I have been ruminating over what to write in honor of LGBTQIA Pride. I wanted to put out some long overdue favorite people, artists, reviews, and recommendations for fiction and music. The following list and thoughts are in no particular order of rank or preference.
Actor/Actress: Laverne Cox
I have never seen Orange is the New Black as shows set in prison tend to disturb me a bit and I'm very selective about what I watch. However, I find Laverne Cox to be amazing. She is impassioned and articulate with such a lyrical way of speaking about a subject that must continue to be a struggle in innumerable ways. I admire her tenacity, her drive, her gravitas and wit. I think she has the kind of qualities that would make her an amazing community leader and am glad to see that she has been using her celebrity to help make an enormous impact in the public consciousness with regards to trans issues. Every time I see her speak or comment on things I am blown away with the patience and grace she shows to even those of us struggling to understand. She's been one of my heroes this past year.
Politician: Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
This was rather recent and certainly doesn't trump the many politicians that have taken a stand for LGBT equality, some latecomers to the party but eventually jumping on the wagon with the band. This mayor, however, lives and serves in a state whose political climate has been exceptionally hostile to our community lately. Furthermore, the line that got me in his Op-Ed was that no young person should be made to feel alone or that they can't achieve great things. He's also a younger politician who has put his political career at risk by announcing that he is gay in a place in this country where that still requires a lot of courage.
Favorite Obama Quote: From the White House Correspondents' Dinner
Over the last three WHCD's, or #nerdprom, Obama has pulled off some pretty amazing comedy. Probably my two favorites were the Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann jokes. The first was about Santorum stating he wouldn't go to the same-sex wedding of a friend or loved one and Obama said, "To which gays and lesbians across the country said, 'That won't be a problem.'" The Bachmann joke involved her statement that Obama would bring on the biblical end of days, and to which Obama said, "Now, that would be a legacy...I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they did do that."
Favorite Joke About Obama: Cecily Strong at the WHCD
"Your hair's now so white it can talk back to the police." Absolute genius. This is what great humor about race looks like. It doesn't exploit or dehumanize people of less privilege or power, and it sharply critiques institutions that contribute to the disempowerment of marginalized groups.
Favorite Musical Artist: Adam Joseph
One of my favorite musical artists on the planet, Adam Joseph is not only epically cool and badass, but singularly gifted as a singer and musician. He went to Berkley College of Music in Boston before moving to New York. He has worked as a producer and performer and one of my all-time favorite songs is "Faggoty Attention." He has been working a lot in Europe, and if you're looking for a summer Pride anthem, you won't find better than his collaboration with DJ Inox entitled, "Radiant." Check out that, his 2014 album Love Philosophy - which returns to his more soulful roots - and his single "Turn Me out," all available on iTunes.
Favorite Songs: "Twilight" by Antony & The Johnsons, and "Like a River Runs" by Bleachers ft. Sia
These two songs are absolutely beautiful. I first heard "Twilight" as part of this unbelievable performance by David Pereira. The singer's voice is so evocative and beautiful, and the song has a tender lyricism and melancholy that I can't get enough. As for the song with Sia, I saw this on another gay media site and sampled it on iTunes, and I couldn't praise this enough. Sia's voice is incredible and so powerful, and this song is stunning.
Long Overdue Book Recommendations:
Ethan, Who Loved Carter, by Ryan Loveless - This is one of very few books I've seen that tackles the difficult topic of love and sex between differently abled people. The main character, Carter, is a sympathetic character who wrestles with the ethical lines of being attracted to and loving Ethan, who was left developmentally delayed due to a traumatic brain injury. I don't want to give away too much about this story because I think out of all the books on this list, this is a must read. The writing is solid, but what I found more impressive was the heartbreaking backstory of Ethan and Carter's struggle with where the ethical boundaries lie. The author has predictable moments and the characters don't have much nuance to them. However, the quandary and stigmas that Ethan and Carter must deal with are at the heart of the story and the author lays out questions and struggles rarely touched in M/M romance. So, thank you to Ryan Loveless for tackling this subject and doing so with obvious compassion.
The Protector, by Cooper West
This story presents an interesting twist on the shapeshifter narrative. While it relies on dominant/submissive tropes, and the story arc isn't as smooth as it could be, I think this is worthy of inclusion in the list because of the different take on shapeshifting and because of the romance. I think the struggle is to handle the romance story line in tandem with the conflict of governmental control. Despite this, the romance is enjoyable and the governmental control storyline is interesting.
The Psycop series by Jordan Castillo Price
I love this series. I have listened to it over and over. Anyone who enjoys the supernatural buddy-cop trope will like this. The writing is pretty top-notch, the take on the supernatural is unusual and well handled. I love the main character, Victor Bayne, is sufficiently cynical and insecure that he's both sympathetic and annoying at the same time. There is a similar quality to Harry Dresden where from time to time you shake your head and think, "why did he do that!" However, it is part of what keeps him imperfect and makes me want to read more. It doesn't hurt that Gomez Pugh, the performer on the audiobook version, has really sexy voice. Castillo Price also breaks with the outright dom/sub shtick, giving the main characters a more complicated power dynamic.It doesn't hurt that Gomez Pugh, the performer on the audiobook version, has really sexy voice. If I had a favorite, I might say Body and Soul, but, truthfully, I love all of them. If you're tired of the wizard-cop or wizard-PI trope, this is a fun alternative. Can't recommend them enough. Jordan Castillo Price - I owe you a beer or a hug. Take your pick!
The Thirds series by Charlie Cochet
Another obsession of mine is The Thirds. While Charlie Cochet falls back a little more into the dom/sub trope, there is something about Dex that I can't get enough of. While he is often the more submissive partner between him and Sloane, he rarely seems incapable, or at least I'm not annoyed with the times when he needs rescuing. There are also moments that are laugh-out-loud funny, I'm thinking of the "I pooped today" coffee mug and when Sloane forgot to take off one sock before he shifted. Also, when they're in the training facility with other newbie Thirds pairs and Dex gets up to give some friendly advice. Charlie Cochet - same as with Castillo Price - I owe you a beer or a hug. Thank you for giving us these characters.
I'd also like to give a plug for By Polaris Bright, an anthology of short stories that features my own story "Brennan and the Wolf," a story about a teen struggling to deal with high school, having a boyfriend, and supernatural horrors.