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TUTS Launches Public Campaign For New Building

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Theatre Under The Stars Announces $4,000,000 Gift And Campaign For New Building.

HOUSTON Oct 26 – Houston’s Theatre Under The Stars last week kicked off their public campaign ‘JUST IMAGINE Where Dreams Take The Stage.’ Included in the announcement was the gift of $4,000,000 from Margaret Alkek Williams.

The $15 million JUST IMAGINE campaign will allow TUTS to construct a new three-story building adjacent to the current Arts and Education Center at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. The building will be named Margaret Alkek Williams Center for Arts and Education.

The 20,000 square foot addition will feature a 140-seat black box studio, classrooms for voice, dance and acting, and rehearsal space.

Artistic Excellence Fund will be established to incubate new theatrical works and provide funds for innovative and top-quality productions.

To date, more than $10.5 million in gifts and pledges have been secured, including major gifts from The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Wortham Foundation, Dan L Duncan Foundation, Amy and Rob Pierce, The Cullen Foundation, The Elkins Foundation, The Fondren Foundation, The Hamill Foundation, Alan and Tricia Ratliff, Randy and Sandy Stilley, HEB, and ConocoPhillips.

For more information, please visit www.tuts.com. Theatre Under The Stars is a 501c3 Non Profit Organization.

 

Michael Williams is an award-winning investigative journalist for About Magazine | About News which provides cutting edge news and ground breaking investigative news for the LGBT+ communities of Texas. Michael holds a degree in Broadcast Journalism and is a member of many different journalism associations around the country.

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Make the Yuletide Gay: LGBTQ Yule

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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.

witch gay holiday yule magicWitchcraft, 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.

witch gay holiday yule magicToday, 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.

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.

2. 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. 

witch gay holiday yule magicIn 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.

If 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.

Just 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.

witch gay holiday yule magicMeals 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. 

As 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.

witch gay holiday yule magicThis 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.

witch gay holiday yule magicOh, 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

witch gay holiday yule magic

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About Events: Nourishing Our Queer Bodies

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LHI Houston The Montrose Center Nourishing Our Queer Bodies Queer Legacy Community Health

About columnist, Madyson Crawford, visits Nourishing Our Queer Bodies, an event hosted monthly at the Montrose Center, presented by LHI Houston in partnership with Legacy Community Health.

“What medicine do you bring? What medicine do you seek?”

Nourishing Our Queer Bodies is hosted every third Tuesday of the month in room 111 at the Montrose Center, located at 401 Branard St. in Montrose. In a small room, chairs were set up in a semi-circle and attendees were offered both chairs and yoga mats on which to sit and get comfortable. Food is served — this week it was pizza and Pepsi — and as folks trickled in, they were able to grab a plate and seat. In the front, Yucca stands behind a table filled with body and sex-ed coloring pages, crayons, zines on gender and sexuality, and swag from the Lesbian Health Initiative (LHI) of Houston that folks could take with them.

LHI Houston The Montrose Center Nourishing Our Queer Bodies Queer Legacy Community Health

Nourishing Our Queer Bodies is presented by LHI Houston.

Like at most facilitations, Yucca asked us to introduce ourselves: name, pronouns, what brought us there, and what we hoped to talk about in the future.

My name is Madyson. My pronouns are she/her. I came because I needed to be in a space with queer folks. I am building a new community in my hometown, and spaces such as these provide access to said community. I’m open to anything. I kinda came in blind so I’m not sure what we are gonna discuss. Just excited to be here.

Our first activity asked us to define what ‘nourish’ meant to us. In small groups we brainstormed words and phrases. We then put together a puzzle definition. Every group came to similar conclusions: to nourish meant something along the lines of feeding/caring/meeting the needs for the self. My group in particular related to a phrase that was common on social media: We are like plants. We all need sunlight and water. Nourishing was the radical act of not just surviving, but setting ourselves up to thrive. And for queer and trans bodies/people, this can be/is difficult to do. In fact, we all expressed that systems of oppression, self doubt/fear, and violence stood in the way of us nourishing ourselves.

Also Capitalism.

Yucca facilitated the event with a series of questions that forced us to reflect on whether or not we nourished ourselves and what we considered to be our acts of nourishment. For me, nourishment was reading books — even if it took me months — and sharing space with my little sisters. For others, it was physical intimacy, writing, talking to plants, talking to the self, and so forth. Nourishment varied for all.

LHI Houston The Montrose Center Nourishing Our Queer Bodies Queer Legacy Community Health

Nourishing Our Queer Bodies is hosted at the Montrose Center, 401 Branard St.

Talks of nourishment, however, would be incomplete without a real discussion about healthcare and access. Folks critiqued the treatment of “fat” bodies by doctors and physicians, creating a culture of poor care and neglect. Those who identified as gender nonbinary, genderqueer, and trans shared feelings of poor care because the healthcare system is not designed to care for those not in cisgender bodies. In addition, heteronormativity within healthcare and from physicians created a culture of discomfort for queer folks. Many of us not only wanted access to affordable/free healthcare, we also wanted access to respectful and responsible health. Healthcare that recognized and respected our personhood. Without that, nourishment for self would always fall short.

As we closed the event, Yucca did something I found to be the most beautiful part of the event. She played a podcast (insert title here) in which folks and (insert lyrics here). At the end of the event, we closed with the questions: What medicine do you bring? What medicine do you seek? I am reminded of the home remedies my grandmother created when I was sick. Rubbing my back and spoon-feeding me homemade chicken soup and garlic tea. Asking me to recite Christian incantations with her “Jesus by your stripes/strikes (I was never quite sure which it was) I’m healed”. This medicine is one that I, as an adult, have adopted and use to nourish and care for my sick body. What we need to nourish ourselves, I learned, is already within us. For those of us with close relationships with our ancestors and elders, it has been passed down for generations. Some attendees shared their understandings of that.

Medicine, in this context, was not rooted in a reactionary concoction meant to cure disease and illness. Rather, this medicine spoke to the holistic care we were seeking and were able to share with others. We began to share things such as laughter, open ears, open hearts, and vulnerability as medicine we could bring to the table. Medicine we could provide for our communities and ourselves. Afterwards we shared the desire to be wrong and loud, desires to be cared for, desires to be vulnerable with others as the medicine we were seeking.

LHI partners with Legacy Community Health for Nourishing Our Queer Bodies.

I left the facilitation feeling new and light. I had been in a room with eight other people who were interested in caring for ourselves and our bodies in radical ways. What did nourishment mean? How did we nourish ourselves? What stopped us from being able to nourish ourselves? Although so much of this was rooted in the self, Yucca managed to create a space where community was central. It was not just us who needed nourishment and it was not just us who provided nourishment. For many of us in the facilitation, we found nourishment in the people and spaces around us.

Nourishing Our Queer Bodies is a space that offers a radical reflection on the movement of health and self care, something folks have criticized as being capitalized on by companies and organizations. Specifically this speaks about those companies that only offers care for certain bodies that exist within the bounds of desirability and “normality” as well as rooted in an exchange and monetary values. Those looking for honest and open conversations of health and care may find this space comforting and challenging. I recommend queer folks looking for a community of care and support to attend these events when able. I left lighter and excited and full of reflections. I returned home to journal and light my incense and nourish myself, affirmed in decisions I had made that felt right for me. Like my group said before, we are just plants in need of sunlight and water.


For more information on the September meet-up of Nourishing Our Queer Bodies, you can visit the event page on Facebook here.

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Introducing Dr. Eric Walser – Trailblazer in Prostate Cancer Treatment

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Just down near the Gulf in Galveston, Dr. Eric Walser and his team of talented medical health professionals at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Wavelengh Medical are tackling prostate cancer in a new way.

(GALVESTON) – There are a number of medical concerns that plague the LGBTIA community. When we think about health crises, a lot of thoughts can tend to center around topics such as HIV/AIDS, safe sex practices, hormone replacement therapy, and suicide coupled with the dangers of untreated mental health. While none of these issues are necessarily specific to just our community, they have historically played a larger role in the lives of LGBTQIA people than they have in other communities. However, it is important for queer-identifying people to remember that these are not the only concerns that could arise in their lives. Queer people, just like all other people, are susceptible to problems in all the other varying realms of healthcare. One of which that does not discriminate against people of any sexual orientation or gender identification is cancer.

Dr. Walser and his staff at UTMB’s Wavelength Medical

Cancer appears in individuals of all sorts in various forms. For some, it can affect the brain, others the breasts, but can appear anywhere from within the bones to atop the skin and to any other part of the body. For many, this can mean the prostate. For those who aren’t familiar with the prostate, it is the gland that surrounds the bladder in people born anatomically male. It is the organ responsible for the propulsion of seminal fluid and the velocity of urination. And while it is known to be one of the more treatable cancers and has an extremely high survival rate, it is still an issue that—like all other cancers—can consume the patient’s life while undergoing treatment, especially so if left long undetected. Just like with all other cancers, the key to survival is early detection.

This isn’t just a problem for men, however. Often, the relevance of the prostate can even expand to transgender women, regardless of whether or not they’ve undergone reassignment surgery from male to female. As it turns out, during transitional surgeries (which often happen over the course of several procedures and after intensive hormone replacement therapy) the prostate is not typically removed due to potential complications with the surrounding nerves and blood vessels surrounding it. That said, trans women and those who identify as gender nonbinary, like cisgender men, should be cognizant of the need for prostate cancer screenings.

For this to happen, between the ages of 40 and 50-years-old, a person should be meeting regularly with a licensed physician (typically a primary care physician if the person has one) to begin having the prostate checked regularly throughout the remainder of their adult life. When this happens, the physician will be checking the patient’s prostate-specific antigen (or PSA) typically through blood test, looking to see if the patient has normal PSA levels. What is considerably adequate for good prostate health is a level under 4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) in the blood draw. However, if that number is upward of 4 ng/mL, the doctor will monitor these levels to watch for an uptick. Because PSA levels are not diagnostic, they are not necessarily indicative of prostate cancer. This is only the first step in the process of obtaining a conclusive diagnosis. In fact, stimulation of the prostate resulting in an active gland can cause these levels to rise through exercise, manual labor, or sexual activity. The uptake in PSA levels could also very simply be due to a prostate that is inflamed, but not breeding cancerous cells. That being said, to rule out the chance of prostate cancer, the patient’s physician will at this point refer the patient to a specialist. From there, the specialist—a urologist (or a doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract) in this case— will carry out measures to ascertain a diagnosis.

Now, this is where things get a bit more complicated. The most commonly practiced method for diagnosing prostate cancer from this point is for the urologist to perform what is known as a “blind” biopsy. What is meant by the word ‘blind’ is that the urologist has not performed an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) in order to assess whether or not a cancerous lesion is visible on the prostate. The process of performing a biopsy without an MRI involves sticking approximately 12-15 needles into the gland to take samples.

Dr. Eric Walser

Enter Dr. Eric Walser, an interventional radiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and physician at Wavelength Medical practice who believes that this may not be the best practice of diagnosing prostate cancer. As a radiologist, Dr. Walser understands the importance and benefits of not performing a biopsy without imaging, and instead has the MRI performed preemptive of the poking and prodding in order to see if a biopsy is even necessary. By performing the scan ahead of the biopsy, Dr. Walser is able to screen for cancerous lesions in the prostate. If a lesion is found, a biopsy can then be ordered with a more specific target zone so that only 2-3 needles need to be inserted into the gland as opposed to the aforementioned 12-15. By minimizing the invasiveness of the procedure, Dr. Walser’s methods can decrease the chance of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction that can often be side effects of the biopsy. Additionally, a patient who undergoes a biopsy will still likely be asked to undergo an MRI, as well. Unfortunately due to the amount of blood that will appear on the scan if done too soon after biopsy, the patient can often be asked to wait anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to have the MRI performed if the biopsy comes back positive. And while this isn’t the standard practice for physicians in this field, evidence supporting it is appearing rapidly. For example, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study just this past May, which concluded that having an MRI performed before a biopsy, or having an MRI-targeted biopsy performed, is the superior method of diagnosis.

Wavelength Medical UTMB Galveston Dr. Eric Walser Prostate Cancer LGBTQ

Wavelength Medical at UTMB in Galveston

But diagnosis isn’t where Dr. Walser’s interest in prostate cancer ends; and understanding his next move may come easier with a little background on his career. Dr. Walser once practiced medicine at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida where he was researching focal laser ablation (or surgical removal) of cancer from the lungs and liver. While researching these methods of treatment, Dr. Walser saw the opportunity to make a difference with those suffering from prostate cancer. For a long time, there were only a few options for conquering prostate cancer, which are still the most commonly practiced today. The first of which is radiation therapy (whether it be internal or external) to try to kill the cancer cells, which is sometimes accompanied by hormone therapy. Hormone therapy (though not a cure for cancer) is a method by which a physician will reduce the level of androgens in the body in order to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells, as cancer cells feed off androgens and use them to grow. Radiation, however, does not come without side effects, as radiation is toxic to organic matter, of which the human body is composed. According the American Cancer Society, radiation in its varied forms can lead to troubles with the bowels, urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and impotency. The other option, and often one of the more popular among physicians and their patients, is total removal of the prostate, or prostatectomy. This too can lead to issues of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, but also can leave damaging amounts of scar tissue that may affect a physician’s ability to cut through and reach the area necessary to treat the patient again if the cancer were to recur.

And that’s where Dr. Walser’s love of focal laser ablation is helping those with prostate cancer. With his method, Dr. Walser is using focal laser ablation to excise cancer with a laser rather than removing the entirety of the prostate or poisoning the body with radiation in order to keep the prostate intact and, in turn, minimize the invasiveness of the entire course of treatment—from diagnosis to recovery. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, recurrence of prostate cancer can happen in anywhere from 30-90% of people after initial remission. This relapse generally takes places after 5-7 years of treatment and remission. However, through his studies and practices, Dr. Walser is coming to find that the chances of recurrence using his methods is somewhere near 15%—a drastic difference. However, since laser ablation for prostate cancer is new, there is not enough follow up to fully compare it to traditional therapies.

Anne Nance, Nurse Practitioner

The process of the procedure is typically quite simple. Candidates for Dr. Walser’s program travel to UTMB on a Thursday night or Friday morning for a busy weekend. The first step in this process includes a mid-morning appointment with Dr. Walser’s in-house nurse practitioner, Anne Nance (APRN, NP-C), who talks with patients about their family histories, symptoms, plans, then rounds out to a procedure on a Saturday or Sunday with Dr. Walser (who kindly works weekends to better accommodate the schedules of his patients, who often travel from far beyond Galveston for treatment). The day of the procedure, patients can expect the ablation to last to last approximately 4 hours. From there, a catheter will be inserted into the patient due to the prostate swelling postoperatively, which closes the urethra and prevents urination. The catheter could be worn anywhere from 3-5 days, but sometimes even as little as 2. After that, the patient should take the time to recover for 1-2 weeks. Most patients can go back to normal activities of daily life soon after ablation, but should be mindful not to overexert themselves.

Rebecca White, Registered Nurse

But like all good tales, this story, too, has its down side. Because focal laser ablation of prostate cancer is new to this field of medicine, insurance companies typically do not cover the procedure, which can leave patients having to spend more money to have this performed. But that isn’t a deterrent for Dr. Walser and his team at UTMB, and isn’t always one for his patients. In fact, the team’s biggest concern is making sure that patient’s get treatment and are diagnosed adequately. Speaking with Rebecca White (MBA, BSN, RN) of Dr. Walser’s team at Wavelength Medical, she stated, “Let us help you with the diagnosis. [Patients] may not be able to afford the treatment, but the process of diagnosis is usually covered by insurance.” She went on to say that by having the MRI performed before the biopsy, it could eliminate an additional cost to patients who don’t need the biopsy performed if there are no lesions found by MRI. And the way Dr. Walser and his team are practicing their methods of diagnosis, that could end up being the case for many, as White also states that due to the practice of blind biopsy, there’s a large chance for misdiagnosis or over-diagnosis in this field.

So, even if it comes down to not being able to afford this specific method of treatment, at least the folks at UTMB’s Wavelength Medical can help guide patients through the process of diagnosing in a way that could end up being more cost-effective and to a lesser degree of pain and wait time than many other practitioners in their field. Just because the “disposable gay income” isn’t a myth for everyone in the LGBTQIA community does not mean that money has to be thrown away on tests that could prove to be unnecessary. And Dr. Walser and his staff are only truly concerned about the health and lifespan of those they treat and diagnose. If that means getting a person treated by way of radiation or prostatectomy because focal laser ablation is unaffordable, that’s what these fine people will help you to make happen. It’s also worth noting for the LGBTQIA community that UTMB was recently one of only three Houston-area medical facilities to be named as a “leader” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) when it released its 2018 Healthcare Equality Index. This status bestowed upon UTMB is specifically awarded to the best of best, and is held in the highest regard with the HRC. In order for a facility to land this honor, they must score a perfect 100% on the HRC’s index, which takes into account a variety of factors, most notably LGBTQIA patient care and community outreach.

Cancer is scary; and prostate cancer gone undetected could considerably affect the lives of a great number of LGBTQIA people. Like other cancers, it can metastasize to other parts of the body and put a person at risk of larger health issues, some even resulting in death in the worst case. But with the help of people like Dr. Walser, Anne Nance, Rebecca White, and the rest of the incredible team at UTMB’s Wavelength Medical, it doesn’t have to come to that. With innovation like Dr. Walser’s and medical literature supporting these methods being researched and released consistently, their team is here to provide people who may be suffering prostate cancer with the opportunity to live a life not ruled by disease in a brand new way, while also redefining how prostate cancer is treated and the outcomes for patients.

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Re-Imagined ‘How Do I Live’ By LeAnn Rimes Available Now

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LeAnn Rimes Strips Down ‘How Do I Live’ for Re-Imagined Version as Thank You to Fans

Re-Imagine ‘How Do I Live’ By LeAnn Rimes Available Now

(NASHVILLE)  – It has been twenty-one years since LeAnn Rimes released possibly the greatest love song ever. Today, Rimes releases Re-Imagine, a beautiful rendition where she bares her soul, breaking down How Do I Live”.

According to Billboard “How Do I Live” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1997, reaching chart milestones left and right. The song eventually spent a then-record 69 weeks on the chart, nearly half of that in the top 10 alone — a record only recently broken by Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” last year. And if you look at Billboard’s All-Time Top 100 songs ranking, you’ll see Rimes’ name sitting pretty at No. 4 for “Live.”

Download today!

Re-Imagine is a slowed-down version of ‘How Do I Live.” The production is less smoke and mirrors and highlights what we have known all along, Rime’s vocals can still melt your heart, and cut deep, really deep. Re-Imagine takes you on a spiritual journey allowing you to experience “How Do I Live” like the very first time.

The new song, produced by powerhouse Darrell Brown serves as a personal thank you from Rimes to her fans. Re-Imagine is available at iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon.

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Austin | San Antonio

Gay People Like Babies, Too

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Gay couples, gay men, surrogacy, men having babies

Men Having Babies executive director, Ron Poole-Dayan, talks his nonprofit, surrogacy, and … well … babies!

Beginning Friday, March 2nd, and going through the weekend, the now-national nonprofit, Men Having Babies, is bringing their traveling conference to Austin. The nonprofit hosts these expos in numerous cities from San Francisco to NYC to Brussels and beyond. MHB not only assists in the process of educating and helping gay male couples start families through surrogacy, but also aids them in the financing of their family-planning. Now here in Texas for their current expo, MHB executive director, Ron Poole-Dayan answered some of our questions about their organization, what they do, how they started, and what couples seeking to start families can expect from MHB.

Gay couples, gay men, surrogacy, men having babies

MHB board at the “Planning your surrogacy journey” workshop (NY 2017)

Let’s start by learning a bit more about how MHB came about to begin with

The origins of the organizations date back to 2005 when I asked the LGBT Center in New York City to create a monthly workshop for men who are interested in biological parenting. We began having monthly meetings, which we still have to this day, where we invited in people who could answer our questions. Over time a few men joined me to help facilitate the meetings, and that later became our first board. We organized our first modest seminar and someone suggested calling it “Men Having Babies.”

In 2012, we left the NYC LGBT Center and created an independent nonprofit organization, primarily since we wanted to create a financial assistance program, which was beyond the Center’s mission. Over time we started having larger events, and also in new locations: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Barcelona, Chicago, Dallas, Tel Aviv, Brussels, and this year adding Austin and Miami. The program has evolved to a two-day format with many more sessions, speakers, and topics.  Now we are consistently attracting packed auditoriums, and many of the attendees fly from far away to attend the conferences. Our membership now includes over 6500 future and current gay parents worldwide.

What’s the main draw to surrogacy v. adoption?

Gay couples, gay men, surrogacy, men having babies

Scenes from MHB’s 2017 Chicago conference

I have my own insights, but actually just recently a study came out by a team from several universities (including Columbia from NY and Cambridge from the UK) about “Gay fathers’ motivations for and feelings about surrogacy as a path to parenthood.” In fact, MHB assisted in recruiting a large part of the parents who participated in the study. The short answer is that, “most fathers chose surrogacy because they considered adoption to be a less desirable and/or accessible path to parenthood.”

Adoption may be considered as less desirable due to the challenges associated with the process (often private adoptions where the birth mother gets to choose the adoptive parents, subjecting us to scrutiny and approval by agencies or even teen mothers from middle America), or with the more difficult parenting challenges associated with older or special needs adopted children. And of course there is the universal desire for genetic offspring. In short: gay men choose surrogacy over adoption, if they can afford it, for the same reasons heterosexual parents (who can even more easily adopt) choose biological parenting over adoption.

Gay couples, gay men, surrogacy, men having babies

Jose Carlos and Jeff, recipients of MHB’s GPAP grants.

Having said this, it is important to stress that MHB does not advocate for surrogacy over adoption. In fact, some of our conferences — including the Austin one — feature adoption agencies alongside surrogacy resources. We just want to help the men make an informed decision about their path, and empower them to take that path in the most effective, mindful and affordable way.

We are gay parents and surrogates who got together to make the dream of parenthood a wider reality to more gay men — and in the process we believe we make society a better place for all of us.

What’s the success rate of MHB, as far as couples who actually make it to the finish line?

We know from feedback that many of our members become parents, but we do not track every single conference attendee — so we do not have the statistics. In general, I can tell you that once people actually embark on the journey — namely engage an IVF clinic to make embryos and an agency to match them with a surrogate — the vast majority have children. Indeed, surrogacy, while expensive, has higher success rates than adoption, and even heterosexual reproduction. We use technology that was developed for infertile people, with medically optimized gestational carriers and egg donors. It works and it is safe.

You are a father of a child of surrogacy, I’m told. What was this process like for you and your family

We did it many years ago, our twins are 17-years-old. We just assumed it should be possible, and luckily knew someone who knew someone that helped us find a lawyer in Boston who knew how to find a surrogate. We had very little guidance and resources, which is why I felt so strongly that something like MHB is needed.

How did MHB begin helping with the financial side of surrogacy?

As mentioned, our concern about the fact that surrogacy is beyond the [financial] reach of most people was a major motivation for establishing the organization. We knew that if we truly wanted to make a difference, we had to help people financially achieve the dream of having a family.  We wanted to give this opportunity to people who would otherwise not be able to afford surrogacy.

Gay couples, gay men, surrogacy, men having babies

Ryan and Blain, recipients of MHB’s GPAP grants, with their son

The first thing we did was to create the “Surrogacy Advisor”— a directory and ratings table for agencies and clinics populated by hundreds of actual reviews from parents who went through the process. The goal was to promote transparency and affordability by empowering prospective parents with unbiased reviews and statistical data on satisfaction levels, success measures, and real cost figures. This allowed future parents to save thousands of dollars by identifying affordable, effective providers they would otherwise not have heard about.

But the major achievement is the creation of the Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP), which for the last four years has gotten to the point that it annually provides dozens of prospective parents with over a million dollars worth of cash grants, discounts, and free services from more than fifty leading service providers.

Do you think that the importance of your nonprofit has increased in the recent political climate?

Of course. And, in particular, helping gay men form their families would contribute not just to their happiness, but it also drives much social change. Gay men with kids are extremely visible and help many people see us for who we are, human beings who want happiness like everyone else. And the surrogates who help us are all effective social change agents, as they become outspoken about equality — often in small middle-America communities.

If you could tell everyone in the world one thing about the services MHB offers or something that you feel they just really need to know, what would that be?

Gay couples, gay men, surrogacy, men having babies

Board member Michael Wetson, from Dallas, TX, (NY 2017)

Due to biological and social constraints, gay men as a category face the most obstacles in their quest for parenting, not the least of which is financial. Until MHB was established, there was not a single organization to assist gay men, who are not considered “infertile” even though they need substantial third party assistance in order to become parents. At MHB, we believe that when done correctly, surrogacy can be a positive, affirmative, and all-around empowering arrangement for everyone involved – and we are very active in creating ethical and practical guidelines to facilitate this. We are gay parents and surrogates who got together to make the dream of parenthood a wider reality to more gay men — and in the process we believe we make society a better place for all of us.


If you’re going to be in the Austin area this weekend, you can register for the expo and conference here.

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Austin | San Antonio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

About Men Having Babies

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

More information: www.menhavingbabies.org

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LeAnn Rimes Launches ‘LovE’ Collection

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LeAnn Rimes Launches 'LovE' Collection

International Recording Artist LeAnn Rimes Launches Limited ‘LovE, LovE and more LovE’ Product Line In Time For Valentines Day.

(Los Angeles) — As one of the worlds most accomplished singer-songwriters, LeAnn Rimes champions lovE on a daily basis; often times through beautiful harmonies, sometimes through blogging. The multiple Grammy-winning Artist has stepped up her message of LovE today, releasing a limited collection of LovE, Love and more LovE!

Beyond the stage lights and the glamour of dazzling millions of fans worldwide with music, LeAnn Rimes connects with readers by curating Soul Of Everly, a safe space on the web that strives to help awaken and heal the spirit through connection, community, joy, and LovE.

LeAnn Rimes Launches 'LovE' Collection

LeAnn Rimes Launches ‘LovE’ Collection just in time for Valentines Day.

With the most loved day of the year only 13 days away, Rime’s exclusive ‘LovE’ collection hits home as the perfect gift. This is the first time Rime’s has offered products to readers and fans of Soul of Everly.

“I am THRILLED to be opening the Soul Of EverLe store.”-Rimes

The collection ‘LovE, LovE and more LovE’ is described as ‘limited,’ and is the first of its kind for Rimes. The t-shirts and hoodies and available in multiple sizes, and show the word ‘LovE’ written down the shirt with a red block behind the design.

“My soul has been calling me open up my creativity in many new ways,” Rimes shares with her readers on Thursday afternoon. “The store like the blog is a reflection of life, ever-evolving and blossoming.”

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New Location For Bunnies On The Bayou 2018

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Bunnies On The Bayou Announces New Location For 2018.

(Houston) — Bunnies on the Bayou, one of Houston’s oldest LGBTQ+ non-profits have announced a new location for 2018. The organization holds one of the largest Easter Sunday fundraisers yearly.

Due to Hurricane Harvey, the Easter cocktail party is moving new digs. The Water Works at Buffalo Bayou Park. See the map below for details regarding parking.


Tickets are available now starting at $39. Visit Bunnies on the Bayou for more details.  http://bunniesonthebayou.org/

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No Strings Attached

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Grindr Tinder no strings attached gay sex dating

Are Grindr and Tinder ruining good sex and preventing gay men from meaningful relationships? 

Online dating has transformed romance into yet another product of the digital age in which we live. Just like ordering a pizza or looking for shoes to match the season, people can now find a customizable lover through online dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Bumble. These quick taps on our phone screens have created a new etiquette in dating where the individual connection has been replaced with a single swipe to the right and a nonchalant “what’s up” sort of intro. With instant connections on the rise, it seems as though the lengths of traditional relationships have shortened, as well. With many people bypassing the work of a relationship, they’ve now sped straight into an expedited sexual connection. This creates different types of connections that occur within this new era of social media speed-dating, whether people are out looking for Mr. Right, Mr. Free Booze, or Mr. Right Now. The latter has become the most common, due to our newly-adopted, quick, digital attention span. Hook-up culture has made it possible for people who are only exclusively looking for no strings attached sex to enjoy sexual satisfaction without the connection of another human being’s emotional attachment. As the idea of monogamy dies away, this placeholder has become a common trend. Soon, will everyone be left single? Is it possible that these unemotional and pure lustful relations could be deteriorating the traditional relationship titles of boyfriend, husband, wife, girlfriend?

Grindr is one of the largest hook-up apps. Most of these hookups are strictly “no strings attached.” User’s profiles can be straight to the point, announcing that they are looking for a right now rendezvous. Terms like hosting, travel, DDF, blow-n-go, and many others have generated a brand new language in gay dating. It breeds an aberrance not before experienced in dating: people giving out their addresses, sending genital photos, and looking for gratification without attachment. Instant connections are something that our current generation of gay men use as a means of courting. Yet, no matter how much of a connection there may be through our cell phones or online, is it as good as meeting someone new in person? With marriage equality being only a few years old, the definitions of gay relationships are just being reconstructed as society is now accepting them, especially as we enter a renaissance of relationship titles and gender roles.

Furthering this hindrance in our community is the unveiling of racism in online dating. Pride parades give the illusion that gay culture is open and inclusive. Yet profiles on Grindr show a population of those who maintain prejudices and subdued racism. Profiles which identify as discreet want to make a connection, but would rather nobody know of their orientation. Chappy, which fancies itself the “anti-Grindr,” introduces profiles that are combative of prejudicial taglines: masc only, no fats, no femmes, no [insert various racial prejudices]—which has the least to do with human connection—and rather allows users to only seek sex. Is this our old-world, subliminal heteronormative thinking? Are we still existing under the subconscious belief that homosexuality shouldn’t be placed on display in a heterosexual world? There are many reasons men want to remain discreet while looking for sex, such as the thrill of anonymity, being married or in the closet, or perhaps coming from a culture where homosexuality is still looked down upon. Perhaps being gay still is still not completely normalized, and these individuals do not feel comfortable showing their sexuality as a relationship to society. It extends beyond aps, though. Some married gay couples still remain in the closet. As much as being gay no longer seems to be a big deal, Main Street USA would still be uncomfortable with two guys holding hands or showing affection in the public, as has been made clear by the uprising in disapproving opinions during the current presidential administration. Gay stigmatization still exists, even in the dawning of 2018.

This type of atmosphere is inducing a population of men who are seeking male sexual attractions, but removing it from the forefront of a greater portrait, keeping everything out of society and into the bedroom. The down-low Casanovas typically are looking for someone who is masculine and doesn’t fit the stereotype of gay identification. But there are many people who find these kinds of interactions to be a fantasywanting to meet an individual for anonymous sex where  identity plays no importance, often even when one of the individuals is found in a scandalous situation like being blindfolded, handcuffed, face-down on the bed without ever looking up, etc. Conversely, it would seem that the act of no strings attached encounters provides an easy way to bypass societal stigmatization while being able to fulfill sexual gratification. But there are many people who find these kinds of interactions to be a fantasywanting to meet an individual for anonymous sex where  identity plays no importance, often even when one of the individuals is found in a scandalous situation like being blindfolded, handcuffed, face-down on the bed without ever looking up, etc. When a person has multiple partners without an emotional attachment, most bypass safety screening and are open to believe a person’s status for only knowing them within minutes, jaded by their own lustful desire. This alone begets sexual irresponsibility, especially when people fail to disclose their status with disease, drug use, and preventative drug use (i.e. PrEP).

Yet, unprotected sex is on the rise. And with that, these factors make such preventions even more necessary.  Taking the precaution allows a person to feel safe, even when taken without the availability of a condom., Still, PrEP is only used to deter HIV, and leaves gay men open for other diseases. Other health risks are involved with attachment-free sex. For instance, online dating now serves as a digital bathhouse, connecting men who are only looking for no strings attached sex. Like bathhouses online hookup apps help users who are seeking anonymous sex with more than one person to frequent, perhaps to fulfill some form of fantasy. These environments are often free of supervision or provide little only for the purposes of preventing drug use. Therefore, they serve as a breeding ground to spread virus and disease for individuals who do not use protection. Which the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein has noted “Because these are closed pools of people in limited geographies [using dating apps], it means that infections can spread more easily.”

Hopefully, as society continues to wrap its hivemind around the acceptance of gay culture, the need for discretion and unsafe practices will dwindle. Maybe some day people will even be able to express their sexual orientation without the stigmas that come along with being gay, eradicating the need to hide your face behind your phone screen. Still, bathhouses, hook-up apps, bar meet-cutes are often seen as gay rites of passage. While clinically discourageable if not practiced erring on the side of caution, many gay men look at them as a part of the lifestyle, something their friends have all done that they wish to experience, or even just a good story to tell. After all, apps like Grindr have also made it increasingly easy for people to meet for sex. It’s the intention of the app, with many men just have chest pics as their profile picture, whether that be to remain anonymous or simply to attract sexual partners. And yet, while there are people who claim they are looking for a relationship on these apps, for the most part, it would appear that most are only looking for sextheir Mr. Right Now rather than their Mr. Right.

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