Philadelphia

Reprint from Attitude magazine 

 

Philadelphia

The first Oscar winning account of AIDS and gay relationships

Street of Philadelphia – Bruce Springsteen

It would be rough to identify a more significant landmark in the history of gay cinema than Philadelphia.  The story of a gay lawyer fired shortly after his employers discover he has AIDS, its success at the Box Office swept away the resistance of Hollywood studios to explore the AIDS-experience on screen.

When Tom Hanks triumphantly won Best Actor at the Oscars he quashed the prevailing view that playing gay could destroy an actor’s career.

Hanks stars as Andy Beckett alongside Denzel Washington as Joe Miller, the small-time lawyer Beckett is forced to hire to sue his employers when everyone else turns him down.  Together the two actors make Philadelphia a powerful, passionate and profoundly moving film.  Written by gay activist Ron Nyswaner, it is also stridently political.  Who can’t remember feeling stirred by the scene in which Andy’s partner Miquel (played by a never hotter Antonio Banderas) is told he can be evicted from hospital as he isn’t a member of Andy’s immediate family.

But Philadelphia isn’t a perfect film, Re-watching it in 2014 (the time this article was written), it sometimes struck me as schematic and unsubtle – an ‘issue’ film that’s a bit of a slog to get through.  Andy’s boss is portrayed as little more than a cartoon villain and Joe’s initially unbridled homophobia can be a barrier to empathy for contemporary gay viewers, most of whom no longer have to stomach this kind of outrage on a daily basis.  I, for one, felt a sense of relief on reaching the library scene in which Joe first engages with Andy after witnessing his dignity in the face of prejudice – cleverly suggesting a parallel between Andy’s situation as a gay man with AIDS and the African-American experience.

In an inspired twist, as Andy’s case of unfair dismissal reaches court.  Joe draws on his own feelings of homophobia to get inside the head of Andy’s boss – in a cross-examination that helps lead to a triumphant outcome, Philadelphia’s most powerful scene takes place outside the courtroom though, when Andy and Joe attend a fancy dress, gazing across the dance floor at each other as they move to the same show beat in the arms of their very different partners.

Of course, the impact of scenes like this has lessened in the 20 years since the film’s release but it’s important to remember that Philadelphia would have represented the first time most viewers had ever witnessed any kind of gay intimacy on the screens of their multiplexes – let alone in a big-budget Hollywood film.  When the lawyer defending Andy’s boss argues that Andy’s “reckless behaviour” led to him contracting AIDS she’s much echoing the views of the public.

Despite Andy’s triumph in court, the film inevidently has a tragic ending, one that didn’t offer much hope to gay men in the early 90s – or do much to overturn the cinematic convention of meting out tragic fates to gay characters.  But at the time, a few years before combination therapy became available in the US and the UK, the truth was that there wasn’t much hope for peace with AIDS.

What the film offered instead was something that was of equal importance.  It offered a gay community still living through the darkest horrors of the AIDS crisis an opportunity to come together in a shared expression of sadness and grief.

Editorial:  The Los Angeles Times in 1994 printed an article by Terry Pristin, which indicated that a law suit had been taken out by the family of the late Geoffrey Bowers, a New York lawyer who fought an AIDS discrimination battle bearing striking similarities to the story told in “Philadelphia.  It is very unclear as to whether the story was developed independently or was based on Mr Bowers personal story.

La Mamma Morta – from Philadelphia

Maria Callas – La mamma morta

Reference:

Fact File:

  • Released in the UK on 25th February 1994
  • Directed by Jonathan Demme
  • Total international Box Office – $206m.
  • The theme tune, by Bruce Springsteen, won the Oscar for Best Original Song
  • The film’s most intimate gay love scene was cut, but you can watch it on Youtube.

Blake McIver – 'Little Rascals' Star Releases Beautiful Marriage Equality Ballad

“Little Rascals” and “Full House” star Blake McIver finds lasting love and expresses his support for marriage equality in the video for his latest tune, “This Is Who We Are.”

“When I was a small boy, I never thought there’d be/That perfect, happy ending for anyone like me,” McIver sings in the mid-tempo, country-tinged ballad as he cozies up to a handsome co-star. “Now I want them all to see, the strength of you and me.”

The song is reminiscent of his talent show duet with Darla. (OK, maybe not, but we can dream.)

 

 

In keeping with the song’s message, the clip concludes with the two men tying the knot amidst a sunny Californian landscape and surrounded by friends and family.

McIver, who is openly gay, wrote in a Facebook post that he was inspired by his relationship with his grandfather when he wrote the song.

“He passed away before I had the opportunity to come out to him,” he wrote. “I’m not saying it would’ve been a particularly easy conversation, but his unconditional love of me was never a question in my mind. …As we celebrate the massive victory of the Supreme Court ruling, let us not forget our brothers and sisters who are still facing daily discrimination for being exactly who they are.”

A regular fixture on Bravo’s “The People’s Couch,” McIver made headlines in 2013 when he revealed his new toned, sexy look on Instagram. He’s focused heavily on music since then, releasing a steamy music video for “Wish I Didn’t Need You” before suiting up for a version of the Christmas classic, “O Holy Night.”

The Problem is Not Gays but the Religious Right’s Culture of Repression

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By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson  more from Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Thursday, July, 9th, 2015, 7:57 am

Re-criminalize_sodomy
Bart Barber, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texaswrote in Canon and Culture yesterday that Obergfell v Hodges has presented “followers of Christ” with “a changed universe of possibilities.”

He claims that even a “if some modern-day triumvirate rivaling Whitefield, Edwards, and Wesley were to bring upon us a Third Great Awakening, it still would be too late to prevent this nation’s social experimentation by way of the removal of sexual taboos.”

Barber admits he is not a lawyer. He is also, despite his claims to the contrary, not a historian. Like most on the Religious Right, he insists on some monolithic and unchanging reality with regards gender roles that are not, in fact, present in the historical record, even among Christians (even King David says sleeping with his friend Nathan is “better than sleeping with a woman.”)

Like others arguing against Marriage Equality, he makes the Bible into one long anti-gay diatribe, when it is nothing of the sort, and was not recognized as such for most of Christian history.

Barber goes on to claim that “the advocates for the sexual revolution are taking us back to first-century Rome.” But here Barber is appealing to a past that exists only in the imagination:

Socially, the advocates for the sexual revolution are quickly taking us back to first-century Rome. There and then we knew we were a minority, which we’ve always been whether we recognized it or not. Our church rolls contain many unregenerate members. That situation is about to change. A red-hot commitment to Christ is about to become the only reason why anyone would join one of our churches. We are becoming the ultimate “alternative lifestyle,” and the aftermath of today’s decision could be freeing for us if we will allow it to be.

There are a couple of important things to understand about first-century Rome. Barber, the non-historian wants a dichotomy that is not there. Running on the fumes of what have become Hollywood stereotypes, he wants a decadent, moribund Paganism and absence of morality to stand in stark contrast to the vibrant and revolutionizing opposition to moral relativism represented by Christianity.

His message is clear: We have fallen back into the moral abyss from which Christianity emerged.

On the contrary, as Jonathan Hirsch has pointed out, “The ruling class of Rome was, contrary to twenty centuries of Christian moral censure, rather fussy and even puritanical on the subject of sex, especially in outward appearances.”[1]

And Ray Laurence, writing of Roman sexuality, laments that “It is something of a disappointment to discover that the Romans did not have orgies.”[2] As Laurence goes on to explain, “there is no evidence for them. They are yet another example of the fevered imagination of the modern world, which attempts to sexualize all other cultures past and present.”

“Sexuality,” says Lynn LiDonnici, “as we use the term does not appear to have concerned people in the ancient Mediterranean; specific acts drew more attention than choices about lifestyle or sexual identities in the modern sense of identification.” The problem, as she sees it, is our modern inability to think outside of our own context. She stresses the need to “understand symbols from antiquity on their own terms.”

If we separate our own tendency to eroticize all female categories from the categories of antiquity…this…may hinder the understanding of Greco-Roman people on their own terms. It is possible that the tendency to extend erotic category judgments to the art of antiquity makes it difficult for us to perceive a figure who is both unsexualized and at the same time fully gendered.[3]

In fact, as Robert L. Wilken, who actually bothers to examine the social structures and contexts of the first century, points out, “A strong current of libertinism, offensive to the sensibilities of the middle- and upper-class Romans, runs through early Christianity. It is the Romans, not the Christians, who are the puritans.”[4]

This is contrary to what modern-day Christians are brought up to believe, and Wayne Meeks echoes LiDonnici, arguing that, “we cannot claim to understand the morality of a group until we can describe the world of meaning and of relationships, special to that group in its own time and place, with which behavior is evaluated.”[5]

Insisting that Christianity today is like Christianity in the first century, is to fail to make that effort. Christians today move in a different context entirely. When Meeks points out that, “it is Plato as read by Philo and Plutarch…whom we must understand” and not as read by some modern scholar,[6] the same must necessarily be true of the New Testament.

The crux of the matter and this is something ignored by Barber and others is that in the first century, the New Testament did not exist. There were collections of writings and letters, different collections in different areas, giving rise to a multitude of Christianity’s and understandings. There was no monolithic Christianity any more than there was a monolithic Paganism for it to stand in opposition to.

In fact, Christian morality, supposedly so new and revolutionary, was informed by that of the Pagan world we are told it opposed.

The idea of philanthropia was well known by Pagan society – and long before Christianity appeared, and even the idea of loving one’s enemies is well attested in Pagan writings. Diogenes Laertius (8.23) mentions Pythagoras on this score and it is found in Seneca too (De vita beata 20.5). John Whittaker’s findings are impossible to argue with: “We have no choice but to conclude that the pertinent conception was deeply entrenched in the popular morality of the ancient world.”

Whittaker goes on to say, “We may conclude that pagan critics had not been slow to note that the Christian ideal of morality, lofty though it might be, was well anchored in the Hellenistic tradition.” Indeed, “in the Iambi ad Seleucum of Amphilochius of Iconium, friend of the Cappadocians and cousin of Gregory Nazianzen, the exhortation to follow the ethics of the pagans but not their theology.” This amounts to less than a damning condemnation of Pagan ethics and morality.[7]

Pagan critic Celsus, writing at the turn of the second century, went so far as to accuse the Christians of a lack of originality in the area of morality.[8] Origen, in his response, does not even try to contest the point, but settles for asserting that “basic moral principles are by divine disposition universally one and the same.”

Whittaker notes that Christian apologists of the second century “took pains to emphasize the similarities rather than the divergences between their beliefs and the pagan wisdom of the Roman Empire.”[9] Even the bigoted Augustine insisted that philosophers converting to Christianity leave only their false doctrines behind, not their way of life.[10]

Follow the ethics of the Pagans, Pastor Barber. Not their theology. At the time, this was the dividing line between your followers of Christ and Pagans: theology, not morality. You and the rest of the Religious Right conflate the two.

If there is something to be worried about, it is that, as Laurence writes, “a dominant culture of repression can only thrive if a transgressive subculture is seen as a threat.”

It is, in fact, Pastor Barber, as part of that culture of repression, who is the problem, not “the advocates for the sexual revolution” he condemns.

Notes:

[1] Jonathan Hirsch. God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism (NY: Viking Compass, 2004), 121.

[2] See Ray Laurence, Roman Passions: A History of Pleasure in Imperial Rome(London: Continuum, 2009).

[3] Lynn R. LiDonnici, “The Images of Artemis Ephesia and Greco-Roman Worship: A Reconstruction,” HTR 85 (1992), 393, 409 n. 81, 411.

[4] Robert L. Wilken, “Toward a Social Interpretation of Early Christian Apologetics” Church History 39 (1970), 442. As Wilken goes on to say, “If some Christians celebrated the liturgy without clothes, it would not take long for the word to get out that Christians as a group were depraved.”

[5] Wayne A. Meeks, “Understanding Early Christian Ethics” JBL 105 (1986), 4.

[6] Meeks (1986), 7.

[7] John Whittaker “Christianity and Morality in the Roman Empire”Vigiliae Christianae 33 (1979) 210.

[8] Origen, Contra Cels. 1.4 (PG 11.661).

[9] Whittaker (1979), 212-213

[10] Augustine, Civ. Dei 19.19.

 

Dear Coleen: It's a lonely life for a gay carer living in the countryside

Reprinted from the Daily Record – 20:30, 14 July 201

COLEEN hears from a man in his 60s who hasn’t had a sexual relationship with another man for ten years.

Dear Coleen

I am a gay man in my early 60s and I live in a rural part of the country. During my life I’ve had a couple of relationships, which never got as far as the living together stage and I got hurt each time. The last one was 10 years ago.

I have spent the past few years living with and caring for my elderly and ill parents (I am still looking after my dad) and it has proved almost impossible to meet anyone because of this.

I have gradually had to give up many interests and my social circle is now incredibly small. My income is quite limited but I do manage a couple of holidays with a friend each year.

I would just love to have some company to go out for a meal or a coffee sometimes. I do still have a couple of good straight friends and some family members nearby. But it does feel like “this is it” for my future, with there being no likelihood of ever having someone special in my life.

Unfortunately, gay social life where I live is virtually nonexistent (particularly when you reach a certain age and become invisible). I have tried online dating and generally the only contacts have been weirdos and people simply looking for casual sex.

My main passion during my life has been theatre and through membership of amateur dramatics groups I have made good friends. I have also been involved in volunteering activities for most of my life, as well as being employed full-time until a couple of years ago.

I still feel young and healthy but I seem to have hit a brick wall. Do I just have to accept that when I am no longer a carer, my future will be a lonely one?

Coleen says

I don’t think you have to accept anything – especially while you still
feel young and healthy.

No, you haven’t met a life partner but you’ve done a lot more than many folk. And there’s never any guarantees you’re going to meet “the one”.

But I think that what can help is breaking out of old routines – and I get the impression your life is run by routine, partly because of the situation with your parents.

Keep going on holiday but instead of going with your mate every time, try a gay singles holiday. If you’re always with someone you know very well, you won’t feel inclined to talk to anyone else, plus other people might assume you’re a couple.

I understand it must be limiting to live in a rural community but why not look into respite care for your dad or ask other family members to help out so you can get out of that environment now and again?

Visit friends, take a trip to the city – break out of your comfort zone.

Your attitude to life is what will keep you young and open to opportunities.

Good luck.

 

Editorial:  Obviously this is based in England, but it does apply to whatever region you live in in the UK, and as N Ireland is extremely rural, probably more often than we realise over here.  What advice would you give to someone who lives in a rural area, or even a town or city in N Ireland, who is a carer and is gay?

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LGBT community has an answer to lack of gay bars in Cheltenham – it's called GayFriday

 

Dan Herbert and Alex Sass - Gloucester Post

Dan Herbert and Alex Sass

Bereft of a dedicated gay bar, Cheltenham’s LGBT community has come up with a solution.

 GayFriday is a monthly bar crawl with its latest event planned for the end of this month.

The event wasn’t stringently organised but emerged naturally, explained one of the organisers Alex Sass.

The catalyst was the closure of Cheltenham’s only gay club, Embassy in 2014.

Alex, a 37-year-old marketing agency director from Lansdown, said: “For people in Cheltenham, it meant that the nearest place they could be sure of a drink or coffee with a new gay friend would be Gloucester.

“For a while, their bar closed too, leaving all of Gloucestershire without any sort of social meeting place.

“So friends gathered and decided that even if we didn’t always need a gay venue, we would value knowing there would be some gay friends on a night out, just to chat about relationships or even difficulties we might face that aren’t always obvious to our straight pals.”

The nights are free to join and different venues are chosen by the members each time.

“What’s really nice is that some members have started to bring their friends too, gay or straight and it just feels like a really fun, safe night out,” said Alex who works at Eagle Tower in Cheltenham.

“The bars have all been very welcoming and lots of the members have gone on to add each other on Facebook making Cheltenham feel less of a lonely place.”

Alex said GayFriday has been a big success so far.

“I’m not sure other people in the venues we visit would even notice us and that’s great, we’re all part of the same town and we should be mixing in the same venues,” he said.

“It’s just nice to know there’s a friendly face on arrival, someone who knows what it’s like to be you.”

Alex would to see a new gay bar or club in Cheltenham however.

He said: “Personally I would love to see another gay pub in town.

“I think gay culture has often been ahead of the curve in terms of nightlife and music and it’s a shame to lose this diversity.

“I can’t speak for the community as a whole because in many ways the community doesn’t exist.

“We have one thing in common but so much else that makes us individual.

“Gay bars can be awesome, for anyone if they are also awesome bars.”

The next GayFriday bar crawl is on July 31 and will take place in Montpellier.

To get involved visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/gayfridaycheltenham.

Alex added: “You know what’s fab – I’ve lived in Cheltenham for ten years and visited each bar that’s opened in that time.

“Yet in the last few months, through GayFriday, I met at least ten people who I’d never known before. That’s a great thing.”

Read more: http://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/Cheltenham-s-LGBT-community-answer-gay-bars-town/story-26892217-detail/story.html#ixzz3fr78Nwzw

Manchester Pride explores the hidden history of a rainbow city

 

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An interactive project called OUT! will use crowdsourced recollections to celebrate Manchester’s LGBT community

A-1988-Gay-Unity-parade.-009

A 1988 Gay Unity parade. Photograph: Manchester Libraries

From the notorious police raid on the Hulme fancy dress ball in 1880, to the pioneering North Western Committee for Homosexual Law Reform set up in 1964, Manchester’s LGBT community has a long and notable past. Now Manchester Pride is celebrating the city’s stories in an interactive project – and you can be part of it.

Launching online next month and called OUT!, the project will draw together documents, data and crowdsourced recollections to create a digital archive, interactive timeline and an evolving map of Manchester tagged with stories and footage.

“The objective is to allow people to explore the hidden archives and hidden histories that Manchester holds regarding Pride and regarding LGBT as a community,” explains Jake Welsh, managing director of e3creative, the design company developing the site.

Building on a heritage trail initiative from 2003, marked by 19 rainbow tiles at historically significant locations around the city, the interactive map allows users to digitally construct their own walking tours based on the geo-tagged stories. What’s more, the project encourages individuals to add their own memories to the map, from text to photographs, audio to video.

“By dropping pins, they can put their own story forward – so it might be their first coffee where they first held hands with their partner,” explains Daniel Jessop, project manager at Manchester Pride. Contributions can be made anonymously and kept private or shared with all.

The project will also see volunteers actively seeking out contributions from the LGBT community – including at Manchester Pride’s Big Weekend next month. “LGBT history in Manchester has often been recorded as a series of events and I think it’s important to record the culture, as well, that surrounds those events,” says Paul Wheatley, one of the project’s “pride pioneers” who will be helping to gather new media and oral histories, as well as collating material from a multitude of organisations and institutions. “Some of my friends have brilliant stories to tell and are real raconteurs about their experiences and their relationship with the history,” he says. “I think that I will be able to capture those experiences in stories whereas if they were approached by other people they might be more reluctant to give that up.” Creating an accurate and thorough record is also a priority, he adds.

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Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project will be open for contributions until next summer. But it isn’t only positive stories that will be recorded – as Wheatley explains: “Manchester’s LGBT community has been uniquely persecuted,” he says.

“In the late 70s, an obscure law was enforced resulting in police in gay bars holding a wooden rod between men who were dancing, to make sure they were far enough apart. Some years later, the police persecuted same-sex couples holding hands on Canal Street resulting in gay men and women lying down on the road to block their police vans.” Raising awareness of such events, he says, is crucial. “Those struggles are poorly documented and I hope this project will address that.”

Ultimately, Jessop hopes OUT! will not only showcase how far civil rights have come, but also challenge perceptions. “It’s Manchester Pride’s mission, but shared with the LGBT community, to make sure respect continues to be given and also respect for the past,” he says. “People are always aware of 1967 and decriminalisation, that is seen as the one date – but there is so much more to tell.”

 

I respect the gay community…

Belfast Telegraph logoPUBLISHED13/07/2015 | 10:18

 

Adrian Cochrane-Watson: ‘I respect the gay community… they have stayed at my B&B’

The new MLA tells Adrian Rutherford about his plans to revive the Ulster Unionist Party, his views on same-sex marriage and claims that he insulted Travellers.

Adrian Cochrane-Watson

 

Rising star: New Ulster Unionist MLA Adrian Cochrane-Watson hopes to lead a resurgence of his party in South Antrim

Q. You are one of Stormont’s newest MLAs, but how did you get into politics?

A. I’ve been a member of the Ulster Unionist Party for 25 years. I first joined Antrim Borough Council in 1997 and was a member of the Antrim Town electoral area up to the end of last month. My family had always been great supporters of the UUP.

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A former headmaster at primary school, Paddy Marks, was a councillor and we had always been very supportive of him. My uncles worked and campaigned with him. It was a natural progression to vote Ulster Unionist, to identify with the party and, eventually, to stand for them.

Q. You’ve a long record in local government. How different will your role be as an MLA?

A. I’ve always represented Antrim Town. I’ve served as mayor on two occasions and deputy mayor on two occasions. The big challenge for me, in what is a very short period of time before the next Assembly election, is to ensure that what I believe is the best practice that I’ve delivered to the people of Antrim is delivered to the wider audience of the South Antrim constituency.

I’ve only got 10 months to prove myself to them – the people outside the town or borough of Antrim.  It’s a challenge, but it’s one that, working closely with our new MP Danny Kinahan, I feel we can deliver on.

Q. You started at the Assembly on June 29, worked a week, and are now off for nine weeks.

A. No, I’ve a lot of work to do. I’ve already met up with Danny Kinahan and the local council team. Danny only became an MP on May 8.

Together we both have to review the constituency service that we’re offering to see how we can complement each other. We want to look at how we communicate better with the constituency and engage with local community groups.

Q. So it’s not a case of coming along for a few days and going off on holidays for nine weeks?

A. That is definitely not the case. I’ve had the attitude that, even as a local councillor – and I think that role is underestimated – that you’re on call 24/7.

It’s a role I think you have to give a huge commitment to. Certainly I won’t be taking nine weeks’ holidays and I hope the constituency service will reinvent itself over those nine weeks.

Q. Outside politics what are your interests?

A. I’m very family-orientated and my wife and I have four children. I’ve a daughter of 23 and one who is 18. We’re also blessed with a wee boy who is 10 and have long-term fostered another boy who is 13. We’ve just recently taken on a wee boy who is a toddler. He’s been with us for several months. We don’t know what his future will be.

We also have several other kids who come to us for respite. It can be challenging, but it’s rewarding as well to see those children thrive and develop, and for us to make a small difference.

Q. How did you get involved with fostering?

A. We unfortunately lost a child because of a miscarriage. We always had an ambition to have more children, and we thought about it but at the time it wasn’t right for us. We re-engaged with Barnardos, a fantastic organisation, about three-and-a-half years ago and went through the fostering skills programme.

It’s been a great experience for us. The 13-year-old has been with us for about three years and will be with us for life. He’s part of our family. The other wee boy has just joined us, he’s a toddler and a great wee fella. It’s made my wife and I young again, getting up early in the morning and giving him the odd bottle. Every six weeks we’ve a wee boy and a wee girl who continue to come to us.

So every six weeks we have seven kids in the house, but it’s fantastic. They all get on well together. You can do something special for them coming, and they love it. We make as much time as we can for them.

Q. You also have an interest in sport?

A. Yes, I played rugby up until I got too old. I played for the local clubs -Antrim, Randalstown and Ballymena – and represented Ulster Juniors for a short time.

I ended up hurting my cruciate ligament. I did it again messing about playing football, the same one, and the NHS sent me over to a clinic in Liverpool about three years ago.

Steven Gerrard was in the same clinic as me that day – my wife seemed more interested in him.

Q. You were previously threatened with prosecution after confronting an intruder in your home. What happened?

A. I was mayor at the time and my daughter, then 18, was at home with her younger sister and brother, who were about 12 and six respectively.

A man had tried to enter a house on the road where we live about an hour previously. The police had been notified of suspicious activity. We had a wee dog who was ill, and this man discovered the back door had been left open for the dog, and he came in.

It was suggested afterwards he had taken a cocktail of alcohol and drugs. He managed to get inside the house and he tried to engage in some way – he was of ethnic minority – with my daughter. My children were horrified. They barricaded themselves into one of the bedrooms.

My eldest daughter took over, with a hockey stick, to try and defend her brother and sister. Unfortunately the police response wasn’t what was expected. She phoned 999 and mistakes were made by the call centre, which the Assistant Chief Constable was big enough to admit to. She phoned my wife and I, and we made it home from Templepatrick well before the police arrived.

The man was trying to ransack the house, and we held him until police arrived.

Q. Did you assault the culprit?

A. No, there were allegations made but I refuted them at the time. He was 6ft 4, 23 stone. When the police arrived he assaulted the policewoman. Certainly I restrained him until police arrived, but that was it.

This was an individual convicted of assaulting a policewoman, of gaining entry to my home and causing criminal damage to the house. I thought I had every right to restrain him and call the police. Unfortunately, because of the mix-up in the call centre, I was there well before the police did eventually arrive. But I did nothing at all. I was investigated, and I was cleared.

Q. In 2006 you said you would feel uncomfortable having gay couples in the bed and breakfast you ran at the time. Why?

A. This was around the time of civil partnerships being made legal in Northern Ireland. It started after a researcher for the BBC phoned my wife and presented a scenario of a gay couple demanding a double bed.

She made it clear that anyone coming to the house does not demand anything. She clarified her position that she had absolutely no concerns with members of the gay community and I certainly have no concerns. I totally respect members of the gay community.

At that time, with such a young family – it was nine years ago and my daughter was nine, my son was barely two – we just had concerns.

Q. But what concerns?

A. I think the idea of same-sex couples and trying to explain it to a young family, a young family who didn’t have the understanding of two men or two women being together.

If it was a larger facility it wouldn’t have been an issue.

There is no issue today, there has been a huge extension put on and I’m sure members of the gay community have stayed and will continue to stay in the facility, which is now run by my daughter.

Q. Gays are welcome to stay, then?

A. More than welcome.

Q. This had all died down until 2010, when you were not picked as an election candidate because the Conservatives felt you were unsuitable to run in their link-up with the UUP.

A. I was selected by the South Antrim Ulster Unionist Association. Because of the link-up with the Conservatives, both parties had to agree the candidate. They had concerns over myself and the comments I had previously made.

Q. It was obviously very disappointing.

A. It was disappointing at the time. It was more disappointing that the then party leader Sir Reg Empey who came in to stand in South Antrim, and who I fully supported, missed out by about 1,000 votes. That was more disappointing than any personal disappointment I had.

Q. We’ve seen similar incidents such as the Ashers case recently. Is it becoming very difficult for businesses?

A. It’s very disappointing that case ended up in court. I felt it could have been resolved, possibly with a positive outcome for both parties, through dialogue and facilitation.

We’re now in a situation where an appeal has been launched and I can’t say much more.

Q. Do you support the DUP’s idea of a conscience clause?

A. The Ulster Unionist Party view is very mature – it is a matter of conscience. My position is very clear on same-sex marriage. I wouldn’t be supportive of it at present.

However, if there was a debate or discussion in the future, I would enter into it with a very respectful and open mind.

Q. Why are you against gay marriage?

A. I am just slightly uncomfortable with it. I come from a Presbyterian family, from a very Christian household, and within my church and my family I’m just uncomfortable with it.

But, as I said, I’m committed to be respectful. Bear in mind, it was our party which was the creator of Section 75 (which enshrined the rights of every citizen to be treated equally in Northern Ireland) in the Good Friday Agreement.

Q. You previously described Travellers as “scumbags”. Why?

A. It was taken very much out of context. Again, the Travelling community deserve respect and equality. However, they have to adhere to the laws of this country.

We’ve had, unfortunately, in this area illegal encampments, and associated with those encampments has been criminal damage to private property.

Those responsible are a very small minority. As a public representative, I treat everyone the same, and if members of the majority or host community behaved in that manner, they deserve the laws of the country to be imposed on them. I welcome Travellers’ rights, and have worked with Travellers’ groups, and am currently working on a small encampment in the Antrim town area where a family deserves better from the Housing Executive.

But likewise the host community of that area, Rathenraw, deserve better than a Travellers’ encampment being introduced overnight.

Q. “Scumbags” was the wrong word to use then?

A. I certainly wouldn’t use that phrase against the entire Travelling community. No one has anything to fear from me, and certainly not the Travelling community, but the fact of the matter is that all sections of society must adhere to the rules and laws of the country.

Q. Is there a problem with Travellers adhering to the law?

A. No, there’s not, but unfortunately in every social grouping there is a minority – a very small minority – which can get a reputation. The vast majority of the Travelling community is law-abiding and making a positive contribution to the community.

Q. So it doesn’t help when an elected representative refers to them as “scumbags”.

A. I would stress that that was very much taken out of context. It was mis-used by members of Sinn Fein over a specific issue in the town of Antrim.

Q. What are your priorities for South Antrim?

A. As with every constituency, too high a percentage of our unemployed are young people. Between the ages of 16 and 25, we have about 25% of people unemployed.

Young people not actively engaged in employment or training programmes are a target audience which I believe we need to commit more resources to. The main issue, and it has bogged down the Assembly, is welfare reform.

I hope welfare reform will happen and the £600m package which is there, and will support and provide for the most vulnerable in our society, can be implemented.

Q. Can you really achieve much in 10 months?

A. I think you can be judged on two fronts.

The first is how you deliver at the Assembly itself, and sometimes that is dictated by how well the Assembly itself is delivering. Secondly, more importantly, is the constituency service you deliver.

I have had an office in Antrim High Street for 14 years, and have been accessible to the community, dealing with everyday issues. It is about developing a reputation as a hard-working, delivering MLA.

I know I’ve got that reputation in Antrim Town. I want to be sure I’ve got that reputation throughout South Antrim.

We’re a fast-growing association and the past few years have been highly successful.

We ran 12 candidates in the council elections and got 12 elected.

We put up Danny, after 10 years of neglect from Willie McCrea, and won that seat back.

So I think we’re in a very strong position.

Q. Did Willie McCrea really neglect South Antrim?

A. He was possibly the hide and seek champion.

Unfortunately many of us felt he was never around and he wasn’t delivering for the people of South Antrim. It was up to the electorate to decide who was best placed to represent them at Westminster, and by a majority of almost 1,000 they chose Danny Kinahan.

Q. Until now you have been on the outside of the Assembly. Do you think the criticism it gets is justified?

A. There has been a lack of activity from the Assembly. In my very short time there I’ve seen a fantasy budget put forward with a £600m black hole.

I also witnessed an embarrassing episode surrounding Sammy Wilson and the entire DUP Assembly team sitting there trying to defend Sammy. It was quite a pathetic waste of time and public money.

I’ve also seen the problems between the two majority parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP. People must be wondering what is happening, and the answer is not very much.

There has been a lot of inactivity, a lot of indecision, particularly from the Executive and the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

The Irish Scene: Gay Guide to Ireland by Mike Parker (Part 2)

The second part of Sean McGouran’s review of MIke Parker’s book, ‘The Irish Scene: Gay Guide to Ireland”

Irish Scene by Mike ParkerSTROKE

 

Derry’s being denied the second university in the mid-1960s was of the first insults the city refused to take lying down.  (The only other place that could convincingly have been given the new university was Armagh [now a ‘city’ again, due to a piece of paper signed by Bessie Windsor], on the grounds of its historical importance and relatively central location.  But Derry had Magee College, ironically, a state-funded Presbyterian foundation set up in the Anglican-Ascendancy city of Derry, in the 1820s to get trainee Ministes away from radical Belfast.  Injury was added to insult when the O’Neill government  gave the university to Coleraine, which patently did not want it, and is now complacently watching most of the degree courses being moved to the Maiden City.  If o’Neill, the only genuine bigot to rule Northern Ireland, had given the city the university we may not have had to put up with twenty-five years of war).

Limerick’s acquisition of a university was less tortured, a section of the National INstitute for Higher Education (rather more similar to a ‘Poly’ in the UK then the IHE’s) about twenty years ago and it became a university about 1992 – it is a very handsome set of buildings in a big park – too good for mere students  [Paul Calf lives!].

GHOST TOWN

As hinted above, Mike Parker has distinct quirks, and he clearly doesn’t like Belfast.  This might make for entertaining reading, but I suspect that Mike hasn’t bothered to visit the place.  He obviously drove around the Mournes (which he describes as “bucolic”), and along the Antrim Coast road, and seems to have been impress by the Giant’s Causeway (I’ve never been).  Anyway, about Belfast, the industrial revolution sort of happened (this is the usual reason why Brits dislike Belfast – it looks like an industrial city – a handsomer version of Oldham).  There’s no mention of the United Irish-persons (Wolfe Tone is mentioned on page 13) or of the 1798 Uprising.  Odly enough, the Gay law appears to have changed of its own accord, no local agency or agent is noted.  Paisley gets abused, and the DUP is called “tiny”; which it is, in UK terms, but it is a major part in local, or even Irish [geographical expression] terms.  Mike also describes our newspapers, “The staunchly Unionist News Letter (including some stomach-churning attitudes to progressive social ideas) sits against the Republican Irish News.  Straddling the two is the responsible Belfast Telegraph”.

I’d have thought, being a journalist, Mike Parker might have taken an interest in the oldest newspaper in the world (it has been regularly published since 1737).  During the 1790s, when Belfast was the revolutionary foco for the whole of these isles, it was somewhat less revolutionary that the Northern Star, which was the organ if the Society of United Irishmen.  As for “stomach-churning attitudes to progressive social ideas”, he doesn’t quote anything; could it be an attack on our (unselected) rulers in Stormont Castle closing down a bit of another hospital?  Is this ethnic solidarity on MIke’s part?  Would the Irish News relish the description of itself as “Republican”?  The Bellylaugh is taken by most people in Northern Ireland – for the advertisements for houses, cars and jobs.  Its editorial policy was smugly suimmed-up about ten years ago as dealing with the “real-life Unionist/Nationalist conflict” (ie no class politics, please, we’re the Ulster bourgeoisie).  As readers know, our community has had more hassle off the BT than the Irish News or the News Letter (which has given Gay ~ er ~ leaders, column-space, in its time).  You’d also have thought that a journalist might have noticed the growth of small, and not so small, publishing houses in the Six Counties, a walk around any bookshop would have done the trick.

COULDN’T BE ARSED?

Mike clearly does not like Prods; Bushmills is described as a “tight-arsed little Protestant town” – as opposed to slack-arsed little Papist towns, undoubtedly.

MIke rather sells the tourist short, practically nothing is written of County Londonderry, Tyrone, Armagh – or Fermanagh.  No Belleek, no Marble Arch caves, no Bo Island, no mention of the Lakes.  Enniskillen is described as a “nationalist town” –  the good people of Skin Town must have been keeping the rest of us in the dark all of these years.  Even in County Down (or “Downshire” is you are an aspirant West Briton) thee is no mention of Mount Stewart, or say, Hillsborough – the list could go on, and there’s plenty of info as the Tourist Office.

If Mike’s little book goes to a second edition, a sub-editor should cast a cold eye on it.  The “history” is rubbish (the Ulster Plantation led to Partition apart from anything else, this is the One Big Boat theory of the Plantation.  It was not a complex series of events spread over more than a century involving from south west Scotland, as well as State-run Plantations in west Ulster, the Hugenots, the Moravians, the Quakers as well as a fair number of villains).  The attitude to the majority of people who live on this geographical expression, is p[atronising (Mike Parker may well be outraged at this assertion, but it is) and to the Ulster Prods is pretty racist.

All of the above may seem like taking a sledgehammer to the proverbial … but there is no reason why GMP should be allowed to add to the gigantic pile of nonsense written by English sentimentalists about, “Ah-land” or the BBC’s “Eye-land”.

Mike Parker isn’t a good enough writer to make the prejudices witty or sardonically memorable.

 

Editorial – this review was written by Sean McGouran in our paper magazine ‘upstart’

 

 

 

A Few Good Men: An Oral History of Early Gay Porn

OUT dot com logo

 

Few men have had as much an effect on gay culture as Vaughn Kincey, Jack Dufault, Jim Hodges, and Chuck Holmes. In the late 1960s and early 70s, they — under the pseudonyms John Summers, Matt Sterling, John Travis, and Bill Clayton — helped pioneer what would become the gay pornography industry. Gay films made by gay men for a gay audience. Driven by the exuberance of gay liberation and profit, they delivered to millions of gay men the first vision of what an out, unashamed gay life might look like.

But 40 years later, they and the risks they took are still largely unknown and unacknowledged.  While working on Seed Money, a documentary about Chuck Holmes — who founded Falcon Studios, and went on to become the most commercially successful of the four — I kept coming back to the risks and adventure of those first years post-Stonewall. Some of these stories made it into the film, which screens this summer at dozens of festivals, including Outfest in Los Angeles on July 13. But some of the best did not. Here, in the words of those who were there is how it all began.

(Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.)

VAUGHN KINCEY (“John Summers”, co-founder Falcon Studios): It was just a very small group of us when we started.  It wasn’t that many.  At first, it started off me and John Travis.  We were just shooting pictures and running whorehouses.  And then next came Matt Sterling, which was Jack Dufault.  And then came Chuck [Holmes].

I was working on Sutter Street at an art gallery. I was a curator,  and every lunch time we’d go to Union Square to eat lunch and shop at I. Magnin’s, and you know — sissy shit. This one guy was a school teacher and I think he was holding up stores — you know, he had a gun and he was holding up stores convenience stores to raise money. He told me this story about a place on Castro Street that was a place of frequency: a whorehouse. And mmmmmm… I was interested.

So he took me over. The place was just dark and dingy. And the sissies were flying around there like birds and I thought — My God! Who would want to buy one of these fucking sissies? So we talked and said why don’t we come partners — I can bring in art and sheets and beautiful towels… Two months later we opened our place.

I met Bob Damron [of the Damron Gay Travel Guide].  He used to shoot boys, some of the guys in my business, to put into his catalog.  J. Brian was the one that was the architect of it.  It was calledGolden Boys.

JIM HODGES (“John Travis,” co-founder Falcon Studios): I was probably one of the first in the business.  Bob Mizer [publisher of  [of Physique Pictorial] was down here on West 11th Street in Los Angeles.  We were shooting posing straps. And then it went from posing straps to ‘soft’ nudes [with flaccid penises]. And then it went from ‘soft’ nudes to piano wire holding the penis back —  but hard so it would stay down, not go up.  It was a lot of magazine publishing back then.  That is really where it all started.

JOHN WATERS (“Pope of Trash,” director Pink Flamingos): When I was young there was no legal hardcore porn. What was thought of as porn back then was pin-up magazines like Vim and Vigor and all those Bruce of [LA]. And I used to shoplift them because I was too afraid of buying them. If you call that porn, that was the first porn I saw. I read Candy and Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Henry Miller and I went to all the nudist camp and exploitation movies right up to when hardcore finally became legal.

VAUGHN KINCEY: Before you couldn’t actually see a penis, you couldn’t actually see it. There were about three guys that were shooting what they called beefcake. They started shooting boys with no clothes on and oh — the books were selling like you wouldn’t believe.

They fired J. Brian and brought Jim Hodges in, which is John Travis.  So they introduced me to Jim and we just were friends right away.  He spent most of his time at one of my houses and actually almost moved in.  I don’t think he went home but once or twice a month.  He just stayed there all the time.

J. Brian opened up another company called J. Brian Enterprises over on Folsom Street.  He kept wanting to make a movie like a romantic love story but with two guys.  He kept wanting to do it. So the Dean of the University of Oregon gave us the money to do it, and they were shooting — John Travis was running the camera. They were shooting and shooting and shooting. Pretty soon, they had spent up that $20,000 dollars, and [J. Brian] would get drunk every night.

In between shots at the evening, Jim would shoot a little hardcore.  We didn’t know it was hardcore at that time.  He just shot a couple of guys kissing and actually have sex, but the movie that J. Brian was making was not sex. It was just beautiful guys running around half naked. But this was hard sex.  And Jim had shot three or four scenes.

When J. Brian found out what he had shot, they got into a fistfight. Like two bitches going at each other. I had to break them up. So we had to take the film away from J. Brian and have it edited because the guy had a lot of money [invested] in it.

JIM HODGES: I was traveling the country, checking into hotels, meeting interested customers that were interested in buying [hardcore] films.  And I had what you call a demo, an 8mm film that I would run.  It would take about twenty minutes.  It would show four or five short subjects on eight or nine films I had available and they would buy them while they were there.  And then we would talk and chit chat.  And in one of my encounters back at Cincinnati, Ohio, I met Chuck.  And we chit-chatted and talked.  He said, “Oh, I want to get into the business!  Oh, I would love to get into that business!”  I said, “No, I don´t think you really want to deal with the Feds and Postal Inspectors and all the other shit involved.”  “Oh, I want to get into that business and I want to make movies.”  Blah, blah, blah, blah.  Six or seven months later he moved out to San Francisco.

STEVEN SCARBOROUGH (director Falcon Studios, founder Hot House Entertainment): It was extremely closeted. As [Chuck] told it, he had some friends who were in it — I think he means Hodges and Vaughn… And he said: “Oh, I’m smarter than those guys are, and they seem to be making a good living so I know I can do it.” So, evidently, he borrowed $5,000 dollars from someone and that was how he started Falcon.

JEFF STRYKER (porn star): Chuck was the business brain behind everything.  He was the financial whiz.  John Travis was the cameraman. He was the creative aspect of everything. He was the original pioneer. But Chuck knew how to capitalize off this. He was very, very good with money.  So when they got together, it was Travis shooting them and Chuck marketing them and taking it from there. But in the beginning, it was a two man operation. Vaughn Kincey came in because he would sell them the mailing list that he got from this company, that company and the other.

VAUGHN KINCEY: I don’t even remember what we discussed.  It was so unprofessional.  It was like someone says “Hey, let’s do this.”  I said I’m going to set you up, give you all the contacts. I want $5,000 and a little percentage of whatever.  And we just started doing it.  It just blossomed.  You know sex sells.  It just blossomed overnight.

MARTY ROSENTHAL (Le Salon bookstore, San Francisco): When I first got into the industry, they were selling anything at all.  The 15 minute loops, those 8mm loops, were so poorly lit and people’s body hair was not manicured.  Their hair didn’t matter.  Dirty feet.  This was straight and gay porn.  It didn’t matter because it was sex, but sometimes you could hardly even what was going on.

As the industry matured, it became very professional and well-lit, extreme close-ups, beautiful models.  I think Chuck was a major part in getting the industry to that point.

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While sex had been filmed since the invention of the camera, the sale or exhibition of  “porn” — actual sex on film — was illegal. In 1969, San Francisco had became the first city in the US to allow porn to screen in theaters, and the business flourished, leading the New York Times to proclaim it the “Smut Capital of the United States” in 1970. Demand for hardcore product increased nationally, with most of it coming out of San Francisco.

HABIB CAROUBA (owner, Market Street Cinema, San Francisco): On film we just kept pushing the envelope. Whatever you could do. Like, you could show a dick but you can’t show a hard dick — so one time you show him half-hard. But in the old days, with the gay films, we could show anything you want because the cops didn’t want to go [in]. And if you had a gay cop, then he liked it — so he didn’t bust it.

PHIL ST. JOHN (performer and director): San Francisco was wild when I got there in ’71. We went to San Francisco because we had had with the rest of America. We wanted to be free.  We wanted to have sex.  We wanted to be gay. We wanted to be queer, and we wanted to take a lot of drugs and party and listen to really good music… And porn was part of that. Porn is freedom.

I just started going back to school and one day I was walking on Market Street. and some woman came up to me and she said “Do you want to be in a porn movie?”

And I said “A gay porn movie?”  And she said “Yeah, yeah, gay, gay.”  I said okay.  And I was in film school so I thought I kind of owe it to myself to see what it’s like on the other side of the camera. And much to my embarrassment, there was a guy right from film class, one of my straight buddies from film school, who was the cameraman.

He had the lens shoved up right on my ass with me getting fucked on camera. It was wild.

VAUGHN KINCEY: We weren’t making films so that people would say they are having good sex or they are showing how sex should be done. We were making them because we enjoyed it.  We loved it, and that’s what we liked doing.

JOHN KARR (journalist, The Bay Area Reporter): They were very post-Stonewall. They were reflecting new gay freedoms. The ability to have sex — which had been clandestine and furtive. The explosion of gay men’s visibility: on the streets, in the world, in bars that no longer had their windows painted black and the movies quickly reflected this. It was an incredible explosion. How quickly the sense of freedom replaced The Boys in the Band era.=

PHIL ST. JOHN: I was living in the Castro and I had heard about this movie theater downtown. And they said: “It’s a mainstream movie but don’t be put off by that, there is like the wildest sex that you ever saw in your life going on there.” So I went to find it and I didn’t think it was as big as it was.  It was a huge theater. I mean it held maybe six, seven hundred people on the main floor but then the balcony maybe was twice the size.  I mean it was huge, and the bathrooms were wild, too.

There were soldiers. There were sailors. There were like leather guys. There were cowboys. There were even a few drag queens working the bathroom. I mean it was a really wild place.

It took me a while to find the balcony, but once I did, I never left. God, I spent like all my off days from film school in the balcony at the Strand theater.  And it was great!

JOHN KARR: There were double bills that changed every other week. It cost $5 dollars to get in — that was expensive for me to have discretionary income. But I couldn’t deny I wasn’t in the theater every other week when a new movie opened.

Over on Polk Street at California, there was the Laurel Theater. I’m in there watching a movie one evening — and the police arrive. And people were shivering and shaking and crying. And I said, “They just want us to leave. Just leave.”  I don’t know what was really going on, but they were hassling the business.

TED SAWICKI (cameraman and editor, Delta Productions): You have to understand it’s before video and basically the dark ages. No one had ever done this before.

You are going to look at the history. There’s some nudity and some running around, and then it’s going to go to kissing.  And it’s going to go to some full frontal — shocking!  But as far as hard core sex coming on the scene, creeping in ’68, ’69, ’70, ’71, ’71, it had gotten hard core.  Still very illegal.  It was interstate transportation of pornography. It was a felony — and it’s equivalent to smuggling cocaine.

STEVEN SCARBOROUGH: They all hid. They all had noms de porn. At the first hint of a bust they’d all pick up their teepees and run.

There was a motel down there on Sunset [Blvd in Los Angeles], The Saharan, that they all used to shoot in.  And there are stories about the FBI sitting out there in their sunglasses at the swimming pool and watching and shit like that!  One time they had to get the tapes out, they couldn’t get the tapes out of the room — the FBI was downstairs.  So Vaughn tied a towel on his head and got the laundry basket and went up there like the maid, and put the freaking tapes in the laundry basket and went like this, rode out past the FBI.

VAUGHN KINCEY: You had to be very careful.  No one knew where they were going to shoot that day until they were going there. It was a secret. It was terrible. It was like the McCarthy Era for making sex films.

MARTY ROSENTHAL: You weren’t supposed to ship obscene materials across state lines. There were certain areas of the country where we knew we were not supposed to ship anything into. Any porn into certain parts of the South, like Atlanta or Florida. It depended on community standards.

STEVEN SCARBOROUGH: [Chuck] was indicted along with Matt Sterling. The trial was actually in Texas. I think it was a mail order sting.

They showed an interracial scene in the courtroom and one of the prosecutors said “Ladies and Gentleman of the jury — this could be your son!” and one of the women in the jury box threw up. And they went to the judge in chambers and said “Judge we don’t feel like we’re getting a fair trial.” And the judge said “Fair trial? Fair trial? Hell, not too many years ago we’d have taken those old boys out behind the courthouse and hung ’em!” That was what the legal climate was like.

Chuck delayed it. And eventually had it moved to San Francisco. But Matt Sterling wouldn’t spend the money and ended up going to prison [for three years].

JIM HODGES  I decided to discontinue shooting for myself because I just didn’t want to deal with the entanglement of the Feds and postal inspectors, all that shit.  So I let Chuck take the brunt.

The arrest and prosecutions would continue, but by the mid-1970s, there was no real way to put the genie back in the bottle — demand was too great, and the monetary reward matched the risk.  What had started as a handful of men in San Francisco filming sex had grown into a massive industry and Chuck Holmes, as the founder of Falcon Studio, had become its godfather.

Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story, screens at Outfest in Los Angeles on July 13th, and across the country this summer and fall. For a list of upcoming screenings (more to come)  visit the Seed Money official site.

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Coming Out Cards

‘Coming Out Cards’ Provide The Perfect Response For A Newly Out Loved One

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Coming out is never easy.

However, for individuals who have never loved or been close to a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) community, knowing how to respond to someone’s coming out can also be challenging.

For this reason, queer teen John Hansen began making “Coming Out Cards” — free eCards that can be sent to a newly out member of the LGBT community as a small gesture of support and compassion. The cards are often tongue-in-cheek, adding a lighthearted air to what can be one of the most difficult times of a queer person’s life.

“Coming out is often isolating, and continuing a dialogue with someone who has recently come out can make them feel much more comfortable and confident,” Hansen told The Huffington Post. “It can make such a huge difference to remind them that you’re listening, that you understand and that you’re there for them. I hope these eCards will do exactly that.”

The Huffington Post chatted further with Hansen this week about the “Coming Out Cards” and the impact he hopes they achieve. Check out the interview, as well as the cards themselves, below.

Coming Out-2Coming OUt-1

Why did you decide to create these “Coming Out Cards”?
John Hansen: For a while now, I’ve noticed that there are greeting cards for almost every occasion, yet very few geared specifically towards coming out. And so, about a month ago, I decided to change that. Because I’m not much of a designer, a big part of the eCards for me has always been the message — I wanted the cards to feel fun and positive and conversational all at once, so that they’d read like a friend’s dorky text.

Why do you think this resource is so important for the queer community?
The eCards certainly won’t change everything — one of the many pressing issues facing the queer community is acceptance, and it’s brave LGBTQIA+ people across the world who are fighting to make acceptance the norm. But my hope is that these cards will help in that “after coming out” stage, both by putting a smile on a queer person’s face and by letting them breathe deeply because they know they truly are supported.

Coming Out-5Coming Out-4Coming Out-3

In your opinion, why are affirmations of support crucial to the healthy lives of queer people?
Though not every queer person will need an affirmation of support, I do think that — especially in the beginning stages of the process — many people are still deeply uncertain about how their sexuality or gender will affect their relationships, and little affirmations of support can help remind them that it’s going to be okay. Coming out is often isolating, and continuing a dialogue with someone who has recently come out can make them feel much more comfortable and confident. You honestly don’t know what’s going through their mind — they might still be insecure about their sexuality or gender, for example, or they might have had bad coming out experiences in the past and are worried that this one will also turn sour. It can make such a huge difference to remind them that you’re listening, that you understand and that you’re there for them. I hope these eCards will do exactly that.

What do you hope to see from this project in the future?
I’d really love for the cards to reach the right people — by which I mean queer people who might find them funny, yeah, but also others who are supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community but who aren’t quite sure how to express it. I hope these cards will bridge the gap for anyone who is struggling to convey their admiration for a loved one who has recently come out.

Want to see more “Coming Out Cards”? Head here.

Let Us KnowEditorial:  Do you think you would ever use a Coming Out Card?  Have you already used a Coming Out Card?  Write and let us know.

Some Celebrities Who Have Come Out As LGBT

Matt Bomer 2012Gillian Anderson 2012Jodie Foster 2013Wentworth MIller 2013