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JULY + AUG 2018 VISIT TUVMAG.COM

THE COOLOTS The Coolest Band Around!

SHEA DIAMOND Telling her story through music

THE TRUTH ABOUT PRIDE

UNLEASH YOUR VOICE

PRIDE ISSUE


A little bit of wisdom from my cat /

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SEPT | OCT

2018

CONTENTS

06 Empowering Conversation with Gwendolyn | Editor’s Letter 07 “Pride Is” by Dr. Davin D. Clemons, DMin 08 “30 and Single?” by Eddie Wiley | MSM 12 “I Identify As Me” by Tina Colleen | Feature 15 LGBT and Growing up Catholic by Beth Trouy 19 Fashion 20 The Keith Reynolds Story 21 One’s to Watch Pharah Phitted & Sagacious 22 “Embrace Who You Are” by Trust Jarrell 23 HEALTH & WELLNESS by Michael Chancley

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25 Meet the Whaley’s Wedding Announcement 30 Concrete Rose: A Story About Coming to Terms with Being Gay by Anonymous 32 Bachelorette of the Month

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SHEA DIAMOND Country in Silence By TUV Staff

by Monika Pickett

@TUVmagazine

The Truth About Pride

Dr. Darnell Gooch, Jr. DMin

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TEAM TUV

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National Advertising + Rivendell Media Company 1248

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Shawn M. Clemons Administration/ Fashion Director

Gregory Graphics Philadelphia

Eddie Wiley AIDS/ HIV

Monick Monell New York

Whitney Johnson Chief Editor

Renae Taylor Ravell Slayton Transgender Project Manager Correspondent


THE EDITOR’S PAGE |

THE EDITOR’S LETTER |

THE EDITOR’S LETTER |

An Empowering Conversation with Gwendolyn G.Q. Clemons

“I MOVED”

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lbert Einstein once said, “Nothing happens until something Moves.” I Moved… thus beginning the 15-year journey which I will briefly share with you. One of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced is to make the decision to change and become the person I am today. That process has literally taken me over 15 years of unlearning bad behaviors and replacing my flawed belief system with a wealth of information on self-transformation. Learning principles of self-transformation taught me that my self-defeating idiosyncrasies were consistently and directly tied to my financial, personal, and professional failures. By repeating negative patterns over and over again, I had been unconsciously participating in my own self-destruction. As I continued to falter year after year, I excluded myself from blame because one thing I was good at was rationalizing my own situations to fault others. Yet, despite each failure I faced, somewhere deep inside I knew that I held a greater responsibility to myself, my son, my family, and the Universe. The only issue was that I didn’t know how to change. When I finally reached a point where I was so sick and tired of myself that I was sure everybody else was sick and tired of me too, I was so miserable that I was willing to risk everything to LIVE with purpose. It was then that “I Moved” from a place of spiritual unknowing to the guidance of God’s whispers. Learning to listen to God’s

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direction for my life quickly aligned my steps to the change agents I sought. In 2001, the spirit of the universe connected me with the teachings of Spiritual Guru Iyanla Vanzant. In aligning with Vanzant, I was introduced to a plethora of thought leaders and their teachings which immediately resonated with my spirit yet conflicted with the teachings and beliefs I had inherited. At this moment, I was at a crossroad. Either I could hold onto those inherited teachings and beliefs, or I could follow my instincts: “I MOVED!” In 2007, “I Moved” from a place of unconscious ignorance to a world of information that offered me glimpses of the life I so desperately desired. I began to read the works of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Esther and Jerry Hicks, Neale Donald Walsh, Paulo Cauhlo, and Les Brown to name a few. These teachings illuminated for me the root causes of my self-imposed limitations, along with the reasons those areas of my life had eluded me for so long. However, maintaining the level of commitment required to be the best version of myself was mentally exhausting. I relapsed because I stopped working on myself and failed to recognize that I was reverting to the traps of my past. But in this pivotal moment, the usual justification for my low level of decision making no longer applied because, “When you know better, you have to do better!” In 2009, “I Moved” from a place of emotional emptiness to finding LOVE, or LOVE found me. LOVE saved me -- not religion, not some

mystical teachings -- pure, unadulterated LOVE. I found out that I was the LOVE I had been seeking all along. But I could not discover this until I understood that although I’d been given a wealth of information, it served no working purpose if I wasn’t applying it correctly. Once I learned that I was still a student and that these lessons were lifetime lessons rather than a quick fix for years of erroneous thinking, I was on the road to recovery. In 2018, I am still moving, each step being guided by a force greater than me, into what it means to truly be a part of Her laws. These laws helped me remember my earthly assignment, and my purpose in life. Make no mistake about it; we are here for a higher purpose. This Pride Issue is about “Unleashing Your Right” to create the life you desire, aren’t your ready? “If you are not willing to risk, you cannot grow; if you cannot grow, you cannot become your best; if you cannot become your best, you cannot be

happy; if you cannot be happy, then what else is there?” - Les Brown

Gwendolyn D. Clemons is Publisher/Editorin-Chief of The Unleashed Voice Magazine, Radio Personality, Empowerment Speaker, Relationship Coach, and Life-Coach for Relationships Unleashed. #IAmUnleashed

PRIDE IS... PRIDE IS... PRIDE IS... A

s I sit here and write about PRIDE in this July/August edition of the TUV, I am so pissed off due to all that is taking place in our American political System, such as: the immigrant children being separated from their parents, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement, and just living with the consequences of the election. How can I truly celebrate PRIDE, considering the jeopardy of losing marriage equality with this new Supreme Court appointment, and of my sisters losing the right to control their own bodies? An intersectional perspective takes into account that an individual can experience discrimination in many forms, overlapping with multiple identities such as race, gender, class, sex and sexual orientation. I have learned that we are all connected in life -- especially the oppressed, marginalized and rejected. So my liberation is predicated by your liberation.

This PRIDE is more than gay PRIDE. This PRIDE is about loving yourself unapologetically and accepting everything that God has bestowed within you. PRIDE is celebrating my Black history in America, which contains some of the most tragic, empowering and beautiful stories you will ever hear. We as Black Folks are some of the most creative, intelligent, beautiful human beings that God has ever created. PRIDE is about liberating LGBT individuals, to help motivate, validate, and strengthen lives within the LGBT community who have been overlooked, underserved, and frequently ostracized by the Church, family, and society. Lastly PRIDE is Love -- never abstract, but always personal. Ultimately, love is not a smoldering glance across the dance floor, the clink of crystal, a leisurely picnic spread upon a sandy beach. It is the squeeze of

a hand. It is saying: “I’m here. I’ll be here no matter how long the struggle. In an age of incredible suffering, we are personally joining God’s merciful angels in loving and caring and healing. Doing so will be a way of visiting the sick as Jesus commanded (Matthew 25:36). It will be discovering a “means of grace” as deeply spiritual and meaningful as partaking in Holy Communion or being baptized. It will be experiencing, anew, the splendor of God’s grace. As we bestow love upon “one of the least” of God’s children, we will also be showing love to Christ. Let’s remember PRIDE is more than just PRIDE!! Dr. Davin D. Clemons, DMin

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30 & Single Eddie Wiley | MSM

I’m not sure who created the notion that at a particular age you should be “boo’d” up or married. I know for me I had plans in my early 20’s to be married with a couple of kids, a sickening condo and maybe even a dog by the time I turned 30. Needless to say, here I am at 30 and single *gasp*. During some much needed quality time with my therapist, she asked a pertinent question. “What makes you so anxious about getting rid of your single status?” As I sat there perplexed, I realized that I didn’t really have an answer. After I left, I decided to write out some great reasons why I should be okay with being single after 30. Here’s what I came up with and maybe it’ll help some of you other single souls out there. Refusal to Settle Sometimes we think that no one wants us, but that may not necessarily be the truth. Think about those past loves who crossed your path and wasted your time, lied or cheated. I’m sure one of them would have popped the question or would have stuck around a little longer. But they didn’t. So whether they walked out or you even sent them

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on their way, be thankful you dodged the bullet of more binges with your favorite pint of ice cream. You Can Date Whoever You Want Since you’re single, you really have the dating pool at your grasp. Just think if a sexy tenderoni walks up to you and you’d have to say, “Sorry mane, I’m married.” Well you’re not married, so you don’t have to worry about that! Feel free to lock that number in your phone under their REAL name instead of “Beautiful Nails” or “Best Fren”. (Don’t act like y’all don’t have a friend that saves their side piece’s number under a different name!) Sex Life With No Rules A couple articles back, I talked about sex positivity. So remember, you can do whatever you want to do (safely of course). Random hookups are your choice, so if you’re into that… GET YOUR LIIIIIIFE! If you’re not into that, then a few 4play sessions won’t hurt, right? You Don’t Have To Share You’ve got your entire bed to yourself. You don’t have to worry about bae snatching the covers in the middle of the night. You have an entire closet to yourself, so go on and buy those shoes

#SplurgeHoney. You don’t even have to share your food. There’s nothing worse than somebody mooching off of your plate when they have an entrée of their own. Unlimited Girls/Boys Night Out If you’re still single, then you don’t have to worry about checking in or about bae having a problem with your constant need to go out for a cocktail. You can enjoy your boys/girls without having an “appropriate” time to get back home. Hit the dance floor. You never know who’s looking and waiting to shoot their shot. Great Time To Work On Yourself I know I have a lot of things that I need to work on. Everyone has their own variety of crazy. Some issues are bigger than others. But while you’re single, this is the perfect opportunity to work on yourself. You can get into counseling, go do some yoga or sit down with your friends for a vent session. It’s your choice and your time to get yourself together. Use it wisely. Remember that you have more life to live. One day, I hope you find that love of your life. But until then, enjoy the time that you have with yourself.

K L A T E L B A T C E T E UND Undetectable means reaching a point where the amount of HIV in your blood is so low it can’t be measured. It is important for your health and means you have effectively no risk of passing HIV to a sexual partner.

cdc.gov/StartTalking /ActAgainstAIDS /StartTalkingHIV @TalkHIV


COVER FEATURE |

| COVER FEATURE

By TUV Staff

Q: How did you come up with the name CooLots? We had been bouncing ideas off each other for a couple weeks, but nothing really fit. Finally, one day in rehearsal, a friend of Huggie suggested the name The CooLots. CooLots ==> Cool Lots ==> Cool Group. It was perfect!

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MEET THE COOLOTS

Q. Who is the band’s biggest inspiration? We have so many influences across a span of genres! At the core, NERD, Jimi Hendrix, Staind, Sade, No Doubt, Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, Paramore, and 311 have been tremendous influences musically. And as with most artists, our music is a reflection of the world around us. Being black and queer in this country can be pretty exhausting, so you hear a lot of that in our music as well.

There are five CooLots: • Asha BOOMCLAK Santee (Vocals Drums) • AwesomeRita (Vocals/Bass) • Crys C (Vocals/In studio Keys) • Dappho the Flow-er (Vocals, Bass) • Huggie Hugster (Vocals/Electric)

Q. Who are the band members and how did you all meet? Our meet up story is a little long, but in short, Dappho was the plug! She and AwesomeRita were already friends for some time. Dappho and Crys were introduced by a mutual friend. Around the same time, Dappho was hosting a monthly open mic called Lyrics and Lace. It was there that she met Huggie, who had performed a few times. Coincidentally, Boom’s brother Will was the doorman for this same open mic. And that’s how Boom and Dappho became acquainted. (Clearly we need a diagram to accompany this!)

Q. What are the future plans for the band, and is there a tour scheduled? The REBIRTH tour kicked off in January, playing several shows between New York, DC and Southern Virginia. Our last stop is The Orpheum in Tampa, FL in July. The CooLots are taking a little break for the winter to regroup and focus on new music. We’re ready to go back in studio!

How can fans follow The CooLots? All our current shows, appearances and happenings can be found at www.TheCooLots.com. But fans can definitely connect with us socially @ thecoolots on FB, IG, Twitter, and YouTube. We love engaging with our supporters! If we can’t do it in person, that’s the next best thing! They can even stream, download and share our music on all digital platforms like Spotify, Itunes, Apple Music, Google Play and Tidal.

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| CELEBRITY NEWS

I Identify as Me 12

A unique documentary that will educate and provide representation for queer women and womenidentifying people of color who will no longer accept invisibility. By Tina Colleen

s a society, ambiguity makes us A uncomfortable. Society wants everything to be binary: black or

white, male or female, gay or straight, feminine or masculine. We live our lives with these ideals, but as we evolve within ourselves, most of us begin to realize we may not fit within these binary boxes. These boxes suffocate us from our true potential and that makes life at times difficult to bear. Thanks to the evolution of our intelligence, compassion, and frustrations of the world, many of us are standing up and demanding to be seen, to be heard, and most importantly demanding to heal because we will be invisible no more. The I Identify as Me documentary and photo series’ goal is to do just that. The objective is to challenge societal ideals and show that gender fluidity is beautiful. We can find comfort in the gray area. We don’t need to fit into a box in order to deserve love and respect. More specifically, this project is a platform to celebrate queer masculine-presenting and gender fluid women/women-identifying people (WIP) of every minority race under the

sun. Women/WIP can be masculine and feminine at the same time. We can work on our cars and get pedicures; we can keep our body hair wherever we want and wear makeup, we can wear clothing that is traditionally made for men, but love our female anatomy and… want to keep it, because now is the time to love ourselves for who we are.

NEWS CELEBRITY |

for people of color. Her most recent project is the “Black Queer Goddess Project: The Plus-Size Femme.” It is a body positive photo series that celebrates black queer plussize feminine women. Her creative background extends to writing for Wear Your Voice Magazine, event planning, and producing social/ environmental justice fashion shows.

Three queer women from very different backgrounds and talents

have come together to direct and produce this amazing project.

To support and donate to the project go to: www.tinyurl.com/QTPOC

Monick Monell is known as a leader for queer-trans people of color (QTPOC) and within the entire Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (or Trans), Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA+) community. She works for the LGBTQIA+ community as a New York City (NYC) Correspondent for The Unleashed Voice Magazine (TUV), Rainbow Fashion Week, and SAGE USA #Sagetable. She commits to helping others find safe spaces and information about LGBTQIA+ shelters and medical places within the area. This work is very important to her.

Follow the project and the “I Identify as Me” Documentary Team Monick Monell | IG: @brooklynmoz | Facebook: Monick Monell | Email: Monell@identifyasme.com Amanda Clare | IG: @thedivulgeproject | Facebook: The Divulge Project | Email: Amanda@identifyasme.com Tina Colleen | IG: @antigravity3c and @tinac_productions | Facebook: Tina Colleen | Email: Tinacolleen@ idenitfyasme.com

Amanda Clare, born and raised in NYC, is a photographer and videographer whose work focuses on the raw natural beauty of each individual she captures. Her talent is to provide all of the people within her projects a safe space to be who they are in their purest form. She captures the essence and energy of what they may not know they possess. Amanda is an artist with genuine charm and wit. She strives to express the warmth and authentic truth of her subjects by creating a trustworthy and heartfelt connection with each and every one of them. Tina Colleen is a queer body positive activist who uses art to promote activism that inspires love and healing

“I Identify as Me” Photo Series Credits Instagram Accounts Models Chayse | IG: @chase2067 Knicolle | IG: @thewlntersoldier Neha | IG: @nghosh_32 Sasha | IG: @fluid420 Stella | IG: @stellanycbby Toya | @toyadelazy Photographer: Amanda Clare | The Divulge Project (IG: @thedivulgeproject) Photographer Assistant: Bridgette Cruz (IG: victoriatarantino) Lead Hair and Makeup: Iventt Glam (IG: @iventtglam) Hair and Makeup Assistant: Ruben Mendez (IG: @ ruemendez) Sponsor: Play Out Underwear (IG: @playoutnyc)

“I Identify as Me”

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| SPIRITUALITY

The

SPIRITUALITY |

TRUTH about By Dr. Darnell Gooch, Jr., Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis, Inc. Overseer/Pastor

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very year many individuals across the world celebrate June as Pride month for the LGBTQ community, and Tri-State Black Pride has been designated as the official host Black Pride for the Memphis and Mid-South region. Although Pride features its many events, festivals, parades, and nightly social entertainments, its history emphasizes a series of events that stresses the social and economic injustices of LGBTQ individuals. These injustices ranged from discrimination to stigmas to rejection. So when the parties, social entertainment, festivals and parades are over, what happens next? Many LGBTQ individuals spend thousands of dollars for a weekend of fun, only to return to their destinations broken, stigmatized, oppressed, marginalized, deprived, and so much more. This year we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. and the substance of his movement was to bring awareness to such injustices. The same mission is the essence of TSBP, as Tri-State Black Pride is affectionately known. TSBP’s 2018 theme is “People & Purpose: The Impact,” acknowledging that the LGBTQ community is too involved in too many

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PRIDE

areas for us not to have the same voice or benefits as others who surround us. TSBP is committed to increasing awareness of LGBTQ issues and bringing people together in the spirit of acceptance and community, and endeavors to be a catalyst for positive change by promoting equality and inclusion, and by providing access to education, health/wellness, culture, and social services through the Cathedral Foundation, Inc.

The work that the Cathedral Foundation, Inc. and TSBP are doing is the bedrock of the church’s mission. Though the church is the sacred place for people to gather for worship, it is also the place for social justice. All too often, the church has struggled with its theology on sexual orientation, sexuality and marriage equality. The church is comprised of a melting pot of individuals, and because the church has so many different demographics, the church must respond to the world that sits in its congregation every Sunday, as well as to the community in which it lies. Prophetic preaching extends far beyond our pulpits and into the community because whatever lies in the community, lies in the church. Therefore, we must be the church that prides itself on teaching unconditional love, forgiveness and the acceptance of all of God’s children to the Lord’s table. How we do this is by striving to do justice, love mercy, defend the poor and liberate the oppressed.

Pride is about action. And we must act out love, celebration, social justice and awareness, all of which are elements that should serve as the cornerstone of the church, the very identity of the church. Some churches don’t want to really take on an identity of loving LGBTQ individuals, celebrating LGBTQ pride, fighting LGBTQ social injustices and bringing awareness to LGBTQ issues. But there is still a church that exists with a stance in the fight for equality and inclusion of all. The Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis, Inc. has been in existence for almost six years now, and we are very passionate about the work that God has called us to do. We are Christian. We are progressive. We are Pentecostal. We are multiracial. We are of different sexual orientations. We come from different family dynamics. We are of different ages. We are of different political affiliations and economic backgrounds. So as the church, we must not disappoint the Gospel. We must continue to be a faithful witness in the area of social justice and rediscover our pride in the LGBTQ community. We must preach an inclusive Gospel, administer the sacraments, care for and exercise ministry efforts to the LGBTQ community as well. In closing, “… when Jesus proclaimed that he had come to preach the good news to the poor and liberty for the oppressed, he was calling the church to do the same.”

LGBT and Growing up Catholic by Beth Trouy

P

ride is hard for me. Growing up Catholic, I was taught that Pride was one of the seven deadly sins. And even though I wasn’t old enough back then to understand what sins were, well I knew they were deadly alright. Sitting in church, I would pray for humility and not let a shred of pride enter my heart Religion can teach you a lot of things that at first seem to be true because the Bible and Father said it, so it must be true. At some point, however, life forces us to think for ourselves when our inner compass leads us in a new direction. Pride begins to grow like a mustard seed inside, tiny at first and vulnerable to persuasion. Webster defines pride as: “A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” So it is a sense of acknowledgement and recognition for an accomplishment well-earned, like surviving being bullied as a kid, or overcoming bad theology that caused us to doubt who we were growing up.

This month, Pride is for all LGBT persons who recognize our sexuality as a gift from our Creator and have the courage to live out our lives embracing the truth of who we are. Pride is the declaration that despite the scars, pains and sufferings endured, we have survived and, yes, thrived on the Love that has also been with us from the beginning. A Love that left the other 99 sheep and came to find us to remind us how precious we are, despite what we were led to believe. This Love has conquered all doubt, and we can be proud to have discovered the truth that, like a compass, was always directing us to our true selves. A truth that also compels us to demand to be given the same dignity, respect and compassion we deserve. It is public acknowledgement that we aren’t afraid anymore and that we aren’t ashamed to embrace who we are as beloved children of God. It is also a declaration of faith that we believe we, too, are made in the image of our Creator and we, too, are co-heirs of the heavenly kingdom of God as well as citizens with every inalienable right to life, liberty and yes, the pursuit of happiness. As a Catholic, Pride month is also well established within Catholic Social Teaching which demands that we do as Jesus did and reach out to the marginalized, the outcasts,

the rejected of society. It is especially relevant that we welcome those who have been marginalized by our Churches and remind them of their dignity and rightful place as beloved by God. The minute we forget what it took to get here, could be the minute it’s all taken away. To have survived the storms and come out on the other side, not always unscathed, but intact enough that Love survives -- this is Pride. Pride month reminds us of the journey we have made to reach this life truth and claim ourselves. Pride month reminds us, as well, of the work we do for those who will come after us. By publicly celebrating Pride, we pave the way to acceptance for our younger LGBT siblings. We make it better for them. Once there was a little girl who used to sit in Church and pray for the sin of Pride never to enter her heart. Now stands a grown woman in her place who marches in the name of Pride and prays that it never leaves. May we all celebrate the gift of who we are, the Love that created us, and the hope that Pride transforms the hearts of all who are willing to follow that inner compass. Gay rights activist, Harvey Milk, was quoted, “Hope will never be silent.” Happy Pride -- Unleash your voice!

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What is BIKTARVY®? BIKTARVY is a complete, 1-pill, once-a-day prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in adults. It can either be used in people who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before, or people who are replacing their current HIV-1 medicines and whose healthcare provider determines they meet certain requirements. BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS. HIV-1 is the virus that causes AIDS.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION What is the most important information I should know about BIKTARVY? BIKTARVY TARVY may cause serious side effects: � Worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection. If you have both HIV-1 and HBV and stop taking BIKTARVY, your HBV may suddenly get worse. Do not stop taking BIKTARVY without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to monitor your health.

Who should not take BIKTARVY? Do not take BIKTARVY if you take: � dofetilide � rifampin � any other medicines to treat HIV-1

What are the other possible side effects of BIKTARVY? Serious side effects ffects of BIKTARVY may also include: � Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking BIKTARVY. � Kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys. If you develop new or worse kidney problems, they may tell you to stop taking BIKTARVY. � Too much lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis),, which is a serious but rare medical emergency that can lead to death.

Get HIV support by downloading a free app at MyDailyCharge.com

Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: weakness or being more tired than usual, unusual muscle pain, being short of breath or fast breathing, stomach pain with nausea and vomiting, cold or blue hands and feet, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or a fast or abnormal heartbeat. � Severe liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow, dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored stools, loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, or stomach-area pain. The most common side effects of BIKTARVY in clinical studies were diarrhea (6%), nausea (5%), and headache (5%). Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effects that bother you or don’t go away.

What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking BIKTARVY? � All your health problems. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you have or have had any kidney or liver problems, including hepatitis virus infection. � All the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, antacids, laxatives, vitamins, and herbal supplements. BIKTARVY and other medicines may affect each other. Keep a list of all your medicines and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist, and ask if it is safe to take BIKTARVY with all of your other medicines. � If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if BIKTARVY can harm your unborn baby. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant while taking BIKTARVY. � If you are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed. HIV-1 can be passed to the baby in breast milk. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Ask your healthcare provider if BIKTARVY is right for you.

Please see Important Facts about BIKTARVY, including important warnings, on the following page.

KEEP SHINING. Because HIV doesn’t change who you are. BIKTARVY is a 1-pill, once-a-day complete HIV-1 treatment for adults who are either new to treatment or whose healthcare provider determines they can replace their current HIV-1 medicines with BIKTARVY.

BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS.

BIKTARVY.COM


FASHION |

IMPORTANT FACTS

This is only a brief summary of important information about BIKTARVY® and does not replace talking to your healthcare provider about your condition and your treatment.

(bik-TAR-vee) MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT BIKTARVY BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including: • Worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection. If you have both HIV-1 and HBV, your HBV may suddenly get worse if you stop taking BIKTARVY. Do not stop taking BIKTARVY without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to check your health regularly for several months.

ABOUT BIKTARVY BIKTARVY is a complete, 1-pill, once-a-day prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in adults. It can either be used in people who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before, or people who are replacing their current HIV-1 medicines and whose healthcare provider determines they meet certain requirements. BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS. HIV-1 is the virus that causes AIDS. Do NOT take BIKTARVY if you also take a medicine that contains: • dofetilide • rifampin • any other medicines to treat HIV-1

BEFORE TAKING BIKTARVY Tell your healthcare provider all your medical conditions, including if you: • Have or have had any kidney or liver problems, including hepatitis infection. • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. • Are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you have HIV-1 because of the risk of passing HIV-1 to your baby. Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take: • Keep a list that includes all prescription and over-thecounter medicines, antacids, laxatives, vitamins, and herbal supplements, and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist. • Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist about medicines that interact with BIKTARVY.

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF BIKTARVY BIKTARVY can cause serious side effects, including: • Those in the “Most Important Information About BIKTARVY” section. • Changes in your immune system. • New or worse kidney problems, including kidney failure. • Too much lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious but rare medical emergency that can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: weakness or being more tired than usual, unusual muscle pain, being short of breath or fast breathing, stomach pain with nausea and vomiting, cold or blue hands and feet, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or a fast or abnormal heartbeat. • Severe liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow, dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored stools, loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, or stomach-area pain. • The most common side effects of BIKTARVY in clinical studies were diarrhea (6%), nausea (5%), and headache (5%). These are not all the possible side effects of BIKTARVY. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new symptoms while taking BIKTARVY. Your healthcare provider will need to do tests to monitor your health before and during treatment with BIKTARVY.

HOW TO TAKE BIKTARVY Take BIKTARVY 1 time each day with or without food.

GET MORE INFORMATION • This is only a brief summary of important information about BIKTARVY. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to learn more. • Go to BIKTARVY.com or call 1-800-GILEAD-5. • If you need help paying for your medicine, visit BIKTARVY.com for program information.

BIKTARVY, the BIKTARVY Logo, DAILY CHARGE, the DAILY CHARGE Logo, LOVE WHAT’S INSIDE, GILEAD, and the GILEAD Logo are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. Version date: February 2018 © 2018 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. GILC0396 04/18

NoRal Apparel Redefining the Norm

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oRal Apparel creatively integrates pop culture elements into bold fabrication and a strong sense of individuality so that you get the attention you deserve. Kentucky native LaRon Hickerson, aka Ron DuWayne, designer and creator of all NoRal Apparel, graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in fashion design. He prides himself on infusing NoRal Apparel with innovative design and ingenious craftsmanship for a custom look that feels amazing to wear. Since May 2012, NoRal Apparel has headlined as the featured fashion show for Blatino Oasis in Palm Springs, CA. NoRal Apparel has appeared on Zane’s Original Cinemax Series The Jump Off, and has also been donned by choreographer Brian Friedman on So You Think You Can Dance, as well as by the character Raheim in the stage adaptation of B Boy Blues. Contact: @noralapparel (Instagram) Ron DuWayne (Facebook) noralapparel.com 323|646|6838

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| NEWS

The Keith Reynolds Story K

eith Reynolds is a 26-yearold professional athlete from Mound Bayou, MS. Currently playing professional football in Paris, France, Keith believes that football was his gateway for a positive life because through sports he found a way to control his anger as well stay out of trouble. At a young age, Keith confronted the totality of death after watching his father die in a wreck during a motorcycle race. After the surreal moments of touching the lifeless, icy, hardened body of the man he had idolized throughout his life, the trauma of losing his father led Keith to act out in fits of rage and bouts of aggression.

ENTERTAINMENT |

Pharah Phitted is the NEW WAVE of the music industry! Her breakout smash START-NO-STOP has reached fans all over the U.S. and as far overseas as Africa and Indonesia. This and future hits from Pharah Phitted will be available via: iTunes Spotify Tidal Pandora iHeartRadio & more Stay tuned for more heat coming your way!

Pharah Phitted Sagacious

Keith watched his mother spiral into personal deterioration as she also struggled with losing his father, becoming addicted to drugs and unable to financially support herself and her children. At the age of 14, Keith left home on his own and moved to Memphis, TN. Unable to provide for himself, Keith found himself homeless and living on the streets. Throughout high school, Keith lived in abandoned apartments, hiding from his peers that he was homeless.

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Keith’s only refuge was football, where he found solace, structure, family and love. His success on the football field allowed him to play college football, earn his master’s degree in criminal justice, and play football professionally in three countries (Canada, Australia, and Europe). Life’s hardships could have taken Keith out, but today he feels blessed to work in a career he loves, while also running his photography business, Keith’s Vision Photography.

Considering the arts as her gift and her way of bringing light to the world, Sagacious proclaims ministry as her calling and anointing. After years of grappling with conformity to fit the mold of her church rather than being herself, she finally pursued and received her local preacher’s license under the AME Zion Church. Upon going before the board of examiners, however, she was told that there was literally no room for those she felt God had called her to minister to.

Sagacious, a spoken word artist from the Philly area, has written poetry since middle school and has since then evolved into a published poet and budding entrepreneur. In 2015, she launched Sagacious Works and is currently in the startup phases of her own LGBT production company.

“Discouraged I felt rejected,” she says. “Being a preacher’s kid, it hurt. I came out to my family prior to delivering my trial sermon, shortly after high school graduation. So it was no secret and there was no closet. So I was very confused, to say the least. Not about my sexuality, but how it all would work together.”

It was that experience which led her to Sagacious Works… her ministry, her way. In 2016, she was ordained by the Universal Life Church, enabling her to minister to any and all. “I believe God wanted it that way,” she says. “Trying to fit the church mold just left me unhappy. So I decided to spend some time with God. Alone. Fasting. Praying. Trying to make it all work together for His good. The end of 2016 through about December 2017, I spent fasting, continuously for 40 day periods. I learned a lot about life. I learned even more about myself. I finally put it all together, and here I am. God gave me a crown with jewels I intend to wear proudly. And I don’t care what the world has to say about it.” For more information about Sagacious and her ministry, visit: www. sagaciousworks.weebly.com


| HEALTH & WELLNESS

HEALTH & WELLNESS |

Embrace Who You Are As a Life Coach, I believe in the power of truly loving who you are. We are often afraid of the reflection of our true and honest selves because images and interpretations of celebrities have convinced people to believe their authentic selves are of no value. So there is always a message of motivation and inspiration that I share in order to encourage others: You are more than enough, and the world is waiting to embrace every part of you. I encourage you to face your fears by remembering that fear has two possible meanings: “Forget Everything And Run” or “Face Everything And Rise.” Always choose to RISE. You MATTER and we’re ready to love you just the way you are. I challenge you to embrace and explore the REAL you.

How A Pill Reframed Embracing My Sexuality and Health

Trust Jarell Reloaded

Michael Chancley, MSW

I

remember the details vividly, like it was yesterday. April 20, 2004, I was 19 years old and got off of the #80 Desire Bus and met my first love. We met in person after messaging each other from Yahoo Chat Rooms for a few months. I was fully enamored with this beautiful, dark chocolate guy waiting at the bus stop with the beautiful smile. As we walked back to his place, I was nervous, excited, and scared to death of having sex for first time. At this time, there weren’t many positive images of gay men on TV or movies. Much of what I learned about homosexuality at this point was online, and I just remember seeing so many warnings about HIV and it being a gay disease. So as I was about to have this amazing, heartfelt moment, all I did was wonder, “If I do this, will I get HIV?”

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Over the next ten years as I further accepted and embraced my sexuality, I

eventually came out to my friends and family. There was still one major fear that made it difficult being a gay man. Every sexual encounter was marred by the idea that in this moment, I might get HIV. By now, I was doing my social work internship in a HIV clinic and spending extra time volunteering to do HIV prevention outreach. This work proved to be very rewarding. But despite all of the awareness out there, I saw more and more young Black gay men who looked like me, walking into the clinic newly diagnosed with HIV. As I learned just how much HIV impacted my community, I also gained an even greater sense of self-awareness. I realized that as a Black gay man in The South, I will always be at high risk of acquiring HIV. This is when one of the nurses who worked at the clinic let me know about this revolutionary new HIV prevention strategy -- PrEP, a once a day pill to prevent getting HIV. I had spent

my entire sexually active adult life in constant awareness that each and every single sexual act came with the risk of acquiring HIV. Now I was being told I can prevent acquiring HIV by simply talking to my doctor and taking a pill? After being on PrEP for three years, I feel so free now. I learned that the fear of acquiring HIV does not have to define who I am, nor will it define my sexual and romantic relationships. Lowering my risk for HIV now simply has its place in a conversation between my doctor and me, just like any other health issue. Now when I’m with a new partner, I can actually be empowered to focus on intimacy, compassion, and love. Michael Chancley, MSW PrEP Advocate and Greater Than AIDS Ambassador

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Rhonda and Tamika Powell-Whaley -- both 42 years of age, both born February 23rd of 1976, both from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and both with careers in law enforcement since 2005 -- met in 2013. They were married on their birthday this year, February 23, 2018, and held their wedding ceremony on March 31, 2018 in the Dominican Republic.


Introducing

Shea Diamond Releasing her debut EP, “Seen It All” -- nearly a decade following release from a men’s prison after a desperate crime to obtain means of transitioning to her true gender -- singer/ songwriter Shea Diamond (as in, “She a Diamond”) reflects on unearthing and flaunting her truest self, and on the universal love that’s missing to encourage so many others to live just as authentically.

How did you come into the name Shea Diamond? The name given to me when I was born, the name I paid a whole lot of money to give back — that was the person that people loved. They didn’t love me. Who I was brought shame to them. They were saying, “You can be anything you want to. Just don’t be no girl.” They told me that I wouldn’t be successful as a trans woman, that I wouldn’t make it, that I was wrong, that I was going to hell. We’ve demonized the existence of trans people, gay people, every spectrum in-between. And it’s embedded so

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deep into our subconscious. That name symbolized all of the pain, all of the restrictions against who I am. So I gave back that name, in its entirety, so who I was, who I would become, would be me, a reflection of me, and not a negative reflection of anybody who didn’t want to be associated with who I am. Shagasyia is my chosen name, a name that came to me in a dream. I was locked up at the time, and I was singing onstage. The crowd was calling me Geisha, meaning entertainer, performer. I put a spin on the spelling, and added “Sha” meaning “she”, a girl. Malika,

an African name, is my middle name, meaning Queen. Before that, it had always just been Diamond, probably in reference to The Player’s Club. So putting it together, the full name is “She, Girl Entertainer, Queen of Diamonds.” And then shortening it to “Shea Diamond” breaks it down into “She’s a diamond.”

Was there a time when you believed what you’d been told, that you wouldn’t succeed? Yes. Yes, yes.

up. You had to understand what’s going on around you. Why did this person walk up to me? Why did this person not greet me today? Why is everybody so quiet today? It made me a better person to be able to see, “Oh, I know what y’all want. Y’all want me to act a little silly. That’s what y’all want. Okay. This is in. This is out.”

How’d you overcome that? What made you go for it anyway? I understood things on a deeper level. And being incarcerated for 10 years gave me time to sit with myself, and deal with myself, and talk to the Creator. I realized it was meant for me to pass what I knew and what I felt on to other people. Because something I always had was a light, and that’s what they tried to take from me. “This Little Light of Mine” used to be my favorite song. Meant so much to me, I would internalize it. Because even in church tried to steal your light. A child that was always happy, always smiling, wanted to please everybody, wanted everybody to be happy. So I didn’t understand. How was I so disposable? How did I become so unloved? I’ve always been transparent. I’ve always been the same person. They’ve always known who I was, since I was little. But I got punished for it. They always attacked my femininity. So writing “I Am Her” was like my stance against a church that was supposed to love me, a family and friends that were supposed to love me. And then being at the point where you had no one. And you had to see that you did have someone. You had the most important person of all. You had you. So writing “I Am Her” was saying that, regardless of what you see, I am her. And it’s not just about me. It’s about us. Everyday, we’re finding another way to alienate another person. We’ve found all these ways to separate ourselves so much from each other, but we are so much a part of each other. If you don’t understand that I am her, that you are her, that the world itself is her, the fruits of her labor — and that femininity nourishes all things in life, that it’s a hell of a burden, that essentially everything that bears fruit needs to grow and continue to be nourished — if you don’t understand that, then we’re doomed.

There are so many like me, in everybody’s family. But they’re hidden deep, like a jewel. Afraid to let their light shine. Because someone else controlled that light, hid that light. Some people, you can destroy their light. Happens all the time. It happened to most of us. We were born innocent. We were born loving everything, everyone. And then the world told us that we had to hate. It started early. But what seems so clear to me is universal love, loving everybody, regardless, knowing that we are so much more than the bodies that entrap us, enslave us. And I feel like if I know so much, but do little, then I’m a part of the problem, not part of the solution. I don’t think it was meant for us just to be a part of the world, just to exist.

Then performing, it’s beyond music. It’s beyond poetry too. Beyond being onstage. Beyond being in a studio. It’s triumphant pain on a giant canvas. What happens when you do this? What happens when you don’t do anything? You know the old saying, “If a tree falls and nobody’s there to hear it, did it make a sound?” Who knows? Because when you don’t see a lot of things, you believe they’re not happening. When you don’t see a lot of people like us, you think we don’t exist. So I have to make sure that I’m making a sound. Check out Shea Diamond’s introspective single “I Am Her”, her latest flirty single “Keisha Complexion”, and her debut EP “Seen It All” on:

How did you discover music as your outlet for expression? The theater turned me on because I was always playing a character. I had to always pretend to be something that I wasn’t, or I would get my ass whipped. So I had to pretend to be a certain way, for survival. So I learned. I learned where they could see through the mask. If you had your voice low and you had your legs open, but you still talk with your hands… then they’ve caught you. So I learned about eye contact, I learned about body language, how to tell if people are comfortable when you’re around, especially when I was locked

http://instagram.com/ iamsheadiamond http://facebook.com/ iamsheadiamond http://twitter.com/iamsheadiamond http://iamsheadiamond.com


SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR |

SERVING MY COUNTRY IN SILENCE: A Human Perspective on Solidarity Versus Sexuality

By Monika Pickett, Author/Activist

R

ecently, I was asked about my thoughts regarding the debate on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military. I responded that the audacity of our Commander-in-Chief to question the dedication of any service member was mind-blowing. First, his dodging the draft, not once but five times, hardly warrants respect from those of us who have served and protected our country. Second, LGBTQ individuals have always served in the military. We simply served in silence. Third, there are transgender soldiers, retired and active, who have stellar service records. And yet, transgender individuals continue to be marginalized when it comes to the repeal of DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell). I was incensed at the question.

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Yet, after all these years, I couldn’t help but question myself. Was I a soldier who was a lesbian, or a lesbian who was a solder? Did my sexuality diminish my solidarity? I flashed back to my own service to my country. I felt like a pawn. Once I signed on that dotted line, I was government property. Only the parts of my existence that were useful to the military were honored. I remember swallowing hard when having to answer the question regarding homosexuality. My hand shook as I checked the wrong box. My anxiety heightened when I was asked during my physical what form of birth control I used. The physician was impatient as he looked over his glasses when I hesitated. I exhaled when he was satisfied with my answer that I was not sexually active.

The question of what is more important, solidarity or sexuality, lingered. But it’s a fact that the experience of serving in the military creates an enduring bond between soldiers. In Basic Training, we are broken down as individuals and rebuilt into one cohesive unit. That sense of solidarity transcends everything else. I realized my sexuality was secondary to my solidarity during a critical mission. I served as a medic with the 343rd Medical Company during Operation Desert Storm. After 27 years, a scent, a sound… can take me right back to the Saudi Arabian desert. I’ll never forget that night. The sound of a siren blared across the city of tents. This time, it wasn’t a mock mission. We slept in our BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms) so that all we had to do was slip on our boots, grab

our M16s and run to our ambulances. Sergeant Kader barked orders to move out. We grabbed our gear and headed toward our ambulance. My heart beat faster and faster. I grabbed the MBITR (Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio) and

listened for our intended location. I repeated it to Jones, my partner. The desert was darker than anything I had ever seen. My eyes widened as I looked for the helipad. Jones leaned over the wheel and waited for my directions as he sped through the darkness. It was as if we had a joint adrenaline rush as our senses intensified. The sounds of the chopper got louder and louder. We stopped approximately 100 feet from the helipad and waited for the signal from the pilot. The sand slammed against our faces as we lowered our heads and ran toward the helicopter. A sergeant yelled over the sound of the whirring blades: “Stepped on an IED [improvised explosive device].” I braced myself as I ran to the other side of the gurney. Two front-line medics helped move the soldier onto to our gurney. They were on one side, Jones

and I were on the other. The injured soldier had to be at least two hundred and fifty pounds. He was mumbling and shivering. We crouched under the helicopter blades as we ran back to the ambulance and hoisted him up. I jumped in the back as the front-line medics disappeared into the night. Jones

home. Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home...” His screams became soft whimpers the more I sang. I looked at his name tag before pulling the blanket over his trembling body. “Hold on, Sergeant Blaine, we’re almost there.” He squeezed my hand just as we pulled up to the evacuation site. In

locked me and the injured soldier in the back of the ambulance. I swallowed hard before pulling the blanket back. I looked down and gasped. No amount of training could have prepared me for what I saw. His foot was missing. There were pieces of bone and metal embedded in his shattered leg. His voice startled me as I tightened his tourniquet. “My foot! Please! Stop the pain! Stop the pain!” he screamed.

that moment, I was a soldier and that transcended my sexuality.

I wanted to cry. I started talking to myself. Man up, soldier! His screams became louder than the ones in my head. The medical equipment clanged against the walls of the ambulance as Jones sped through the desert. That was the moment I became a medic in the United States Army. My words were almost a whisper. “Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me

I knew I would never see Sergeant Blaine again. I wondered if he had a wife and children, or a fiancée. The one thing I knew for sure was that he had a mother and a father. I’m sure that they were not concerned with whom I chose to love. And neither should anyone else be. Monika M. Pickett is a veteran of the United States Army. Her debut novel, PRETTY BOY BLUE is available on Amazon. Pickett is an advocate and activist for the LGBTQ community. For more information on Monika M. Pickett, please visit, www.MonikaMPickett.com. For other inquiries email info@MonikaMPickett. com.

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Concrete Rose: A A story story About About Coming Coming to to Terms Terms with with Being Being Gay Gay

Anonymous

F

or as long as I can remember, I knew I was different than most of the black kids in my community. I didn’t enjoy the same things as other kids/ I was drawn to arts and culture, and I always felt more comfortable around my gay friends. As I got older, I started to become aware that I was attracted to other females. I tried to deny those feelings, thinking maybe it was just a phase that would pass over time. Since I had seen so many people go in and out of “those feelings” I assumed I would be no different. Those feelings and attractions never disappeared. If anything, they just became stronger as I got older.

year of high school. I had become involved in a torrid relationship with a girl. She was beautiful, and she adored me. So, what was the problem? She wanted me to come out and I couldn’t. I was not ready. So, she threatened to “out” me to all my family. She stalked me for months in an attempt to make me talk to her. I wanted to, but I could not bring myself to. She would send me gifts and cards and I read them in secret and cried. I loved her, but I could not admit it. I hid my feelings for her and it hurt me to do it. I wanted to wait until after graduation to tell anyone I was gay, I repeated over and over to her. She never forgave me.

High school is often said to be the best years of someone’s life. Teenagers are beginning the transition to adulthood, but still have many freedoms and few responsibilities. My time spent in high school wasn’t great though. Yes, I made a lot of friends and got to experience many new things, but I still had to deal with and hide the fact that I was different. I finally came face to face with my own sexuality for the first time during my sophomore

Towards the end of my senior year, people began getting dates for senior prom. My friends kept asking me which boy I was going to bring. I always made some excuse about why I didn’t have a date yet. Since my high school was in such a non-affirming area, there was no way I could bring another girl to the prom, not even posing as a friend. It would have shocked everyone, and I wasn’t ready for people to know that I was gay. I ended up going to the prom with a gay guy. We made our way to the dance floor,

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and my dateless friends quickly found dance partners. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like everyone was staring at me and saw that I was with a gay man. And despite the fact that I was surrounded by my classmates, I felt, at that moment, detached and isolated. I pretended to be sick so I could leave early. I had created this image for myself. I had an amazing physique, and I could bring the boys to the yard. So I hid in that. I experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse. Yet nothing scared me more than people discovering the feelings I had for women. I was afraid that my straight or my gay friends wouldn’t want to hang out with me anymore and that my family would disown me. I had seen this happen so many times to others. It was not okay to get that “gay jacket on your back” in my family. So, I ramped up my boyfriends. I went to the extreme to prove to myself that I was not really gay, that I had grown out of that. Until she appeared. Here I was, yet again, in college and staring in the face of another woman, filled with love for her. We confessed our

love for one another at a pre-natal visit. I had become pregnant, and she was my support person. In his shadow, she took care of me. And even after he rejected our child, for a period of time, she stepped up for him to help me. She loved me completely, but I didn’t love me. I didn’t love this part of me. It was unacceptable to me. And now I was a mother. It was late on a summer night when he found ongoing letters she and I had written and confronted me about it. Only an hour had passed before his family knew about it. And suddenly she was gone. We had to agree not to speak of it anymore, to act as if it had never happened so that everyone would be safe from the reality of it. So, we did just that. Over the following years, I would live a “purely” heterosexual life and embed myself in the LGBTQIA community as a fierce ally. I found enough courage to tell one or two of my best friends that I might be gay. They were my close friends. They were all so supportive and proud of me for finally accepting who I was. They were very kind and generous with their love for me. Other friends seemingly suspected and dropped hints of support. Our friendships became stronger, and I felt more connected to them than ever before. As great as it felt to be out to a few of my friends, I still did not dare live out this truth publicly. By now the fear was too great, and it would be too painful to lose the family that I had created. Other unrelated family losses made me cling to the small pieces of “normalcy” and acceptance I knew. I was too afraid to risk it. At the same time, I was married to a man who was a handful of hypermasculinity. Not to mention that I was also still hiding a huge secret from my children. They’re very tolerant and had never really said anything negative about homosexuals before. I had successfully raised them that way. Yet I was still nervous to tell them because I had no idea how they’d react once they

found out. Would they no longer love me, I thought? Life was about to throw me another curve. One afternoon, I was waiting for a meeting to begin. And just out of the corner of my peripheral, I noticed a person coming in the door. The sun was behind her and all I could see was this glow surrounding her. When the door opened and she walked in I felt my heart leap. I was breathless. Time paused. The energy I felt in that moment settled a lifelong battle. She was someone

that I was drawn to. So, I found my way to her in the days that followed. The more I spent time with her, the more I knew this was it. I was unwilling to hide anymore. I had tried to talk to others in the past but was rejected and even ridiculed for having been with a man, for not being “gay enough.” Opening up to her wasn’t difficult; it felt natural. The words began to flow out of my mouth, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. I had finally allowed myself to talk openly about the part of me I had been keeping secret for so long. She opened her arms and heart to me. She told me that I was amazing, and she would always love me no matter what my past looked like. All the anxiety and dismay I was feeling had eased. She told me that she would never force me out and that she would be there to help me and support me when I was ready to come out. She shared that she had come out many times. Immediately after, I started crying. It was

the hardest thing I had ever had to do. I don’t know why, but I was sure she would be judge me, and I was terribly afraid of her reaction. I loved her. I didn’t want to lose her. She told me that the fact that I was married, had children, and was not out fully didn’t change anything. I couldn’t have been more relieved. A huge weight that I had been carrying around for years was finally lifted off my shoulders. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have such accepting person who made the first part of my process a positive one. I know many people who didn’t have such an easy time coming out, and I am grateful. Since then, sometimes she would call me and say, “Hi! It’s me, and I’m gay.” I would respond, “Hi, I’m me, and I’m gay too.” Hearing yourself say it is important. Hello World, I’m gay. I have made friends, from all different backgrounds, who are gay and straight, and we all get along just fine without proclaiming our identity. I was always nervous about going on a date with another woman, but now that I’ve been on a few outings with my sweetheart, I’ve realized that it was just the typical nervousness that people get when they go on dates. Coming out of the closet a little really has changed my life for the better. I’m still the same person I have always been, with the same interest and hobbies, but I’m not lying to myself anymore about something that makes me different than many of my family, friends, and peers. I’ve developed a sense of confidence that I never had before. I am getting stronger every day. I owe a lot of that strength to the people around me who encourage me and who take the time to show me their love and support. I still consider myself to be an ally to the community. I’m still learning to move in and out of spaces and determining where it’s safe to be me. What I have changed is that I have stopped running from my truth. I’ve learned to embrace the delicate places, as well as my strong exterior. I’m growing.

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hunna is a masculine of center woman with a very soft center. Her dimpled smile, quirky sense of humor, love of God and love of all things with four legs and fur make her an ideal companion for the spiritually-minded lady. Her early childhood was spent moving from state to state as an “Air Force brat”, leaving her with a longing for the open road and a desire for new adventures. Among her favorite things are finding

new authors, engaging in thought provoking exchanges and a strange obsession with grilling the perfect hamburger. When Shunna is not working with the incarcerated as a supervising counselor, you can find her at the nearest estate sale, plugged into her headphones listening to old school R&B and using her imagination as she searches for lost treasures looking for new life… sort of like herself.

The Unleashed Voice 2018 July - August Pride Issue  

TUV Magazine does it again. The 2018 Pride Issue is all about individuals exercising their right to live, laugh, and love. Dive into the p...

The Unleashed Voice 2018 July - August Pride Issue  

TUV Magazine does it again. The 2018 Pride Issue is all about individuals exercising their right to live, laugh, and love. Dive into the p...

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