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Book Review: Girl Made of Stars

Girl Made of Stars Book LGBTQ Rape Ashley Herring Blake

Girl Made of Stars – 5/5 Stars

“They wrinkle their noses when I’m holding Charlie’s hand they wrinkle their noses when I’m not.”

ahb Book Review: Girl Made of Stars
Author Ashley Herring Blake

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake is a book about so many different things. First and foremost, it’s about a girl, Mara, and her twin brother, Owen. Owen is accused of rape by Mara’s best friend, Hannah. Most of the book is spent with Mara, who doesn’t know what or who to believe. On one hand, she wants to believe that her brother wouldn’t do such a thing. On the other hand, she would never dismiss someone’s serious accusations, especially not her best friend’s. Mara is in charge of a club called Empower. She writes articles about victims and helps to empower others to use their voice. It seems absurd to dismiss Hannah’s claims just because the person she’s accusing is Owen.

I had never read a book like this before, even though stuff like this happens daily around the globe. Rapists are often people we never suspect; they might be a friend, a brother, or a teacher. Girl Made of Stars deals with the aftermath. It explains that cases like these are almost always dropped. It shows the struggle of Hannah trying to get her truth told.

“I’m a distraction, he’ll say. Boys will be boys, he’ll say. If I’m a nice girl, I should know better, he’ll say. Because that’s what he says to any girl who shows a deltoid or has naturally long legs under her skirt or has to wear anything above an AA-cup. And that’s when I’ll breathe fire.”

The book also deals with Mara, and Mara’s past sexual assault. With her past a secret, she finds it hard to side with her brother, even though her family wants her to. Mara fights back and is the social warrior that we all strive to be. In the face of a horrible dilemma, she stands up for her friend when her brother needs her the most. Mara is a girl who will not deny any other person the chance to have their story told.

“This. This is why I never said anything. Because no one ever believes the girl.”

Girl Made of Stars deals with real life scenarios and teaches its readers about things that happen every day. It paints the picture of real high school parties where people get drunk and don’t ask for consent. It is an eye-opening book that I think everyone should read. I think that everyone could benefit and learn something from this book. The characters are real and vivid; each of them has and deals with their own struggles. They mesh incredibly well together and form a story that I am so unbelievably happy to have read.

“What does feel like a girl even mean, anyway?”

Not only does this book deal with rape accusations and brother/sister relationships, it deals with sexuality in an amazing way. Girl Made of Stars is not a coming out story, which I really appreciate. I find that most LGBT books and movies are often about someone coming out (which is great), but I also love having a book where not only one, but two people are out and proud! This addition of having two LGBT characters normalizes the inclusion of LGBT characters and is one of the reasons I gave this book a five-star rating. This is simply a young adult novel with two characters that happen to be LGBT. It’s amazing. It also deals with questioning identities. Charlie (Mara’s ex-girlfriend) struggles with not knowing who they are and there’s even a page or so where they discuss with Mara that they might be nonbinary. I love this book and I highly encourage everyone to read it. If you’re a victim or struggling with your identity or sexuality, I think you could find a lot of peace in this book. I know I did.

“There is no way to really move on. No song or empathetic friend or all the love I have for my brother will ever change that.”

I was however, disappointed with the way the book ended. I wanted Mara to get more closure for her own situation. I didn’t think this was reason enough to knock it of its five-star rating. Everything else is so utterly amazing and realistic that I think it deserves the praise. Mara, Charlie, and Hannah are three very empowering characters and their stories are wonderfully written. Girl Made of Stars is compelling and powerful, and is definitely a book that will stay on my shelf for years to come.

All-About-It Book Review: Girl Made of Stars

My Life as a Sex Worker

Photo credit: Enigma Fotos, Jonathan Irvin

Josh Clark (also know as Lexi Wade) talks his life in the adult film industry and as an escort, its consequences, finding faith, and how life has changed for him. 

(THE WOODLANDS) If you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, some might say, “I want to be famous!” And growing up, I was certainly one of those kids.

Born in Athens, Greece and raised in The Woodlands, Texas, I had a pretty normal childhood. You could always find me out at the barn or spending late nights at a rodeo; but wherever I was, I was with daddy or Pawpaw. Yet, when I was five, my Pawpaw lost his battle with cancer. Though it took some time, life eventually got back to normal, but in 2001, my family and I moved, which resulted in a change of schools during my freshman year of high school. All through high school, I carried my Pawpaw with me and continued his love for agriculture. I was an active member of the local 4-H and served as an officer of the Oak Ridge FFA chapter all four years of high school, becoming vice president during my senior year.

In 2007, just before my 18th birthday, I came out to my friends and family as gay. By this time, I had already managed to obtain a fake ID and was beginning to experience a life in Montrose for the first time ever.  I was immediately consumed with everything the “gayborhood” had to offer. Here I was at 17-years-old, sneaking cocktails and flirting with every guy I met. But it was not until December of 2009 that I discovered that I wanted to become a transsexual. Of course, now having experienced the nightlife and all that went on throughout the night, I quickly found myself identifying as a crossdresser. I worked during the day; but at night I was living a double life that was beginning to become hard to hide.

By 19, I was introduced to the popular escorting website, Backpage.com. I was shown the proper etiquette and how to meet “clients” without “breaking the law” and was becoming popular across the state. In the Spring of 2010, after relocating to Jacksonville, Florida, I was contacted by a producer for the largest transsexual adult film company in the country, located in Los Angeles.with the opportunity to model for their award-winning website. On August 17, 2010, “Lexi Wade” made her debut, and I had no idea what my life was soon to become.

Just a few short months after inaugurating  into the adult film industry, producers at NBC

 Universal in Stamford, Connecticut reached out and invited me to appear as a special guest on The Jerry Springer Show as a part of their “Freaky Sex Fetishes” episode, which aired days before my 21st birthday. By that age, I was travelling, filming, and making appearances in Hollywood at various events, nightclubs and, of course, a few hotels here and there. In 2012, I was named a nominee for the 2012 XBIZ “Transsexual Performer of the Year” award. This had become my fifth award nomination and

FB_IMG_1515768272552-300x190 My Life as a Sex Worker

 I was at the  peak of my career. During my visit for the 2012 XBIZ Awards, after an appearance on XM/Sirius Satellite “Playboy Radio,” I had scheduled to meet a client that was also in town on business and was staying at a familiar five star hotel. It wasn’t until it was already too late that I realized I had found myself under arrest for solicitation. Because I had become “famous” and had been parading myself all over the internet, I’d landed myself in the custody of LAPD.

Once I returned home to Houston, I continued living life just as I had been: meeting with clients, traveling, filming, and maintaining a relationship. It wasn’t until my very public lifestyle became too chaotic that the relationship began to struggle. Our relationship started off just like any normal relationship, and he was completely aware and at first accepting of my career and lifestyle when we first began dating. It wasn’t until after I received the 2012 XBIZ Award nomination and the release of an article that our relationship began to crumble. The article falsely stated that I was at that time HIV-positive, and triggered a great deal of social media aggression and backlash.

Soon after the release of this slander, and after many sleepless nights, enough had been enough; and I announced my retirement from the adult film industry.

Two weeks later, our relationship ended.

I have not seen nor heard from him since the day he walked out of the door.  Today, I realize that being “famous” certainly is not all that it’s always cracked up to be. It comes with a price.

My career. My love. All gone in the blink of an eye.

Having lost all that I had worked so hard for in the matter of days, I found myself spiraling out of control. I turned to sex, money, and drugs as a solution to what I had created and destroyed. It was not until August 8th, 2017 that I decided to seek help from the damage and abuse I had caused myself; willingly and lost, I checked myself into a life recovery ministry, House of Hope in Madisonville, Texas. On the morning of August 8th, I contacted the church and expressed my interest in their ministry program and of course, at the end of the conversation, I mentioned that I had identified as a transsexual female for the past decade, but was absolutely willing to be open-minded.FB_IMG_1515768122256-300x287 My Life as a Sex Worker

Just after noon, I checked myself into the House of Hope and it being an all men’s Christian discipleship program, with an enrollment of 65+ men, I was in complete lifestyle shock the next morning.

Days after settling in, I was selected to be on the “hay crew” one afternoon. I thought I was going to literally die after learning what the “hay crew” was really about. Loading 500 hay bales into an eighteen wheeler, in a barn in the middle of the East Texas summer heat. Let’s just say that today, after many nights in the hayfield this past summer, I am a seasoned pro in the hay field and can’t wait to go back this spring. Days after checking in, I was saved and accepted the Lord as my Christ and Savior. Then, on August 29th, 2017, I received the most life-changing news any one person could receive:

I was diagnosed HIV-positive.

How I allowed myself to become so lost is a result of how easily we as humans can become so quickly consumed in lifestyle habits that are toxic, illegal, dangerous, and unhealthy. According to HumanTraffickingHotline.org, “Sex trafficking may be distinguished from other forms of commercial sex by applying the Action + Means + Purpose Model. Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker takes any one of the enumerated actions, and then employs the means of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of compelling the victim to provide commercial sex acts. At a minimum, one element from each column must be present to establish a potential situation of sex trafficking. The presence of force, fraud, or coercion indicates that the victim has not consented of his or her own free will. In addition, minors under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex are considered victims of human trafficking regardless of the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

It hurts my heart to know that I became a victim of this horrible crime, to the extent that I now have to wake with a daily reminder of all the terrifying moments that lead me here. And it hurts my heart to witness younger generations who have too become victims of this widely disgusting epidemic. But today, I am no longer a victim. I am no longer a slave to fear. I’ve recently moved back to The Woodlands after my time at the House of Hope, and since rededicating my life to the Lord, my entire life has evolved. Today, I am the designer at Rustic Romance Custom Floral and Design and we recently celebrated the grand opening of our new showroom and boutique in Old Town Spring. My family and I have grown closer than ever since changing my life. Just as I was involved in agriculture, I have now passed this tradition on to my little brother; Saturday is his first official 4-H event. I know Pawpaw would be proud. I am also now beginning to prepare for an upcoming mission trip to Belize in the summer.

A special thank you to my family, friends and many fans who have been so continuously supportive. I thank God a million times a day for his mercy and grace for truly saving my life. Also, huge thank you to House of Hope in Madisonville, Texas—Mr. Brad Brock, Ms. Webber, Jennifer, Lauren, Crystal and the entire leadership team. Words cannot express the amount of love and gratitude I have for the unconditional love I have received from you all.

Today, I am a voice to be heard. A life that matters. A son. A brother. A friend. A designer. Gay. HIV-positive. Inspired.

Just as I was inspired to share my story, I hope this will pay it forward; and I pray that anyone who ever feels like nobody’s listening knows that their voices can be heard.

“God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

-1 Peter 4:10

If you believe you have information about a potential trafficking situation:

Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888: Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking. All reports are confidential and you may remain anonymous. Interpreters are available.

Submit a tip online through the anonymous online reporting form below. For immediate assistance or to speak directly with a Hotline Advocate, please contact us 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888.

Photography Credit: Enigma Fotos, Jonathan Irvin


Book Review: The Scottish Bitch

The Scottish Bitch Drag LGBTQ Macbeth Jameson Tabard Book Review

The Scottish Bitch, by Jameson Tabard: 4/5 Stars

jtabard Book Review: The Scottish Bitch
Author Jameson Tabard.

The Scottish Bitch by Jameson Tabard is a modern drag queen retelling of the story of Macbeth. I never read Macbeth, but I know most of the story. I think that I enjoyed The Scottish Bitch more because I hadn’t read the original. It was like reading a new story. The characters were well thought-out and held true to the standards previously set by Shakespeare. It was easy to point out the connections to Macbeth. This novel is enjoyable as a stand-alone book, and doesn’t need to be compared to Macbeth to be great.


Everything in this novel is true to the story and eloquently written. The queens are described so I could visualize them while reading. Of course, because this is a retelling of an old story, the reader will know what’s going to happen while they’re reading. I didn’t find that to be bothersome. Even though I knew the outcome, I still enjoyed this fun read.

I found difficulty in deciding who to support. The narration is third person omniscient, so we know the thoughts and feelings of every character. This narration presents trouble when reading. I found, at times, that it was a bit much. I often found that I was reading things I didn’t need to know, or things that I shouldn’t have known yet. Because there are so many characters and we do get to see the world from their points of view, it’s hard to know who the main character is. The primary narrative follows Latrine Dion (Macbeth) in her pursuit to become Duchess in her drag queen circuit. Her husband and other queen’s perspectives interrupt Latrine’s journey. While I believe this distracted from the main storyline, I enjoyed discovering the other characters.

I struggled with the beginning of this book. Intrigue and a great hook were both absent at the start. It required some conscious effort to get through the first few chapters, but I’m glad I did. At around fifty pages, the plot begins to pick up. After this point, I couldn’t put the novel down. While it did take a few chapters to get me engaged, Tabard did a great job of keeping me engaged throughout the rest of the novel.

Tabard does a great job of setting the scene for us in Orlando, Florida. He describes the hotels, apartments, and cityscape well enough and I am transported there while reading. Every setting feels like a real place, and does a great job at pulling me further into the plot.

While the visual descriptions worked well, other portions of the novel were slow or an inconvenience to read. The few dreams sequences dragged on. I don’t think they moved the story along and I didn’t enjoy reading them. These portions were a few pages and occur two or three times throughout. Even though I didn’t enjoy reading them, they weren’t enough to make me put the story down.

Overall, I enjoyed The Scottish Bitch. With this novel, Tabard created a quick, fun read that was different from anything else I read before. I need and recommend more books like this one.Were-About-It-1 Book Review: The Scottish Bitch

Contributions to this article were made by About Magazine editorial assistant, Brandie Larsen. 

Editor’s Note: Big Changes at About Magazine

About Magazine Wendy Taylor Anthony Ramirez Houston LGBTQ
The current About Magazine staff.

Screen-Shot-2018-08-24-at-8.51.17-PM Editor's Note: Big Changes at About Magazine

It’s me again, Anthony Ramirez (or basically no one). Sorry to hit you with two back-to-back editor’s notes in one day. I know they’re annoying, and I apologize. Please feel free to hit me in the face if you see me at Neon Boots later today for their 5th anniversary celebration (there’s my plug). But that aside, I want to take a moment to fill everyone in on some very important news.

It has been nearly ten months since I took over as editor-in-chief of About Magazine; and in that time I have learned the true meaning of what it is to be exhausted. When I came on to work for this magazine in June of last year, the staff consisted of only then-executive publisher/founder Cade Michals, entertainment reporter Morena Roas, then-reporter Shelby Jeffcoat, photographer David Guerra, and myself. Since then, our staff has grown to a staff of nearly twenty. While Cade departed About for bigger and better opportunities but still remains our publisher, Morena, David, and Shelby all stayed on in more hands-on capacities, the latter becoming the managing editor of our newest branch, About Magazine Dallas. Joining the ranks alongside all of us came associate editor Jessica Olsen, About Trans editor Ian Townsley, editorial consultant Wendy Taylor, director of music and entertainment Al Farb, fashion writers Stoo Gogo and Gin Martini, my assistant and book reviewer Megan Prevost, About Magazine Dallas writers Raunda Ashton and Ravin Bones, columnist Madyson Crawford, and interns Brandie Larsen and Adam Kuta.

Final-new-logo-1-1 Editor's Note: Big Changes at About Magazine
New About Media Group logo. Original design by Cade Michals with contributions by Ramirez.

As a team, the About Magazine staff has worked tirelessly to put out more content everyday, support the community with fundraisers and events and spotlight pieces, focus on topics important to queer people like politics and sex and health, partner with businesses, shows, and nonprofits like the University of Texas Medical Branch, Guava Lamp, Neon Boots, Pride Houston, Pride Galveston, H-Town Kings, The Woodlands Pride, Pearl Bar, Men Having Babies, and so many more. We have focused in on pieces relevant to the nature of and state of the LGBTQ community in order to spotlight and focus in on individuals in the community who are making the world a better place for queer people. Additionally, About Magazine has expanded three-fold, introducing the only LGBTQ book publishing house in Texas (About Editions) in December of 2017, opening the only LGBTQ TV and film production studio in Texas (About Media) in June while at the same time launching our Dallas branch of the magazine with Shelby at its helm. In that time, we’ve published 8 books, have six more on the way before year’s end, have put two original web series into production, and are in preproduction for another, while also totally reestablishing the magazine and bringing it to a point where Newsweek is citing articles on stories that we broke and our books are winning the New England Book Festival awards for poetry.

wined-e1535215873473 Editor's Note: Big Changes at About Magazine
Promo for Wineding Down from About Media

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.

“Anthony … you’re such a bad ass.”

I know, thank you. It’s portion control and water. But the truth of the matter is that most of these things wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for that incredible team I’d listed above. I’m kind of a hot mess, y’all. Like … real life Anthony is just constantly trying to make sure that the electrical fire that is his life doesn’t set his favorite pair of shoes on fire. So, when I say that everyone on this team (new and old) has made About into the content-producing, thought-provoking, community-loving magazine that it is today and that I am just trash, I mean it. And while we still have a long way to go before we’ve hit the mark we are all striving toward, we really have something going here that we think is special. Again, none of that would be possible without the people who have stuck by my side, listened to me while I cried about being a fraud, reminded me that I could do anything I set my mind to, and helped steer a ship that was constantly in danger of capsizing.

There is one person, however, who really dug her heels into the ground to make this magazine a success from the time I took over and that has not relented on that dream since then. Her name is Wendy Taylor, and while she was previously the magazine’s editorial consultant — aiding writers in shaping pitch ideas, conferring with me about the direction of the Pride Edition and how to best integrate the magazine into the community while also introducing us to some of our most important contacts. More over, however, she has been one of my closest friends and most trusted confidants over this past year. That’s why — after a conversation at QFest with Spectrum South’s Kelsey Gledhill and Megan Smith who seemed to have no idea how I was running a magazine without a creative director — it was so easy for me to make the decision I’m here to announce today.

40056243_10209233106104168_9114394762206511104_n Editor's Note: Big Changes at About Magazine
Ramirez & Taylor locked out of a business meeting.

Effective as of two weeks ago, Wendy Taylor has joined me as my partner at About Magazine, taking on the role of Chief Creative Officer, or CCO. What this means is that Wendy will be taking over the business side of About Magazine. She will be in charge of handling the budget, the business plan, the projections, and the advertising revenue so that I can spend a little more time focusing my attention onto the content of our three little baby companies. Wendy is — for lack of a better term — a Jack of All Trades. A musician and vocalist since she was a child, Wendy has made a career of performing as a professional musician. However, what many of her fans and acquaintances don’t know about her is that she’s also a full-time mom, a full-time student on the path to beginning medical school, and has worked over the course of her career getting new businesses off of the ground and as her own business manager as a musician (there’s so much more, but I have to wrap this up).

And that’s essentially what About has been since I took over — a new business (well, three).

About Media Group (the company operating as About Magazine, About Media, and About Editions) has been growing faster than a child these last few months; and I honestly believe I would have lost control of everything had it not been for Wendy Taylor, as well as many of my other staff members. We have so much exciting news to share with you in the coming weeks, and much of that is to do with the work Wendy has done, that Shelby is doing in Dallas, and that Al has contributed. So I hope that you will all join me in welcoming Wendy into her new position and wishing her the best of luck. Not that she needs it. She is one tough bitch and has brains and wit unmatched by most others. And with that said, I owe to both Wendy and my entire staff (especially so Al, Megan, Jessica, and Morena, without whom I’d have drowned 100-times over in my own self-pity and failures) a great deal of thanks and all my love. We have so much more to share with you in the coming weeks, and I cannot wait to do so because I am terrible at keeping secrets. But truthfully, it is going to be beautiful to get to continue to he and work with the LGBTQ community in all the ways we have planned. We have the most beautiful and diverse team here at About as we approach our ten-year anniversary, and I couldn’t think of any other people with whom I’d want to celebrate ten years.

I can’t wait to see what the next ten years have in store (but hopefully a lot of Xanax).

Screen-Shot-2018-08-24-at-8.45.43-PM Editor's Note: Big Changes at About Magazine

Anthony Ramirez