LGBT Musical Facing East Gets Charity Staging

Harriet Thorpe narrates Facing East in Concert at London's Lyric TheatreNew musical Facing East will be presented in concert at the Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue in a concert version in aid of Pride In London and Stonewall.

The event will be hosted by the Wicked and Ab Fab regular Harriet Thorpe, and will feature Rebecca Lock, Alasdair Harvey, Peter DiCesare and Michael Vinsen

Based on Carol Lynn Pearson’s stirring play, Facing East is a new and intimate musical by David Rigano and Mark-Eugene Garcia.

The musical follows an upstanding American Mormon couple who unexpectedly meet their gay son’s partner whilst dealing with his death. When they’re forced to face a reality long ignored, they must balance their beliefs with their emotions and make peace with this stranger in order to make peace with their loss.

Now making its UK premiere for one night only at the Lyric Theatre, this is one of the first opportunities to hear the soaring new score of this emerging musical following workshops in Dallas and Chicago and ahead of its first fully staged production in 2016. The concert will star Alasdair Harvey (We Will Rock You), Rebecca Lock (The Phantom Of The Opera), Peter DiCesare (Facing East Dallas), Michael Vinsen (The Book Of Mormon) and narrated by Harriet Thorpe (Wicked).

Announcing the concert, producer Nathan Gardner said “We’re delighted to be able to present our show in London, and with such an incredible cast and team. We believe that theatre can make a difference, and it’s an honour to be presenting Facing East in support of Pride in London, and Stonewall. We’ve always wanted it to be the show that gives back, and it’s a privilege to be able to support these two organisations that do so much for the LGBT community.”

TICKETS ARE NOW AVAILABLE FOR FACING EAST THROUGH BRITISHTHEATRE.COM

Strictly to have same sex couple

 

Craig Revel Horwoord reveals all

In an interview with OK!, Craig Revel Horwood has revealed that Strictly Come Dancing will feature a same sex couple this year or the next.

He said at the TruTV Drag Race party last night, that it wasn’t clear what gender the couple would be but assured fans that it would definitely be happening.

“It’ll be either this year or next, but most certainly it will happen. They did it already in Hungary or somewhere,” Craig said.

In 2014 the British Dance Council considered changing the rules for ballroom dancing, meaning same sex couples would not be allowed to participate in events. This however would not have affected a TV show such as Strictly Come Dancing.

Craig went on to say: “We should encourage that sort of thing absolutely, there are competitions throughout the world that have same sex couples, you just have to decide who goes backwards darling.”

GT recently reported on Mr Gay World, Stuart Hatton Jr, and strictly dancer Callum MacDonald coming together with Freed of London to support the future of same-sex dancing.

This is definitely a move in the right direction and we can’t wait!

Words Paul Greenough, @paulsgreenough

Councils Call For Marriage Equality

Published on logo 29/05/2015
News Image

 

Belfast, Newtownards and North Down Councils are calling for all couples in Northern Ireland, regardless of sexual orientation, to have the right to civil marriage.

Councillors are set to lead key debates on the equality issue in June.

The move follows the yes vote for equal marriage during the referendum in Ireland last week and is the latest action by Alliance in moving the debate forward in Northern Ireland.

Alliance Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said: “Ireland’s result last week has left Northern Ireland out of step on equality issues. As it stands a same sex couple can now legally marry in all other parts of the UK and Ireland and the LGBT community should also have the same rights here.

“The Alliance Party is committed to delivering a shared society for everyone, based on civil and religious liberty and equality for all – regardless of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation – and has continually led the way on LGBT issues, including adoption and tackling homophobic bullying in schools.

“Alliance supports the extension of state provided civil marriage to same sex couples, while recognising protections are needed for those faith groups that wish to continue to observe and practise marriage within their beliefs.”

(CD/MH)

All male Romeo and Juliet comes to London

Editorial:  If you are on holiday in London during July or August then this production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet looks like it will be worthwhile going to see.  If you do then please let us know what you thought of the production.

Chapel Lane Theatre Company brings it five-star adaptation to the capital

This summer, Chapel Lane Theatre Company is bringing its five-star, all male adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet to London.

Shakespeare’s R&J is a modern script by American playwright Joe Calarco which centres on four schoolboys and their lives in a strict religious boarding school. One evening after classes, the students come across an old copy of Romeo and Juliet and begin to read the play to each other. As the evening progresses the boys become more and more immersed in the text and the characters, and the play becomes about the boys and their voyage of self discovery through the Bard’s famous words.

The boys explore their relationships with each other and, particularly for Student 1 (Romeo), his love for Student 2 (Juliet). These two young men, fully absorbed, begin to realise how their feelings parallel the relationship between the “star crossed lovers” in Shakespeare’s text. It is revelatory for them having been in such an oppressive environment all of their lives to see that their love is not as abnormal as they thought.

Bearing witness to this blossoming relationship is Student 3 (Mercutio) who also has feelings for Student 1. The play not only explores the relationship between Romeo and Juliet (and its relevance to the boys) but also the emotional conflict of Student 3 at seeing his schoolmates together. This is extenuated by the other role taken by Student 3 – the friar. In Shakespeare’s text the friar is supportive of Romeo and his relationship and actively helps his friend. Thus we see the internal turmoil of Student 3 exposed perfectly; on the one hand he wants Student 1 for himself, but on the other he wants to help his friend to be happy with who he is.

Student 4 (the Nurse), uneasy with the relationship but counselling Student 2’s Juliet, adopts a homophobic stance towards Student 1 and also takes on the role of Tybalt, Romeo’s sworn enemy. The violence of the conflict between Student 1 and Student 4 is an all too familiar sight in today’s world where homosexuality is still not full accepted.

Shakespeare’s R&J runs at the Tabard Theatre, London W4 from June 30th to August 8th 2015. Easy access via Turnham Green Station (District Line). Tickets £17/£15 .

Tickets are available from the Tabard Theatre Box Office.
Telephone: 0208 995 6035
Or online at: Tabard Theatre

This production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Limited.

Twitter: @ChapelLaneTC #RandJ2015

Facebook: Chapel Lane Theatre Company

Hundreds turn out in support of gay marriage in Northern Ireland just days after the Republic's historic referendum

Belfast Live –  LISA SMYTH

 

The rally outside Belfast City Hall is just the latest event calling for equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Northern Ireland

Up to 400 people have taken part in a rally calling for same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

It comes after last week’s overwhelming yes vote to allow gay people to get married in the Republic of Ireland and just days before Belfast City Council debates the subject.

Speakers at the event outside Belfast City Hall included People Before Profit Alliance councillor Gerry Carroll, Green Party councillor Ross Brown, Malachi O’Hara from the Rainbow Project and the outspoken Rev Chris Hudson from All Souls Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church on Elmwood Avenue in south Belfast.

He hit out angrily at the position of churches across Ireland in relation to same sex marriage.

“They advised the Irish people to vote no as it went against their teachings and the Irish people said, ‘If you don’t mind reverend gentlemen and reverend ladies, we won’t take your advice on this one”, and they went out and showed absolute solidarity with the LGBT community by voting yes.

“This is not an issue between people of faith and the LBGT community and don’t let any fundamentalist Christians tell you that’s true.”

The event was organised by 17-year-old Padraigin Mervyn.

She explained: “I decided to organise this event because I had seen that our Irish brothers and sisters had won their referendum.

PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty ImagesA couple watch the count at a count centre in Dublin

“I knew that there was hype up North so I discussed with my political party, People Before Profit, and decided while momentum was high I would get an event page set up on Facebook.

“The aim of this event is to begin a wave of protests in attempt to challenge our government, and raise awareness that the LGBT community will no longer sit back and be oppressed.

“No longer do we want to be regarded as second class citizens, it’s time for the people of Northern Ireland to fight back.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International, the Rainbow Project and Irish Congress of Trade Unions are organising a march calling for same sex marriage to be implemented in Northern Ireland at Writer’s Square in Belfast at 2.30 pm on June 13.

Book Review: Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Review: Hold Still by Nina LaCour

by Vee

reviewed by Marie Hagen of MarietheLibrarian

Hold Still by Nina Lacour

Hold Still by Nina Lacour

Hold Still | Nina LaCour | 231 pages | Paperback | With illustrations

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic fiction

Themes: Death, friendship, loss, suicide

Goodreads rating: 3.99

Synopsis: Hold Still tells the story of Caitlin who recently lost her best friend Ingrid, to suicide. Ingrid and Caitlin shared everything together, and Caitlin is facing an unknown life without her best friend to laugh, cry and share her secrets with. One day Caitlin finds Ingrids journal under her bed, and through her journal, Caitlin gets to see another different, darker side of Ingrid. The journal becomes sort a guide to Caitlin as she deals with returning to school, forging new friendships and falling in love for the very first time, without her best friend to share it with.

My thoughts:

You may wonder why I chose to review this book for the GAY YA, and that’s because the author is not only gay, but Hold Still features a queer girl character. But I’ll talk a bit more about this later.

The reason I read this book was because I had heard so much raving about Nina LaCour’s newest book, Everything Leads to You. I was buying books for my library and the only book they had available for purchase was Hold Still. I bought it, received it, read it and here I am, an emotional mess because of this beautiful book.

First off, I want to talk about LaCour’s beautiful writing style. IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL AND MY HEART JUST MELTED! She writes so poetically and full of emotions and it just hits me right in the heart. Her tone is funny, sarcastic and very realistic. Her metaphors are easy to understand and relate to, and it makes me feel as though I am the one grieving the loss of my best friend to a suicide. It takes talent to write that well.

Second, the characters. Oh my god, the characters. The characters are so well-written and well-rounded. All of them come to life in my head and I really feel like I am a part of this book. Caitlin’s grief, her struggle to find new friends, her relationship with her parents, teachers and her old classmates. Caitlin’s new friends are written beautifully and they all have depth and emotion to them. Every character in this book has a purpose and they all bring something new to the story about Caitlin and Ingrid. My favorite character is, of course, the queer girl and Caitlin’s friend, Dylan. She has gone through some of the same stuff that Caitlin has been through and their friendship turns out to be one of the realest ones I have read.

Thirdly, I absolute loved, adored, and devoured this book. It left me speechless and I cried many times. I love how this book is about grief, but it is not one of those immensely sad books that you get depressed after reading. No, this book has humor, love and carrying on as important subjects. It also shows how art or doing what YOU love can help you get through even the hardest of times. Like I said earlier, the main reason I wanted to review this book for the GAY YA is because it features a very realistic f/f relationship and it also shows how completely normal a friendship between a straight and queer girl can be. I love Dylan and Caitlin’s honesty with each other, and I love how Caitlin can ask Dylan about relationship advice without it being cheesy. I also loved that Caitlin has male friends that she’s not attracted to and that she still manages to be their friend. This book just displays some simply amazing and wonderful relationships of all kinds.

Final thoughts: Read this book if you want to laugh and cry. Read this book if you want to read a book with good and strong friendships. Read this book if you want a queer girl character. Read this book if you want to read a beautifully. Just read this book. IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL.

Click me to buy me

Favorite quote:

“Instead, every muscle in her whole body seems to lose all tension, her step forward resembles a skip, and she lets out a hey that might as well say; I love you, you are so beautiful, no one in the world is as amazing as you are.”

This is how Caitlin describes Dylan when she sees her girlfriend, and I just died from the beauty of it.

My rating: 5 stars

Thank you for reading and thank you to Vee at @thegayya for allowing me to write this weird review. It is not a review per ce, but my thoughts and feelings and rambles about this stunning book.

Book Reviews for gay Teens and Young Adults

Flesh and Bone (Luminis Books, 2015)

Flesh and Bone (Luminis Books, 2015)

Flesh and Bone by William Alton — (G,Q)

Goodreads Summary: A literary novel for young adults that deals with a despairing teen uncertain about his sexual preferences who turns to drugs, alcohol, and unreliable friends for solace.

Told in a series of images and fragments, Flesh and Bone is a raw and real portrayal of a teen struggling to find love in his life. When Bill’s father leaves and he and his mother move far away to live with her parents, his whole world implodes. His grandparents are cold and distant, his mom is distant both physically and emotionally as she deals with her own struggles, and his dad is just gone. Bill explores his sexuality with multiple partners as he searches for love and compassion and turns to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain of loneliness. Flesh and Bone is a powerful tale that sheds light on the dark places of the soul.”

Amazon

May 5th (USA)

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum — (NON-FICTION, Q)

Goodreads Summary: “That’s the Stonewall. The Stonewall Inn. Pay attention. History walks through that door.

In 1969 being gay in the United States was a criminal offense. It meant living a closeted life or surviving on the fringes of society.

Stonewall (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2015)

Stonewall (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2015)

People went to jail, lost jobs, and were disowned by their families for being gay. Most doctors considered homosexuality a mental illness. There were few safe havens. The Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run, filthy, overpriced bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, was one of them.

Police raids on gay bars happened regularly in this era. But one hot June night, when cops pounded on the door of the Stonewall, almost nothing went as planned. Tensions were high. The crowd refused to go away. Anger and frustration boiled over.

The raid became a riot.

The riot became a catalyst.

The catalyst triggered an explosive demand for gay rights.

Ann Bausum’s riveting exploration of the Stonewall Riots and the national Gay Rights movement that followed is eye-opening, unflinching, and inspiring.”

Amazon

May 7th (USA)

Witches by A.M. Burns — (G)

Witches (Harmony Ink Press, 2015)

Witches (Harmony Ink Press, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: “Thom Woodmen, a bigfoot or Oh Mah, who lives in a human world, is bonded to Ben Steele, an average teenager. Thom has barely adjusted to his new status as a Guardian when he discovers others working against him and there’s a price on his head. Then an intruder appears in his family’s territory, and he senses strange energies coming from Ben.

While they struggle to find out who wants Thom dead, Ben is tested to confirm Thom’s suspicions—Ben has magic. Ben shows promise, but he just wants to stay the normal human within their group of friends. After more attacks, Ben begins to see how magic might help him protect Thom—if only he can learn enough before the witch who is hunting them closes in for the kill.”

 Amazon

May 7th (UK)

This is Not a Love Story by Keren David  — (B)

This is Not a Love Story (Atom, 2015)

This is Not a Love Story (Atom, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: “Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that’s impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father’s unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn’t take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect?

In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time.

But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone’s heart survive?”

Amazon

May 12th (USA)

Vanished by E. E. Cooper — (B)

Vanished (Katherine Tegen Books, 2015)

Vanished (Katherine Tegen Books, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: “Gone Girl meets Pretty Little Liars in this fast-paced psychological thriller full of delicious twists and turns.

Friendship. Obsession. Deception. Love.

Kalah knows better than to fall for Beth Taylor . . . but that doesn’t stop her from falling hard and falling fast, heart first into a sea of complications.

Then Beth vanishes. She skips town on her eighteenth birthday, leaving behind a flurry of rumors and a string of broken hearts. Not even Beth’s best friend, Britney, knows where she went. Beth didn’t even tell Kalah good-bye.

One of the rumors links Beth to Britney’s boyfriend, and Kalah doesn’t want to believe the betrayal. But Brit clearly believes it–and before Kalah can sort out the truth, Britney is dead.

When Beth finally reaches out to Kalah in the wake of Brit’s suicide, Kalah wants to trust what Beth tells her. But she’s swiftly realizing that nothing here is as it seems. Kalah’s caught in the middle of a deadly psychological game, and only she can untangle the deceptions and lies to reveal the unthinkable truth.”

Amazon

May 14h (USA)

After I Wake by Emma Griffiths — (L)

After I Wake (Harmony Ink, 2015)

After I Wake (Harmony Ink, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: “Award-winning teen poet Carter Rogers has made a lot of bad choices in her life, one of which led to losing her hand to frostbite. After a failed suicide attempt, Carter wakes up and takes a hard look at the person she’s become. As her disappointment over her botched effort fades, she begins to accept herself and look forward. Righting past wrongs won’t be easy, but armed with the support of her mother and her friends, and with a new perspective on life, Carter sets out to fix her relationships with the people she cares about and the world of poetry.”

 Amazon

May 14h (USA)

 

 

Read Me Like a Book (Indigo, 2015)

Read Me Like a Book (Indigo, 2015)

Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler  — (L,B)

Goodreads Summary: “Ashleigh Walker is in love. You know the feeling – that intense, heart-racing, all-consuming emotion that can only come with first love. It’s enough to stop her worrying about bad grades at college. Enough to distract her from her parents’ marriage troubles. There’s just one thing bothering her . . .

Shouldn’t it be her boyfriend, Dylan, who makes her feel this way – not Miss Murray, her English teacher?

A thought-provoking coming out story from a highly skilled author.”

Amazon

May 19th (USA)

The First Twenty by Jennifer Lavoie  — (L)

The First Twenty (Bold Strokes Books, 2015)

The First Twenty (Bold Strokes Books, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: “Humanity was nearly wiped out when a series of global disasters struck, but pockets of survivors have managed to thrive and are starting to rebuild society. Peyton lives with others in what used to be a factory. When her adopted father is murdered by Scavengers, she is determined to bring justice to those who took him away from her. She didn’t count on meeting Nixie.

Nixie is one of the few people born with the ability to dowse for water with her body. In a world where safe water is hard to come by, she’s a valuable tool to her people. When she’s taken by Peyton, they’ll do anything to get her back. As the tension between the groups reaches critical max, Peyton is forced to make a decision: give up the girl she’s learned to love, or risk the lives of those she’s responsible for.”

 Amazon

May 21th (USA)

Out of Order (Harmony Ink, 2015)

Out of Order (Harmony Ink, 2015)

Out of Order by Casey Lawrence  — (B)

Goodreads Summary: “Corinna “Corey” Nguyen’s life seems perfectly average for a closeted bisexual whiz kid with her eyes on college and a budding romance with her friend Kate. Sixteen and navigating senior year with her tight-knit group of best friends through crushes, breakups, and pregnancy scares, Corey mistakenly believes that running for valedictorian and choosing the right college are the worst of her worries. That is, until prom night, when she’s left alone and in shock, hiding inside a diner restroom, the only witness to a multiple homicide.

With graduation looming, the pressure is on for Corey to identify the killer and ensure that the crime that has changed her life forever will not go unpunished.”

 Amazon

May 26th (USA)

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton — (G)

Goodreads Summary: “When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.

Anything Could Happen (Push, 2015)

Anything Could Happen (Push, 2015)

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained.

ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN is a poignant, hard-hitting exploration of love and friendship, a provocative debut that shows that sometimes we have to let things fall apart before we can make them whole again. ”

Amazon 

May 26th (USA)

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg (Arthur A. Levine, 2015)

The Porcupine of Truth (Arthur A. Levine, 2015)

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg — (G)

Goodreads Summary: “The author of OPENLY STRAIGHT returns with an epic road trip involving family history, gay history, the girlfriend our hero can’t have, the grandfather he never knew, and the Porcupine of Truth.

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who’s long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives.”

Amazon 

May 28th (USA)

Caught in the Middle (Caught in the Act #2) by Robbie Michaels — (G)

Caught in the Middle (Harmony Ink, 2015)

Caught in the Middle (Harmony Ink, 2015)

Goodreds Summary: “After a rocky start to the school year, Ben and Adam are getting their feet on solid ground, despite a lot of obstacles. Amelia, Ben’s former girlfriend, isn’t willing to let Ben go so easily. At Christmas, Amelia delivers a bombshell that keeps Adam and Ben apart over the holiday. When Adam returns from seeing his family, Ben, who avoids conflict at all cost, will not talk to him.

Adam figures out Amelia’s scheme, and when he confronts her, she retaliates by arranging an ambush in the school parking lot one night.

Ben is horrified when he sees Adam lying battered in the hospital. Adam is more than physically broken. His spirit is wounded, and he sees only the negative, the struggle ahead, and Ben’s betrayal. Healing, both in body and mind, is a long arduous road.

It’s up to Ben to convince Adam that there is still good in life and that he’ll be there to help Adam every step of the way. If Adam will let him.”

Amazon

Old Shoebox Gives Glimpses Into A Gay Man's Life In 1940s-'60s Vancouver

Huffpost Gay Voices –  – Posted:

 

joe selsey vancouver

I have a new guy in my life. His name is Joseph, but his friends and family called him Joe so I will too.

I met Joe a few months ago through Don Stewart, the proprietor of MacLeod’s Books where I was in browsing one Saturday morning when Don suggested I take a look at a shoebox full of papers and photos that he thought might interest me.

The contents of the box proved to be memorabilia of the life of one Joseph R. Selsey, late of Vancouver’s West End. The reason that Don thought I might want to see these discards, retrieved by a savvy binner from where they’d been dropped next to a dumpster, was that several pieces of this collection indicated that Joe was a gay man living in our neighbourhood in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s; decades for which we have few records of our community’s existence.

Don’s first clue might have been the paperback copy of Richard Amory’s Song of the Loon, an interracial and intergenerational gay love story from the early ’60s, before either of those loaded terms had been coined.

Or the flyers from Trojan Book Service offering such titles as America’s Homosexual Underground by Antony James (quote: “The good-looking boy with lily-white skin was husky but the man sensed a kind of effeminacy as he watched the boy leaning against the stair steps with his crotch bulging.”).

Or the handbill from International Nudist Sun, boasting “frontal nude photographs” of hunky young “body builders.”

Certainly the Tom of Finland-style greeting card with three studs, naked except for toques and scarves and boots, carolling in the snow, was a clear giveaway.

Yeah, Joe was a friend of Dorothy’s, and I quickly scooped up the remains of his days for a closer look, and perhaps some clues to the lives of that generation of gay men who lived their youth in the years before Stonewall.

joe selsey vancouver

I have spent many pleasant hours with this material, wondering what kind of life we might imagine for Joe from these crumbs.

Much of it was lived at 1031 Harwood St., according to the handsome leather baggage tag with Joe’s name and address.

A well-dressed, happy, busy life with good friends, if the many photos of Joe and pals are any indication. And a life not entirely in the closet, hints a card signed “Merry Xmas to Joe from Kitty & Bob. PS: And a gay New Year!” Nor a life of rejection by family, according to several notes and photos inscribed “To Uncle Joe” from various wholesome looking children.

Joe’s wallet revealed that he had been born on March 19, 1927 in Saint Norbert, Manitoba, and that during his Vancouver years he was a joiner. He held membership cards to several establishments and organizations, most intriguingly to something called The Happytime Social Club, at 1022 Davie St. If that address sounds familiar, it might be because you gave it to the cab driver the last time you were dropped off atCelebrities.

I wonder what was going on in the Happytime Social Club in 1956? Was this a gay club after its turn as The Embassy Ballroom and before it became the notorious ’60s rock palace, The Retinal Circus?

Joe also had quite a number of passes to a Palm Springs Health Spa at 2405 West Broadway, which in the late ’50s offered, for a $2-surcharge, the “Complete Guest Treatment.”

joe selsey vancouver

This time capsule also held a tiny key on a string (but nothing to open with it), a miniature silver keychain charm toaster, and a ratty rabbit’s foot. Does the collection of little sewing kits gathered from various hotel rooms suggest that our Joe might have been good with a needle?

Would the bolo tie with the bull and matador woggle indicate a butch streak, or does the baby blue cord of the tie suggest otherwise?

The stick of dried-out Wrigley’s chewing gum hints at less than fastidious housekeeping (really Joe!) and the little bundle of Irish Sweepstakes tell us that Joe liked a flutter on the ponies.

Most poignant among the scraps was a simple black and white, business-card sized piece, with a psychedelic pattern enclosing the words “You Are Not Alone.”

I admit to having qualms about outing Joe, even several years after his demise, until I found his Vancouver Sun obituary online. Noting his death at Vancouver General Hospital on April 26, 2007, aged 80, the obit proudly stated that Joe was “survived by his loving companion of 27 years, Ralph Gotell.”

Having weathered the challenges of life as a gay man in the 1940s and ’50s and ’60s, Joe was lovingly partnered and proudly out at the end. I don’t think he’d mind our spinning this little tale around these bits and bobs his life.

So far my digging has turned up no further records of the lives of either Joe or Ralph.

joe selsey vancouver

I share these random musings about Joe Selsey and how he might have lived his life as a gay man in the Vancouver of his day for two reasons: To help us realize that there is at least two generations worth of local, verifiably gay history that is slipping beyond our grasp; and to ask you, gentle reader, to share this story and these photos with any friends you may have of Joe’s generation.

Ask if they knew him, and if they recall the Happytime Social Club, and can tell us just how happy those times were?

Even if they didn’t know Joe or Ralph, perhaps something of these notes will jog a memory and stir up a story that we should add to our rich history. Before it’s too late.

If you have such friends, and they’re willing to chat, coffee’s on me!

You can contact the writer at stillqq@dailyxtra.com.

(This column first appeared on Daily Xtra.)

Ground breaking findings for those affected by HIV

New study finds earlier treatment is beneficial

Those affected by HIV stand a “considerably lower risk” of developing AIDS or other serious illnesses if antiretroviral drugs are administered earlier, according to a new study conducted by the International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials – INSIGHT.

The START – Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment – trial is the first large scale randomised clinical trial to figure out if taking HIV medication earlier than currently recommended is beneficial.

At the moment, the World Health Organisation HIV treatment guidelines recommend that people infected with HIV begin antiretroviral therapy when their CD4+ cell count – white blood cells – drop to 500 cells/mm3 or less.

The new trial is “clear cut proof” according to NIAID – National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Director Anthony S. Fauci, that starting treatment regardless of white blood cell count per mm3, is massively beneficial.

During the study, people were randomised and put into one of two groups. One group were given treatment when their CD4 count was above 500, and the other waited until their count was below 350.

According to Ibase, one of the biggest surprises was that even at very high CD4 counts, treatment was shown to reduce the risk of AIDS and other serious illnesses.

Jens Lundgren, M.D., of the University of Copenhagen said: “This is an important milestone in HIV research. These results support treating people irrespective of CD4+ T-cell count.”

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said on the study:
“This ground-breaking research adds to the growing body of evidence that shows there should be no delay in starting HIV treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment mean that people living with HIV can expect to live long and healthy lives, and can also reduce the chances of HIV being passed on unwittingly. They are key tools in our efforts to stop the spread of HIV in the UK

The results have been released earlier than expected. They were due to be concluded in 2016 – the trial will still continue until then – after having started in 2011; however the Data and Safety Monitoring Board found on 13 May this year that the results were so clear that they recommended the study be changed and all participants now have the option to change to the early treatment.

Until now, large database tests had not managed to find benefits of starting treatment early and because the START study was randomised, it makes the results very unlikely to be by chance.

The findings are ground breaking and a massive help for those affected by HIV.

More detailed results from the study are expected to be released at the International AIDS Conference in Vancouver in July.

Words Paul Greenough, @paulsgreenough

FOI Man’s Guide to Making FOI Requests

LogoReproduced from the Foiman site.

 

How to make responsible and effective FOI requests

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) and Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) introduced a right to information held by public authorities which came fully into force in 2005. However, like all rights, it should be used responsibly by those who exercise it.

Here, FOI Man, a public sector employee with several years’ experience of advising on and answering FOI and EIR requests, outlines the best way to make sure you get the most out of both regimes without creating unnecessary burdens on public authorities.

Except where otherwise specified below, FOI is used to denote both pieces of legislation.

Why should I care?

FOI is a right. Full stop. You absolutely have the right to ask a public authority for any information that you like. Unless your request is invalid, vexatious, covered by one of the exemptions, or the authority doesn’t hold it, they have to make the information available to you. To an extent, you’re even allowed to dictate in which format they should provide it to you. So you have the power.

But should you use that power? And if you do use it, should you consider the impact it might have on the public authority concerned? In these times of cuts and mass redundancies, is it right that scarce resources are spent digging around for information that you might have lost interest in by the time you get a response? And if you’re a campaigner, trying to engage your local politicians, do you really want to risk getting on the wrong side of them through your use of FOI? Is it a Pyrrhic victory if you get your information at the cost of officials’ time that could have been spent on doing the things you’re campaigning for?

And there could be implications further down the road if we don’t use FOI responsibly. In other countries where FOI has been in place for years, enthusiastic early adoption has often led to a backlash from politicians and the courts. In Ireland, a prohibitive fees regime was introduced; in New Zealand, the courts considering appeals began to interpret exemptions restrictively. Over here, we’ve seen an attempt by politicians to remove themselves from FOI (thankfully rewarded with contempt from all sides), and there are regular calls from senior officials in various parts of the public sector for their particular area to be excluded from the legislation.

It’s really easy to fire off an email asking for information. You can even send it to several thousand public authorities in one go. But be aware of the resource and other implications of that simple act. Here are my ten top tips on how to make effective, responsible use of FOI.

FOI Man’s Ten Top Tips on Making Responsible and Effective FOI Requests

1.  Count to ten before clicking ‘Send’

Or better still, sleep on it. Consider if you really do want the information, and if you do, whether you have asked the right questions.

2. Do your research

Is the information already available on the authority’s website, perhaps in their Publication Scheme? Is there information there that could be used to make your question(s) more relevant or incisive? Has the question been asked before? There may be a ‘Disclosure Log’ on their website, or failing that, you could check WhatDoTheyKnow.com.

3. Take care when making ‘round robin’ requests

Remember that the more organisations you send your request to, the more public money will be spent on answering your request. And use your research to weed out authorities that the request isn’t relevant to.

4. Try an informal approach first if possible

You may already have a professional relationship with somebody within the public authority. Alternatively, the authority may publish direct contact details for the department that deals with the issue you’re concerned about. Try contacting them first to sound them out. At the very least they may be able to advise you as to what to ask for, and occasionally, they may even be able to give you more information than you would be entitled to under FOI.

5. Be specific

If you do decide to make a FOI request, cite the Act in your request (you don’t have to but it can help to avoid confusion). Make your request as clear as possible. Don’t be ambiguous. You can’t blame a public authority for misinterpreting your request if you’ve not specified clearly what you want.

6. Don’t be greedy

It’s tempting to throw everything including the kitchen sink into your request. Don’t. Keep your request short and to the point. You can always make other requests later if you want more information.

7. Be polite

Try not to assume that the person reading your request is determined to avoid answering your question(s). It’s likely that members of your own family, perhaps some of your friends, are public servants. Would you feel content to send them your request?

8. Be patient

Your request isn’t the only request that will be received by the authority. The people who have to answer your request will also have a number of other responsibilities to meet. Try to be patient and accept that you may not get an answer as quickly as you would like. In the vast majority of cases you will get a response before the statutory deadline of 20 working days (and note that phrase, ‘working days’ – in effect, organisations have a month to respond, give or take a couple of days).

9. Read the response carefully, and if necessary, use the Appeal process

A lot of effort goes into answering FOI requests, even (often especially) when your request is refused. Make sure you’ve understood the response.

Accept that in some cases, the authority just does not hold the information you’ve asked for. You may think they should, but if they haven’t, you can’t use FOI to force them to create it. Often the authority will explain why they don’t hold it – try to read their explanation with an open mind.

If your request has been refused using one of the exemptions (FOI) or exceptions (EIR), the authority should have provided you with an explanation of which ones apply and how. Where a public interest test has been applied, they should have explained the arguments for and against disclosure.

Try to take a step back and consider whether their arguments make sense. For instance, although you might like to have access to information about employees, you probably understand that some of that information is protected by the Data Protection Act. Whilst you may not be happy with the response, it may be that the Act has been applied correctly.

If the arguments don’t make sense or you disagree with them, and you still want the information, use the authority’s Internal Review process. The authority should have sent you details of this process with their response. All you really need to do though is to write to them, asking for an internal review. It will help your case if you set out the reasons why you think the exemptions/exceptions don’t apply. Where a public interest test has been applied, you can put forward your own arguments for disclosure if you don’t think these have been considered.

Again, be patient whilst waiting for a response, and when you do receive it, read it carefully. If you are still dissatisfied with it, consider contacting the Information Commissioner and asking him to review the response. Bear in mind that this may take some time – though turnaround times at the Commissioner’s Office have improved considerably in the last year.

10. Use the information you receive responsibly

If you want to use the information you’ve been sent, do so responsibly. One example of this is asking for permission if you want to reproduce a document that’s been sent to you (or at the very least acknowledging the source). Even though you’ve been sent the information, the copyright will normally still belong to the authority concerned or whoever gave it to them.

If you’re reporting on the information disclosed, try to provide context. Often the response will include an explanation of why, for instance, so much was spent on the particular activity you’ve asked about, or how spending compares with other similar organisations. Even if it doesn’t, it will often be a straightforward task to find contextual data or background. Whilst it may not make for as spectacular a story, excluding these facts could distort the impression given to your audience. This impression may well be convenient in the short term, but it could damage your reputation with the organisations that provide information to you, and ultimately with your audience if they learn that they are being misled.

Other resources you may find useful

Information Commissioner’s guide to making FOI requests

Information Commissioner’s Charter for Responsible FOI Requests

Information Commissioner’s guidance on appealing decisions

NCVO guide to using FOI for campaigning