Buttigieg meets with Rev. Sharpton in NYC

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Pete Buttigieg met with Rev. Al Sharpton on April 29 at a restaurant in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood.

A press release Sharpton’s organization, the National Action Network, released before the meeting said the two men “will discuss the need to confront homophobia in the faith community as well as the mayor’s policy agenda for the black community in Indiana and around the country.”

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Yards to ‘Envy’

By : Crystal Schelle OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Above: The cast of ‘Backyard Envy.’ From left are James DeSantisMel Braiser and Garrett Magee. (Photo courtesy Bravo)

From small intimate New York backyards to sprawling hills In the suburbs to transforming a Manhattan parking lot into a tropical oasis — complete with live palms — the trio from Manscapers New York have tackled almost every space imaginable.

James DeSantis, one-third of the exterior and interior design team, hopes that those who tune in to watch the three friends get their hands dirty in Bravo’s “Backyard Envy” can take away some helpful gardening tips, but also see three best friends. Check local listing for air times.

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NY bans transgender discrimination, conversion therapy

By : wire report
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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) | New York has enacted a measure adding gender identity and gender expression to the state’s anti-discrimination law, making it illegal to deny people a job, housing, education or public accommodations because they are transgender.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law on Jan. 25, along with a bill prohibiting conversion therapy. That is when a therapist tries to change a person’s sexual orientation.

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Gay Mexican couple marries in NYC, makes history

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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A same-sex couple from Mexico made history on Nov. 26 when they married in New York.

Mexican Consul General Diego Gómez Pickering officiated the wedding of Daniel Berezowsky and Jaime Chávez Alor that took place at Gómez’s official residence on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Berezowsky and Chávez are the first same-sex couple from Mexico who were legally married outside the country to be recognized as married by the Mexican government.

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You’ve come a long way, baby: Wigstock now star-studded

By : wire report
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NEW YORK (AP) | Neil Patrick Harris and his husband, chef and actor David Burtka, fired up what they call New York’s “last summer blowout” — a six-hour, 50-act drag-queen spectacle staged Saturday on a glitzy Manhattan pier.

It was the revival of a 1980s festival called Wigstock — an impromptu creation of unruly patrons in drag who stumbled out of an East Village club at about 2 a.m. to improvise for homeless people in garbage-strewn, rat-infested Tompkins Square Park. It was, of course, free of charge.

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Man threatened to rape NYC politician, kill gay police

By : Wire Report
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NEW YORK (AP) – Authorities say a man threatened to rape the New York City Council speaker, kill her family and kill all the city’s gay police officers.

Twenty-six-year-old Daniel Silvera was arraigned last week in Manhattan criminal court on charges including aggravated harassment as a hate crime.

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Preaching to the Converted: A southern man

By : Ken Kundis
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KenKundisHeadshotEver since my first New York-area move four years ago, I've heard something more than a dozen times. Perhaps two dozen. People up here are often surprised that not only am I not a native New Yorker, I am also not someone who has spent the majority of their life in the Northeast, or even in urban areas.

Truth is, my path is pointedly Southern, and if not â┚¬Ëœsmall town,' then at least distinctly suburban. I was born at Winter Park Memorial Hospital in 1966. Back then, â┚¬ËœWinter Park' was a quantifiably different place from â┚¬ËœOrlando.' Downtown to me meant Park Avenue. While I was born in Orange County, I lived and was educated in Seminole County. (Anyone familiar with the subdivision Eastbrook will know how it is bifurcatedâ┚¬â€Orange/Seminoleâ┚¬â€roughly in the center.) And in the 1970's in Seminole County, Florida, with Disney's footprint just beginning to stretch, the children of farmers, laborers and rural workers of all types were the company we kept, at least in my elementary and middle school.

The cultural wrinkle for me was that when my parents moved to Winter Parkâ┚¬â€my mother pregnant with meâ┚¬â€from Mechanicsburg, Penn., with my father's job as a civilian working for the US Navy on training simulators, they did so with the majority of their neighborhood. And so not unexpectedly, many of them landed and bought (unbelievably cheap) homes in the same neighborhoods. (I can't help myself but to tell you that my parents bought our 4-bedroom, 2 bath, 1,700 sq foot, block-built house for $7,000  in 1965. They sold it for an $181,000  profit four years before  the Orlando housing boom.) Most landed in Eastbrook, others in English Estates, and some in Carriage Hill, all situated along Aloma Avenue, and all a short drive to the shiny new Naval Training Center just over the Winter Park/Orlando border in what is now Orlando's Baldwin Park.

These transplants brought with them a good many of their Northeastern ways and in so doing, certainly changed my experience from those of other Seminole County children. Italian, Ukrainian, Polish and Russian names were as common in my elementary school as traditionally Southern, English names.

But at the same time, I still knew I lived in the South. While that ethnic diversity in my neighborhood broadened my perspective, I still was very much in the company of traditional southerners. Rednecks, if you will. My high school had an active Future Farmer of America chapter and a good many students whose families came from orange farming or tangential careers.

While occasionally maligned, I felt I got a great education in Seminole County Public Schools, although even then, I could feel a separation from most of the more â┚¬Ëœcountry' of my classmates. It wasn't that I felt superior, I just knew we didn't come from the same mold, and that made it difficult to bond.

From high school, I went to college in New Orleans, a place so steeped in Southern tradition that it's almost a caricature of Southern life. And then returned home, not to leave again until age 41, when I first moved to New York (officially, New Jersey. On my return, I've settled in Hell's Kitchen in Midtown Manhattan).

I officially don't have a Southern accent, but to be honest, that was probably intentional. That said, I can still locate that Southern boy when in the right mood. I was, after all, raised in the bluest county in all of the country. My friend Skip, born and raised at approximately the same time in Titusville as I was in unincorporated Winter Park, didn't really believe I was from Seminole County until he heard me after four shots of Patron. That's the only time the Southern comes outâ┚¬â€when I shoot too much tequila.

I know it's my pace that throws people off whatever their regional version of gaydar is. I talk fast, I walk fast. I tend to think fast. I have a let's say, dry, sense of humor. So many people have told meâ┚¬â€from lifelong friends to new acquaintancesâ┚¬â€that I seem like someone who should live in New York City. I get that and all that it means. I regard it as a compliment.

So I'm right for the city. But the question begs: Is the city right for me?

In many ways, I'm at home here, among all the noise and the lights. I can walk in to a McDonald's and no matter how long the line is, I know I will be out of there in 10 minutes. There is no such luxury in the more polite, but infinitely less efficient South. And there are, tangible, meaningful reasons for me to be here: my boyfriend chief among them, of course. But also my job, based out of Rockefeller Center, is truly a dream job and a 12-minute walk from my apartment. Another dream. Plus, as many have correctly noted, the city and I are on the same RPMs.

So have we arrived? The boyfriend, the job, the New York City life? Wellâ┚¬Â¦yes. And no.

I can't lie: I miss the verdant physicality of life in Florida. I miss owning property. Yes, I still own property in Orlando, but now from the distance of a landlord.

My beloved Boris, who I suddenly, sadly had to put down in December, was certainly a freer animal in Florida. Critters everywhere to hunt, a lake to swim in just around the corner, and his own backyard definitely spoiled him for the cold streets of Manhattan, peeing on the street and wincing whenever a horn blew. (Which is all the time.)

And in his passing, maybe the last connective thread to actually living in Florida has been broken. But somehow I don't think so. For me, it now, and always has, goes deeper than that. For all the outward appearances, and even my own protestations to the contrary, I am a Southerner by birth and the impression it left on me won't ever leave me.

Under the covers of this New York life, I am still a Southern man. That's where I was born, and something tells me I'll get back there some day.

Preaching to the Converted: The last normal man in Manhattan

By : Ken Kundis
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KenKundisHeadshot_808353452.jpgOne year ago in this space, I wrote a column called “The Summer of Dating.” It was to be a road map to guide me through the dating process for a 40-something year old man living in the greater New York City area. For that summer, and the remainder of the next 12 months, I tried to follow the ground rules I had set: date often and date different types of men. Try to let infatuation grow into something more meaningful of its own accord instead of making a binary yes/no decision within minutes, as is my habit.

I had a wonderful time meeting different guys and seeing the city through the eyes of other people. I increased my circle of friends and my range of experience. But as for love connections, I was coming up pretty much dry. Sure, I had my share of man-on-man fun, but finding that was never the problem nor the point of the exercise. More than anything, what I received most bountifully was funny anecdotes about some pretty colorful characters. A quick scratch under the surface revealed dysfunctions so odd you couldn’t help but laugh.

There was Wayne, who told me on the third date that he could see himself spending the rest of his life with me, and then wouldn’t return my call after the fourth.

There was Adam, a man so hopelessly insecure that he would burst into tears on the street at the slightest provocation.

There was Anwar, a gleamingly intelligent and impressive man, who was such a poor communicator that the simplest situation turned into a major drama.

And there was Dean. Dean was sexy and smart, a little elusive. He warned me early enough.

“I’m damaged” he told me, and it was endearing to me how transparent he could be. He was smart, interesting man with a problem. No matter the packaging, that seemed to be the connective thread in every romantic association I had ever had.

From that early conversation we were virtually inseparable for three months. We travelled together, slept together, texted and emailed all day long. And I got to see just how damaged he was. If anything, it made me more committed to helping him. That’s how I’ve always established my worth in relationships.

The red flags were so prominent they looked like they had been installed by Christo. He told me he had low sex drive, couldn’t access feelings of intimacy and was not an affectionate person. He took a shopping list of anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. He also displayed some pretty unattractive points of view regarding race, weight, socio-economic status. In short, Dean was something of an asshole, a status he clearly coveted and enjoyed. Somehow, this didn’t send me screaming into the night. Instead I played along and took some dings to my self-respect in the process.

And then the dysfunction and all the craziness that I had seen directed toward other people was suddenly (and predictably) pointed at me. In the article from a year ago, I had observed “If you feed the lions, it’s not the lion’s fault when he eats the food, and potentially, you.”

With Dean, I didn’t just feed the lion, I put myself on the platter. The ending was harsh and frustrating, a little wacky and, yes, humiliating.

But instead of going deeper, I took a step back. There wasn’t a single person I had found thus far in this experiment that I could say was genuinely happy. Dean, in fact, might be the most profoundly unhappy person I’ve ever come across.

Enter Phil. We ‘met’ online and had exchanged pleasant messages. Serendipity interceded. I really was just looking—as cold as it sounds—for a palate cleanser. A nice evening with a nice guy over a couple of beers.

We met at Ty’s on Christopher Street. He was the first thing I saw as I walked into the bar. Smiling broadly, far more handsome in person than in his pictures, I was immediately disarmed.

So we ordered drinks and talked and he was, gulp, normal. Happy, successful, seemingly well adjusted, friendly. His one pet peeve? “Mean people.” Our chemistry was unmistakable and become apparent when I leaned in to spontaneously kiss him 15 minutes after sitting down.

Since then, we’ve continued to move forward without pause or impedance. There’s no drama, no ambiguity, no indifference. He likes me, I like him. It’s terribly normal.

After three years of dating in New York City, I had forgotten what it felt like to meet someone, enjoy their company, be willing to say you enjoy their company and just let inertia take its course. That night, as we talked and laughed and flirted, a spark of recognition filled me.

“This is what it’s supposed to feel like.” Not difficult, not ambivalent. It should be easy when you meet someone. If it’s not, it’s not.

I don’t know what the outcome with Phil will be, particularly as a major complication sits on the near horizon. For occupational reasons, I’m moving back to Orlando. But I know whatever happens between the two of us, it will be what is supposed to be.

And it will be perfectly normal.