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The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to Austin

After two successful events in Dallas, our 3rd Texas conference will be offered in Austin on March 3-4, 2018. It will offer gay men from Texas and beyond step-by-step guidance in their parenting journey, access to two dozen service providers from the USA and Canada, and information about financial assistance.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Men Having Babies (MHB) is a non-profit organization, led by parents and surrogates, that has helped thousands of gay men worldwide become biological parents since 2012.

Our Austin conference is one of six annual conferences held by Men Having Babies worldwide (menhavingbabies.org/south), with other conferences taking place in Chicago, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Brussels, New York and San Francisco.

This two-day conference brings together medical and legal experts, current and future parents, and surrogate mothers. Prospective parents will benefit from practical and personal peer advice, and have opportunities to meet a wide range of leading providers from the USA and Canada at the Gay Parenting Expo, in breakout sessions and in private consultations.

“Similar to other conferences, this one draws people from far beyond the Austin area,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, Executive Director of Men Having Babies. “Among the dozens who have already registered are gay men from all parts of Texas, several states across the south and west, and even attendees from the East Coast who prefer not to wait for our Florida and NY conferences.”

The conference kicks off with a panel discussion comprised of gay surrogacy dads and the surrogates who helped them in their journeys. Two workshops will be offered on planning the surrogacy journey and a mindful look at surrogacy, based upon the accumulated knowledge of hundreds of gay men who have already gone through the process. Other sessions will cover the latest studies about gestational surrogacy, and insurance, budgeting, legal, medical and psychological aspects of surrogacy.

300x600AustinAd-1-150x300 The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to AustinProceeds from sponsorship and exhibiting fees will benefit MHB’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP), which annually provides dozens of prospective parents with over a million dollars’ worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from more than fifty leading service providers. The majority of the exhibitors at the Austin conference are supporters of GPAP, including platinum sponsors Simple Surrogacy and Fertility Center of Texas, as well as Gold sponsors: Worldwide Surrogacy Specialists, San Diego Fertility Center, Circle Surrogacy, Western Fertility Institute, CReATe Fertility Centre, and Family Source Consultants.

Over the last four years, GPAP has helped more than 500 couples and individuals achieve their goals of becoming fathers. “If we truly wanted to make a difference by establishing Men Having Babies, we knew we had to help prospective parents financially achieve their dream of starting a family, and the GPAP program does just this,” said Anthony Brown, MHB’s Board Chair. “We want to give the opportunity to people who would otherwise not be able to afford surrogacy”.

26731317_1608696742547374_5327007581474349067_n-300x186 The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to Austin“Simple Surrogacy is Honored to be the Platinum Sponsor of Men Having Babies Austin Conference,” said Kristen Hanson, Executive Director of Finance and Contracts of Simple Surrogacy. “As one of the earliest supporters of the MHB Gay Parenting Assistance Program, we are delighted to see its growth. We feel very lucky to be a part of Men Having Babies’ continued stewardship in creating families!”

“We are honored to participate in the Austin MHB conference as it provides an excellent opportunity to share information on the path to fatherhood.” Said Dr. Jerald Goldstein, Founder and Medical Director at Fertility Specialists of Texas. “As a fertility center, we strive to provide intended parents with the expertise and resources, including financial assistance, that can help make this dream a reality.”

23472421_1543552455728470_6397939950245042469_n-300x225 The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to AustinThe event will take place on March 3rd, 3:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., and March 4, 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Austin Marriott South. In addition, MHB is offering a post-conference happy hour party at Austin’s Sellers Underground bar on Saturday, March 3, 8:30-10:30pm. The event is offered in cooperating with local and national LGBT organizations, and is open to the Austin LGBT community at large.

Go to menhavingbabies.org/south for registration and additional information.

Note: while the event is organized by a gay parenting organization, non-gay prospective parents are also welcome and will no doubt highly benefit from the information provided.


Press inquiries: Contact Ron Poole-Dayan, executive director of Men Having Babies ron@menhavingbabies.org / 646-461-6112. Interviews with parents, prospective parents, surrogates and experts can be arranged by request.

About Men Having Babies

With over 6500 future and current gay parents worldwide, the international nonprofit Men Having Babies (MHB) is dedicated to providing its members with educational and financial support. Each year over a thousand attendees benefit from unbiased guidance and access to a wide range of relevant service providers at its monthly workshops and conferences in NY, Chicago, Brussels, San Francisco, Dallas, Austin, Miami / Fort Lauderdale, and Tel Aviv. The organization’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program(GPAP) annually provides dozens of couples with over a million dollars worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from over fifty leading service providers. Collaborating with an advisory board made of surrogates, MHB developed a framework for Ethical Surrogacy that has received endorsements from several LGBT parenting organizations worldwide. In addition, MHB offers extensive online resources, a directory with ratings and reviews of agencies and clinics, a Surrogacy Speakers Bureau, and a vibrant online community forum.

More information: www.menhavingbabies.org

Let’s Talk About Consent, Baby

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 7

I was in Indianapolis for a conference the same weekend that Mike Pence was attending for the 49ers v. Colts game he left after witnessing the players kneeling during the National Anthem. Of all the things I associate with that weekend, Pence being in townand subsequently delaying my flight home due to his abrupt departurestands out the most to me. The second thing that stands out to me about that weekend most is being in a gay bar (I believe it was called Metro) where nearly everyone from the conference had gathered on our last night in town for last drinks before we all parted back to our separate citiesHouston, Coppenhagen, Chicago, Denver, Athens, and so many more.

As I stood at the bar after drinks with new friendsTamara from D.C. and Micah from St. Petersburg, and hand touched my shoulder. I flinched. It was a natural reaction, as I’m not a person who likes to be touchedodd, given my sex-positive lifestyle, but true nonetheless. Even being in bed with another man I want to sleep with always leaves me with an initial full-body tension and sensitivity to even the slightest touch. So, when I whipped around to see whose hand was on my shoulder, I was confused to see a face I didn’t recognize staring drunkenly at me.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

The man was older than me, maybe in his mid-thirties, and not bad to look at. Still, I held my vodka-cranberry up to his eye-level and said, “Thank you, but I’m okay,” before turning back to Tamara and Micah.

We chatted a bit more, laughing and drinking as we celebrated a mildly successful conference and several nights of good times drinking and eating and dancing. Still, the feeling of eyes piercing the backside of my body never evaded me. I could feel them like a hand under a lightbulb over my neck, the small of my back, my ass. Then, when the hand returned to my bodythis time on my waistI froze. I took in a heavy breath and I could feel my pupils dilate and my eyelids race apart. And for what felt like the longest time, I couldn’t let the breath out of my lungs, nor could I draw in another. Not as the stranger’s hand ran down my backside and over my slacks. Not as he put the other hand back on the shoulder he’d initially targeted. Not as his fingers crawled like a spider’s legs up just over my waistline and down inside my pants.

I was frozen and I was afraid.

It wasn’t until someone snapped, “Hey!” at the stranger that I was able to finally exhale. Maybe it was Micah from St. Petersburg, or Tamara from D.C. or one of the other new friends I’d made that week in Indianapolis. I couldn’t tell. Everything sounded the same, like being underwater and not knowing how to come up for air, vision blurred and eardrum pounds drowning out sound. But the call had been enough to scare the man away. His hand left my body, but still my muscles could not loosen from their tension and the hairs on the back of my neck refused to lie down.

And of all the pieces I remember about Indianapolismy phone crashing, buying a plush souvenir for my friend, Ezra, the party at an old church called the Sanctuarythe two things I remember most about that entire week are Mike Pence and that moment in the bar called Metro.

Because that’s how you remember sexual assaultin pieces. You’re so struck, so frozen, that the detailsthe sights, the sounds, the smellsthey all turn to grey and bleed together like melted wax until they fall over you, hot and thick, and begin to solidify around you, trapping you in a chrysalis you enter into as a butterfly but leave as a caterpillar.

And if it had been the first time it had happened, maybe I would have been able to fight his hand away. If it had been the first time, maybe I would have run, or screamed at him, or thrown my drink in his face.

But it wasn’t the first time some stranger had touched me without asking, my body nothing more than something with which they could entertain themselves.

It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly wasn’t the worst of it. This singular occurrence may have seemed like nothing to some people, may have been some begotten result of decades of blurred lines and gay bar culture or a misinterpretation of me not being clear enough. But for me, it was a reminder of a much darker moment in my lifeone in which no one had been there to shout, “Hey!”. One in which the hand hadn’t pulled back. One in which I’d not frozen, but woken from one nightmare into another.

Dylan and I had been participating in some very spur-of-the-moment Tuesday afternoon sex about a week back. And while we were neither a couple nor dating, sex with Dylan was always an intimate experience. He was gentle and giving, the type that whispered to you and took his time. He even did this thing that I would have laughed at had I seen any other two people doing it in which he traced the tip of his nose around mine, then down around my lips before he would kiss me. He was a hand-holder almost every step of the way, except, of course, where hands were required. He had an ass that begged for faces to fall into it and shoulders so strong you couldn’t help but believe he was so gentle. He was Adonis, a man’s man, a remarkable beauty that was downright intimidating, yet somehow inviting.

But as he pushed my legs apart and glided in between them, the tension it had taken me so long to get rid of around him returned. My shoulders tensed. My back arched like a frightened cat. My fingernails clawed into the back of his hands. And my ass shut down for business.

A flash flew past my eyes. Dylan was gone, and replacing him was nothing but darkness and a blurred light coming from my peripheral.

Something dinged in the background, and that sound was followed by something like a cartoon bird, chirping, “Cuckoo. Cuckoo.

Uh-uh,” I cooed as my legs tightened around him.

He stopped, never too persistent.

I could hear him, his breath slowing; and I could almost feel his eyes looking into mine, though mine had gone off into the distance, searching to see where that now-imaginary light was coming from. And when they shifted back up to face him, Dylan was gone. There instead was the pale, sweating face of a memory I’d tried to forget. It was something I hadn’t revisited in a while, something I’d found a way to live without, at least recently.

There, where Dylan should have beenwhere I knew he was—stared down the face of a man long gone from my life, but one that for so long had stood in the darkest corners of any place I’d ever been.

I was nineteen-years-old, and at the time I was not yet out of the closet.

I knew who I was—what I wasbut a long history of homophobia and bigotry that ran rampant in my family would keep me in the closet for another two years.

I was spending time with an old friend, someone I’d known from school, and we had been drinking alcohol he’d bought at the corner store near where we’d grown up that hadn’t carded us since we were seniors in high school. As far as I knew, Joseph wasn’t gay. Still, in all the time we’d known one another, there had been a certain attraction between the two of us that had been nearly undeniable. Joseph was the first boy I’d ever kissed, but that was the extent of how far I was willing to let things go. After all, I may have been gay, but I was neither out nor comfortable enough with my body nor my sexuality to participate in anything more than that.

Joseph had obtained a good job out of high school. Without a degree, he went into oil and gas, and was living alone not far from the house I’d lived in my senior year. I don’t remember a great deal about the way his apartment looked, other than the fact that it was mostly bare with nothing on the wall near the kitchen but an old, wooden cuckoo clock that had gone off a few times since I’d been there without pattern. And I was there because I missed my friend whom I rarely got to see due to the demands of his new job. But at a certain point, I had to stop drinking. I was only nineteen, after all, and I couldn’t get into the car shitfaced to drive the forty minutes back to my own house in the middle of the night. I knew better than that.

Still, as Joseph regaled me with tales of the women he’d most recently slept withconquests, in his way of telling ithe tried again-and-again to get me to drink more.

And this, my friends, is where the story begins to break into pieces.

I remember yawning, though I’m not sure why that particular yawn sticks out so much in my mind. Maybe it’s the dialogue that it sparked, with Joseph saying something to the effect of, “You can spend the night here, if you’re too tired to drive home.”

I considered it for a moment. The drive was very long; and despite the fact that I didn’t feel drunk, I was feeling very tired.

And then Joseph stood on his knees from the floor where he sat across from me, crawled toward me, and kissed me on the mouth.

It was a nice feeling, about that I cannot lie; yet my body still tensed when he did it.

“I’ll get us one more drink; then when we’re done, we can go to bed. I’m pretty tired, too.”

I think I may have nodded.

I can’t recall how long he was gone, as the clock on the wall clearly wasn’t working, but Joseph seemed to be gone just a moment too long. I stood to my feet, and tiredly trailed into the kitchen to find him. There, I found him standing over two fresh glasses of gas station pinot grigio, texting someone on his phone. He must have heard me, as he looked up and said, “Sorry,” flashing his phone to my face. “I got distracted.”

I think I chuckled and turned to walk back to the living room.

I don’t remember finishing the wine.

I remember seeing the bottom of the glass as I finished the last of it.

I remember because my mouth was so fucking dry.

I remember standing up to find the restroom, because I felt like I was going to vomit, and then tripping over my own feet.

I remember nearly falling asleep as I sat down to pee.

If I’m not mistaken, Joseph might have said, “I’ll be in the bed.”

I do remember fishing around on the wall for the lightswitch, but inevitably leaving the light on as I walked through the door.

The sound that brought me back to consciousness was unmistakable.

Cuckoo. Cuckoo.”

I don’t think the pain set in immediately, but when it did, it was like nothing I’d ever felt before. It was like someone was tearing me apart from front to back. And the feeling kept changing. With each thrust came a new wave of it. In or out, I couldn’t tell the difference.

Out of the peripheral of my eyesight, I could see a light glancing through a partially-closed door. But my eyes turned the moment something wet dripped down on my forehead. I wanted to reach my hand to see what it was, but my arms didn’t move when my brain told them to do so. My eyes, however, did. And as I stared up over me, I found Joseph, pale and sweating, veins bulging in his shoulders and forehead.

I became nauseated again, but when my mind told my body to fight him off of meI was bigger than he, after allI couldn’t move. I wanted to shove him. I wanted to punch him. I wanted to scream. But all I could do was lie there, waiting until it was over.

Waiting until Joseph finally passed out on top of me.

Waiting for tears which never came.

I was nineteen-years-old; and I was being raped.

“I fell back asleep; then I woke up again the next time I heard that clock; and then I left.”

Dylan looked down at the bed on which we sat.

“I’ve never told anyone that before,” I muttered.

He reached for my hand. He didn’t say anything, which was probably for the best. After all, what does one really say? Instead, he laid back down, and he tugged at my hand inside of his. Then he let me go as I began to lie down on an outstretched arm against the pillow for me to rest in.

I didn’t mind it when he held me, or when he kissed me nurturingly atop my head. I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t shaking the way that I used to when I thought about that night with Joseph. Instead, I just laid there, letting this man do the only thing he knew how to comfort me. And it was working. I felt safe, not pressured, not judged.

I mean, to be honest, I’ve heard other stories from other survivors. I’ve listened and hugged them. And I have kept myself from saying a word about my own experience in the hopes to not minimize what that person has gone through. And maybe that’s wrong. Maybe those others needed to hear that someone else had been through it. But this sort of pain, this sort of torment, it’s incomparable from one experience to the next. While all sexual assault is wrong, you never want to make a victim feel like they are less than they already feel they are by accidentally making their situation about you.

So, you hesitate. And you wait. And you extend to them your love as best you can.

And Dylan didn’t ask me why I’d never told anyone. He didn’t ask me why I hadn’t gone to the police. He didn’t go on about statistics or studies or court cases. He was silent. He listened, and he seemed to be understanding of what had stopped our sex so quickly. And not for a second did I take for granted what a rarity that actually was.

I wasn’t sure if it was the sex that had brought the memory rushing back. After all, I’d bottomed with him before. Maybe it was all the stories I’d been hearing over the last few months about these disgusting men in Hollywood taking advantage of young actresses and actors. Maybe it was just seated so deeply inside of me, like a volcano lying dormant for too long, that it finally erupted at the hand of the slightest irritation.

Regardless of why it came about, the memory had; and I had laid out all my crap on the table for Dylana man I was neither coupled with nor datingto see.

And in the time that had passed since Joseph, I’d had men put their hands down my pants like the one did in Indianapolis, and grab me by the wrist and pull me into an unwanted embrace, and kiss me without asking, and try to bed me after buying me a drink or engaging me in meaningless conversation.

And that’s the problem with these men. They think that the people they want to sleep withand most of the time, those people are women (whether they be trans or cis)are objects. They think that they are born with some right to put their filthy, disgusting hands on us and fuck us for the three minutes they can keep from ejaculating while they strip us not just of our clothing, but of our dignity and our self-worth.

And while I will never endure the kind of sexual harassment on a day-to-day basis that women endure, I can sympathize.

Because I am a survivor of rape.

And the life that follows is one stained and tainted by something that can’t be simplified down to an ugly memory, because it’s so much more than that. It’s a piece of your soul that is not lost, but that is stolen from you and hidden away in the hopes that you never find it. It’s a chunk of your life’s timeline that is ripped out and scattered into pieces that you try and try to put back together, but only feel sick over as the bigger picture becomes more clear. It’s a loss of self-worth that is unprompted and unwarranted as you watch some stranger run into the foggy night with something as valuable to you as your arm or your leg, except that it’s your heart and your soul.

And though no survivor is lucky given the circumstances, I am fortunate enough that I have been able to reclaim my sexuality and use it the way that I want to when I consent to do so. That does not make me exempt from the eyes that follow me around the bars. It doesn’t exclude me from the unwarranted dick pictures I get on Grindr. It doesn’t make men any less disgusting and it certainly doesn’t change the way they speak to me for the first time or the intentions they have.

But not everyone has gotten there yet. And that’s okay. And, yes, women, cis and trans, have it harder than gay men do. They walk into it at work. Stand behind it in line at the grocery. Drink across from it at the bar. It’s on television and in the movies. It’s in the lyrics to some of the world’s most popular music. Sexual assault is prevalent and alive. And I am so very fortunate to be alive in a time where so many strong peopleagain, namely womenare standing up and saying that this sort of behavior is not okay. Because without them, no matter their celebrity status or who their assailant are, I may not have been strong enough to sit down and tell this story.

To you or to Dylan. I easily could have run out of his apartment and never looked back and let him think I was insane or damaged or dramatic. I mean, I am all of those things. But not for this reason.

Because my rape story does not define me. I am not comprised of the pieces of this one particular moment in my life. I am many things, and while a survivor is one of them, it is not the only one.

So, yeah. Me too.

And time’s up.

Because, while this memory, this horrible, awful thing is remembered to me in pieceswhether those pieces be cuckoo clocks or Mike Pence, the time for sexual assaultfor me and so may othersreally is up.

And to all the filthy, vile, loathsome, evil little men out there who have perpetuated it and taken part in it and who have victimized innumerable innocent people and then tried to turn it against those victims, you should be afraid.

Because we aren’t putting up with it anymore.

Jay Adcock and The Laramie Project

Director Jay Adcock talks to About Magazine about his upcoming production of The Laramie Project, set to hit the Brazosport College stage this April.

1254_Laramie-Project155658_595_-226x300 Jay Adcock and The Laramie ProjectIn 1998, Matthew Shepard (a gay student at the university of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming) was beaten and left for dead in Laramie in what would become one of the most well-known LGBTQ hate crimes ever covered by the media. Matthew was taken to a hospital alive, but died six days later due to severe brain injuries given to him by assailants Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Matthew’s death led to a spark of coverage worldwide, and both the community and the media had varying opinions on what the root cause of it may have been. While it is agreed upon near-universally that Matthew’s sexual orientation was a key factor in his murder, reactions to this tragedy have always been mixed. The Westboro Baptist Church even showed up to protest Shepard’s funeral. Nevertheless, the story also inspired people to take action to stand up against homophobia and crimes of hate.

In February of 2000, Moisés Kaufman and members of the Techtonic Theater Project premiered The Laramie Project, play written by them that took interviews of various members of the community, as well as journal entries and statements, to create this three-act series of scenes that explores the reaction to Shepard’s 1998 murder in Laramie, Wyoming.

Now, in 2018, Lake Jackson performer and director Jay Adcock is stepping up to the plate to bring the show to life at Brazosport College. In this production, Adcock hopes to put a spin on the show that will be uniquely his own, as well as to include the college’s LGBTQ-Straight Alliance in a particular scene. Adcock took the time to chat with About Magazine to discuss how this show came to him, his life in community theatre, and his thoughts on LGBTQIA life in the Trump administration.

Why don’t you tell me how this show fell into your lap?

I do a lot of community theatre. And, you know when the Pulse shooting happened? That affected me a lot more than I realized. It really got to me and I wanted to do something. And I’ve been acting in community theatre here where I live and have been testing the waters of directing. I’ve assistant directed and have directed a couple of one acts. So, I went to the college professor and told him I’d like to direct a show, because they have spots for guest directors each season. And when it was my turn and I was looking at shows to do, like I said, the Pulse shooting had really affected me personally. So, I saw the movie adaptation of this play and bought the script of the play online. So, I decided to do an unofficial survey with all my friends to see if anyone knew who Matthew Shepard was. I’m 47, and I knew who he was, as did my generation of gay friends. But the younger ones at the college and the community theatre did not know who he was. And that really bothered me. So, I thought that, This is a perfect time. Especially with the political climate being what it is now, I thought this would be the perfect show to do at this time. And with it being my first show, it’s a small cast and small set, and I thought that I could do it. And it really means something to me.

When you brought up Pulse, you said that this story is so relevant and that you were very affected by it. What’s your relationship with LGBTQ community?

13490878_1252702638103720_6817286160917849978_o-300x300 Jay Adcock and The Laramie ProjectTo be very truthful, this is only my third year of being out. So, when I started living my life truthfully, my whole life changed. I came out in December of 2014, and in June of 2015, we got same-sex marriage legalized nationally. And then right after that, the Pulse shooting happened. So, I was trying to tell my friends who sort of said, “Yeah, this is a horrible thing,” that I live in southern Brazoria County, a very country-ish community; and while the Pulse massacre may have been an extreme case, I live with this fear every day. When I go out to the clubs and I walk to my car dressed to go out and find that someone is walking behind, I have to be aware. I have to wonder whether this is the night I’m going to get beat up. The Pulse massacre brought attention to this, but we have to live with this sort of fear every day. I don’t let it stop me, of course. But hopefully if we learned anything from that tragedy, it’s that this fear is still real and that gay people still live with this every day.

With this administration, and you came out at the tail-end of the Obama administration, has your insecurity increased since Trump took office?

I don’t know if insecurity is the right word. But I do have a heightened sense of awareness. My feeling of rights being taken away is always at the forefront of my mind.

We had 28 trans murders in 2017, and just into 2018, we’ve already seen trans people getting murdered. And with examples like the story behind The Laramie Project and like Pulse, do you think that we’re at a stronger chance for these sort of hate crimes to perpetuate?

Oh, yes. I definitely think so.

To have the opportunity to bring this show to life in community theatre in such a conservative area is great. Have you gotten any negative feedback? Are you afraid of backlash?

No, I haven’t really had any of that yet. I’m sort of hoping that because not many people really know what it is, that they’ll come and see the show and hopefully they’ll take something positive away from it and have a better understanding of this story. I don’t think that we’ll have any backlash or protestors or anything. Everyone has been very supportive so far.

The people that you’re going to get to work with on this project are going to get to carry this memory with them for a long time because The Laramie Project is such a powerful show regardless of where they go with their careers. Does that make you nervous?

It is a powerful show. I’m lucky enough that I’ve not seen any live productions of the show so far. I do love the movie. And it’s not so much that I’m worried about living up to any past productions, I am just so worried about my production, and I just want it to be good. I’m not going to compare it to any other productions. I just want mine to be good. I want it to reach people. I want to touch people. That’s the only thing I’m worried about. I’m not worried about living up to past productions.

Each cast and production brings something new to a show that may have been done a thousand times.

22195341_1945150795525564_5903683640674882301_n-1-298x300 Jay Adcock and The Laramie ProjectAnd to take it even further, every night brings something new. I love theatre stories. I have a few of my own that are like, “Omigod!” I was in The Threepenny Opera. And there is a moment where I was supposed to give a toast […] but I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do. All the actors were like looking at me. And almost telepathically I was telling them, “I know it’s my line! I don’t know what you want me to do! I can’t remember.” So, I kept rearranging every dish and bottle on this banquet table in the scene. And finally one of the other actors looked at me and said, “Well, how about a toast!” And finally I yelled, “Yes! A toast!” and I got right back into the scene. It just felt like twelve hours of me rearranging a table trying to remember a line, even if it was only thirty seconds.

Auditions for The Laramie Project will be held Sunday, February 25th at Brazosport College at 2 PM, as well as on the 26th & 27th at 7 PM in the Seidule Drama Theatre (G-116).

The show runs from April 19th through the 21st, as well as the 25th through the 28th. For reservations, please call: (979) 230-3271

We Need Black Representation in the Media

Why seeing black people on TV is good for white people everyone.

I don’t remember much from when I was 7-years-old, but I do remember that when I was in the second grade, I was told by one of my white “friends” after an argument that she now understood why some don’t like black people. It’s probably something that I will never forget. I remember being so upset, but not understanding why. Now that I am older, I think about that statement and wonder how she came to understand and agree with discrimination and segregation after what was probably an argument about which Bratz Doll was the prettiest (obviously, I said Sasha). How did she turn a black history month MLK day “I Have a Dream” lesson into a the white people were right all along understanding?

26060281_10213460322715163_5276680615117327865_o-300x300 We Need Black Representation in the MediaI grew up in the suburbs … like … I was the only black kid my age in my neighborhood. I was probably the first black person her age she had ever had a real interaction with, and she obviously didn’t like it. I think about this statement every day, but I don’t hold anything against this girl. She was a kid. In fact, we’re friends on Facebook, now, and she probably doesn’t even remember making that statement. I don’t fault her for making a statement based off the things that she saw on TV or heard her parents say. When I think back to what I was watching in elementary school, the only black person I remember seeing on TV is the auntie clown from the Big Comfy Couch. Then, a little later, came That’s So Raven and The Proud Family. I’m not sure what she was watching at home, but I’m sure it included white-washed sitcoms like Friends or Full House. If that’s what she was watching, she didn’t have much to reference when it came to black people, and that was not completely her fault.

17966043_10211273939096939_851766640943453121_o-240x300 We Need Black Representation in the MediaI didn’t have many models that looked like me on television in my younger years. So I began to model my behavior based off the people on TV who looked like the people around me. For a while, I wanted to be just like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. It wasn’t just the fact that she was a princess, but my desire delved even into her whiteness. She was so beautiful to me; she had hair that was easy to comb through, her skin was pale and fair, and she had small lips. Everything that made me beautiful as a black girl was what I hated about myself. I didn’t realize it before, but it was because of the people I was surrounded by and the things I was watching on television. If Google, computers, and cell phones had been what they are today when I was little, I could imagine myself Googling, How to make my skin lighter, or, How to be pretty like a white girl.

I had a complex. I thought I was ugly, but not because I actually was.

I thought I was ugly because I was black.

My standard of beauty was being white. I would look in the mirror and would resent my kinky hair that everyone asked to touch or my big lips that kids would pooch their own out so that they could make fun of me. The moment my mom let me get a relaxer for my hair, I jumped on it. I would stay out of the sun in the summer because I noticed that kids wouldn’t talk to me as much during the first few months of school simply because I was darker. I remember trying to suck my lips in (like … how do you even do that?).

“Most people have simply been conditioned to think a certain way; and that’s a major component of privilege. More often it’s nurture rather than nature.”

p14160791_b_v8_aa-200x300 We Need Black Representation in the MediaBut I now know I am not the only black girl to go through this from, and a great part of that lesson came from watching shows like Dear White People. But even then, not even a full decade ago, I felt incredibly isolated because there wasn’t representation like that for people like me. Thankfully, little black toddlers now can watch Doc McStuffins and aspire to be a doctor like the show’s titular character. Black teenagers can watch Yara Shahidi in Grownish, Zendaya in KC Undercover, or China McClain in Black Lightning and see black, smart, and beautiful people who are successful and living their best lives. There are shows like Insecure that allow them to feel silly and unsure about the direction of their lives that examine the insecurities black adults and young adults face; or She’s Gotta Have It, which allows black women to explore their sexuality without the fear of being condemned. Black people—women, men, trans, cis, nonbinary, gay, straight, bi … all of us!—have someone to model ourselves after that doesn’t involve changing the best parts of blackness.

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Television is such a large and integral part of our modern society. Everybody has at least one show that they love to watch. While people are watching, subconsciously they are creating an understanding of people whether they look like them or not. Until recently (and even some still), black people on television were only available to perpetuate stereotypes. They were the loud and sassy best friends, or the sketchy unpaid extra walking down the alleyway. But in most cases, they were nonexistent. I, for one, love the show Criminal Minds, because who doesn’t love Shemar Moore? Almost every single one of those serial killers were white males. I, however, do not go through life thinking that every white male I see is a serial killer (well … mostly). So, if I, as an educated black woman, can take the time to differentiate between television and reality, why can’t everyone else? For non-people of color (read: white folks), it’s not always their fault. Most people have simply been conditioned to think a certain way; and that’s a major component of privilege. More often it’s nurture rather than nature.

I love to tell my friends that Shonda Rhimes tricked white people into loving Greys Anatomy so that she could create a platform for herself. She created this show that was seemingly about a white woman becoming a surgeon. But here’s the gag:

The chief of surgery? Black.

The best resident in the hospital that eventually becomes chief of surgery? Black.

The chief of cardiovascular surgery? Midnight black.

Black people pretty much run that hospital; and no one has anything negative to say because it’s a show about a white girl falling in love. Right?


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Through Rhimes’s platform which she received from creating Grey’s, she has gone on to create and executive produce shows like Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder—both led by strong, black women. Then, taking Shonda’s lead, Lee Daniels created Empire, and then Star. Soon, Kenya Barris created Black-ish, then its later spin-off, Grownish. Shonda became and remains a trailblazer when it comes to making black people relatable enough for white people to watch on television. Issa Rae, creator of HBOs Insecure (and whom even collaborated with Shonda after the success of her YouTube series), said that she created shows like Awkward Black Girl and Insecure to make black people relatable. It is a sad reality that black people need to be made to be relatable, but that’s the world in which we live. Society has created a long list of negative stereotypes about the black community; and sadly not very many stereotypes are ever positive. The idea is that black people are loud, or ghetto, or criminals, or that they only speak in Ebonics, or they are sketchy and dangerous, especially at night. And the list doesn’t end there.

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Sadly, some white people that I know believe that these stereotypes don’t exist anymore, or they believe black people are being dramatic when we talk about white privilege or the oppression and discrimination of black and brown people. But can I just say that I recently went to a job interview and the interviewer, who was white, told me that she was surprised by how put together and well-spoken I was. She’s probably not a racist and I am not accusing her of that, but she does in some capacity engage in the stereotypes that society has created for black people to be surprised that I spoke in full sentences. Have you ever heard of something called the Dog-Whistle Effect, or even Dog-Whistle Politics? Both are variants of coded language that might sound as though it means one thing to a general (again, read: white) audience, but that is actually layered in derogatory language. It’s often used in politics when talking about women, people of color, the LGBTQIA community, and other minorities. The name comes from the effect that a dog whistle has on dogs vs. people. Dogs can hear it because the frequency of the sound is far above what is audibly discernible to humans. Considering the latter part of that statement, humans can’t hear the whistle. The same idea applies to this sort of coded speech. When the interviewer said that she was surprised by how well-spoken I was, it may have sounded like a compliment to any white male sitting in the room. But to another black person, they would have reacted to the same high-frequency whistle I had. And it’s because, even without realizing it, everyone engages in stereotypes, because society is a bitch. But seeing black people on TV and in the media in contrast to these stereotypes allows non-black people to somewhat look past stereotypes and see black people in a positive light, even if it’s just for a minute.

cast-of-empire-season-2-billboard-650-300x199 We Need Black Representation in the MediaRight now, you can turn on primetime television and see black people represented in so many ways. Some ways still perpetuate stereotypes for a laugh, but mostly it’s just satire. By participating in these stereotypes, they aren’t mocking black people. They’re holding up a mirror to the people who believe these stereotypes and are saying, “Look at how ridiculous you are for buying into this shit.” There are so many examples of black family, black friendship, and black leadership. Black television allows a deeper understanding of black culture, and that is what is needed most in the world right now: and understanding of things and people that may be different from you. I am so glad that my little sister gets to grow up in this era where being black is starting to be normalized and not something to be ashamed of. We are no longer the ghetto best friend or the sketchy hooded man in the alleyway. We are smart and handling things like Olivia Pope, sassy but strong-willed like Zoey Johnson, beautiful like Nola Darling, and a little insecure like Issa Dee.

As minorities, we are starting to get our representation. But until others begin to engage in the education of that representation, we still have an awfully long way to go before …

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Below is a list of television shows where black people are represented in many ways. If you are black and looking for yourself in mainstream media, or if you’re not black and want more of an understanding of the culture, here is a good place to start:

Insecure – HBO | Black-ish -ABC/Hulu | Grownish – Freeform/Hulu | Dear White People –Netflix | The Mayor – Hulu | She’s Gotta Have It – Netflix | Scandal-ABC/Hulu/Netflix | How to Get Away with Murder – ABC/Hulu/Netflix | Greenleaf – OWN/Netflix | Empire –FOX/Hulu | Star – FOX/Hulu | Queen Sugar – Hulu | Atlanta – FX/Hulu | Being Mary Jane –BET/Netflix | Marlon – NBC/Hulu | The Chi – Showtime | Power – Starz/Hulu | Black Lightning – The CW | Loosely Exactly Nicole – Facebook

This is not a complete list of TV shows that have black representation. This is just what has been released and impacted me recently. If you want more, start with a 90’s sitcom, there are many to choose from, and no wrong choice.