child. This is a better time for traveling, meeting new people, or just taking a break from your routines.
JANUARY 20–FEBRUARY 18
This year, Pluto (the planet of transformation, releasing the past, detoxifying your system, and letting go of negative energies from the past) is entering your sign. This is a long-term event, as it will take Pluto approximately 21 years to travel through your sign. The last time Pluto was activating your sign was from 1983 through 1996. Pluto will have the greatest impact this year on those whose birthdays are in the earliest part of the sign. There will be changes in relationships, career directions, family focus, and self-improvement, as Pluto is helping you get rid of personal blocks and fears. You should feel the impact of this planet as early as April and as late as June. Those energies will slowly gain strength and get much stronger in 2024.
You are watching your finances much closer this year. You are very likely to reexamine your investments and consider utilizing a budget to keep you feeling safer. You will also want to reexamine your skill set. You may find that you need to update your skills or bring back into play a talent that you had set aside. Additionally, you will value your own time more and will be very unhappy with people who take advantage of you.
In the first half of the year, you are more open with your communications. You may want to have a greater presence on social media. You may also want to write your novel, take or teach classes to improve your life, get a new car, or even do some traveling. You are more open to new ideas and other points of view. In the latter half of the year, your focus becomes your home and family. This can be a time of remodeling or potentially relocating. For some of you, new babies or grandchildren could be entering your life. The eclipse cycle will also be re-emphasizing these themes in April, May, and October. Those will be times when new opportunities arise.
FEBRUARY 19–MARCH 20
This is going to be a big year of making decisions, improving your boundaries, focusing on your career goals, improving your relationships, and making you the focus of 2023. This activity will be ongoing for the next couple of years. You will have greater expectations for the friends and co-workers you associate with, and you’ll be much more selective about the people you choose to help. In the past, you reached out to many people who may or may not have appreciated your help and support. This time, you are going to expect people to bring their own toolbox to the rescue.
This can also be a time of setting new career goals and stepping up to take on more leadership positions. You may also want to start your own business with this strong energy. For the older folks, this can be a time of cutting back on your work hours or even considering retirement.
Relationships, both business and personal, are going through a period of reevaluation. If you are in a happy partnership, this is a time of renewal and setting new goals for your future. If you are in a difficult relationship, you will want to get that resolved one way or the other, so that you don’t end up spending time, love, and money on something that has no future. You are wanting others to be more responsible for their own lives.
In the first half of the year, you are in a better time for money and investments. There can be many opportunities that you are encountering, and these may test how you set boundaries and goals. You may also want to spend more money on things you enjoy. In the latter half of the year, you are expressing your views more clearly. You are adding activity to your daily adventures. You may be extra-busy this year, so pay attention to your commitments so you don’t get overloaded.
Houston’s Ripcord, the oldest gay leather bar in Texas, celebrated its 40th anniversary with a weekend full of events including drag shows, speakers, kink demos, and a vendors’ market.
BIG. BOLD. BEAUTIFUL.
Houston Drag Race fans… start your engines, because one of our favorite local divas is vying for the Season 15 crown.
Mistress Isabelle Brooks is Houston’s first-ever contestant to appear on the Emmy Award-winning show.
“I am so excited for this season because I know I’m going to definitely represent not only Texas, but Houston specifically,” Mistress says. “Being given the opportunity to be on this platform is crazy, and I feel like I represent a lot of minorities. I represent Latinos, the plus-size performers, and I’m the first from Houston.”
The weekly show, and its counterpartBy SAM BYRD Photo by VICTOR CONTRERAS
Untucked, start airing on Friday, January 6, at 7 p.m. (CST) on MTV. This season also brings twists and turns that will keep fans gagging. In addition to regular judges RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Ross Mathews, Carson Kressley, and new rotating judge Ts Madison, celebrity guest judges Ariana Grande, Janelle Monáe, Julia Garner, Hayley Kiyoko, Maren Morris, Ali Wong, Amandla Stenberg, Harvey Guillen, Megan Stalter, and Orville Peck are scheduled to appear.
Also, the increased number of contestants (16 in total) and the largest cast prize in show her story ($200,000) will bring extra thrills— not to mention the show’s landmark 200th episode.
The show has piqued Mistress’ curiosity for more than a decade. “I remember when I was
about 14 years old, I saw GIFs of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 on Tumblr. Some friends sent them to me saying, ‘You should watch this show! You’d love it!’ I instantly fell in love with not only the show, but the art of drag itself. It combined so many of my interests into one big self-expression, and I just remember it being so magical to me,” she recalls.
Mistress first started dabbling in drag around age 16, and by age 18 she was performing professionally.
“When I first started, I would see Mistress as this ultimate character—almost like an escape. But as time went on and people got to know me outside of drag, I took the lessons I learned as Mistress and used them to be a business-savvy person, to connect with people, to network with people, and so forth,”
“BEING GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE ON THIS PLATFORM IS CRAZY, AND I FEEL LIKE I REPRESENT A LOT OF MINORITIES. I REPRESENT LATINOS, THE PLUS-SIZE PERFORMERS, AND I’M THE FIRST FROM HOUSTON.”
“I WANT TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT THERE IS HAPPINESS AT THE END, AND I THINK THAT MY TRANSFORMATION FROM [MY MALE PERSONA] ISRAEL INTO MISTRESS IS WHAT MAKES ME STAND OUT. WHEN SOMEONE SEES MY DRAG, I WOULD LIKE TO BELIEVE THEY SEE THE PASSION BEHIND IT.”
she explains. “I learned that the things people love about Mistress can apply to my life outside of drag, as well. Mistress taught me how to be a man because I’ve had so many different life lessons from drag.”
It was an experience in high school that gave her a head start on her eventual drag career. “When I was in high school, I also attended cosmetology school. Hair has always been a passion of mine, and before I started performing in drag, I envisioned a career as a hair stylist. My love for hair led me to styling all my wigs, and queens would always ask me, ‘Girl, who did that hair?’ Once it caught on, and through word of mouth, I was doing hair for queens all over,” she recalls.
At the beginning stages of her drag career, styling wigs was something she would do mainly for herself and a select handful of queens. But in December 2019, tragedy struck and she was forced to rely on her talent at making wigs instead of performing in drag.
“I broke my ankle and the pandemic happened, all at once, so I had to find a way to take care of myself financially. I started hustling and pushing out wigs to queens all over the world. It truly feels like overnight my business skyrocketed, and weirdly enough, one of the darkest moments in my life brought me to exactly where I was supposed to be,” she says.
Before Mistress started making a big name for herself on the local drag scene, she enjoyed the anonymity of performing in drag. “I loved people not knowing who I am outside of drag. But now that time has gone on and I’m so deep in the scene, of course everyone knows me. [But at first], I could hook up with someone on Grindr, and then I’d see them later on my show, and they’d tip me with no idea they already knew me,” she adds. “It speaks to the true transformation of drag—the fact that I can pile on makeup and people have no idea who I am.”
Behind the makeup, though, Mistress has had to deal with less pleasant times, and she believes she was chosen by the Drag Race casting director, in part, because of her transparency in discussing those trials and tribulations.
“People think that going on RuPaul’s Drag Race is the end all and be all. Yes, the show is like the Gay Olympics, but people forget that it is also a reality TV show that focuses not only on our drag but also on our life outside of drag,” she explains. “In
my audition tape, I was someone who was very transparent with my life in and out of drag. I put myself to the forefront and shared stories that I know are going to make people uncomfortable and that were hard for me to tell, but they are stories that need to be told. I represent people who aren’t accepted by their families [because they] perform in drag and they’re gay. I represent people who deal with religion, with their families, and being shamed.
“I want to show people that there is happiness at the end, and I think that my transformation from [my male persona] Israel into Mistress is what makes me stand out. When someone sees my drag, I would like to believe they see the passion behind it,” she adds.
As RuPaul famously says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love someone else?” Mistress has indeed learned to love herself, despite the hardships she initially encountered.
“The most powerful gift you can give yourself is to truly love yourself and to believe in yourself. I think that’s the key to anything in life, and that’s the key to success. I feel like if you’re not your own biggest cheerleader, you’re setting yourself up for failure. I think that drag, and being on Drag Race, has taught me to never doubt myself and have fun—because when I’m having fun, it’s going to show,” she emphasizes.
As for what will happen next, Mistress will simply be rolling with the punches. “I’m open to whatever the future holds. I would love to be back on TV, or maybe in movies. I would love to come out with a lot more online content. I’m working on releasing my new wig line. I have a lot of things in the works, and the future looks
so bright,” she reveals. “I’m so thankful for everyone who has been along on this journey with me, because if it wasn’t for everyone in Houston—the people I grew up with here, and the queens who made me the performer I am—I would not have been able to do any of this. I’m very thankful, and I look forward to the future.”
But before this self-described Heavyweight Champ takes on the world, we first need to find out what fate awaits her on the upcoming Drag Race Season 15. She remains tight-lipped on how she fares in the pre-recorded episodes, so of course she encourages everyone to watch the show and enjoy. (Mistress is currently trying to work out a deal with JR’s and South Beach to host some Drag Race viewing parties.)
“I’m excited that we have a few of the girls coming in, which will be announced soon. Of course, I will be traveling quite a bit, but whenever I’m in town, I’m going to definitely be at the parties and on Zoom. You’ll see some of the girls from the upcoming season, some of the popular girls from prior seasons, and some of my local favorites hosting in my absence and performing while I’m not there,” she Ru-veals.
Until then, there’s still time to see her locally. She is currently the show director at JR’s on Monday nights for Where the Boys Are, and she performs at South Beach on Wednesday nights for Millennial Dolls. She is also one of the original cast members at Hamburger Mary’s, where fans can see her every weekend.
Follow Mistress online at mistressisabelle. com or on social media @MistressIsabelleBrooks and @WigsByMistress. RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Fridays at 7 p.m. on MTV.
A Look Behind the Lines
Director Vivian Kleiman discusses her queer-comics documentary No Straight Lines.By NEIL ELLIS ORTS
When Greg Sirota, film producer, and Justin Hall, editor of the queer-comics anthology No Straight Lines, first approached director Vivian Kleiman to propose creating a documentary film about queer comics, she hesitated. Even though she’d read comics as a kid—and calls Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For a lifeline during her coming-out years—Kleiman didn’t have much knowledge of the medium beyond that.
Fast forward to a few years later, and Kleiman’s documentary film, also entitled No Straight Lines, has played film festivals around the world, including the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.
The film focuses on five pioneering queer comics creators. In addition to Bechdel, there are interviews with Rupert Kinnard, Mary Wings, Jen Camper, and the late Howard Cruse. Through their stories, we get a fresh angle on queer history, taking us through 1970s liberation movements, the AIDS epidemic, the growing queer representation in mainstream media, to today’s webcomics, graphic novels, and even Tony Award-winning musical adaptations.
Kleiman sat down with OutSmart to discuss her new documentary prior to its January 23 television debut on PBS.
Neil Ellis Orts: Were you involved in the selection of the five cartoonists you’ve highlighted?
Vivian Kleiman: While the idea for the film originated with Justin Hall and Greg Sirota, the notion of doing a film is so different from doing an anthology that’s more encyclopedic. My desire, or need, as a filmmaker is to have a more intimate connection with a few individu-
als, and use those particular closeup stories to infuse the viewer with a bigger picture. Typically, I like to profile three people in a documentary film. In this case, it was impossible to narrow it down to three. Justin and I would talk about it, and he understood the notion of intimacy and narrative construction, but he also was so in love with so many of the artists. For him, it was especially difficult to accept that I was putting a limit on the number of people. Some people we just knew had to be in the film. Rupert Kinnard, for example, was someone I knew, so he was definitely going to be in the film. You can’t have a film about queer comics without Alison Bechdel and Howard Cruse. As you can see, the list of available slots was rapidly narrowing, and then it became quite hard.
When did you start working on this?
Howard Cruse has been dead for a couple of years already.
Yeah, it’s so sad. Just as an aside, Howard was
sick with cancer, and on a certain Sunday he was supposed to come home from the hospital and he was going to watch the rough cut on Monday. He passed away on Sunday night. So Howard did not get to see the cut, and it pains me.
Justin encouraged me to go to the first Queers & Comics Conference. It was the first international ingathering of queer comicbook artists from all over the place and was held in New York in 2015. I was completely blown away by what I saw. I walked into the conference hall and I saw before me the entire spectrum of queerness. [There was] the elder gentleman with the balding head and very wrinkled collared striped shirt engaged in conversation with a very young person with chartreuse-colored hair. And all around them was a circle of people completely engaged in discussion, taking delight in each other. I went, Oh my goodness, there’s something unusual happening here. The next few days, I listened to people talking on panels
and showing their work—all sorts of topics and aesthetic approaches—and I knew this was an amazing subject. And there was a plethora of images. What more does a documentary filmmaker need? At that first Queers & Comics Conference, Howard gave a presentation in which he basically summarized four decades of queer history through his work and his life. I sat there and thought, this is the structure of the film. He was offering the spine of a narrative for a documentary film.
How did you decide to add cameos of younger artists?
I watched the first two rough cuts of the film. I kind of felt like this is okay, but I wouldn’t watch it twice. The “Would I watch it twice?” question nagged at me. I don’t remember how I thought of it, but one morning I woke up and decided I would try an experiment. The second Queers & Comics conference was going to take place in San Francisco, my backyard. I could film there without any travel expenses. I decided to use it as an opportunity to grab some young people who were attending the conference and just get their impressions about some of the themes I was thinking about. Justin
knew some of the younger people who were coming, and he also teaches comics at the art school where the conference was taking place. So I had a production assistant run out and grab people. In all, we had about a dozen young people with whom I had ten minutes each.
I was really touched by the one young fellow who said he’d only just learned about Rupert Kinnard, and that made him wonder how many more Ruperts there were that he didn’t know.
Yes, that comment is so poignant because in the thin literature on queer comics, one sentence is always stated: Mary Wings published the first gay comics by an out lesbian. At first, I started to use that sentence, but then at a certain point I said, Wait a second, there might have been other lesbians or gay men who were out and had published comics, but maybe those didn’t get saved. Maybe Mary just happened to be in Dyke Central where there were more people and more preservation.
Is there something we didn’t cover that you’d like to add?
Only how surprised I am by the reception to the film. I did not expect to be accepted at Tribeca—one of the country’s premier film festivals. I don’t have words to describe the joy. As surprised as I was to be accepted in these festivals, I am equally stunned by the folks at Independent Lens
Its executive director, Lois Vossen, approached me not once, but twice. It’s incredible audacity and courage on Lois’ part to even think that it’s possible to bring these images to Public Television. The film was rejected by the big streamers—Netflix, Hulu, HBO—and for her to come on and convince me that it would be OK to collaborate, that’s just awesome.
What: No Straight Lines on the PBS Independent Lens series
When: January 23
Where: Houston Public Media (Channel 8) Info: tinyurl.com/4t5nwp9w
See Yourself in Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza
Star Cedric Belisle talks about the show’s relatable appeal.By DAVID CLARKE
Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza is making a triumphant return to Houston a decade after it was last in the city. The show combines the circus traditions of acrobatic performances with the artform of clowning. Openly and proudly gay acrobat-turned-clown Cedric Belisle is excited to return to Houston with the show, but this time around audiences will see him as The Innocent, the character at the center of the performance’s narrative.
“When David Shiner, the original director of the show, created Kooza, he really, really wanted to bring the show back to the origins of Cirque, which are high acrobatics and hilarious clowns,” Belisle says. “So he built the show around these two big aspects.”
With that in mind, Kooza audiences can expect to see incredible feats that showcase the glory and delicacy of the human body in acrobatic stunts, audacious slapstick humor from the clowns, and more throughout the show’s kaleidoscopic mix of vibrant colors,
engaging music, and playful storytelling that are Cirque du Soleil hallmarks.
Kooza also offers more depth than your average circus. “Throughout the show there’s a storyline about The Innocent and The Trickster, and I play the role of The Innocent,” Belisle explains. “It’s a fun role because it’s a story of hope, and it’s a story of self-discovery.” In the production notes for Kooza, The Innocent is described as “a melancholy loner in search of his place in the world,” which is a journey that many LGBTQ-identifying people, along with members of most marginalized groups, can personally relate to.
“Every single night I step out on that stage, I get to tell that story,” Belisle adds. “It resembles a little bit of my story during the pandemic, and my story of growing up and trying to find my place in the world, not really knowing where I fit or what I’m supposed to do with my life.”
Belisle’s own journey of self-actualization began when he saw Cirque du Soleil’s Alegría on TV when he was around 10 years old. “I was
so mesmerized, and I looked at my parents that afternoon and I told them, ‘Mom, Dad, I think I figured out what I want to do when I grow up. I need to be in Cirque,’” he recalls. “It just piqued my curiosity, and it really made me dream about one day flying in the air.”
When he was 12, his parents took him to see Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion in Montreal, and shortly after that Belisle started doing trampoline and gymnastics. “I got good enough to get on the Canadian team, and I started competing internationally,” says Belisle. Despite his love for competing, he recognized making it to the Olympics or World Championships in these sports simply wasn’t his dream. “My passion, my dedication, my focus was always to make it to Cirque,” he emphasizes. And, luckily for him, two weeks after auditioning for Cirque du Soleil at 19, he was signing his contract and joining the company.
Belisle admits that his coming-out story and journey to self-discovery was a very
pleasant and happy one, but it still gives him plenty of material to draw on to create his version of The Innocent in Kooza. “I grew up in a very open, loving, and caring family that was welcoming of any train of thoughts or ideas that you might have,” he says of his supportive parents. “Of course, I went through the phase of dating girls and being in relationships with women, but I knew that that wasn’t my happy place. That wasn’t who I was,” he adds.
“When I was 18 years old, I finally had the courage to come out in the gymnastics and trampoline world,” says Belisle. “We’re a very welcoming community. Artistic sports usually tend to be like that, so I was lucky to be part of that community.” However, Belisle also was a soccer player at the time, and he found that being out was not as easy in that realm. “You play with the manly men, and you kind of have to hide a little bit of who you are until you find that self-confidence,” Belisle explains. “It’s funny that now I play the role of The Innocent, because that story of The Innocent finding who he is—finding that self-confidence to be who he wants to be—really is the story that I went through.”
As an athlete who competed at the
national and international levels before joining Cirque du Soleil, Belisle wishes more LGBTQ athletes would come out publicly. “There are these heroes that are finally coming out, not being scared of losing their sponsorships and all that,” says Belisle. But he also acknowledges that he is lucky to work for an organization that is inclusive of all people. “From day one, I just felt welcome. No matter what my opinions or my thoughts were, [Cirque du Soleil] encour-
ages creativity. This is what the company is based on,” Belisle says. “Everyone is welcome in this company [because] the more ideas that come forward and the more differences that we can bring to the stage, the more special these shows become—and the more we can relate to every member of the audience.”
Whether or not you’ve already seen Kooza, Belisle welcomes everyone to attend this run. “Cirque is really good at modernizing and adding touches to their shows,” Belisle says. “So when we do return to cities, even though you might have seen the show ten years ago, it is a different show.”
And Belisle is also looking forward to the special enthusiasm that Houston audiences bring with them. “It’s always very relieving to us to know that we’re going to have crowds that are going to blow our socks off, because we know how loud you guys can get!”
What: Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza
When: January 25—March 5, 2023
Where: Under the Big Top, Sam Houston Race Park Info: tinyurl.com/2jv79xvr
Keep up with Cedric Belisle on Instagram @cb_lisle.
OUTSMART’S 2022 HOLIDAY PARTY
Hundreds gathered at ReBar Houston for OutSmart’s 2022 Holiday Party. This year, we made the yuletide gay with a night of cocktails, dazzling door prizes, mingling with our family of friends and advertisers, and more.
David Alcorta and Dessert Gallery provided our guests with tasty treats. Throughout the evening, we also raised funds for Montrose Grace Place, an LGBTQ-affirming drop-in shelter for housing-insecure youth, and collected nonperishable food items for the Montrose Center’s HEB Emergency Pantry.
The Art of Love
Local creatives Richard Eastman and
Morales were married in their backyard studio.By JENNY BLOCK | Photos by DALTON DEHART
Richard Glenn Eastman and Eduardo Alonso Morales were surrounded by art on the night they met. Little did they know that their lives would soon be surrounded by love, as well.
The couple met in 2013 when Eduardo attended an art reception at Richard’s home in Spring Branch on Saturday, February 8. “We had our first date the following Tuesday, February 11. We saw each other almost every day after that,” Richard recalls.
For Eduardo, meeting Richard wasn’t about just falling in love. It was also about rebuilding his life. “I literally lost my entire family, and my partner of 15 years, to illness. I was asked by a mutual friend to attend an art gallery party at Richard Eastman’s home. It was love at first sight,” Eduardo says.
Richard’s feelings were not far behind.
He fell for Eduardo when the two were at a friend’s house and Eduardo, who does signlanguage interpreting, signed a song for him.
“I signed ‘The Goodbye Girl’ by David Gates of Bread,” Eduardo continues. “I felt so passionate about signing that song for someone I truly loved, I knew then that he was my soulmate.”
Richard was beyond touched, and he knew then he had found the real thing. “I cried and fell in love with him on the spot,” Richard adds.
Richard, 67, a lifelong Houstonian, is an artist and potter, as well as a retired interior designer. He attended Sam Houston State, Lee College, and Houston Community College.
Eduardo, 56, from Laredo, has been selling rare movie collectibles for over 23 years. He graduated from Boston University’s School of Communications with a degree in public rela-
tions and filmmaking. The two currently live in Garwood, Texas.
Eduardo proposed to Richard on November 7, 2015, on the bow of the Queen Mary when the ship was in Long Beach, California. “I cried and said yes. It was the most romantic moment I had ever experienced,” Richard says.
There was definitely a method behind Eduardo’s madness. “I am a huge film fan, and The Poseidon Adventure is one of my favorite films. It was a Friday; I kneeled on one knee and asked him to be my husband, and he said yes. It was beautifully romantic and emotional—a day I will never forget,” Eduardo adds.
The two were wed on September 24, 2022, in their backyard art studio. “We had just completed construction on our 2,400-square-foot building after having the
previous structure burn to the ground on June 10, 2022. Our art studio is very special to us, as we spend a lot of time creating in it,” Richard explains.
Their old barn had burned after their wedding plans were already finalized, so they were in a true race against time to get their new studio finished in time for the wedding. “We decided to marry on our property because we feel so spiritually connected to our life [here, and to] nature and our animals,” Eduardo emphasizes. “It turned out beautifully.”
The most special moment of the ceremony for Richard was when the two exchanged their vows. “I married my soulmate, my best friend, and the best person I know. His words touched me so deeply that all I could do is smile at him through tear-filled eyes.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, that was the most special moment for Eduardo, as well. “When we exchanged our vows, I could feel our souls connecting. It was very spiritually powerful for both of us, and I hope that
everyone who ever dreams of being married reaches a level when they can realize without a doubt that ‘This was meant to be.’”
During the ceremony, the couple had one of their friends read a Native American blessing that was special to them. At the reception, Deborah Duncan, of Great Day Houston fame, sang “At Last” for their first dance. “She is a longtime friend of ours, which made it an exceptional moment,” Richard says.
In the interest of supporting Houston’s LGBTQ professionals, the couple’s vocalist was Luis Hernandez, his accompanist was Jerry Atwood, their photographer was Dalton DeHart, and their minister was Johnny Peden. “I believe it’s important to give the LGBT community the first chance at opportunity because we must realize that being part of the gay community is also sharing and supporting each other,” Eduardo notes.
Eduardo did have to scramble at the last minute to find someone to officiate, as their original officiant had to cancel due to illness on the eve of their wedding.
The couple has planned a three-part honeymoon, and the Port Aransas leg occurred soon after the wedding. Next up is a cruise to the Bahamas with a stop in Key West on the way back, as Eduardo has never been there. And next year, the couple will see Europe on the Orient Express—a trip they booked three years ago but had to postpone because of COVID.
“We chose them because they represent the best of living a full life to us, with naturalism and beauty surrounding us. The Orient Express was chosen because we love trains and, quite honestly, it’s the chance of a lifetime,” Eduardo says.
“The man I fell in love with and married is my soulmate. Having someone understand and see life the way you do, by respecting a higher power, is a special gift,” Eduardo concludes. “The blessing of falling in love with a man right after having so much loss in my life is something that is never lost on me.”
“Eduardo is the most romantic, loving, and generous person I have ever met,” Richard adds. “He feels compelled to help everyone in need, including animals. We have 10 rescue dogs because they needed a home and we had one. His generosity is exemplary, and is definitely one of the main reasons that we have such a blessed life.”
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Planet Ford 20403 I-45 Spring TX 77388 ................... 866/879-9328
Planet Lincoln 204031 I-45 Spring TX 77388 888/242-5059
Houston Federal Credit Union HoustonFCU.org 866/OUR-HFCU
Primeway Financial Credit Union www.primewayfcu.com 713/799-6200
David Alcorta Catering davidalcorta.net 832/439-0224
Dessert Gallery DessertGallery.com .......................................713-522-9999
Eureka Heights Brewery 941 W. 18th EurekaHeights.com
Hydroshack Hydroponics 1138 W 20th St 713/661-0091
Bering Church 1440 Harold beringchurch.org
Resurrection MCC 2025 W 11th 713/861-9149
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church 5501 Main 713/528-0527
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church 1805 W. Alabama ststephenshouston.org
Trinity Episcopal Church 1015 Holman St www.trinitymidtown.org
AIDS Foundation Houston Aidshelp.org 713/623-6796
Bering Connect ........................................................................713-526-1017, ext.20
Bunnies on the Bayou BunniesOnTheBayou.org Diana Foundation .TheDianaFoundation.org
Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce HoustonLGBTChamber.com 832/510-3002
Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus thecaucus.org
KPFT Radio kpft.org 713-526-4000
Lesbian Health Initiative (LHI) 401 Branard lhihouston.org Lesbians Over Age Fifty (L.O.A.F.) lesbiansoverage50.org............................... .713/907-5378
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast ppgulfcoast.org/lgbtq
Ryan White Planning Council rwpcHouston.org ............................................ 713-572-3724
The Woodlands PRIDE .......................................................... thewoodlandstxpride.org
Copy.com 1201-F Westheimer 713/528-1201
CONSTRUCTION/HOME REMODELING Noble Contractors noblecontractor.com..................................... 832/370-7091
VCS Construction & Remodeling www.vcshouston.com 713/828-3097
Lone Star College North HN-Info@LoneStar.edu..................................lonestar.edu
Alley Theatre 615 Texas Ave ................................................alleytheatre.org JR’s/Santa Fe 808 Pacific 713/521-2519 Midtown Houston Midtownhouston.com
Miller Outdoor Theatre MillerOutdoorTheatre.com ........................281/373-3386 Out & Proud Live .outandproudlive.com Pearl Bar 4216 Washington PearlHouston.com ReBar 202 Tuam 346/227-8613 Society For The Performing Arts SPAHouston.org 713/227-4772
Stages Theatre StagesTheatre.com 713-527-0123
Theatre Under The Stars 800 Bagby, Suite 200 tuts.com/out Tony’s Corner Pocket 817 W. Dallas 832/722-7658
Broughton Investment Group thebroughtoninvestmentgroup.com 713/337-4500
Richard Dickson/Galene Financial 520 Post Oak Ste 780 713/489-4322
Shane Theriot/Edward Jones 888-A Avenue D, Katy...................................... 281/391-6137
Grace Yung/Midtown Financial 3355 Alabama, Ste 180 713/355-9833
FITNESS CLUBS/PERSONAL TRAINING
Club Houston 2205 Fannin 713/659-4998
John Aaron Online Fitness www.jaofit.com 832-649-8422
Floor Coverings International floorcoveringsinternational.com 832/280-6646
Fountains & Statuary 11804 Hempstead 713/957-3672 Joshua’s Native Plants & Antiques 502 W. 18th St 713/862-7444
GROCERY STORE H-E-B Multiple locations heb.com
HAIR/NAIL/MAKE-UP SALONS NU-Cuts Hair Salon 515 Westheimer 713/524-7858
HEALTH CARE–COUNSELING/THERAPY D. “Woodja” Flanigan, MS, LPA 2600 SW Fwy, Ste 409 713/589-9804 Denise O’Doherty, LPC, LMFT, RN
Dr. Daniel Garza, MD 3131 Eastside St, Ste 4 281/610-8190
Dr. Barry F. Gritz, MD 230 Westcott, Ste 210.................................... 713/869-7400
Shane Hennesey, Med, LPC-S www.thestressdojo.com ............................ 281-726-3027
The Montrose Center 401 Branard 713/529-0037 Matt Trietsch Matt-Trietsch.com 512/591-8510 Christine Wysong 230 Westcott, Ste 210.................................... 713/869-7400
HEALTH CARE–COSMETIC SURGERY GW Plastic Surgery/George Washington, MD 7400 Fannin St. Ste. 850 713/678-0019
Bayou City Smiles/Marcus de Guzman, DDS 2313 Edwards St., Ste. 150 713/518-1411
Bayou City Smiles/Cynthia Corral, DDS 2313 Edwards St., Ste 150................................ 713/518-1411
Cory Logan, DDS 530 Waugh Dr. 713/942-8598 LifeSmiles by Randy Mitchmore, DDS 1722 W. Alabama 713/592-9300 Montrose DDS/Samuel A. Carrell, DDS 620 W Alabama ................................................ 713/529-4364 Montrose DDS/Austin T. Faulk, DDS 620 W Alabama 713/529-4364
HEALTH CARE-/HIV/COVID TESTING Houston Health Department/HIV .......................................................................houstoniamlife.com Houston Health Department/COVID houstontx.gov 832-393-4220
HEALTH CARE-EMERGENCY CENTERS
Montrose Emergency Room 24 Hour ER 1110 W. Gray St., #101 ........................................ 713/242-1436
SignatureCare Emergency Centers 3209 Montrose Blvd 281/709-2897 1925 TC Jester 832/850-4338
HEALTH CARE-HIV/STD TESTING Avenue 360 Avenue360.org 713/426-0027
Legacy Community Health LegacyCommunityHealth.org
Stewart Zuckerbrod, MD
Greater Houston Eye Consultants Humble 281/454-2056 Clear Lake 281/484-1186
Boutique Eye Care/Juliet Farmer, OD 1806 Westheimer, Ste. A ............................. 713/528-2010 Eye Gallery 1806B Westheimer 713/523-1279 1700 Post Oak Blvd, Ste 110 ......................... 713/622-7470
Montrose Eye Care/ Paul Lovero, OD 520 Waugh Dr..................................................... 713/352-0974
Legacy Pharmacy LegacyCommunityHealth.org/services/pharmacy/
Octavio Barrios, MD 507 West Gray 713/942-7546 7106 Spencer Highway 281/542-9400 Gordon Crofoot, MD/Crofoot MD 3701 Kirby, Ste.1230........................................ 713/526-0005 M. Sandra Scurria, MD 6565 West Loop South, Ste 300 .............. 281/661-5901
Derek Smith, AGPCNP-BC/Crofoot MD 3701 Kirby, Ste.1230........................................ 713/526-0005
Maggie White,MPH FNP-BC AAHIVS/ Wellness Bar by Legacy 120 Westheimer 713/814-3730
AIDS Foundation Houston afhouston.org 713/623-6796
AIDS Healthcare Foundation HIVcare.org Avenue 360 Avenue360.org .................................................. 713/426-0027
Harris County Public Health Publichealth.harriscountytx.gov 713/439-6293
Houston Health Department houstontx.gov
Legacy Community Health
LegacyCommunityHealth.org 832/548 5000
Ryan White Planning Council
RWPCHouston.org .......................................... 713/572-3784
St. Hope Foundation offeringhope.org 713/778-1300
HEALTH CARE–SKIN CARE
GW Plastic Surgery/George Washington, MD 7400 Fannin St. Ste. 850 713/678-0019 Heights Dermatology/Alpesh Desai, MD 2120 Ashland 713/864-2650
SkinCeuticals/Skin Lab 2800 Kirby, Ste. B21 713/559-9300 Skin Renaissance Laser/Octavio Barrios, MD 507 West Gray 713/942-7546
HEALTH CARE-WEIGHT LOSS
Dr. B-Fit / Octavio Barrios, MD 517 West Gray ..................................................... 713/942-7546
Eclectic Home EclecticHome.ws 713/869-1414 Eklektik Interiors 1300 Shepherd ................................................ 832/804-6300
Noble Contractors noblecontractor.com 832/370-7091
Lane Lewis/Farmers Insurance 2200 North Loop W, Ste 136 713/688-8669
Patrick Torma/Goosehead Insurance 3420 Rusk, Ste. 22 281/723-1294
Doug Smith/Hawthorne Capital 1210 West Clay, Ste. G HawthorneFunds.com
Montrose Forge 3423 White Oak 713/893-5002 Sir Rat Leather and Gear LLC 711 Fairview sirratleather.com
Faust Massage FaustMassage.com
Ryan Fugate, RMT RyanMassageWorks.com 713/269-7926
PEST CONTROL SERVICES & TRAPPING
Andy’s All Star Pest Control 713/732-7742
PET SERVICES & SUPPLIES
Bayou City Veterinary Hospital 4720 Washington 713/343-9909
DOGTOPIA 1839 W. Alabama St ........................................ 281/985-5158
Midtown Veterinary Hospital MidtownVetHospital.com 713-528-4900
The Urban Vet/Dr. Eric Cagle 2625 Louisiana St. Ste D100 713/903-2364
Vergi 24/7 Emergency & Critical Care Hospital 8921 Katy Freeway 713/932-9589
West Alabama Animal Clinic 2030 W. Alabama ............................................. 713/528-0818
Dalton DeHart Photography DaltonDehart.com 713/622-2202 Yvonne Feece Photography yvonnefeece.com 832/876-1053
In The Loop Plumbing Services
MET Plumbing 832-221-7628
U-Plumb-It Plumbing Supply 1424 Montrose 713-942-2277
POOLS & POOL SERVICES
Venture Pools 713/447-9201
2daypostcards.com 621 Richmond 713/224-8808 Copy.com 1201-F Westheimer 713/528-1201
Janet Friedman/J Friedman Mortgage JFriedmanLoans.com 713-785-5626
Chicago Title –Inner Loop 3700 Buffalo Speedway 713/418-7000
Cody Grizzoffi/NRL Mortgage Codygrizzoffi.com ............................................ 832-541-1103
Cari Middaugh/AmCap Mortgage myamcap.com/cari-middaugh/ 281/450-2235
Lyn Sullivan /Alamo Title 4265 San Felipe, Ste 520 .....................713/228-0801 Patriot Title www.patriottitletx.com .............................. 713/864-5335
Brooks Ballard/Engel & Volkers 309 Gray.................................................................. 713/522-7474
David Batagower/Compass Realty bayoucitypropertygroup.com 713/523-8609
Scott Brown/Greenwood King ....................................................................................... 713/861-1000
David Bowers/The House Company/Galveston David@DavidBowers.com 409/763-2800
Mike Copenhaver/Remax Metro firstname.lastname@example.org 713/528-4963
Karen Derr/Karen Derr Realty karenderr.com 713/875-7050
Tom Eickleberry/Pride Street Realty TomSellsHoustonHomes.com 713/201-5257
Rock Edwards/Rock Edwards & Associates Rockedwards.com 713/409-1729
Jeremy Fain/Greenwood King Properties 3201 Kirby Dr 713/677-4337
William J Finnorn/Martha Turner Sotheby’s William.Finnorn@sir.com .......................... 832/221-7628
Paul Gomberg/The Rock Star Real Estate Group 713-446-8810
Richard Hill RichardHill.com 713/863-9494
Houston Association of Realtors har.com .................................................................. 713/629-1900
Debbie Levine/Sotheby’s International Realty sothebysrealty.com 713/942-6857
Lynette Lew/Better Homes and Gardens LynetteLew.com. 713/582-2202
Thomas Phillips/City Side Properties Exp Realty
Danny Pleason/Martha Turner/Sotheby’s dannypleason.com 832/661-1502
Todd Russo/Gary Greene 15103 Mason Rd Suite A-1 832/803-9177
Tom Schwenk/Tom’s Galveston Real Estate Tomsgalvestonrealestate.com .............. .713/857-2309
VJ Tramonte/Joe Tramonte Realty 1802 Broadway/Galveston 409/765-9837
Martha Turner Properties Marthaturner.com 713/520-1981
Chapultepec Lupita 813 Richmond 713/522-2365
Dessert Gallery DessertGallery.com 713-522-9999
Eugene’s 1985 Welch St 713/807-8883
Free Grillin’/Chef Michele
Giacomo’s cibo e vino 3215 Westheimer............................................... 713/522-1934
Harold’s In the Heights 350 W. 19th 713/360-6204
Niko Niko’s 2520 Montrose 713/528-4976 93’ Til 1601 W Main St ................................................. 281/846-6405
Pho 518! 9330 Broadway, #416 832/736-9903 Riva’s Italian Restaurant 1117 Missouri St 713/529-3450
Sable Gate Winery 2600 Travis Ste 104 .......................................... .713/360-7113
Tacos Doña Lena 8788 Hammerly 713/993-6486 Urban Eats 3414 Washington Ave .................... feasturbaneats.com
Phoenicia Specialty Foods phoeniciafoods.com 832/360-2222
Morningstar Storage The Heights 4495 Katy Fwy 281-728-4509
KHOU/Channel 11 5718 Westheimer....................................................... khoucom
Mr. McKinney’s Historic Houston Tours MisterMcKinney.com 713/364-8674
TRAVEL/TRAVEL AGENCIES Concierge Travel, Inc 4920 Mimosa 713/661-2117
Don’t give your money to a business that does not support diversity. Whether you’re looking for the butcher, the baker, or the candlestick maker, O UTS MART can help you ﬁnd an equality-minded business that appreciates you and provides community support.
Read OUTSMART, so you can have your cake and equality, too.
Why would you buy a cake from someone who doesn’t want to sell you one?
For advertising and subscription information, call 713/520-7237.
Montrose’s newest dance club is open Thursday through Sunday and features a daily Happy Hour from 7 to 10 p.m.
2320 Crocker St, Houston TX 77006
With the longest daily Happy Hours in Montrose from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., this neighborhood watering hole is a popular spot. Drag shows occur Wednesday through Sunday, and the bar hosts karaoke on Mondays and Wednesdays.
817 Fairview, Houston TX 77006
This multi-level dance club features an upstairs lounge and balconies, with weekly events including Travesura Thursdays and Latin Saturdays.
710 Pacific St, Houston TX 77006
“EveryBUDDY’S welcome” at this modern LGBTQ bar with “events as diverse as Houston.” The bar features cocktails, beer, karaoke, pool, DJ’s, and more.
2409 Grant St STE A, Houston TX 77006
With roots going back to the iconic club Inergy, Club Crystal is Houston’s original LGBTQ Latino nightclub. Find some of Ingegy’s décor (and former staff members) at this two-room Latin/hip-hop club.
6680 Southwest Freeway, Houston TX 77036
The newest LGBTQ club in Southeast Houston, where couples are welcome. Friday-night super show with Rosselyn D Montiel. $3 shots. No cover, free parking.
10705 Gulf Freeway, Houston, TX 77034
This comfortably remodeled Montrose nightspot offers karaoke on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and extended Happy Hour prices throughout the week.
2312 Crocker, Houston TX 77006
As part of the worldwide Eagle family, Eagle Houston is the definitive home of
the man’s man. Leather, bear, or jock, you’ll find them all here. This neighborhood bar has multiple levels and outdoor decks, and regularly features DJs and male dancers.
611 Hyde Blvd., Houston TX 77006
George Country Sports Bar
Regulars rule at this comfortable neighborhood sports bar with dart boards and pool tables. Sports fans can watch games on televisions (inside as well as outside on the newly renovated patio), and Steak Night with chef Michele Free is on Thursday nights.
617 Fairview St, Houston TX 77006
Hamburger Mary’s Houston
This drag-queen themed downtown restaurant serves up the best in entertainment, delicious food, and gloriously yummy drinks.
1008 Prarie St., Houston TX 77006
JR’s Bar & Grill
Proudly serving Montrose for 40 years, JR’s Bar & Grill offers drag Sunday through Thursday, karaoke Wednesday through Sunday, and daily Happy Hour specials on a spacious New Orleansstyle courtyard patio.
808 Pacific St, Houston TX 77006
Disco y Cantina
One of Houston’s favorite Latin LGBTQ bars, La Granja Disco y Cantina is open Wednesday through Sunday and features daily Happy Hour prices, DJs, drag shows, and karaoke nights.
5505 Pinemont Dr, Houston TX 77092
The only piano bar in Montrose offers great drinks, award-winning drag shows, and a roundup of talented musicians taking turns on the keys seven nights a week.
1419 Richmond Ave, Houston TX 77006
Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon
Houston’s only LGBTQ country dance hall is open Wednesdays through Sundays and hosts dance classes, steak nights, bingo, and karaoke.
11410 Hempstead Hwy, Houston TX 77092
Houston’s newest Latin LGBTQ club offers dancing, drag, and game shows all week long. Visit Papi’s and experience the spicy side of Montrose!
570 Waugh Dr, Houston TX 77019
Houston’s only lesbian bar—one of just 21 left in the nation—is home to a wide variety of events including weekly drag-king shows, nationally known LGBTQ DJs, and a queer farmers market on the patio.
4216 Washington, Houston TX 77007
This full-service venue offers distinctive food with Southern flair, a popular patio, multiple bars, VIP bottle-service areas, a large dance floor, and some of Houston’s most acclaimed resident DJs.
202 Tuam St, Houston TX 77006
Sabroso Patio Bar and Restaurant
Northwest Houston’s newest LGBTQ destination, serving delicious food and cocktails in a beautiful patio setting.
5503 Pinemont Dr, Houston TX 77092
Montrose’s favorite dance club has re-opened to rave reviews. South Beach’s state-of-the-art sound, laser light show, and world-class DJs make the club a must-visit destination.
810 Pacific Street, Houston TX 77006
Since 1982, this leather bar has been a fixture in Houston’s LGBTQ community. It’s where the wild, the weird, and the kinky gather on a nightly basis—no pretense, no gatekeeping, just pure camaraderie and debauchery.
715 Fairview, Houston TX 77006
Tony’s Corner Pocket
If you love a friendly bar staff, sexy male dancers, and entertaining showgirls, Tony’s Corner Pocket is the perfect spot. The bar is open seven
days a week and hosts shows like Tornado Tuesdays, Wepa Wednesdays, and Sassy Saturdays.
817 W. Dallas, Houston TX 77019
Viviana’s Nite Club
This weekend-only LGBTQ Latin dance club is home to a variety of DJs, singers, talent shows, and Sunday strippers.
4624 Dacoma St, Houston TX 77092
23rd St. Station Piano Bar
This upscale piano bar with an extensive martini menu offers daily drink specials. Happy Hour prices from 4 to 7pm and live entertainment every evening. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Weekends include a fullservice outside garden patio bar. 1706 23rd Street Galveston 77550
Texas’ oldest bar has been open for over half a century, and is home to Galveston’s original drag show. 2501 Avenue Q, Galveston TX 77550
Ranch Hill Saloon
The first (and only) LGBTQ bar in Walker County offers DJs, dancing, drink specials, and drag shows. 1000 12th St, Huntsville TX 77340
This bar and video lounge has a laid-back atmosphere and features daily drink specials, karaoke, free pool, drag shows, and live DJs several nights a week.
4915 FM 2920 #148, Spring TX 77388
The only LGBTQ dance club in Bryan/College Station is this sleek spot located smack in the middle of Aggieland.
121 North Main Street, Bryan TX 77803
3805 Avenue P 1/2
1926 Craftsman-style •3/2/2 • Raised one floor w/full walk-in attic. • $595,000
7765 Beaudelaire Circle Circa 1975 3/2/2 with POOL! One floor 2401 SQ FT(CAD) 4 blocks to Beach • $398,000
2620 Avenue M 1/2
Circa 1912 Craftsman-style 3/1 Ready to be renovated. $259,500. Historic Covenants
Circa 1928 • Norwegian Lutheran Seamen Church • Over 4,000 with 2nd floor huge sanctuary • $665,000
Galveston Beach Rental
Our recently renovated and newly furnished 2/1 cottage is just 2 blocks from the beach at 34th Street has all the charm and amenities for your next vacay or quick getaway. Not only are we close to the beach, we are a stone’s throw from many restaurants, clubs such as Rumors and attractions like the Pleasure Pier!
FOR MORE PHOTOS AND INFO, CONTACT TOM AT: email@example.com 713/370-1911
ARIES (Mar. 21–Apr. 19)
With your ruling planet, Mars, still retrograde, you are in a holding pattern until Mars is direct on the 12th. That is a much better time to ensure success with your New Year’s resolutions. This positive time brings more opportunities for both work and relationships. Your career is very unsettled as the month opens. You will be reviewing your current path and considering potential alternatives. You should also see improvements in your relationships, even if you are single. In the latter part of the month, you will be reaching out to associates and friends for advice and support. You are anxious to get your year started, but you should pace yourself so you don’t get discouraged.
TAURUS (Apr. 20–May 20)
You are continuing to make sure that your life is moving in the right direction. You may be having problems with patience and are not sticking with your agreements. You are looking for something that stimulates your passion and not just a place to work. You are more decisive this month, but you are still keeping your options open. As the month begins, you are in a more relaxed mode that is better for travel or sharing your ideas and views with others. This is a better time for research or social activities. In the latter part of the month, career takes the spotlight. Friends and social organizations can be extremely b eneficial this month. You will be more successful if you allow others to help you. Watch your impulse spending, especially at the end of the month.
GEMINI (May 21–June 21)
Mars, planet of action, self-defense, and anger, has been in your sign since August 2022 and will continue there until the end of March 2023 because of Mars being retrograde. You may not have slept well; you are more impatient than usual; and small things can really make you mad. You are more willing to focus on improving yourself, working out, and competitive activities. YouBy LILLY RODDY
Capricorn season kicks off the new year with high energy.
We enter January in a slow and sluggish period that comes to a standstill when Mars goes stationary direct on the 12th, followed by Mercury going stationary direct on the 18th. We are moving forward by the end of the month, as the standstill ends. The Sun moves out of Capricorn on the 20th and enters Aquarius. The Lunar New Year on January 22 ushers in the Year of the Rabbit. The beginning of January is a very intense time. We are still feeling the effects on our country and culture from COVID and domestic terrorism. Some people are still willing to take the law into their own hands. This energy does wane by the end of the month, and really improves at the end of March.
likely have little tolerance for whiny individuals. You are looking for more trust in your relationships this month, and you don’t mind digging in the dirt to get to the gold. After mid-month, you are more clear about your boundaries, particularly related to career goals. Clarity is coming!
CANCER (June 22–July 22)
Relationships are the big topic this month. With Mercury retrograde in your partnership area, you are connecting with friends and lovers from the past. With positive r elationships, this is a time of renewal and bonding. In difficult partnerships, this is a time to fix it or move on. In business, this is a very good time to connect with clients or business contacts from the past. If you are looking for work, this is a better time to consult with past employers. January is a more social month for you and is a better time for career and business activities. You are continuing to lessen your debt so you can feel more free. By the e nd of the month, you may need some time to write, step away from your routines, or watch more fantasy movies. You may need a vacation for your mind!
LEO (July 23–Aug. 22)
You are paying attention to your health and improving your exercise and eating habits. You may be drawn back to activities that you used to do. There are changing conditions in your work environment. This may mean you are working more from home or from your electronic devices that don’t need a home! You may also be updating your equipment and electronic devices. This can be a t ime when you are having problems with some of your co-workers, and you will be speaking your mind in these situations. In the latter half of the month, relationships share the spotlight. This is a great time to renew your bonds. This can also be a great time to connect with old friends. Business partnerships are still brewing, and they may be part of your career direction. If you are looking to refinance your home or consolidate your debt, the latter part of the month is a better time for that.
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept.22)
With your ruler, Mercury, retrograde until the end of the month, this is a great time to do research and explore several different approaches to your business. You may investigate ways to eliminate time-wasting practices, but this is not the time to put your plans into action. The end of the month is a better time to hit the ground running. January is a better time for creative activities with your children or enjoying your hobbies. You may even be considering one of your hobbies as a potential career! In the latter half of the month, you are paying more attention to diet and exercise, improving your work conditions, and possibly rearranging your workspace. Relationships are better at the end of the month. You will want to spend more time with your partner and close friends, or even expand your social network.
LIBRA (Sept. 23–Oct. 23)
As the month opens, you are paying attention to your home and family. It may seem as if you have extended your holiday to have more time with your family. There are definitely family hierarchy shifts as different individuals rise to the top. This can also indicate moving, remodeling, and even downsizing. Relationships are definitely more positive this month. This energy improves ongoing partnerships and companion relationships, as well as opening up your energy to meet new people for business, romance, or friendship. In the latter part of the month, you enter a more fun and playful time. This is a better time to be with your children or to embrace your inner child. You are more sensitive to your environment in the latter part of the month, as well. Choose your company carefully.
SCORPIO (Oct. 24–Nov. 21)
You are working hard to get your life organized this month. You are setting career goals, as well as goals
for getting rid of stuff. You are speaking your mind more often and developing better work habits. You are more than ready to explore other options, but are still waiting for the best time to act on your ideas. That time will be the middle of February. In the latter half of the month, you are spending more time with family and in the comfort of your own home. Work communications are a lot more active this month. You have new ideas and views that you want to share with others. In relationships, you are still keeping your options open. In difficult partnerships, this may be a time of separation as you are wanting your freedom.
With Mars, planet of action and anger, still occupying your relationship sector until the end of March, partnerships are dramatic, unexpected, spontaneous, and for some, potentially volatile. This energy provides you an opportunity to clear the air, speak your piece, and move past your dilemma. You are paying more attention to your personal values, regardless of what others are expecting. This is a good month to work on finances, investments, and getting rid of debt. You are reviewing what you did last year and are developing a plan for this year. You are improving your boundaries at work, with your family, and with your partner. Home and family take on a deeper meaning this month. You may be considering remodeling, moving, or even downsizing. You are also getting your day-to-day activities more organized by paying more attention to yourself and not pushing past your physical limits.
CAPRICORN (Dec. 22–Jan. 19)
Happy Birthday to the sea goats! This is your personal yearly cycle when you review what you accomplished last year and what new endeavors you might focus on this year. This year Mercury is retrograde in your sign, so the time you spend looking back will be more fruitful and give you greater insight into yourself. Mercury retrograde is certainly the time to plan, do research, look at what you did in the past, but not the time to put those new ideas into action. That comes in early February. In the latter half of the month you are paying more a ttention to your finances and your self-worth. You may be looking for a better-paying position or considering raising your fees. You have spent the last year trying to get your finances in shape, and this is just another time to continue that improvement. Home and family take on a great sense of importance. Your assistance may be needed there.
AQUARIUS (Jan. 20–Feb. 18)
As the month opens, you are in a rest and retreat mode. You are taking time to explore your spirituality and how to integrate those ideals into your life. You may not be ready to end the holidays and get back to work! You are definitely adding new activities to your daily life, such as taking classes, having a greater presence on social media, blogging, or helping others to get their lives more organized. You are continuing to rethink your domestic duties, and you may be tired of your routines around food and housekeeping. It may be time to downsize or even consider getting some help to alleviate those
domestic pressures! Big changes are coming this year with Pluto, the planet of transformation, detoxification, and releasing negative emotions, entering your sign in May. You are already feeling this energy approaching. This may make some of you switch careers, change your views on relationship commitments, and/or strike off on a path of your own. Change is in the air!
PISCES (Feb. 19–Mar. 20)
Friends, acquaintances, and group affiliations are all under review as the month opens. You may be clearing people from your social media accounts, leaving organizations that aren’t productive, and connecting with f riends from your past. You are in a more nostalgic time when looking back can be comforting, even with the realizations that come from being older. In the latter part of t he month, you move into a more rest-and-retreat mode. The holidays are always a busy time for you, and you always need some recovery time afterward. This month is also a better time to focus satisfying your needs and desires. Relationships with everyone are improved… even with those you don’t get along with. Boundaries are going to be very important this year, and you are already working on improving them. For some, this can be a time to get your career active. For others, this can be a time to make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of, which leaves you feeling alone and unappreciated. Stability will be the focus this month and this year.
For more astro-insight, lillyroddyshow.com.
Glamour, Grace, and a Bearded Face
Ms. Mykie mixes old-school glamour with over-the-top camp.By SAM BYRD | Photo by FRANK HERNANDEZ @THE_CREATIVEX
When Ms. Mykie enters the room, everyone notices. The curvaceous chanteuse, who even sings in drag with Pride Chorus Houston, is a must-see musical treat. Life is a banquet, and she is busy eating it up by exhibiting the radical confidence to be her authentic self, both on and off the stage. Find out more about how this ol’ gal puts the pep in her step.
A pig in a wig
Houston Drag birthday?
March 6, 2015
What got you interested in drag?
The glamour. I have always been drawn to strong and powerful women. Drag allows me to access that divine femininity and harness it.
Describe your drag persona. Ms. Mykie is a suspiciously large, bearded woMAN who believes herself to be a 4-foot-tall, 90-pound petite girl. She’s glamour and grace with a bearded face—with a dash of unresolved childhood trauma.
Describe your drag aesthetic. Ms. Mykie is all about the Old Hollywood glamour with a touch of camp. You can always expect some laughter and whimsy in my performances. As a woman of my age and size, it’s no surprise that I lean into power ballads and comedy. I’ll leave the bucking and shablams for the younger girls. My insurance rates are already high enough.
How did you pick your name?
I go by Mykie in my boy life, so that’s how Ms. Mykie came about. At the beginning, I played
around with a few names, but I feel Mykie and Ms. Mykie are the same—except one wears a lot of makeup and has a shopping problem. It is also a play on my love of Miss Piggy. She’s a glamorous pig in a gown who’s not afraid to throw her weight around.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
People are surprised to find out I am a recovering alcoholic and have almost two years of sobriety, which has been my greatest accomplishment and what I hold most dear. Also, at 40 years old, I have gone back to school for fashion design.
Describe your involvement with Pride Chorus Houston.
Pride Chorus Houston is my oasis in this crazy world. I’ve always loved singing, and finding an LGBTQIA choir has been such a blessing.
It’s difficult at times to find sober places for fellowship among LBGTQIA people. Being able to mix singing with queerness plus sobriety has been really magical for me!
What is it like singing with the choir in drag?
Being able to sing in drag has been a missing link in my life that I didn’t realize I lacked. I have sung for years in more traditional choirs, but felt so restricted. At times, I felt the need to dim my queerness. Even being asked to wear a traditional tuxedo made me feel uncomfortable and so unglamorous.
Pride Chorus Houston encourages selfexpression, and when I was able to sing and wear a gown, I felt like my most authentic for the first time. It’s something I cherish very deeply.
Any New Year’s resolutions?
Personally, I intend to keep working on staying in a place of gratitude. Try to do one small act of kindness each day. Meditate and find deeper meaning in life. Now, enough of that hippy-drippy stuff! Professionally, I want to continue exploring burlesque through drag, and work with my queer friends to create more art—be that in fashion or music or a good ol’ drag show.
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