Featured

Home Featured
Our Featured News From The # 1 LGBT News Provider For The State Of Texas.

REVIEW: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

She-Ra Princess Netflix Queer show

A review of the Netflix & Dreamworks reimagining of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power – 6/5 stars, because I can do that.

On November 13th She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a reboot of a 1986 show of the same name, was released by streaming service Netflix. The original series was created in part by Mattel in an effort to sell toys, but was also created as a partner to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This time around, She-Ra shares a much more important message: representation.

She-Ra, created by the amazingly talented and queer Noelle Stevenson has brought a wealth of diverse and loveable characters to the screen. First of all, we should talk about the characters  Adora and Catra, childhood best friends who grew up together in the Horde, a group of soldiers tasked with a mission of destroying the princesses, who are painted as terrible people; and Adora believes that they are a group that deserves to be taken out. After all, this is what she’s learned over the course of her entire life. Adora ventures out into the world outside of the Horde and finds something she didn’t expect: the princesses aren’t scary at all. And the Horde, well, they’re actually the real bad guys. With this information in mind, Adora can’t go back to her old life with the Horde, and finds a magical sword, that allows her to transform into Princess She-Ra.

Meanwhile, Catra remains at the Horde, and the two of them grow further apart as the season moves forward. In the first episode, we also meet Glimmer and Bow. Glimmer is a princess who has the ability to teleport, which leads me to another thing I love about this show: none of the characters fit a typical mold — no one is “normal” or stereotypical. Glimmer is short and plump, an accurate representation of human beings in the real world. Bow, Glimmer’s best friend is a black man who doesn’t fit society’s binary gender roles. When it comes to Adora and Catra, these childhood best friends definitely have a future as being more than just friends. Another favorite character of mine is Scorpia, voiced by Lauren Ash. She’s a queer princess turned Horde soldier, and she’s amazing. While she’s on the antagonist’s side, we still get to see a loving, nurturing side to her, giving her character the depth it deserves. She-Ra shows queer and diverse characters on both sides of the fight. Good and evil. It’s awesome to see the representation in every aspect of the show. The “evil” characters aren’t the only ones who are diverse. Everyone is.

The show employs not only a diverse set of characters, but a diverse cast, as well. As mentioned above, showrunner and creator Noelle Stevenson is queer, and the actresses who voices Adora, Aimee Carrero, is Latina.

The best part of this show is the way that they handle their diverse characters. Nothing about who they are is explained or linged upon to make make sense to the less diverse members of the audience, establishing a new normal. Each character is simply treated as normal. There are no questions of, “Oh, is that person gay?” or “Why is this person different?” There are no explanations. While this can lead to some confusion within the fan base, I think it’s a good way to paint characters on the screen in order to normalize them to audiences. In the real world, queer people (or anyone on the LGBTQIA spectrum) don’t show up with an explanation of who they are, they just are. And while there are people who like to question queer people about why they are who they are, it isn’t the responsibility of queer people to explain themselves to heteronormative or cisgender audiences. This aberrant component of ‘we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it’ isn’t something I’ve ever seen reflected accurately in fiction before, and it was a pleasant surprise while watching this show.

While She-Ra is incredibly enjoyable for adults (I loved every minute of it), it is, of course, geared more toward children. And while I’m no expert on children, I think that the inclusion of diverse characters without making a big deal of their sexuality or disregard for stereotypical gender roles is a great way for children to realize that these people really are normal. In fact, normalizing queerness in this way and planting those ideas in children’s heads at a young age eliminates the need to pose the question later down the road at all. It’s something I wish I’d had growing up, and it’s a great step toward clearing a path for diverse characters in all types of fiction.

Glimmer-Bow-and-Adora REVIEW: She-Ra and the Princesses of PowerThe reason it’s so important to have these types of characters in fiction is because it gives children (and even adults) a chance to see characters like them on their screens and how, in spite of their differences, all people are generally same at their core. This show will be vital to queer children everywhere struggling to understand and express their identities, and it will finally give them a chance to see themselves as accepted by society.

While the show is deep and meaningful, it’s also incredibly fun. It made me laugh, think, and cry within a span of only twelve episodes. I’ve never really been one to get attached to cartoon characters, but I’m genuinely interested in where Stevenson decides to take this show in the next season. If you watched She-Ra and enjoyed it, I highly suggest you check out some of the other things Stevenson has worked on, including Lumberjanes, her graphic novel. And if you haven’t checked out She-Ra, definitely get on it. Though I warn you, it will break your queer heart.

REVIEW: Brunch with Tatiana and Lady Shamu

Tatiana Mala-Nina Lady Shamu Drag Hamburger Mary’s Houston

Sunday Brunch is a weekly show hosted by drag goddesses Tatiana Mala-Niña and Lady Shamu that’s been happening for a while now in Houston — but in case you haven’t seen it, here are our thoughts — 5/5 stars.

(MONTROSE) — In the rather short time it’s been operating out of Montrose, Hamburger Mary’s has become a staple of Houston’s one-and-only gayborhood. The LGBTQIA-friendly restaurant and bar is just one franchise in a much larger chain of restaurants that operate all across the United States, existing in San Francisco, West Hollywood, Orlando, Chicago, Denver, and many other cities. Opening its very first location in 1972 in San Francisco, the kitschy establishment became an important part of queer history in the United States, offering bites and drinks to the LGBTQ+ community with the added flare of drag entertainment. In the 1970s, drag wasn’t quite the phenomenon it is today. While the importance of drag in queer culture really set roots during this time, there was not the public amory for it then that we see today thanks to the media attention given to films such as Paris Is Burning and television programs like RuPaul’s Drag Race. Still, even then, drag queens were very much out at work in the world, and modern drag divas owe a great thanks to the generations of drag and ball cultures that came before them to make it acceptable to perform so publicly.

48393980_960859124120326_6624425637429903360_n REVIEW: Brunch with Tatiana and Lady ShamuThat was the very first thing that came to mind when it really registered that Tatiana Mala-Niña and Lady Shamu had a brunch show together at Hamburger Mary’s. Each “entertaintress” (as Mala-Niña introduces the ladies that perform in her shows) headlining the show is from a different generation of drag than the next. And while it isn’t unusual to see younger queens performing in the shows of the queens who have been around the block a few times more, seeing two of them headline a weekly show together really caught my attention. It raised a lot of questions that I hadn’t thought about before: would their approaches to drag be different? Would their style be symbiotic with one another? Would an audience respond well to the shift from one to the next? The answers to these questions were all the same: Yes, yes, and yes. And as soon as I saw Mala-Niña and Shamu on stage together, I finally began to understand exactly what it was about their separate identities that gave them such chemistry:

These two drag queens genuinely and authentically care about what they’re doing.

After a performance by the Sunday Drag Brunch Girls (Lindsey LaRue, Sasha Frost, and Linda D. Crawford) the show began with Tatiana Mala-Niña taking the stage and performing a number in a big, bright, red tutu that found its way scraping playfully against the heads of guests as she performed. At one point, when it seemed as though a young, straight man named Tony — who had tagged along with his family for a birthday — was getting a little bashful as she approached, Tatiana saw and took the opportunity to straddle him in a lap dance, incorporating him into the number. And while her number was authentic and fun — as they always are with Tatiana — what really did and always seems to steal the show was the moment she jumped on the mic. “Y’all, I’m pregnant now,” she bantered to a roaring applause from her audience as she pointed out Tony and asked if he’d known he was going to be paying for brunch and child support at his first drag show. From then on out, Tony became an important fixture in Mala-Niña’s routine as she weaved in-and-out on the mic to introduce the other performers. The wonderful thing about this drag queen — who has done quite a bit to earn her stripes as an entertainer over the years — is that she knows exactly what she’s doing when she takes to the mic. She knows what her audience wants to see, even if she’s just learning it as she reads their faces and reactions. That fact coupled with an incredible sense of comedic timing is what keeps audiences going when Tatiana is talking. And it’s the very thing that bonds her well structurally with her co-host as she asks over the mic to the back room, “Are you ready to go on yet? I know you need a little more time because you’re old as hell.”

There is a solid handful of Houston drag queens that know their salt from being around the track a few times. Whether it be the queen of the Houston drag race, Dessie Love-Blake, the fabulous Roxanne Collins, or the incomparable (and in my opinion, queen of the free fucking world) Kara Dion, each queen from the next-to-last generation has something unique to offer. Lady Shamu is no exception to that rule. Coming out from backstage to perform a throwback number, standing on booths to dance in the faces of men turning red, and ripping her wig off as the punch line to one of her hysterical jokes, Shamu has the sort of command over an audience that’s sometimes difficult to come by in the drag community. People don’t just stop to watch her … they stop to gawk at her because she’s just so goddamn brilliant. The queen among queens leaves no holds barred as she teases audience members sitting on the outskirts of tables near her performance route and discusses in great and glorious detail the exploits she’d like to put the men in the audience through. Picking on one particular audience member, Lady Shamu joked that a woman in the audience was a “freak”, because she knew how to slip a dollar into her breasts and cop a feel, which was just the way Shamu liked it. This was just one of many jokes that left the audiences doubling over.

48923762_2233588690018975_1350552655205761024_o REVIEW: Brunch with Tatiana and Lady Shamu
Left to right: Sasha Frost, Lindsey LaRue, & Linda D. Crawford.

For the sake of journalistic integrity, I’ll say this: I’ll always be a fan and supporter of Tatiana. She was the first drag queen I ever saw perform in a gay bar (Spring, Texas’s The Room Bar) and actually plays an important role in my coming out story. That being said, I’m not quite as familiar with Lady Shamu, who I’ve only seen at Guava Lamp for Tuesday Night Bingo. Still, it’s obvious that separately Tatiana Mala-Niña and Lady Shamu are nothing short of powerhouses in their various drag shows. But when you pair the two of them together, something kind of magical happens. It’s a little unexpected and it’s a little different from what many drag enthusiasts are used to seeing, but it is magical nevertheless. Their comedy and banter are so extraordinary together that once the back-and-forth ended and the numbers began, I found myself unable to wait to see how the two played off of one another again between songs. After snatching her own wig off and putting it back on, Shamu asked Mala-Niña if her hair was crooked. To this Tatiana responded, “Not … crooked. [Pause] It is a little high though […] You’ve got IMAX forehead!” I nearly spit out my water hearing this. When Mala-Niña explained to Shamu that she’d found her new husband in the audience (the aforementioned Tony), she backtracked to her faux-suitor and asked him what his plans were for their (also) faux-baby. When Tony let her know that he was going to be moving to Canada soon, Tatiana told Tony, “Send me some weed from up there. You know … real child support.” Later when Tony took the stage for shots with the birthday guests (et al), Shamu asked his name, to which Mala-Niña promptly responded, “Mine.” Those two could have gone on for hours and the audience would have kept listening intently to their back-and-forth. Their chemistry on stage is palpable, in spite of the differences in their drag styles and what each brings to the table — although both report that they chose to perform first in the show because neither of their dance skills could match those of Crawford, Frost, and LaRue). But, in fact, those differences may be the very things that make them such a fun duo to watch, because neither queen is afraid to embrace those differences and make them a part of the joke.

As always with both queens, there’s more to their drag than just the performance and shock factor of their jokes. Lady Shamu, for instance, isn’t just up there to take dollars from audience members or to grab the next punch line of a joke. She’s something much more special: a philanthropist. At the show I attended this past Sunday before Christmas, the audience was amazed to learn that over the course of her many performances all across Houston and beyond, Lady Shamu has been raising money for a long while with her drag and has been donating to numerous charities over the years. This past Sunday’s announcement brought the news that her recent charitable works had included providing $500 a piece to four young women in foster care who wished to visit different colleges they were interested in attending, while more money funneled into local charities over the years, such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the AIDS Foundation Houston, the Houston Gay Men’s Chorus, the Transgender National Alliance, Friends of Down Syndrome, Open Gate, the Houston Pride Band, the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans, Montrose Grace Place, Houston Roller Derby, Orgullo Houston, Pride charities, Main Street Theater, Last Wishes Fund, Tony’s Place, the Montrose Center Senior Housing Project, the Montrose Softball League Association, and Toiletries for Families. Lady Shamu lamented to her audience that she doesn’t do these works for the acknowledgement or the attention, which she proved by revealing to audiences that she didn’t even share the information about the money she’s raised through drag on social media (which Mala-Niña confirmed). But here at About, I think it’s important that we do acknowledge this kind of work being done to service underserved communities. People get the idea that a drag queen is just her makeup, hair, and numbers. But a lot of the time, that just isn’t the case. These queens are working tirelessly to give back to the communities that made them who they are and are doing so quietly most of the time, because they understand the importance of doing good just for the sake of doing good. Shamu took this opportunity, as well, to share with audiences an important message about her time in drag, what it means to give back to the community, acceptance, and love.

While Shamu and Mala-Niña’s one-liners and gags punctuated the event and made it truly worthwhile, they were joined by the aforementioned Girls of Sunday Brunch (and likely some of the best dancing queens I’ve seen in the City of Houston). Each of them performed no less than one Britney Spears Number and enthralled audiences with splits, cartwheels, and somersaults. Sasha Frost took the stage at one point to a mash-up number of Spears’ “Toxic” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” (the mix was just as good as the performance, for what it’s worth). She wowed audiences with her flexibility and moves throughout her number and never let her charisma slip away for a single second. Linda D. Crawford tackled the Britney song “Womanizer” and showed off a series of high kicks that left even me — a 6’3″ dude on a high-raised bar stool — wondering just how high she could kick. Then, of course, Lindsey LaRue showed off what she was made of and truly proved herself to be not only a drag queen, but an extraordinary acrobat. After jumping off of the stage into a set of splits on the ground below it (yes … she jumped off the elevated stage and down onto the ground below it several feet down from the height of her jump and landed in a perfect set of splits), LaRue impressed audiences with her rolls across the floors, flawless rhythm, and fierce attitude. I swear to god, at one point I believed that all the hands going up in the air to hand her dollar bills as she danced down the aisles were a choreographed part of her routine. To add to the list of reasons you’d love this show, Hamburger Mary’s’ incredible waitstaff, bartenders, DJs, hosts, and everything in between are always friendly, kind, and attentive, even if the house does get packed with a crowd part of the way through the day. The waitstaff especially doesn’t often get enough credit at these events, but I’m sure I can speak for both Shamu and Mala-Niña in saying that because they have such an incredible support staff at Mary’s (many of whom also perform in drag there), their show runs much smoother.

So what am I getting at here, Houston? Well, if it isn’t obvious, I’ll put it bluntly: you have got to make some Sunday time to have brunch with Lady Shamu and Tatiana Mala-Niña. Separately they’re amazing; but something about them coming together just makes for a truly unique package that you definitely couldn’t have found as easily as you may have other under your Christmas tree this year. With show-stopping performances, well-timed jokes, and a chemistry so good that 11th graders should be studying it during school hours, Lady Shamu and Tatiana Mala-Niña have more to offer you every single week at Hamburger Mary’s.

All-About-It REVIEW: Brunch with Tatiana and Lady Shamu


Catch Lady Shamu Live:

Tuesday Night Bingo at Guava Lamp (10PM – 2 AM) | Sunday Drag Brunch at Hamburger Mary’s (Shows at Noon & 3) | Saturday, The Rumors Report at Rumor’s Beaumont (Shows at 11 PM & 12:30) | Saturday Nights at Rumor’s Beach Bar in Galveston | Charity Game Night at Hamburger Mary’s (7 PM)

Catch Tatiana Mala-Niña Live:

Fridays Cabernet at the Cabaret at Michael’s Outpost (7:30 PM) | Fridays Mary’s Comedy House at Hamburger Mary’s (10:30 PM) | Saturdays Eye-Cons at Michael’s Outpost (7:30 PM) | Second Saturday of Every Month Roomers at the Room Bar (11 PM) | Sunday Drag Brunch at Hamburger Mary’s (Shows at Noon & 3 PM)

Follow Lady Shamu on Social Media:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Follow Tatiana Mala Niña on Social Media:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Follow Hamburger Mary’s on Social Media:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Giving a ‘Heartbeat’ to Lesbians

Queer Guy in the Public Eye, No. 3

One of the most bizarre things to me is the way that straight men fetishize lesbians. Maybe not necessarily ‘lesbians’, but most definitely girl-on-girl action. Website Pornhub released the most  searched terms on their site organized by state in January of 2018, and “lesbian” was the most searched term in all but eight states in the United States. As much as lesbians are fetishized or interesting on a sexual level, we rarely get to see them do the things that we all do – interact on a platonic level, go grocery shopping with their partner, fight over what to watch on television, etc. Even as we move further-and-further into seeing queer people in the spotlight and more queer characters in film and television, there seem to be a disproportionate amount of gay men as compared to lesbian characters. If you’ve been following this column, you’ll remember that All in the Family brought us our first gay character in 1971 and The Jeffersons had the first transgender character in 1977. There were a few lesbian moments on television in the 70’s and 80’s, but the biggest break came with the short-lived television series Heartbeat, which ran for two seasons from 1988 to 1989 and was the first television series to feature a leading lesbian character.

Heartbeat was a medical drama that centered around a medical center, Women’s Medical Arts, which was founded by three women who weren’t pleased with how women’s health concerns were treated in a field that was dominated by men. It was featured on ABC for  only 18 episodes; but even with a limited run on television, it received a great deal of attention for the inclusion of a lesbian couple, Nurse Practitioner Marilyn McGrath and her partner, Patty. The sexuality of Marilyn and Patty was revealed in the fifth episode of the show, when Marilyn’s daughter informed her that Patty would not be invited to her wedding. It was the first time that a primetime television show featured a lesbian character.

heartban Giving a 'Heartbeat' to Lesbians

People ran an article prior to the debut of the show titled “Is Prime Time Ready for Its First Lesbian? Gail Strickland Hopes So – And She’s About to Find Out” in which they interviewed the show’s creator, Sara Davidson and Gail Strickland, the actress who played Marilyn McGrath. In the interview, Davidson explains her decision to wait until the fifth episode to disclose Marilyn’s sexuality, saying “We wanted people to see her as a terrific person first […] then find out she has a private life that at its core is no different from anyone else’s.” The general public was so afraid of gay women that the creator of the show felt like she had to spend four episodes painting a picture of how good of a person the character was before she could reveal her sexuality.

As far as Gail Strickland’s decision to take the role, shock value wasn’t one of the deciding factors in her decision. “It’s not often actors get to play parts that might make a difference,” she told People, “the fact that somewhere, somehow, someone’s perspective might be softened is important to me.” She went on to say that Marilyn was a loving mother who had been in a solid relationship for four years and that is the kind of character she wanted to play, regardless of their sexuality. Strickland’s only fear was that the network would pull back when they started to see retaliation from viewers. This was, after all, not a singular episode of a television show like I’ve written about before, but instead an entire series in which we would see a lesbian on screen week-after-week. Her reservations proved to be legitimate, as the network did scale back the lesbian moments slowly as the series went on with her partner, Gina, only appearing on screen in five total episodes of the series.

While overall the series was important in showing lesbians in a  positive light and helped to change attitudes toward lesbians, there were a couple of major downfalls that ultimately hurt the impact of the series. The biggest downfall was that other than eye contact and an occasional hug, there was no contact between the two characters. I’m not arguing that a full-on sexual encounter should have been broadcast on primetime television, but even the small interactions that couples have – hand holding, cuddling on the couch while watching TV, crying in the arms of your partner when you’re going through a particularly hard time – are all absent from any scene in the series. The two characters live together and talk about being lesbians, but it all but stops there. It would have been unsurprising if the series had featured the women sleeping in parallel twin beds, a la Lucy and Ricky in I Love Lucy. Ultimately, I think that this hurt the attempt to “normalize” lesbians. The other characters in the show have intimate moments with their partners, but the lesbians just look at each other and hug sometimes which ended up leaving more questions than answers.

MVA57289 Giving a 'Heartbeat' to LesbiansThe wardrobe was also a poor choice for the lesbian characters. While the characters dressed feminine and didn’t dress like along the lines of the stereotypical, lumberjack lesbian, they were never dressed in anything sexy. Obviously there was a huge part of the show that was filmed with the characters in scrubs and lab coats, which aren’t particularly “sexy” pieces of clothing, but all of the clothes that the characters wore while being shown outside of work were very conservative. This isn’t my way of saying that women have to wear clothing that accentuates their sex appeal. But if the straight characters in the show were allowed to dress themselves up a bit, why weren’t the lesbians? Showing the lesbian characters as nearly asexual while the straight characters were allowed to be sexual on screen created a weird image of lesbians..

The personalities of the two lesbian characters were also a little troubling. They were both stereotypes of what gender binary, females – super emotional, always troubled by something, never assertive, and almost always submissive. It’s troubling for any female character to be portrayed this way, but especially when showing a lesbian couple. There were no dynamics to the relationship because they were both based on the same stereotype of what a woman should be rather than exploring the idea that any two women could possibly have different personalities. I imagine if there were to be a scene written where they were deciding what to have for dinner we would just watch 45 minutes of each of them saying “I don’t know, you decide!” to the other. It would have been nice to see a little more depth to the characters here.

Ultimately, poor viewership caused ABC to pull the plug on Heartbeat in the middle of the second season of the series even after a nomination in 1989 for the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama and a tie with L.A. Law (which coincidentally would go on to also feature a lesbian character) for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama. Though it had it’s faults, Heartbeat was definitely a turning point in normalizing lesbians and bringing their stories to the homes of millions of Americans. It was certainly a risk for the creator Sara Davidson to include a lesbian in a storyline that wouldn’t have been affected much if she’d written the character Marilyn as a straight woman and Heartbeat really set television up to continue to feature prominent queer storylines in the 90s.

Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ Yule

witch gay holiday yule magic

While many people celebrate Christmas, some of us do not. For the small witch community within our also-small LGBQTIA community, here’s a list of ways to celebrate the Yule holiday, its magic, and your inner-witch while also embracing all the gay you’ve got.

“Ho, ho, ho!” is the moniker to which I answer on Grindr during the winter months (or here in Texas, winter days), in spite of the fact that I do not personally connect myself to Santa Claus or Christmas. At least, I do not feel connected to them. Though raised in a Southern Baptist home by my half-Mexican, half-white mother and her full-white, mildly-racist mother, I have chosen this year to forsake Christmas traditions in lieu of celebrations that align best with my true beliefs. As I mentioned back at Halloween in a separate piece, I am a practitioner of witchcraft, or, more specifically, brujeria.  As not to delve too much into what I’ve already gone over in writing (you can read my witchy coming out here), my family (Jewish on one side, and Christian on the other) has a lot of customs that pertain to their respective religions; but it was my paternal grandmother whose Mexican magical customs I attuned myself to as a child. That being said, for me, witchcraft/brujeria is not a religious practice. Rather, like my writing or anything else I spend time studying and perfecting, it is a craft, even a lifestyle.

4NDv Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ YuleWitchcraft, as an umbrella term, is a very subjective and variable word, as it is much older than most modern religions and has roots in numerous cultures and backgrounds. Afro-Caribbean cultures practice their magics using various forms of Shamanism, Hoodoo, Obeah, Santeria, and more. Many of these practices are often also very religious in nature, having been diluted from the original African spirituality by way of Catholic intervention in their migrant nations such as Caribbean Islands and Mexico. Brujeria, in a lot of ways, is quite similar, with evocations of saints and religious spirits such as Santa Muerte and the Virgin Mother. But even beneath a subjective umbrella, brujeria is also quite variant from practitioner-to-practitioner, as it is usually held close to the chest amongst Latinx witches. The practice is generally taught within families, with spells and potions and rituals being passed down from parent-to-child throughout the generations.

Growing up without my father present in my life, a lot of what I learned about brujeria came second-hand, though I knew it was a significant part of my abuelita’s life. Over the years, many of those learnings have blended together with more Germanic practices and rituals, creating something of a Neo-Brujeria that I’ll someday be able to pass down to my own children, if they so wish to learn it. A part of those Germanic practices that I’ve adopted are the Witches’ Sabbaths, the eight holidays adopted and celebrated by most modern witches regardless of their religious or spiritual affiliations.

tumblr_pg25svE4vn1r1ult6o1_400 Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ YuleToday, witches around the world — brujas, Wiccans, Dianic witches, and more — will celebrate Yule, also referred to as Midwinter. Yule falls upon the Winter Solstice each year (typically on or around December 21st) and is noted as the shortest day of the calendar year, in which the sun is only present in the sky for about nine hours. It is a witch’s celebration of rebirth and light. It is a time to give up what is not serving you, what is negative, and what holds you back, and replace it with newness and light. Yule is — by some accounts, though not all — known as the Witches’ New Year, although many consider Samhain (Halloween) to be the Witches’ New Year. It is, in short, our version of Christmas, a celebration of rebirth and new beginnings, letting go of negativity and letting light and goodness enter our lives anew. Its origins date back pre-Christianity, and are often associated (in its beginnings) with the Norse god Odin, while it has been adopted and reformed throughout the ages all the way up into modern Gardnerian Wicca. As a nonreligious, secular witch, I won’t harp too much on the stories that accompany these versions of the Winter Solstice. Instead, I, a quasi-secular, solitary brujo, thought a lot about how Yule is celebrated around the world, even in brujeria, blended those ideas with being a queer person, and have compiled this short list of things that you can do to celebrate Yule if you’re new to the Craft and looking for a way to celebrate:

1. Begin the day by examining negative energies in your life that are not serving you. 

I know, I know. What the fuck does that mean? It means that it’s time for you to start looking at your life as if it’s a closet you’re going to clean out. Take each item in it, one-by-one and make two piles. The first pile should be the things that make you feel joy and that don’t harm others; the second pile should be things that either make you miserable or melancholy and/or that can have harmful effects on those that you love.

So, say for instance you pull out of this metaphorical closet an ugly sweater — e.g. that one ex that sends you random, unevenly dispersed “You up?” texts in the middle of the night. Sure, the sex might be great; and the reminder of being with someone that you love may make you nostalgic and leave you longing for times of past. But let’s get real here, y’all: what does that occasional hook-up that leads to nothing substantial really give you? 15 seconds of ecstasy at climax? A feeling of emptiness when he/she/they doesn’t/don’t want to cuddle afterward and quickly ask you to leave? Herpes?! Take that ugly fucking sweater, toss it in the donation pile, and recycle that energy in the hopes that it will turn out to be positive for someone else.giphy-4 Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ Yule

Next you find a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind, Hermes scarf that you bought with a Christmas bonus you received after seeing The Devil Wears Prada in theaters for the first time back in the early 2000s. It was a pretty impulsive buy, but it was a great way to treat yo’self. Do you wear it often? No. In fact, hell no! Hermes is expensive af. But when you do wear it, maybe wrapped around your head on a warm summer day while out at the beach or around your neck in the cooler, autumn months (again, “or in Texas, autumn days”), you feel unique and like a stand-out that people are paying attention to. In this case, that scarf is … I don’t know … that special talent that not everyone knows you have like playing the piano or baking. You don’t do it often for everyone to see, but you’re good at it and it brings you joy when you get to share it with others. Put it in the keep pile.

Most important to remember here is that this is a great time of year to get yourself out of toxic situations. Bad relationships, shitty jobs, bad family traditions with your family. Put yourself at the forefront of your mind and heart (for once)  and think about the good things you’d like to replace the bad with. Then take a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle vertically, and on the left side, list the things you need to give up; on the right, list the things you could replace the negativity with to make yourself feel more whole and at-peace. Keep this list as it will come back up later.

A great way to rid some of this energy is one of the oldest and simplest of magics that witches have been doing for centuries. Take that broomstick you keep — preferably a ceremonial one, but a sweeping broom will do, too — and give your house a good sweep. Yes, yes, I know. This is work. Whatever. Get over it. You can’t start new intentions with messy old habits. But truly, it’s not about cleaning your house. Many witches for years have used the broom as a way of clearing out negative energy. Surprise, surprise, nonmagical people! We don’t fly around on them … often. As with the old practice, sweep your floors — specifically any in-betweens like doorways, staircases, halls, and window panes, from east to west — the direction of the ever-important-to-Yule sun — and clear out the bad mojo. You can insert an incantation or mantra to repeat as you do so. Something I learned from my familial magic was a little chant that went like this:

“de este a oeste, saco el mal de mi vida.”

Roughly translated it says, “From east to west, I remove the evil from my life.” An English incantation I read in an old grimoire once said something similar (in rhyme scheme, of course, because that’s what white people know how to do).

“i SWEEP THIS FLOOR

FROM EAST TO WEST,

AND CONJURE FORTH

WHAT SERVES ME BEST.

FROM EAST TO WEST

I RID EVIL AWAY,

ON THIS SUNLIGHT’S

SHORTEST DAY.”

Make it yours, or use one of those. The important part is that you are intent and focused upon the words you’re speaking.

giphy-5 Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ Yule2. Create a yuletide altar.

Altars are often an important part of many spiritual and religious affiliations, and witchcraft — whether you’re a secularist like myself or you worships deities — is no exception. While not all witches have an at-home altar that stands intact on a permanent basis (I, for one, do not), creating one for special occasions doesn’t have to be so ritualistic as it may be decorative, festive, and even a little cathartic. If the Christians are going to put up nativity scenes at every street corner like Starbucks franchises, there’s no reason you can’t do this one little thing for yourself.

Altars very by practice of magic, and down from there, they even vary from witch-to-witch. Wiccans tend to have a very standard way for setting up their altars (though not all align this way) while brujeria sort of has taught me to light lots of candles everywhere and have a table you keep all your witch shit on. Many times, there are statues of the deities/saints/spirits/etc. standing atop the altars, along with protection herbs, basic tools used in most spells such as an athamé, candles, mirrors, pentacles, and more. Many witches will decorate their standard altars for the Sabbaths, while others will situate new ones in their homes that they can keep separate from those at which they perform spells.

Creating an altar for the Sabbath is simple, especially for Yule. As many Christian-Christmas traditions and decorations stem from those of old Paganism, it should come as no surprise that things like mistletoe, decorated trees, and even (wow, imagine this) yule logs were originally Germanic traditions created by pagans of old. Even the color schemes of Yule are pretty similar to Christmas colors: gold, red, green, silver, and white. Find some candles, hang a little mistletoe over your altar, add some gold and silver discs to represent the winter season, and find some candles of green, red, and white to accentuate and embolden your power. This will put you on the right track to getting your yuletide spellwork off on the right foot. But make sure to keep it kind of personal, if you’d like. Add ornaments that represent you to boughs of holly or keep small items you’ve received as holidays gifts on the table top. And, of course, make sure to add in some flare of your LGBTQ+ pride to the altar. A rainbow/trans/bi/et al flag in the corner will give it a little flare.

3. Embrace the celebration of light. 

hollyfireworks Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ YuleIn most Yule mythologies, the holiday is all about rebirth — specifically that of the sun or associated deities. Today is a day for you to pull back the shades, open the blinds, and burn candles so that every part of your home is filled with light that can regenerate it with positive energy. And for our local readers, it’s a beautiful day outside. If you’re comfortable in cooler air, it may not hurt to open up the windows and doors for a bit so that fresh air can come into your home and breath out the nasty, negative energy. While you’re at it, take a single votive candle into each room of your house (specifically those that see the most activity) and let it burn in the room throughout the day and into the night. These candles will be cleansing and affirmative — two very important components to Yule.

When the night finally comes, and the sun begins to set, make sure that you’ve prepared one of the most important factors in your Midwinter celebration: the yule log. There are a lot of stories and tales behind the yule log. In many Spanish cultures, the yule log was/is a sort of proxy Santa Claus that begat gifts for children overnight while they slept. For witches, however, the yule log is ceremonial. Many witches from all paths believe that the yule log should be lit at sundown and should burn the following day in the fireplace. By doing so, the yule log wards off negative energies and spirits. Some cultures even believed that the yule log was even capable of warding off toothaches, misfortune, miscarriage, house fires (I would be wary of that last one), and other problems. Plus, it’s a really great way to stay warm and to keep your carbon footprint low for at least one night. The yule log should stay lit at all times; and if it is to go out, the witch should relight it as soon as possible. Many witches choose to tell ghost stories by their yule log fires or read tarot cards to absorb its power. When the sun has risen after the longest night of the year, keep a piece of it for next Midwinter and use it to light your new log.

4. Spend time with friends, family, and — that’s right — your sister witches. 

Not all of us — as queer people nor as witches — always see eye-to-eye with our family and friends, especially when it comes to beliefs and holidays. That doesn’t mean we don’t love them; it just means we sometimes have to compartmentalize certain parts of our lives to solitude or like-minded people. Some are lucky enough to have relationships that are forged between two people who want to understand what makes the other tick. Whichever of those categories you may fall into, try to share your holiday spirit with some of the people you love. They don’t have to come over and read tarot cards with you by the yule log, but inviting them to a yuletide dinner to set your version of New Year’s Resolutions never hurt anyone. Use it as an opportunity to show those who may have preconceived ideas about witchcraft the goodness it is filled with and that it isn’t so different from the rituals they practice.

tenor-2 Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ YuleIf you have friends that are also witches — whether they be solitary or a part of a coven — invite them to spend the holiday with you. Read tarot cards, dance to holiday music, make a meal together (more on this in a moment), and maybe even cast your Yule spell together as the sun sets (also more on this later). Even if you’re a solitary witch like myself, connecting with people who share similar beliefs and values every now and again — and in celebration, no less — can be a very empowering and heart-warming occasion. You don’t have to go stand out in the woods or to the beach and go full-on The Craft when you decide to gather together. It doesn’t have to remind you of church where someone is preaching about the birth of some baby messiah.

download Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ YuleJust enjoy the company; laugh; eat; share your intentions for the new year to come. You’ll be surprised how much joy you get out of this — especially if everyone brings a little something of their own to the party. This is also extremely valuable to those LGBTQ+ people who don’t have families to spend the holidays with for whatever reason that may be. As many of us have been outcasted, shunned, rejected, turned away, or even who have no living relatives, creating a chosen family can be extremely fulfilling. And just like with a blood family, you don’t always have to like them or want to be around them. In fact, you shouldn’t always be around them, because absence will make your heart grow fonder of them, making occasions like Yule, Samhain, and the other Sabbaths more worthwhile.

tumblr_phtp8dObTE1xiu39no4_250 Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ YuleMeals are important to any celebration — part of the reason the Jewish thing never quite panned out for me is because those people fast waaaaay too much. Like … haven’t our people been through enough suffering? Oy gevalt. Your Yule dinner — or Witchmas dinner, as I like to call it — doesn’t have to be a spectacle that includes a 20-pound turkey or a honey-glazed ham. It can be, if that’s what you want. But magic is all about what brings out our power, and our power comes from what nourishes our bodies and souls. So if you want to have eight kinds of mac ‘n cheese or an ice cream buffet, why in Hecate’s name shouldn’t you? Embrace your idea of goodness, not what is traditional or conventional, unless that’s what you enjoy. Likely — albeit along with some nasty right-wing commentary about walls and fake news — you’ll get this food in a few days if you have someone to spend Christmas with. Make this your holiday, and one that the people you share it with won’t forget. After all, it only comes once a year. Aside from that, as much as we may love to do spells to bring us some extra cash when we’re in a pinch or to protect us from our ex’s midnight booty call text messages or to find a good parking space, magic is inherently gifted to witches so that they can help others (or so I believe). Don’t let Yule take that away from you. Be with yourself, but also be there to share the literal magic of this holiday with the people you love. For me and About Magazine associate editor Jessica Olsen, that pretty much means Olive Garden and Starbucks.

5. Practice your most practical magic. 

sally-1 Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ YuleAs the sun begins to set in the sky — no sooner, no later — grab that list you made in bullet point one and take yourself outside somewhere that you can be in your own head and heart and where you will not be bothered by any person or thing. Nature — to most witches — is a pivotal part of our practice. While I’m no green-thumbed, neo-pagan, hedgewitch, I do practice most of my spells outside where walls cannot confine me and where I’m most attuned to the elements. As Yule is a celebration of light and new beginnings, it is a day where pretty much no spell is off limits. If this be the day that you wish to forgo your old ways of hooking up on Grindr, Tinder, or FarmersOnly so that you can make room for a new path to meet someone with whom you can attain a substantial relationship that will bring you joy, delete those apps and set that intention. If this be the day that you wish to stop smoking cigarettes or snorting cocaine — two very real problems in our community, both of which I am guilty of — take those cigarettes and coke bags to the earth, empty the tobacco or cocaine into a fire — this can be your yule log or another representative flame — and rid yourself of them. Conduct your spell with a new, pure heart and with the strongest and most willful of intentions.

tumblr_pjfka6CPhW1r38ucmo1_500 Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ YuleThis is how I’ll be doing Yule. Once I’m outside with my list, I shall begin my spell (I won’t instruct you on the entire thing here, because I think researching and crafting ones own spells is a very important thing to learn; I will, however, give a rough outline of it as we go). I don’t bother myself with opening and closing “proper” circles as Wiccans do (by that I mean I don’t call in the Corners or deities often, but sometimes resolve a physical circle of salt or another important herbal component, say rose petals for a love spell or a chalk pentacle), but I do take protective measures with salt and smudging. From there I’ll begin by stating that with the setting sun I cast away the negative things I’ve listed in my life, continuing on with my incantation. Once the moon has risen and is just visible — as well as when it cannot be concealed by clouds long enough for me to finish — I will invite in the positive attributes I’ve listed from the moon’s power. With powdered holly leaves I’ve crushed myself poured in the center of the paper, I’ll twist the four corners of it together so that the holly does not scatter out beforehand, then release my list to the fire while finishing out my incantations/spellwork. Then, and only then, I’ll take the time to sit and meditate while the fire burns long enough to envision what it is I want before returning to my regular activities.

It’s a pretty simple spell, y’all. In fact, it’s a pretty simple holiday. Like all holidays, Yule — for witches or anyone else — is nothing more than what you make of it. If you believe it can empower you as a witch, it can. It’s up to you to tap into that power. But by all means, don’t let yourself lose sight of what’s important on this day. This isn’t the time to be hexing your exes or that bitchy, snot-nosed little gayby from the bar who keeps zeroing in on all the people flirting with you. It’s a time of self-reflection, self-healing, and elevating what makes you a powerful, badass, queer witch.

Bright Solstice, Witches.

anigif_sub-buzz-19253-1545068829-1 Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ YuleOh, and, PS:

Have some self-respect and wear something black. For Diana’s sake, we may be mostly good most of the time, but we’re still witches

tenor-1 Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ Yule