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Much Ado About Stephen

Less Than Butterflies Season Two

Less Than Butterflies, No. 17

The funny thing about friendships–especially close friendships that are intense and that challenge us–is that you get so swept up in their euphorias that it never crosses your mind that they might someday end. Whether it be a silly disagreement, a change in location that puts space between you, walking down different paths that cause you to drift apart, or another loved one coming between you and your friend, these conflicts–or maybe just these changes–are typically unexpected, seemingly inexplicable, and lightning fast.

A person–someone you speak to daily and care about with great propensity–can out of nowhere be removed from your life without you ever having expected it. And more often than not, the situation, even if the fault is partly ours, is out of our hands. That’s because, no matter how we feel about what someone else did to us or how our behaviors affected them, other people’s feelings matter, too, and just as much as ours do. Unfortunately, when we’re so caught up in those feelings, when we are blinded by tears or rage, we act just as blindly. We speak before we think. We thrust power into the universe that–once cast out of our persons–is often irreversible and irreparable.

That said, this is not a story solely about how my once-best friend Stephen hurt me, but instead one about how I hurt him, even if in a small and stupid way that in the grand scheme of things really played no part into our demise. More so, it’s a story about two people who cared about so many of the same things so much that, at some point, they lost sight of how much they cared about one another.

It is, like most things in this column, a story about love and about heartbreak.


The friendship of Stephen and I began in a similar way to most of my relationships with men. At first, neither of us really knew what to make of the other; it wasn’t that we disliked one another, but we weren’t sure that we needed to be friends; we discovered our similar interests, and we fell quickly into each other as friends. Our dynamic was anything but simple. Together, it always made sense. We were both intelligent, thoughtful, educated, successful, gay, creative, and goal-oriented. But our differences often made that dynamic all the more exciting. Stephen was seven years my senior and had been out of the closet his entire adult life. He had experiences I hadn’t lived. He was social, charismatic, serious, and loved sex. I, on the other hand, was not a people person, joked around too much, and had sex less so because I enjoyed it and more so because I loved the feeling of being desired. And in a lot of ways, that made the time we spent together more fun. It was nice to talk to someone I considered an intellectual equal and could someone who could show me a unique perspective. A lot of people had a tendency to hide those perspectives from me when we had conversations, but not Stephen. He was, much like I, assertive with his opinions and wanted to make sure they were accounted for by others.

But the one thing that we shared in common with one another that made us most alike—and maybe the one thing that to which we clung ourselves so tightly as if to make it another layer of skin, an outwardly part of us we wanted everyone to see—was how deeply impassioned we were. It didn’t matter if it was with our work, with the people we loved, or with the topics we cared about. We were creatures of deep and heavy-flowing care. And for a great time, that made us a truly dynamic duo. We were a super hero team that could have accomplished anything together, could have ruled empires if we were careful to play off one another’s strengths correctly. Even once, during a discussion at Michael’s Outpost over many glasses of wine, Stephen looked at me in the eyes, smiled that big, sweet, knowing smile, and said to me, “You know … if we really wanted to and if we work together, in a few years, we could run this city.”

I don’t think I ever realized how right he was about that until lately.

I did, however, take it into consideration, and I let it galvanize me to work harder.

Unfortunately, and I won’t say why or what it related to, the vision Stephen and I shared blurred a bit for both of us. And in the process of trying to adjust our focuses, our heads had turned just enough away from one another so that the bigger picture was a bit different for each of us. In truth, and this never stopped being true, the image I saw never stopped including Stephen. While he may have shifted a bit to the side and sometimes into my peripheral, he was always still there. That much never changed. And to be completely fair and honest, I’d like to think that the same was still true of me when it came to Stephen’s perspective. Although, in the process of trying to get to certain places, trying to make changes in the community that we both felt needed to be changed, our paths branched apart a bit, and our relationship as friends changed because of it.

Gone were the nights that Stephen’s boyfriend, Leo, would be out of town leaving Stephen and I to drink an entire bottle of vodka alone, talking politics, boys, and work. No longer were there dinners at Barnaby’s upon which we sat on the patio drinking wine until after the restaurant inside had closed and the wait staff had to come and ask us to leave so that they could lock up the back gate. The nights of walking into bars in Montrose as if we owned them and everyone around us were just our loyal subjects had become just distant memories—dreams that turned difficult to recall.

Stephen and I were no longer Stephen and I.

And that hurt me a little bit. A lot, actually. And it may have hurt him, too, or maybe he just didn’t notice how different things had become between us the way that I had. That didn’t mean that I hadn’t noticed, or that I didn’t want to try to fix things. But I guess if one half of a whole hasn’t realized that the whole is different, or that maybe its even a little broken, it’s difficult to mend it. Acclimation, natural and inherent, takes over, and because the new perspective is just that, one has a hard time realizing that the new has pushed aside some of the old.

I took it hard for a lot of reasons, the most evident of which was that Stephen was really the only gay, male friend I’d made—Ezra aside—that had never tried to sleep with me, to date me, and that had never expected anything of me in a sexual or romantic sense. Sure, he’d kissed me on my lips once when he was drunk and upset at Rich’s when another friend had treated him poorly. But we were both drunk that night—or, at least, he was. I’d been drunk earlier in the day, but sobered quickly in an effort to go and help my friend. And Drunk Stephen and Sober Stephen were never necessarily the same person. So, maybe the kiss was meaningless. Maybe it was one of gratitude. Maybe it was simply that we did love each other as much as two friends could without crossing a line, and that particular moment was the approach of a precipice neither of us needed to cross. Or maybe Stephen was just drunk. [Shrugging woman emoji]

It didn’t matter to me why it happened, because something about that kiss changed the dynamic of my relationship with Stephen from then on until its close. I couldn’t quite explain it to myself then, but a part of me was taken by him and from myself in those few seconds our lips had locked. It was, after all, a really nice kiss. To this day, it was probably one of the best I’ve had in my life. And that could just be because it was from someone that I’d never had anything other than a platonic relationship with that I really did love and care about, and that I knew cared about me. Still, a part of me—maybe the part that trusted others—slipped out from between my lips and into his and stayed there for him to do with what he pleased. And in losing it, whether it had been taken away or I’d given it to him willingly or I’d wanted him to take it away, my feelings about him transfigured a bit. Not changed necessarily. It was sort of like I said before. The focus had shifted to inspect different parts of them. I still looked at him fondly and thought, I’m lucky that this is my best friend, long after the fact. But the view I took in was somehow different than before.


Working with Pride Houston meant that I went to a handful of Pride-related conferences throughout my time with them. The most recent of which was a conference of select Prides from cities across the country that made up larger organizations across the country that made up CAPI, or the Consolidated Association of Pride. There were two other regional Pride organizations that made up the rest of the country, and each breaking down into smaller, citywide nonprofits. CAPI, however, was the organization to which Pride Houston subscribed.

We met in Austin in the spring for the weekend conference amongst our peers we only saw sparsely throughout the year; and before we’d even gotten to the car the morning before to head there from Houston, Stephen and I had spent the evening before at Barnaby’s discussing our expectations, what we hoped to learn, and, of course, that we were going to make a point of rooming together at the hotel. However, I’d stayed up the remainder of the night before trying to get work done and found myself exhausted that entire morning.

The ride there was a bit irritating in my sleepiness. Stephen and our friend Johnny gabbed most of the ride in the front seat to themselves, excluding Courtney, Graham, and I in the back at many times. I found myself a little jealous, I’ll admit. I didn’t like my best friend possibly making a new best friend. Still, Stephen stole Graham’s seat beside me in the back later and I decided to let it go. I was just tired, I though.

“I’m going to eat,” I told Stephen when we arrived at the hotel in Austin. “And then I’m going to put my things in our room and take a nap.”

“I think I am, too,” he told me. We’d had a few bottles of wine the night before, so it was unsurprising that he was tired, as well. Still, I’d been through a phentermine, an Adderall, and a little cocaine and still wasn’t getting that pep in my step I needed. Still, I figured a nap would serve me well considering all the after parties these conferences had a habit of hosting and the fact that we were planning to do rails of coke later. Aside from that, I’d brought with me a $150 dollar of champagne to drink in case there was cause for celebration at all, which I was sure we’d create even if there wasn’t.

After lunch, Stephen retreated to the hotel room before I could, where upon my return I found him flailing around in his bed wailing like a baby.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked him as I crawled into my bed and closed my eyes. I was so comfortable I could have fallen asleep right then and there. Working overnight was one of the downfalls of being the boss, but it often proved necessary when there were things to be done before you left town for a full weekend.

But just as I was dozing off, the achy cries of Stephen only got louder.

“Damn it, Stephen,” I muttered, my blood-shot eyes flying open. “What is wrong with you?”

“I don’t know,” he groaned. “It’s my stomach.”

“Jesus,” I said, sitting erect and sliding over to stand up. I slipped on my shoes, found my wallet, and said, “I’m going to get you some medicine. I’ll be right back.”

“You don’t have to—ohhh!” he cried out again.

Mhmm,” I mumbled, walking out the door and leaving him to die. I ran down to the little market in the hotel, found some Pepto Bismol, charged it to the room, then ran back toward the elevators. As I passed a bar, it occurred to me that maybe having a drink would help me sooth myself to sleep.

I walked in and found that my friends Courtney and Graham were sitting there drinking in the middle of the day.

“I thought we weren’t supposed to be drinking before the panels?” I asked them as I pulled a chair up next to Courtney and ordered a drink.

“Who gives a fuck?” she asked.

“Yeah. We’re fucking adults. We can do whatever we want,” Graham said as he ordered another beer. I shrugged and ordered both a drink and a shot.

“I need to get a little sleep. I may skip this afternoon’s panels and just do the ones tomorrow and Sunday,” I told them as I downed my shot and followed it up with a drink. “I’m so tired.”

“Why don’t you go take a nap while nothing’s going on?” Graham asked. I flashed him the Pepto. “Stephen is sick. And like a typical man, he’s whining like a little bitch baby. So I’m going to shove these so far down him I’m going to literally lay hands on his stomach ache.”

Courtney kind of looked at me funny for a moment, then said, “Did … did you come down here to get him medicine … and then stop at the bar on the way back while he’s upstairs in pain?”

I slurped down the rest of my drink.

“Blow me,” I said before tossing some cash onto the bar and rushing back up to our room. Inside, Stephen was snoring loudly, which normally wouldn’t have bothered me. However, since I’d probably begin snoring when I fell asleep, too, I elected to just let him get some rest. I set the Pepto down on the table next to his bed and slipped out, sending him a text to let him know it was there when he woke.

I wouldn’t end up taking a nap that day. I’d try to make sure Stephen didn’t die, go to my panels, get distracted by work calls from Houston, go to dinner and have margaritas, pop open that bottle of champagne with Stephen, and pretty much everything else I could have done. But I wouldn’t fall asleep.


After Mexican food at Uncle Julio’s in Downtown Austin, Johnny, Courtney, Graham,  and Stephen—who had made a miraculous recovery at the sound of the word ‘margaritas’—all of us but Johnny were doing bump-after-bump of coke in the bathroom before going out. We had gone through the champagne and had a few drinks at dinner and were now bouncing off the walls for an after party hosted by Deep Eddie’s Vodka and Austin Pride. My lack of sleep, however, was turning me into a raging cunt monster from hell.

We made our way down to Fourth St. onto Austin’s gay strip stopping at Sellers Underground for the Deep Eddie’s party and then the traveled next door to the nightclub Rain for the after-after party. Graham, as he normally was at these sorts of functions, was silly drunk and had gone MIA. Courtney was being harassed by a girl from Austin who had grown infatuated with her in the ten minutes they’d known one another. Johnny was carrying on with Stephen as annoyingly as before while the latter was awaiting the arrival of Leo. At Rain we sat in a cabana, laughing with friends from Prides far and wide. The girl from Austin Pride and Johnny were working my exhausted, drunken nerves and I was without filter the entire evening. I didn’t mean to be hateful to them, but it was almost as though there was a pitching machine shooting hate baseballs at them every time either opened their mouths. At one point, Johnny even looked at me and asked, “You don’t like me very much. Do you?”

It was untrue. I adored Johnny. He was just … I don’t know … on my nerves. Even when the very-attractive bar manager approached me at a table, complimented my hair, bought me a drink, and gave me his phone number, I was a few smiles shy of charming.

Everyone sort of went their separate ways, and I was too tired to continue by one o’clock. When I went into the bathroom to do another bump of coke before walking back to the hotel, I found that it was gone from my cigarette pack, which was enough to send me back to the room alone. I entered the room just before two and locked the deadbolt behind me. I then crawled into my bed and grabbed my leftovers from Uncle Julio’s where I had barely eaten, ate them, watched something on Netflix and began to doze off.

Anyone who would’ve found me probably would’ve assumed I was dead.


I woke to the sound of the room door slamming around 7:30 AM. I peered through my eyelids to find Stephen stomping around the hotel room. I took note of the time on the alarm clock and then looked over toward him, “Where have you been?”

“Oh, I’ve been here,” Stephen snapped.

Stephen continued around the room in some sort of fit as I rolled around over something grainy in the bed beneath me. I reached between the sheets and grabbed a handful of what I was rolling over.

Rice. Mexican rice.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked him.

“Are you serious?” he yelled, spinning around on one heel to face me. “You locked me out of the room last night. I tried calling you like twenty times, beat on the door, had Graham and Johnny call you, and finally had to go downstairs to the desk to ask the management to let me in. But because you had the deadbolt locked, they had to break the door in.”

Whaaaaaaaaaat? is pretty much all I remember thinking to myself. It made sense though. A force of habit I’d practiced since I was a young seventeen-year-old living alone was always to lock the deadbolt. I flew out of bed and looked at the door, which had, in fact, been beaten in.

“Omigod, Stephen.” I said as both my hands flew up to my mouth. “I am so sorry.” I wasn’t even sure what else to say. I went back to the bed and pulled back the covers. Beneath them lay my Uncle Julio’s to-go box and the sheets were accented by yellow grains of rice. “What the fuck did I do last night?” I asked, trying to remember anything about what had gone on.

“I don’t know. You were in a bad mood. You left the club before any of us. And then this.”

“Shit,” I muttered. “God, I knew I should’ve taken a nap. I’m so sorry, Stephen. I don’t know how I can make this better but I am so sorry.”

“It’s whatever,” he told me as he rushed out of the room.

He’d come to get over it as the day went on, even laugh about it later on in our friendship. But what I felt about disappointing Stephen and putting him through that cut deeper than I’d expected it might. Part of me wanted to cry about it, another part of me wanted to go and find him in the hotel and beg for his forgiveness. Instead, I flopped back down into my ricey bed and thought about what I’d done. Stephen and I had gotten incredibly close over the last year. The idea of losing his friendship over one stupid night was like getting punched in the gut and having the wind knocked out of me. And while that wasn’t what would happen, or at least not why it would happen later, the guilt ate me alive for a long time to come.


That story is the one I always think about when I try to rationalize why Stephen and I couldn’t be friends any longer. It’s not the reason—not even close. But somehow remembering that first time Stephen was just sort of mad at me over something I’d done is a lot easier than thinking about the other times when I watched anger swell in his eyes and the veins on his neck stick out like snakes sliding under bed sheets.

The ‘why’ isn’t irrelevant, but it may be the one thing that’s too personal to share here. And that’s because I took it a lot harder than I did any sort of breakup or bad date. It probably wasn’t harder, but it was certainly different, just like our friendship after that kiss. The reason for that could be because Stephen and I only ever had a platonic relationship. But it could also be because he was—for better or worse—the one person in the world I really trusted for a very long time. But within that, we’d lost one another at some point. We’d fixated on goals that were important to us; I’d slumped into a depression I couldn’t seem to find my way out of for a very long time; and Stephen had taken on more responsibility than he’d had when we’d first become friends. We split like a hair and continued to split until we reached up to the root and all that held us together was the follicle from which we both stemmed. And even that part seemed temporary. Soon the head would molt, and we’d fall away and hit the ground or catch the wind and part ways forever.

I said and did things that I know hurt Stephen. I did them in reaction to things that Stephen had done to me—or, at least, that’s how I justified them to myself. Because Stephen was doing things to hurt me, too. And whether or not he was doing them on purpose, I was more comfortable telling myself I was standing up for myself—which, in truth, I was—than admitting that I was wrong. But even in defense of myself, I was still hurting someone that I loved very much. Someone I may have even been in love with a little. I don’t know. When I think about it now, it sure sounds like I might have been. The jealousy, the fixation on that kiss, the deep concern as to whether or not he’d hate me for locking him out of that hotel room. But if that were the case, I didn’t understand it then—wasn’t cognizant of it. Although it would’ve made sense, considering our friendship’s genesis did come from a crush I had on him that I thought had fled when we’d gotten close. Or maybe it wasn’t even that. Maybe I was so caught up in my shit with Ezra at the time that I clung to Stephen because he was the only man who had ever come into my life expecting nothing of me, stuck around for what felt like a long time, then left just when I’d convinced myself another shoe wasn’t going to drop. That said, it could have been something like both of those things. Not quite in love, not quite because he was the only consistent man in my life, but maybe in love with the fact that that’s what made our friendship so special. Maybe I was in love with our friendship.

All I know now is the moment that I noticed the change was that night that Stephen kissed me. And it’s funny to me to consider that, because I’m sure that if you asked him, Stephen might only vaguely remember it happening and laugh it off as drunken silliness. But it wasn’t silly to me. Because somewhere in that short-lived, somewhat uncomfortable, but nevertheless sweet kiss, I’d lost the part of me that trusted people. And after that, something I worked for years and years to gain, I’d gotten back. Maybe it didn’t change the friendship as much as I thought it had. Maybe it just changed me.

I’ll never forget it, that’s for sure. And Stephen and I will never—probably can never—go back to being who we were before. And whether I was in love with him or I loved who he was to me is irrelevant. What matters is that the end of our friendship was a heartbreaking thing for me, because it meant that that love—at least to some extent—had to be over. Even if I still felt it for him when I saw him, holding back the urge to ask if he wanted to go drink wine at Barnaby’s or gossip about our other friends, the sharing of it was over. And it must have been for Stephen, too, which I guess I have to understand. Because I did hurt him. I was a dick. He was a dick, too, don’t get me wrong. But there was more than enough blame to share and I didn’t do anything to fix it when I had the chance.

So, yeah. This is a story about love. And it’s a story about heartbreak. And somehow it might be one of the saddest ones for me to write, because I still do love Stephen, and I think about him every day. But as I’ve grown distant from the situation and from Stephen, I’ve learned something more important:

Loving someone sometimes means letting them be happy without you, because sometimes your own feelings stand in the way of their happiness and of yours.

Editor’s Note: Volunteering for Pride Houston, Inc.

Pride Houston diversity LGBTQ POC REPRESENTATION

Dear Readers,

I harp on about a lot of things in this magazine. From boys to social justice issues to inclusion to representation to the importance of community, I have a lot of opinions. Mind you, those opinions aren’t always terribly popular. Earlier this year, I wrote an opinion piece about my distaste for Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus endorsing Andrew White over Lupe Valdez for Governor of Texas. It was a tough pill for me to swallow watching a qualified, lesbian Latina get passed up for the endorsement over the white, straight, cis man, Andrew White, who — while very much accomplished and well-meaning — was a born and bred politician that didn’t have the experiences of people of color and LGBTQIA folks. While Valdez later went on to win the primary elections and is now running up against incumbent Greg Abbott, my opinions about my disappointment were not well-received by Houston’s LGBTQ community.

But here’s an opinion that I think many of can agree upon: Houston’s LGBTQ community is incredibly diverse. It is made up of people of all skin colors, all religious affiliations, all gender identifications, all sexual orientations, all body types, all nationalities, all hand-capabilities, and all political affiliations. We’re Black, Latinx, Jewish, Christian, lesbian, gay, asexual, Native American, transgender, nonbinary, Asian, Islamic, and everything in between. Unfortunately, what many of us fail to realize is that not all of those marginalized peoples are equally represented in several facets of the community. Whether it in the media, in our entertainment, in politics, or just out in the bars and at brunches, people of color and the trans/nonbinary people have not always ever been represented the way that cis, white, gay men have in this community. Hell, even About Magazine — which will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year — was not always historically diverse. When I took over, we had a very small staff that consisted mostly of males. And as a queer Latino, the responsibility of making sure my staff reflected the beautiful spectrum of people in our community was important to me. I took to the task of seeking out talent from all marginalized people, even working with Ian Syder-Blake to bring about the first strictly-trans content section of any Houston magazine last winter.

About-Staff Editor's Note: Volunteering for Pride Houston, Inc.
The About Magazine staff. Madyson Crawford, Anthony Ramirez, David Guerra, Adam Kuta, Megan Prevost, Jessica Olsen, Morena Roas, Gin Martini, Cade Michals, Wendy Taylor, Ian Townsley, Stoo Gogo, Al Farb, Shelby Jeffcoat, Raunda Ashton, Ravin Bones.

And for the last forty years, Pride Houston, Inc. has not has always been inclusive of all people. While everyone of every kind showed up to the volunteer during Pride Week each year, the Board of Directors and Production Team were historically white-washed and cis-managed. But then around this time last year, something wonderful happened at Pride Houston. For the first time in forty years, a Black, queer woman took the reigns of the organization.

Her name is Lo Roberts, and she is the sitting president and CEO of Pride Houston. I know her personally, having worked with her personally for two straight years as Pride Houston’s volunteer committee chair before stepping down to devote my time strictly to About. And if there is one thing that I’ve known about Lo since the first time we met closer to three years ago, it’s this: she cares about the needs of community — the entire community. As a woman, Lo has faced her fair share of adversity, but as a queer, Black woman, Lo has broken more than just the glass ceiling by rising to what is arguably the highest-ranking LGBTQ office of any queer Houston organization. And it didn’t come without cost. Last year, I bore witness first hand and suffered through alongside the Board of Directors to have Frankie Quijano — Lo’s predecessor — expelled from Pride Houston when he refused to step down as president and CEO after Roberts was elected and sworn-in as president of the organization. It was a lengthy legal battle that garnered the attention of Houstonian’s and queer people internationally. Many of us working with Pride at the time — which included current sitting board members such as Jeremy Fain and Dan Cato — didn’t sleep much, were constantly bombarded with emails notifications, and walked around on eggshells for several months. I mean, at one point Quijano and his husband (who was also elected to the Board of Directors and later removed) put out a cease and desist order against About Magazine to stop writing any articles relating to Pride Houston in spite of the fact that we hadn’t written anything about Pride Houston at all. We were tired; we were exasperated; but we were never defeated. And that’s simply because there was a communal knowledge that in order for this community to be best served in all its many and various facets, we needed the representation of a a queer Black woman at the organization’s helm.

And while my time with Pride Houston was not without its ups-and-downs — that’s something any committed volunteer will eventually have to learn to handle when working with a group of other strong-minded and passionate individuals — it was overall one of the most rewarding experience of my life. And it wasn’t because the role was glitzy and glamorous. It most certainly was not. Working as a volunteer year-round and running a committee is a thankless job and one that is met with refute no matter what decisions you make. Rather, the job was overwhelmingly positive — even at the worst of times — because of the volunteers from the community — as many as 600 at a time — with whom I had the privilege to work.

31404200_2172616306302314_7926198944600686592_o Editor's Note: Volunteering for Pride Houston, Inc.
Pride Houston president & CEO, Lo Roberts (photo by Eric Edward Schell of Pride Portraits).

These volunteers give up their time and their energy to make Pride happen because they believe in it. They do it — just like I did when I got involved almost three years ago — because they want to make a difference and they want to see themselves and people like them represented. This Pride isn’t a white, gay, male Pride. At least, it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a Pride for everyone in one of the most diverse cities in our nation — in the world. It’s the fourth largest Pride in the United States and it’s one that has a responsibility to represent and listen to the needs of all its community members — Black, trans, nonbinary, lesbian, Asian, or otherwise. It’s not what the community can do to serve Pride Houston, but what Pride Houston can do to serve the community. And I — as cognizant as I am about the lack in years past — am certain that this is a matter that is of great importance to President Lo Roberts.

The reason I bring this up to you, Houstonians, is because I would like to present you with a challenge. Right now, Pride Houston, Inc. is taking applications for their Board of Directors — the folks who call the shots and who make the decisions as to how to best serve the community. And I challenge you — all of you and mostly those of you who feel like you aren’t being represented in the community and that want to make a change — to follow this link and throw your hat into the ring to be a part of the change to Houston’s LGBTQIA community, as well as to the newly envisioned Pride Houston that Roberts and her team are blueprinting for the years to come. It may be a thankless job, it may be one that seems hopeless, but here’s the thing: nothing in the world ever changes until we make the effort to change it. Nothing in the world is bigger than us if we are a part of it. Nothing is impossible if we sweep the dirt off the path just a little bit further. But most importantly, nothing serves our community better than when the community is represented by people who have suffered the similar unique adversities that the community has. And that starts with representation. And Pride Houston not only needs but wants to be representative right now.

So, please. I implore of you that you take this step. Whatever issues any of us may have had with Pride Houston in the past may still be sore spots. Pride Houston needs trans, nonbinary, women, and POC representatives right now in order to be the Pride it should be. But this is the opportunity for us to rejuvenate Pride Houston and to make it the thing that everyone wants it to be. And with a president and CEO like Lo Roberts steering the ship, that dream is nothing short of possible.

Love to all of you,

Anthony Ramirez,

Editor-in-Chief

PODCAST: A Conversation with Harry Potter’s Chris Rankin

Chris Rankin Harry Potter LeakyCon Anthony Ramirez Dallas

About Magazine took off to Dallas this past weekend to attend LeakyCon, the largest Harry Potter convention in the world, where editor-in-chief Anthony Ramirez caught up with Chris Rankin, who played Percy Weasley in the films to chat about the movies, their impact on LGBTQ people, and what he’s been up to since.

IMG952018081295121809 PODCAST: A Conversation with Harry Potter's Chris Rankin
Ramirez, Rankin, and Mitchell at LeakyCon 2018 in Dallas

(DALLAS) – LeakyCon is the largest Harry Potter convention in the entire world, which began nine years ago in Boston. Now, getting ready to head into its tenth anniversary year in 2019 with two celebrations (one in Dallas and one in Boston) after celebrating its ninth in Dallas, it’s clear to About Magazine staffers why the convention is so popular for fans of the Harry Potter series — it’s friggin awesome. From booths selling hand-carved wands, to pints of butterbeer, to actors and creators of the Harry Potter universe meeting with fans and speaking about their experiences. From Sorcerer’s Stone all the way up to Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child, the convention celebrates it all — and proved to be especially accommodating to the LGBTQ community (see photo of bathroom signs below). There’s not shortage of things to do, balls to attend, panels discussing everything from rape culture in the series to JK Rowling’s Twitter presence. Attendees parade about in cosplay — one man in particular even striking an eerie resemblance to the late Alan Rickman — and rest in common rooms appropriately decorated for each of the four houses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Ramirez claims to be a studious Ravenclaw, while his friend/pretend employee if anyone at LeakyCon asked, Kirby Mitchell, asserts he is a courageous Gryffindor, but is more likely an undercover Hufflepuff).

 

IMG_20180811_131856 PODCAST: A Conversation with Harry Potter's Chris Rankin
Signs posted outside all the restrooms at LeakyCon 2018 in Dallas.

And while there, About Magazine editor-in-chief, both Ramirez and Mitchell were given the opportunity to meet one of the film’s stars, Mr. Chris Rankin. Rankin appeared as Ron Weasley’s elder brother Percy — the perfect prefect that had a knack for being a bit of kiss-ass but that turned out to be a hot, ass-kicking wizard nonetheless — in all but two of the franchise’s original eight films (adaptations of Goblet of Fire Half-Blood Prince didn’t include Percy’s character). But eighteen years after his first audition, Rankin is a lot more than just the goodie-two-shoes of the ginger-headed Weasley family. He’s hard at work back on the stage in a forthcoming production of The Wizard of Oz at the Bradford Playhouse in metropolitan West Yorkshire, England; and just recently, Rankin wrapped editing on his directorial debut — a short-film entitled Dad, which will air on the BBC sometime this winter. Between his film and stage work, Rankin takes kindly to meeting up with fans of Harry Potter across the world at conventions, conferences, and other public appearances. At LeakyCon, Ramirez and Mitchell were given the chance to talk to Rankin about how he got into the Potter-verse, his feelings on Wizarding World’s representation and diversity, and what it’s like to know that the LGBTQ community relates so much to a world he helped bring to life on the screen.


Transcript:

Anthony Ramirez: I really feel like … in doing these interviews — and I want to preface with this —

Chris Rankin: [Laughs] I love when an interview starts with, “I’m just gonna say this first …”

AR: [Laughs] I know. Right? It’s just — I mean, I talk more in interviews than I listen. But it’s fine.

CR: [Laughs]

AR: No, but I feel like y’all probably get the same questions over-and-over about Harry Potter. 

CR: [Thinking] Yeah.

AR: So we’re going to try and be a little bit outside of the box. But I bet you that everyone thinks that they are.

CR: [Laughs]

AR: [Laughs] So first off, um, I guess to sort of get the general questions out of the way, did you ever think that when you got into this franchise that it was going to be continuing onto this level today?

CR: Umm … no. I think it’s fair to say that none of us really knew what we signed up for at all. I mean … we were kids. But having said that, I don’t even think the grown ups would have particularly realized that it was going to be like this. And I don’t think — yeah. Even when we kind of realized like, This is a big deal — which I think for most of us was around the time of the premiere of Sorcerer’s Stone — we kind of went, “Oh, God. There’s real people out there and they want to see this film.” I think even then, and probably even most of the way through — probably way through to like 2011 when the last film came out — I don’t think that any of us anticipated that we’d still be here … now. And I know there’s Fantastic Beasts, and that’s sort of keeping the thing alive.

AR: Yeah.

CR: But I don’t know. It’s been eighteen years since we started filming. But it was kind of unprecedented.

AR: Well, we [Anthony and his friend, Kirby] were talking about that last night, too. Trying to figure out how long it had been. And we were both kind of like, “Omigod.”

CR: It’s eighteen years next — no … eighteen years in about ten days time since I had my first audition. And then I started shooting about September 2000.

AR: Wow. That’s crazy.

CR: It’s terrifying.

AR: [Laughs] .

CR: I’m 35 this year. It’s … weird.

AR: I bet. And you said not even the adults were expecting it. And you were working with people like Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith who had been in film their entire lives.

CR: Yeah!

AR: And it just blew out of the water so quickly.

CR: Yeah.

AR: When it comes to the Harry Potter universe — and it keeps going with Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child — do you see that at any point there might be some sort of end to that? Or do you think this is going to be something that carries with generations and generations to come like it has so far?

CR: I think — I don’t know. At some point there kind of has to become a point where Jo [Rowling] stops giving us new original creative material to work from.

AR: Well, and she won’t live forever either. So …

CR: No. Well, and that’s true. Unless … you know … well, you just never know with Jo. You don’t know.

AR: [Laughs] She’s got the Philosopher’s Stone.

CR: It’s entirely possible that Jo knows how to do that.

Kirby Mitchell: [Laughs].

CR: But we’ve been promised five total Fantastic Beasts [films]. There has to come a point where enough is enough in terms of milking it. You know there’s only so much you can get ‘blood out of a stone’ wise. But, having said that, even without Fantastic Beasts, because again I’m 35 this year, I started reading Potter when the second book came out, so in ’98. So when I was 14. So I’m kind of first gen, original Harry Potter group of people. I’ve got friends who I went to school with who’ve got fourteen or fifteen-year-old kids who have obviously started reading Harry Potter five or six years ago who are second gen. And it’s not that they’re only reading it because Fantastic Beasts exists or because Cursed Child exists. They’re reading it because their parents are going, “These books are amazing.” And they’re going, “Oh, yeah. These books are amazing.” And that will carry on and carry on. So, yeah, feasibly, we could still be doing this in forty years’ time on like fourth generation Potter fans. It’s entirely possible. How well the films stack up against age, we can only say.

AR: Well, it’s certainly one of those things like with with The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings — those books span generationally.

CR: Yeah. Even Star Wars, which is like thirty or forty years old. You can still watch the original Star Wars and go, “Yeah. The graphics are a bit pokey. […] The storylines are terrible and it’s cheesy as hell. But … it’s great.” Maybe people will be saying that about Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets in about thirty years’ time. But, yeah they could be better. But you know what? They’re classics.

AR: At that point all movies will just be in 3D.

CR: Yeah–

KM: We’ll just have VR [virtual reality] movies in forty years.

CR: AR [augmented reality] movies probably by then.

AR: Exactly how did you get to — because obviously you were very young at the time — but how did the audition come about?

CR: It was — basically there was a TV show on the BBC, it was called Newsround, it was a kids news bulletin and young adults, I guess. And they put the last article on the program [which] was, “And finally, Warner Bros. is making a film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and they want normal kids — just every day kids — to audition to play the parts in the film. So, if you want to be in film or you like Harry Potter and you want to do that, write to this address, send them a photo and a letter and say I wanna play whoever because of whatever. And if you don’t hear from them in two weeks, forget it ever happened.

AR: [Laughs]

CR: And a mate of mine I was at youth theatre with — I was sixteen at the time and he would’ve been 14 or so — he was ginger, as well, which is key. He rang me up on the landline, because this was before mobile phones — that’s how long ago this is.

AR: [Laughs]

CR: And he said, “Did you see that thing on Newsround? I think I’m gonna write in and say I wanna play Ron Weasley.” And I was like, “Yeah. I saw it. But I didn’t think anything of it.” And he was like, “Well, you should do it, as well.” So I did. I was like, “Yeah. Okay. Why not?” And my brain process was like, “Okay, well who should I play for?” Because I was sixteen and was sort of like, “Okay, well I’m sixteen. I’m  too old for Ron. Harry’s not likely — besides everyone wants to do that. Hermione? Probably … unlikely.” And then I sort of thought, “Well, I’m ginger.” And Will, my mate, is ginger, as well. So I was kind of like, “Well, we’re both gingers. So Weasley is an obvious option. I’m not a twin. But I am sixteen. Percy’s sixteen. And I am a prefect. Percy’s a prefect. I’ve got ginger hair. Percy’s got ginger hair.”

AR: Wow. That aligned really well.

CR: It was like, “If I’m gonna get a part, it’s most likely to be Percy.” And that’s kind of just what I wrote. And then I didn’t hear anything for like five months. And then they just rung up out of the blue one day like, “Yeah. Can you come in tomorrow for an audition?” And I was sort of like, “Yeah. Sure.” And I did. And then like four days later I met Chris Columbus and David Heyman and reauditioned. And I started about a week and a half after that.

AR: Wow.

CR: When it happened it was just like poof! There you go! And then we were like on the Hogwarts Express chugging into Hogsmeade to do our first days’ filming.

AR: That’s insane. You were a very realistic sixteen-year-old knowing all of that, too.

KM: [Laughs].

CR: [Laughs]. I hedged my bets. I was like, “What part am I most likely to get? Let’s go with that.” Nobody likes Percy. He’s probably like the least popular choice.

AR: Oh, gosh. I don’t know. I always related to Percy because … I was a snitch.

KM: [Laughs]

CR: [Laughs]

AR: So we are an LGBTQ publication.

CR: Yes!

AR: And that obviously has a huge fandom just within the Harry Potter fans, too. And a lot of comes just from within the fact that LGBTQ people identify with Harry Potter’s story. As somebody who was a part of creating that story and bringing it to life, what does it make you feel like when people who are not just queer people, but people of color, and people with disabilities find that correlation — when they’re able to see themselves in those characters?

CR: Yeah. I think it says an awful lot about the world that Jo’s created. Interestingly, in my panel yesterday, somebody asked me about the lack of diversity in Harry Potter, which really kind of threw me, for a start. Literally the entire room went deathly silent.

AR: That’ll happen.

CR: Yeah. And I was like, Shiiiit. How am I gonna answer this without digging myself into an enormous hole?

AR: [Laughs]

CR: But what I was trying to say, although what i couldn’t quite work out how to say, is that there is a lack of diversity in Harry Potter. We can’t get away from that fact. However, the diverse masses have sort of focused on it and said, “This is the book for me! This is the book that makes sense and that I identify with.”

AR: Yeah.

CR: And that’s regardless of the fact that it’s mostly white, straight, middle-class people. It fascinates me. However, it is a story about a selection of people who, for various reasons, don’t fit in with the “normal” population. Like … it might be because Harry’s an orphan who lived in a cupboard half his life and therefore doesn’t understand friends, doesn’t really know what love is, and doesn’t really know who he is because he’s lived this life of being a muggle when he’s really not — he’s actually a wizard. And suddenly he’s a wizard and he goes, “Oh. Hello. That makes sense.” One could liken that to sort of living your life as a straight person and then going, “Oh. I see! This makes sense. I’m not that person. Now this all clears up.”

AR: Right.

[Read Ramirez’s article about this likeness drawing comparisons from Charmed here]

CR: And you look at the Weasleys. There sort of just a whole family of people who don’t really fit the norm — who don’t really fit into this pureblood society that they’re supposed to be a part of. And I think that it’s really special. I think somehow Jo has created this perfect little mathematical equation that can answer so many questions and that provides so many different answers that — even if you don’t know you’re looking for them — you can find them. And even — and I’ve been talking about Harry Potter for the last eighteen years of my life pretty much on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

AR: [Laughs]

CR: And I do ramble — and I know I ramble when I’m answering questions.

AR: No, it’s okay.

CR: Especially when I’m not entirely sure what point I’m trying to make. But sometimes in the middle of all of that, I realize that another penny has dropped. And I’m just like, “Oh, shit!” [Snaps] “That makes so much sense!” All of the sudden this like rambling nonsense is suddenly, “AH! Got it!”

KM: [Laughs]

AR: [Laughs] I do the same thing. I get it. It’s revelation after revelation.

CR: Yeah. And Harry Potter — you could liken Hogwarts to Professor Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngters — you know? It’s a place where you don’t fit into the normal world. And that fits with a million different ethnicities, religions, races, genders, sexualities — everyone can go, “I don’t fit into this category.” Everybody. Even straight, cis, male, white, middle-class people can say, “I don’t fit into this community,” and therefore I can find something that I identify with in Harry Potter. It may be that, “Oh. God. I’m really like Draco Malfoy.” … which … is not necessarily a good thing. But if you can identify with him, then it’s a great thing.

AR: No, yeah. Absolutely. So I did want to ask you one last thing, because I know you’ve started working more in TV production, and you’ve started to move from in front of the camera. So what else do you have going on? Anything exciting happening?

CR: God. So much. I literally last week finished editing a short film I’ve just directed for the BBC–

AR: Oh, wow.

CR: … which will air in the UK in like November or December time. It’s a short film. It’s only ten minutes. It’s the first thing I’ve ever directed.

AR: Congratulations. That’s awesome.

CR: Thank you. I’m really excited about it.

AR: And what’s the title?

CR: It’s called Dad. And it’s written by a guy called Joshua McCord. It’s based on — it’s not loosely based, but sort of semi-based on something that happened in his childhood. And it’s interesting because it’s a piece sort of about accepting differences in people, interestingly. Yeah. And it’s really, really sweet. And I’m really happy with where it’s going.

AR: That’s amazing.

CR: Yeah. And I’m back on the professional stage this Christmas. I’m giving my Scarecrow in a sort of pantomime version of The Wizard of Oz. I have done proper stage work in ten years now, so that’s going to be fun. So, yeah. Life’s exciting. I’m having a go at everything.

AR: Yeah. You’re doing a little bit of everything. That’s amazing.

CR: I’m loving it.

AR: Well, congratulations, and thank you so much for sitting down with us.

CR: It was my pleasure. We should do it again sometime.

AR: This has been Chris Rankin — [gayer voice] Percy Weasley from Harry Potter.

CR: [Laughs]

AR: Can we get a selfie?


Follow Chris online: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

BREAKING: Houston’s El Real Seems to Respond to El Tiempo Controversy

El Real El Tiempo Houston LGBTQ Jeff Sessions

Montrose-favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, El Real, seemed to respond to the controversy surrounding its neighbor, El Tiempo, with a sweet marquee message.

(HOUSTON) – Montrose — Houston’s very own, historic “gayborhood” — is known for its bright lights, fun nightlife, well-attended events, and displays of grandeur. And no local business is quite the part of that as El Real Tex-Mex Cafe. Located at 1201 Westheimer just yards from the intersection of Montrose Blvd., El Real has been serving Montrose patrons for years and boasts a marquee even larger than that of the the historic River Oaks Theater … or even Trader Joe’s. Following the controversy that transpired when local Houston staple El Tiempo Cantina posted photos to all of the social media accounts for each of their restaurants featuring U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it would appear as if El Real is making a courageous statement regarding the topic of heated discussion.

Sunday, a photograph of El Real’s marquee was taken by Pride Portraits owner Eric Edward Schell and shared to social media, which read:

“Brunch sessions at El rEAL ARE ALWAYS CAGE FREE AND FULL OF RAINBOWS.”

39102202_2005544769508840_7530553940341948416_o BREAKING: Houston's El Real Seems to Respond to El Tiempo Controversy
Photo by Eric Edward Schell of Pride Portraits

The clever quip played not only on the separation of immigrant parents from their children — the latter forced into detention camps — but also reminded Montrose residents and frequenters of the LGBTQ community that at least one of their restaurants does not tolerate the bigotry of Sessions’ political stances and actions … while also boasting an ingenuity-filled nod at the U.S. Attorney General’s surname.

As About Magazine first reported late Friday evening (which was later picked up by national news outlets such as Newsweek), El Tiempo found themselves under fire amongst Houstonians (especially those who identify as LGBTQ and Latino) when the U.S. Attorney General entered the establishment for a meal Friday afternoon. After an outcry of backlash on social media (prompting the hashtag #BoycottElTiempo) due to Sessions’ stances on the LGBTQ+ community and his part in the separation of immigrant parents from their children, El Tiempo released a statement via their social media shown below:

Screen-Shot-2018-08-11-at-12.46.02-AM BREAKING: Houston's El Real Seems to Respond to El Tiempo Controversy

Even after deleting the photograph of Sessions and executive chef Domenic Laurenzo, social media criers continued to insist that El Tiempo not be frequented. The logic lay two-fold: Sessions is an avid antagonist to migrant Americans from Mexico, as well as the fact that El Tiempo’s Montrose and Westheimer locations are usually visited by people of color and the LGBTQ community. Some even took to their social media to remind the restaurant chain that it was those two marginalized peoples that had kept the doors of the original El Tiempo open, operating, and expanding since 1998. El Tiempo soon closed down all its social media platforms and has remained hushed over this past weekend.

El Tiempo has been a popular Houston Tex-Mex chain since 1998, when Domenic Tiempo — eldest son of Houston restaurant legend “Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo, restaurant proprietor of the Mama Ninfa’s restaurants — opened the Richmond location. Mama Ninfa’s restaurants were in the Laurenzo family until the 1990s, when bankruptcy struck Laurenzo. Laurenzo was also at the helm of Bambolino’s, a popular Italian restaurant that went on to accrue a total of 17 locations.

Some were unsurprised by the photo, as the Houston Chronicle reported in 2016 that restaurant owner and brother to the executive chef, Roland Laurenzo, had expressed publicly his support for sitting-president Donald J. Trump. Cognizant of this fact or not, many previous patrons of the chain have sworn loyalty to not returning to El Tiempo.

ELTIEMPO BREAKING: Houston's El Real Seems to Respond to El Tiempo Controversy
Screenshot courtesy of Edward Eric Schell.