Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Forgotten Lesson: A Young Person’s Experience at the AIDS Memorial Quilt

This is a guest blog written by my friend Daniel Pino, a sweetheart and a staff member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This blog originally appeared on the Task Force's blog at http://thetaskforceblog.org/2012/07/25/forgotten-lesson-a-young-persons-experience-at-the-aids-memorial-quilt/

Typically when escaping the dim-light of the Smithsonian metro station in Washington, D.C., in the middle of the sweltering summer humidity that D.C. is known so well for, you’re hit with sensory overload: groups of school children gleefully crowd museum entrances, tourist families stop every 10 feet to take group photos in their patriotic T-shirts, and locals play games of Ultimate Frisbee or soccer in between water breaks. All activities fearlessly displayed with little regard for on-looking stares and high enthusiasm for living in the moment. It’s a prime spot for people-watching and one of the special things about the District. But this past Monday morning, as I exited the cavernous station, I was taken aback to see a different site: almost nothing.

Rather than seeing a gaggle of laughing kids on a field trip or athletic bodies warding off the efforts of their opponents, the Mall was empty except for small pods of fabric strategically placed in four rows in the center of the greenery and suited crowds jostling to their office buildings. Realizing I was in the right place, I made my way toward the Capitol building where other volunteers for the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt were preparing for the day’s events.

Up until this point, I had never seen the AIDS Memorial Quilt in its entirety. Sure, I had seen individual panels at various conferences and events and seen dozens of photographs in history books and queer-themed scholarly articles — but never in person. When the Quilt was first displayed on the National Mall in 1987, I was three months away from entering the world, whereas the second time it came to D.C. in 1996 I was learning long division. For me, the Quilt was never so much a real-time phenomenon as it was something that just had always been — like the Washington Monument or Niagara Falls. It possessed an almost “tourist-esque newness” but not a personal connection.

As I talked with friends about my eventual volunteering for the Quilt display over drinks the days beforehand, I encountered polite comments of “That’s gotta be so hard” and “Get a picture of _______ celebrity’s panel.” For my generation, that sense of the Quilt being less of a revolutionary memorial to a commodified attraction wasn’t just personalized to my own experience. Which had me reflecting during the walk on the gravel path of the National Mall: Why is that?
Thinking on this question I realized that I (and my generation) occupy a very privileged historical position. Privileged in that I was born into a world where AIDS was no longer known as GRID, where condoms were not just the expectation but the norm, and where fears of infection did not debilitate my conviction to come out of the closet. I could freely adopt lovers in self-protective and self-ecstatic means, I could march on the very same National Mall for marriage equality and military service while reading about ACT UP as a long-gone “historical development,” and I could maintain friendships with positive-bodied friends for months and years on end due to breakthroughs in medical technology.

AIDS never felt like an eventual monster so much as it did an invisible boogeyman that my elders used to keep me in line, and, in turn, the Quilt was just that: a quilt.

Something changed this week.

As fellow volunteers and I carefully unfolded the seemingly dull patches of fabric into a beautiful cacophony of colors, memories and emotions standing out vividly against the muddy green of the Mall’s landscape, each panel of a long past person made me feel something. I laughed at reminiscent quotes on panels of drag queens, I welled up at a panel with nothing more than a baby rattle and the text “her favorite thing” and I was overwhelmed by the ages, faces and names of thousands of people lost to something I’ve only really grown up dismissively acknowledging.

All morning long, we unfurled the panels. All morning long we were met with more panels that needed to be exposed. All morning long.

The tourist-ness of this old cloth attraction began fading and the true meaning of the Quilt began breathing life. It became something more than a patch of fabric. I saw each panel as a person, as a family, a lover and a friend celebrating and mourning a memory — each one beautiful and cherished in its own right. And that boogeyman that I only tipped my hat to scared the hell out of me.
Daniel Pino reading names at the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

After moving from nearly one end of the Mall to the next with a wake of swatches behind us and ahead of us, the team and I chose to participate in the reading of the names of those lost to AIDS. After a long, thoughtful walk I was standing on the main stage shoulder to shoulder with strong queer women, many of whom not only lost their loved ones to the disease but had constructed their own panels. They forged the families of necessity I’ve only read about and literally moved the movement. Hearing them read the names of friends with conviction and tears, I wondered how I could, in any way, contribute or stand on the same platform, honoring the same dead they had known and loved.
I tried, timidly and as reverently as I could, to speak each name aloud with clarity and respect. By doing so, I hoped that by pronouncing each name correctly and over enunciating each syllable precisely I could achieve some semblance of understanding. I made it through the first of two pages I was given to read. Until I finally reaching the third to last name: “Died Alone…But Not Forgotten.”
I paused, awash with the phrasing until unexpectedly tears started welling up larger and larger until I had to stop midway through the next name. I tried choking back the tears, hoping to regain my rhythm but I kept crying. I read the last three names through those tears, until I finished and turned to be hugged by those amazing women who were standing behind me. And it made sense. It all made sense.

I had started crying not just from being overwhelmed or because the experience was “so heavy,” but because I had forgotten…in fact, I had never known the reality of what AIDS had done to my community. Reading about it in scholarly articles and history books wasn’t enough. My friendships with HIV-positive people weren’t enough to inform my own privilege. All the book-smart and street-smart experiences in the world could not have prepared me for that realization that I had forgotten. It wasn’t just enough to know of my history, I needed to engage with it.

I needed to touch the memories, read the names and feel a fraction of the emotion of those who forged the panels and then placed them so willingly in my generations care.

So as I left the National Mall, now fuller with tourists on the carousel outside the Smithsonian Castle and the sun piercing through the city smog, I left with an appreciation and an unforgettable lesson, which I think the poet Robert Penn Warren sums up the best, “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.” Here’s hoping more of my generation learns that lesson and there won’t be another forgotten person.

Friday, July 27, 2012

An Open Love Letter to My Community

Dear Friends, Family, and Loved Ones:

I received a hateful and spiteful letter in the U.S. mail the other day from an anonymous writer that reads my FB and blog and lives in St. Louis. I sat with the letter for several days. At first it made me angry, and then it made me feel ashamed, and now I hold it for what it is: a sad, hurt, angry, self-loathing attempt by someone to offload their own feelings of inadequacy on others. The only thing I truly have to say to you is that I hope you find the love, healing, grace, and peace that you seem to not have in your life in this moment. You deserve it.

The one point in the letter, though, that truly made my eyebrows raise was when I was accused of, and I am paraphrasing, loving my friends, boyfriend, community too much (or as anonymous said...when I am in love the whole word has to hear about)....acting as if you are all superstars, phenomenal, the best people ever. Please note I was not accused of putting down the friends, family, and loves of others only that I loved you all too much and too publicly and without the appropriate amount of humility and self-effacement.


Let's start off with something simple. Nico, I love you. But you already knew that. And you know why. You are French and stoic, so I won't embarrass you by listing why exactly you have captured my heart. I love you. Now get back to saving the world from itself.

But that's not all, I love so many other people: David, Kenyon, Rodrigo, Jennifer, Nubia, Chad, Jenna, JT, Umberto, Pookie, Tasha, RJ, Bebe, Amber, Jay, Collette, Susan, Rocki, and so on and so forth and on and on and on and on. Guess what? There is no lack of love to be given or accepted. I love you all, my community, my friends, many of my former boyfriends, some folks that are no longer on this earth. I love you. Thank you for all that you have given me and for the times you have allowed me to be of service to you in friendship.

To my family, my brothers and sisters, my Dad, my Mom, my step-Mom, my nieces and nephews, my godson, cousins, family of choice, family of origin, I love you. Thank you for holding me, raising me, growing with me, and giving me the gift of your love.

To my political family, especially Paula Austin, thank you for building with me, checking my ass when it needed to be checked and DOING IT WITH love and compassion (shout out to Irma and Lolan), and to those that have helped me understand what it means to be a feminist, a radical, a man, privileged as well as oppressed, and the responsibilities that come with access. Thank you. I will continue to fuck up and I know that you will hold me down and hold me correct when need be. Thank you.  I love you.

To the poets and writers of the world, I love you, keep sharing your stories and your truths....we all need them. To my ancestors: Black, White, Anishinaabe (LCO Band of Ojibwe where my Mother is an enrolled member as are all of my relatives of the last generation), and Puerto Rican...thank you....your work and breath made my life possible. I love you.

And to those that have offered up their less than loving critique, thank you for giving me a gift to see myself, my work, and my place in the world as distinct from how you live yours. I will continue to celebrate my life with love, my community with love, my work with love, my family with love, and even those that believe I am nothing more than the basest of their perceptions, I love you too.

Thank you to you all. One love.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jig

So, I am sitting in the lovely home of Betty Tisel and Sarah Farley, in the Kingfield neighborhood of South Minneapolis. I love this home. It is so warm and welcoming. It's a beautiful structure, inhabited by a caring family, and the energy is bright and clear. Betty and Sarah, along with their children Owen and Nora, have welcomed me into their home a half dozen times in the last couple of years, and I am always cognizant of the gift.

I am in welcoming home, in a city I love, on a beautiful day that began with a love filled morning when I met my beloved Susan Raffo for coffee. Susan asked me a question this morning about home, and if I thought of New York as home now. I had a complicated emotional response, but the answer, for me, is clearly no.

I love New York. I do. I feel comfortable there. I have managed to learn her rhythms and seasons. I can navigate her with ease, and I understand the dangers and the gifts that she can offer. She is less of a Big Apple and more of a Big Onion. I am constantly peeling back her layers and discovering new, wonderful, and terrible things about her. I am beginning to understand her governance structure, and I am integrated into community there in a way that I have not been in any other place except for Minneapolis.

Except New York isn't home. Minneapolis is. Yesterday, I was driving around with my childhood friend, Dr. Dawn Anderson, and I was struck again and fell in love again with the beauty of Minneapolis. Tree lined boulevards framing beautiful and architecturally distinct homes. The Minneahaha Creek bisecting the southside of the city, graceful bridges spanning its breadth. The streets covered in emerald canopies, wildflowers and sculptured gardens in front yards and along the curbs.  In a city of 22 lakes, the creek, the Mississippi River, and designed so that no resident lives more than a half a mile from a park, and you can imagine that in the summer, it is a gracious and gorgeous place to be.

We won't talk about the winter right now. But, I actually love Minneapolis in winter too....but I like to love it from inside a heated building.

From the people, to the way community is built here, the access to arts and performance, the education of the people, the diversity of the populace, the amazing food, and the more amazing friends, all combine to make this star of the north my home. It's in my blood and heart, and although it has been four years since I moved away from this place, coming back is like stepping into a favorite pair of pants, worn enough to be soft and to conform to my shape and shades, and it feels like love to be here.

Who knows if I will ever return to Minnesota as a full time resident. With the trajectory of my life as it is right now, that is seeming less likely. But Minnesota, and Minneapolis in particular, will always be a part of my heart, it will always be home, and it will always be a place where you will find me, from time to time, wandering its streets, dancing in its bars, and loving its people.

This is what home feels like. xoxoxo.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shit Dumb Ass Straight Dudes Say: Which One Of You Is the Woman?

Anyone that has grown up gay or been around gay men or have a gay friend or seen some bad 80s gay flick has heard the line, "So, which one of you is the women?" Usually spoken by some jackass of a straight man to a gay couple, and often times followed by a bashing of some sort.

Honestly, while I know that I have heard that question before, I believe the last time I heard someone ask that question, seriously, was sometime around 1996. In this post-Ellen, post-Will and Grace, Every-Show-Has-A-Gay-Sidekick era, I thought, maybe, perhaps, we'd at LEAST gotten far enough along that at LEAST any URBAN dwelling dumb-straight-man would know better.

Apparently not. Yesterday, there was a thread on my Facebook page that was started about an over the top hot Latino FedEx dude I passed on the street. As my Facebook page is wont to do, the topic quickly filled up with sexual innuendo (this time started by my boyfriend, ahem, Nicolas!). This kid with whom I attended high school, Jack, decides to chime in not really knowing what's going on. So I said, Jack, we are using gay sex innuendo.

Jack replies, "What happened to women?" And then he says, "So, which one of you is the woman, Brandon or Nicolas."

Did you hear that sound? Did you? It was the sound of the lock turning in the library door.


There were a couple of comments interspersed with his before I could get to chapter one, so I decided to make this a short story.

I said, "Jack, you should be lucky that I don't want women, because, frankly, I would take yours." And to his response asking which of us, Nico or I, happened to be the woman, I responded.

"Nico is all man. I am a man. If you are asking who is the bottom and who is top, why don't you come over and I'll show you. Make sure to be well lubed as I am not known for being gentle."

It was sometime after that when Jack de-friended me.

Child please.

Lets be clear for a minute, revisit some fundamentals, since we are reading, while I know some gay men that are in relationships with women....when two men that identify as men enter into a relationship with one another...neither of them is "the women." The connotation being which of you is submissive, passive, gives up power, submits, serves, etc....and not in the fierce S/M  and B/D Leather Community empowered submission way but in that misogynist fucked up barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen sort of way. 

Plus, I've said it once. I've said it twice. Bottoms have all the power. Lord knows I will do just about anything to get into some good booty. And an excellent bottom can get me to walk on water to get to that ass.

Though once I get a hold of said bottom.....it's ON!

There you have it, Jack. I am a man. I am fairly certain I outweigh and could drop you if necessary....and the next time you decide to show up in all your misogynistic, heterosexist, and homophobic glory in someone's life...please be sure 1) that they can't choke you out with little effort, 2) aren't fiercer than you are, and 3) don't have access to a blog with 60,000 readers a year and won't put you on blast.

The end.

PS An addendum I think power is shared, but I'm just saying a good bottom....will be worshiped...FILTER BRANDON FILTER!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Theater Review: Bebe Zahara Benet's Creature

So, I have seen Bebe Zahara Benet's Creature, I believe, four times now. There has only been once that I haven't seen the show during a run. Now, full disclosure, Bebe is one of my best friends. I have known her for five years, and I have been a fan since she was working a working class dyke bar on University Avenue (The Townhouse) in St. Paul, MN. I was in the bar the night she announced she was going to be on a new reality show called RuPaul's Drag Race.

Well, as y'all know she went on to win the first season of that show. That's my girl.

What has always impressed me about Kudi (that's Bebe's given name) is that Kudi is an artist. From the clothing he designs to his performances as Bebe....he constructs his work with the utmost integrity, commits himself to constant improvement, and lets us have it every time.

Last night Miss Bebe gave us a victoire!

Each time Creature is mounted it has been deepened and expanded. It's now a full on 360 degree experience. I thought the last version of the show, which I saw in the beginning of June was amazing (and after which I had an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction....I popped a squat on the dance floor and blew out the back of my shorts....no such mishaps last night though my mind was blown)!

Last night's Creature was OVAH! Not only were the dancers on point, the vocalists letting us have it, and Bebe in proper form....she added a new Egyptian element to the show including a cadre of fierce belly dancers that let us have it let us have it let us have IT!

Oops she did it again but even better than before.

Do yourself a favor....Creature will be playing every Friday for the next month at XL Nightclub in New York, which is located on 42nd Street between 10th and 11th avenues. GO AND SEE THIS SHOW!

I will be seeing it for the fifth time.

PS And do not fail to oooh and ahhh at Eddie Carrington and Roger Turner, Bebe's principle dancers. Those boys do some things in a loin cloth to make me want to get down right Serengeti up in there.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Get Your Laugh On with D'Lo in D'FunQT

Listen to mama here for a moment...around about eight or nine years ago, back in my homeland of Minneapolis, MN, I decided that in my next life I wanted to be a Sri Lankan lesbian. I filled out all the forms, and though the waiting process is long (I am hoping a good 60 more years), I am fairly certain I will be approved.

Every Sri Lankan woman and/or trans man that I have met is fucking fierce. I am so ok with making that generalization. And since I am permanently, cross many lives queer, I figured...well Hell...I might as well go on ahead and switch it up a little...but not too much. Here pussy pussy pussy!

So back in Minneapolis, through my fantastic friends Chamun Wanduragala (also check out and BUY Chamun's art and clothing) and Deepa Jeeva, I met another fierce Sri Lankan by the name of D'Lo. Now, I knew D'Lo, originally, through his poetry---and I believe we both performed at the 2004 PeaceOut East Queer Hip Hop Festival in NYC, it was through Deepa and Chamun and their performance production group Diaspora Flow that I got to know D'Lo. In fact, in 2005, I had a staged reading of my play, Dividing Lines, and D'Lo was the director.

I haven't seen his beautiful fierce self since probably 2006, but let me tell you that my love for him, his work, and the way he lives his life and creates community are appreciated and valued by me.

Now I have a chance to give a little bit back from what I received those many years ago.

D'Lo has a show going on RIGHT NOW in New York at Dixon Place, and this comedian, poet, actor, fool (in the old school meaning of the word....as in funny as shit entertainer)...is gonna give you something to feel about, talk about, maybe touch yourself about for a very very long time.

Help me show D'Lo some real love by checking out his show this weekend or next weekend. I am including a bit below about the show, a couple of links to trailers and info on how you can get tickets. This is what's up y'all. Check this show out!

About D'FunQT

D’FunQT is a one-person show featuring the inimitable comedian D'Lo sharing hilarious and poignant snapshots of the worlds that shaped who he is now. D'Lo grew up in a strict immigrant family, caught between two overzealous parents who provided a wealth of material for his self-reflective musings, rants, and side-splitting coming out stories. Written and performed Leguizamo-style, this one-person show celebrates the joy of survival in a world often intolerant of difference.  As a queer boy/stud/transgender person, D'Lo unapologetically takes center stage and uses his fluidly morphing form and spot-on timing to bring the fierce with the funny.
We've had two packed shows so far, and the crowds have been incredible. In the house on opening night, we had SALGA (South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association) and Q-Wave (a queer Asian organization), and they're responses were overwhelmingly positive especially in reaction to the parts about growing up in an immigrant family. The next night, when Bklyn Boihood (a collective of Masculine of Center people of color) came to the show, the formulating of a new queer masculine/trans identity really spoke to them. After the show, we've been gathering everyone into the lounge for an informal after party where many people, straight and queer, have come up to me to tell me how important they think D'FunQT is, not only for queer people who can relate, but for non-queers who have never really had to consider what it means to live the lives we live every day. 
D'FunQT shows four more times: this weekend and next weekend (Fridays and Saturdays).

D'Loco Kid Productions
Contact: Tim Ranney    tim@dixonplace.org    Office: (212) 219-0736
New York City, June 6, 2012 – As part of the annual HOT FESTIVAL, Dixon Place Theater presents D'FunQT (pronounced "defunct"), a one-person stand-up storytelling show by L.A. based theater artist/writer D'Lo. D’FunQT opens Friday, July 6th at 9:30pm at Dixon Place Theater at161A Chrystie Street, NY, NY 10002. Run time is approximately 1 hour and twenty minutes; there is no intermission. D’FunQT runs from July 6th to 21st, Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30pm. Tickets are $15 pre-sale, and $20 at door. Students and Seniors can pay $15 dollars at door. Box office opens ½ hour before showtime. Any inquiries for group discounts and industry tickets please email contact@dixonplace.org. Media comps, photos, videos and interviews are available upon request fromtim@dixonplace.org For tickets and information call (212) 219-0736 or visit www.dixonplace.org
D’FunQT is a one-person show featuring the inimitable comedian D'Lo sharing hilarious and poignant snapshots of the worlds that shaped who he is now. D'Lo grew up in a strict immigrant family, caught between two overzealous parents who provided a wealth of material for his self-reflective musings, rants, and side-splitting coming out stories.  Written and performed Leguizamo-style, this one-person show celebrates the joy of survival in a world often intolerant of difference.  As a queer boy/stud/transgender person, D'Lo unapologetically takes center stage and uses his fluidly morphing form and spot-on timing to bring the fierce with the funny.
Director Steven Sapp has strengthened the workshop production of D’FunQT that was originally presented at Dixon Place’s 2010 Hot Festival. Co-Founding member of Universes, Steven Sapp’s credits include: Playwright/Actor-AMERIVILLE (dir. Chay Yew); One Shot in Lotus Position (The War Anthology-Curious Theater-dir. Bonnie Metzger); RHYTHMICITY (Humana Festival); SLANGUAGE (NY Theater Workshop-dir. Jo Bonney). On working with D’Lo, Sapp says, “D’FunQT comments on transgender secularity and spirituality through a stand up lens. D’Lo is a fresh new voice; the politics and the personal combine, he’s in the middle of black & white politics, in the middle of the conversations of man and woman, and happens to be a gender non-conforming actor whose writing and poetry talents show even in stand-up.”
D'Lo is a queer Tamil Sri L.A.nkan-American, political theatre artist/writer, director, comedian, and music producer. His writing has been published in many anthologies and academic journals. D’Lo is a recipient of multiple grants from the National Performance Network and has been touring the  NPN circuit as well as the college/university circuit for over a decade with performances and speaking engagements, as well as presenting his one-person shows in theaters internationally. www.dlocokid.com
D'Lo has gone from performing for his friends at grade school to performing in front of fans all over the world.   D'FunQT the show is D'Lo's gift to all the communities with which he identifies.  The challenges confronting fierce queers and people of color reform under his sharp observations. “This show is a chance to be seen and reflected, to exhale in peace, to celebrate in laughter, and to feel accepted in all our glory in the presence of other good people.” D'Lo is a source of power all by himself, championing a voice that speaks to the heart of what matters most.  
Catch this show.  You may just catch yourself cracking up and when it's all said and done, being put back together again.  One thing's for sure: D'Lo knows how to fight against being defunct.
For tickets and information: (212) 219-0736

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Brandon Work Out Plan

So, many of you have asked me about my diet and work out plan that helped me get to the point I have reached physically. So here it is.

First, I need you to open Spotify and turn on Kanye West's New Work Out Plan. This is essential. Everyone needs a soundtrack; begin.

So here's the scoop. There is no magical mystical way for you to build the body you want. There are various programs that can teach you how to adjust your portion size and manage the calories you intake, but here is the basic, bottom line: I eat what I want to eat but I eat it in small portions. In general, I have a smoothie for breakfast, I eat a decent lunch (even with take out, which I eat almost every day during the work week, I opt for non-fried options on the Chinese menu but then make sure that I am only eating enough to satiate my hunger and not overeat). For dinner, I try and cook for myself, and, again, eat decent food, not deep fried, but it is the food I want to eat. Rice-a-roni and steak is one of my favorite meals, the key is don't eat everything in the pot or pan.

The basis for my workout is very simple.  It is the 5x5 Strong Lifts philosophy, which you can find laid out on their website. But the basics are these:

1) Until you can squat one and a half times your body weight, you should do full body work outs and not exercises that focus only on one muscle area (for example, you wouldn't do bicep curls but would focus on exercises that work total muscle groups and areas). This is critical as it builds up your complete body strength, develops your muscles naturally and in tandem to one another, and does not lead to overdevelopment.

2) Your lower body is ESSENTIAL. All of your largest muscles are in your lower body. Your glutes being the biggest muscle group. The core of the 5x5 are squats, which if done correctly and with a bar and free weights works ALL OF YOUR MUSCLE GROUPS! This is truly key. You should, as much as possible, avoid using machines to do your exercises....using free weights requires you to keep your body in balance and strengthens muscle groups that are not engaged if you use a machine to balance for you.

3) Five by five is just what it means. You do five sets of five reps each at the highest weight that you can handle. This allows for maximum growth AND also keeps you from plateauing.  There are ten basic exercises that you do split between alternating work outs. Again you can find these on the Strong Lifts website.

4) Once you have built your basic strength, then it becomes essential to mix up your exercises and do a combination of machines, free weights, and cables in order to keep things popping and mixing.  I do the same basic exercises but I do them using different types of weight equipment and this keeps your body guessing and growing.

5) There is only really one ab exercise that you need to do to get decent abs...REVERSE CRUNCHES! Here is a video link to what they look like.

6) Consistency is key. If you really want to transform your body, then commit to the gym five days a week for at least an hour to and hour and half. Thirty minutes should be cardio (of your choice) and the other hour weights. YOU MUST DO CARDIO AND LIFT WEIGHTS! Your body shape won't change just by doing one or the other, in tandem they cut, slim and build. Your heart health is critical and cardio is how you strengthen that muscle.

7) There are natural supplements you can take...and if you are in New York, I would highly suggest taking a trip down to Eva's Natural Foods on 8th street and have a chat with the folks in the supplement section about your weight training goals and they will provide you with the supplies that will help keep your liver and body healthy as well as maximize your work outs.

8) For people living long term with HIV. Go to your doctor and have your testosterone levels checked. HIV inhibits testosterone production and often we have less than necessary. Your doctor can prescribe for you the best way to increase your levels, which could be a gel, patch or, in some cases, injections. It is critical for people living with HIV to increase your lean muscle mass. It helps with white blood cell production and in keeping you healthy.  And exercise also helps control depression and anxiety.

9) Be gentle with yourself and patient. Ignore the mirror and STAY OFF OF THE SCALE! Especially if you are trying to lose weight, your enemy, especially in the first month to six weeks is the scale. It takes at least 30 days of regular exercise to see a change. You will feel a change well before that, but the number on the scale often puts people off...remember muscle weighs more than fat and burns more calories...your body will shift but give it time and know that you are doing right and best by yourself by building muscle. The more you build the more accelerated the weight loss.

10) Do all of this for yourself and for reasons that apply to your life and not what the world and the media will tell you. Love yourself and do this for the right reasons and it will become a lifestyle change that you will enjoy.

That's all I got.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Butch Bodied Femme and the Man Nod

A few months ago, I was sitting around the back tables at QEJ with Amber, Jay, some interns and some other folks and we were talking about our identities. Other than Jay and our awesome intern V, QEJ has now and always has been staffed and run by an overwhelming number of femmes---male and female.

On this particular day, we were all chatting about our plethora of identities, and when it got to me, I outed myself as a femme. Amber looked up and looked at me and said, "Your femme identified?"
And I responded, "Have you met me?"

For years, I have identified myself as femme. In Minneapolis, I was an early member of the Femme Mafia (sigh how I miss my hometown femme posse), and I have written about and spoken about what it means, for me, to identify as femme. Not since my twink days (see my recent blog post with pictures from that era), though, have I had a body type that is often associated with femme boys. To be clear, femme boys are often either thought of us very skinny types, the twinky femme, or the big girl femmes with large and in charge fierce bodies. But as my body has become more and more stereotypically "masculine," I have had to out myself as a butch bodied femme more and more and then explain what that means.

Here I go again.

I was raised, largely, by a single Mom, with an amazing step-Mom, and all of the most significant influential people in my life have been women. When I moved from Duluth, MN to Kansas City, MO and the kids in the neighborhood would form step lines, the guys never wanted me, so I learned how to step girl style. When I came out, it was into a fierce community of queer women at Warren Wilson College, and I was often proud to be the only boy ever invited to Girls Night Out with the hot Atlanta lesbians at Wilson. While, I do not carry myself in what many folks consider a stereotypically "femme" manner (which is problematic in and of itself)...the fact of the matter is that I am femme through and through with femme sensibilities, femme tastes, and femme expression in so many ways.

It just so happens that the men in my family are all broad shouldered with thick legs and bubble butts. It's a burden, but I will gladly bear it.

What is even more interesting, is that in my mind, I am clearly a femme and I am floored every time a straight woman flirts with me. I think I scream....HEY GIRL HEY....with every step.  But recently...I have crossed into new territory. Because of my body transformation and my size, now the straightest of the straight guys give me the "nod." That secret and mystical "what's up" head nod that says...."you are one of us." When the big ripped manly men trainers at the gym started doing it, I knew I had crossed into some new and strange and alien territory. Somehow, my body has transgressed and crossed over into an area of masculinity to which I have never before had access, and it makes me giggle my ass off. That somehow, the fact that I can lift a certain amount of weight or have a certain body type gives me stature in some primal, probably biological, way with other men is something that is absolutely fascinating to me. The trainers at my gym KNOW that I am gay, especially considering two of my exes also work out there and I have never been shy when it comes to PDA. But something in these men's heads has clicked on and they now give me a level of respect and recognition that I have never had from straight men ever.

Butch bodied femme is something else.

 I do have to say a shining moment came recently, at QEJ's major donor party, when the subject of femmes came up and my darling V came to my defense and proudly declared that I am a butch bodied femme. I just love it when the butches come to my aid. *swoon*

Gender, sexual orientation and gender presentation are a beautiful complicated mash up.....one day I will tell you of my insane love of butch bottoms....but that's a another blog. Until then....kiss a femme and appreciate all the work that goes into being just this fabulous!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Body Then, Body Now, Dysmorphia WOW!

So, if you have read any of my blogs about my body image and the work I have done over the last 15 months (as I did in my blog from Thursday), you would have thought I spent most of my adult life as a behemoth....an escapee from the Mesozoic era. In my head, although I know my body has fluctuated in size and fitness, it has not, in reality, except for about a year from 2002-2003 been really out of whack, but also, in my head, I have always had love handles, I had never before had abs in any significant way, and even as a twink I was never quite fit enough and still saw a partially fat kid in the mirror.

I want to be really clear. I really believed the previous statement. I remember having pictures taken by my beloved friend Nicole Harris Zajkowski (aka Noodle) one summer, the first summer that I started working out intentionally, and I remember those pictures were beautiful, but I also remember looking in the mirror and thinking...damn...I still have back fat. I had a waist size of 28 and was nearly 6' tall (I am 5"11 and some change), but in my mind and in the mirror, I was slightly overweight (at 155 pounds....lord have mercy). I was so convinced of this fact, that, in fact, I gave away all of the pictures that Noodle took of me because, while I thought they were great, I didn't want to see my slightly grotesque body.

Oh yeah, there is some crazy shit that goes on in my brain.

Yesterday, my ex-boyfriend from 14 years back (and still loved friend) Lonnie Emmanuel Tapia (check out his design work, he's amazing), was going through boxes in his parents house in the beautiful Tesuque, NM (where I had the joy of visiting twice)...and he came across some things from when we were dating including a drawing he did of the two of us and a picture montage that he created of me....which I am sharing here now. When I looked at those pictures, I could remember how I once viewed them and viewing them now, I fervently wish that I could have seen myself as the beautiful kid I was. If I had, maybe I wouldn't have had to walk some of the roads I walked. I could have avoided rehab and maybe even not have contracted HIV.

PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE don't get me wrong. I am who I am and with the gifts I have because I DID walk that road, and I love who I am today.  But I would be a lying fool to say that it would have been an easier, gentler road if I could have found an easier path to loving that young man that I have now seen again after so many years. 

But the beautiful thing about getting a gift such as the one that Lonnie gave me yesterday is that I get this chance and moment to look at my younger self and apologize.

To my younger self: I am so sorry I didn't love you the way you deserved to be loved. I am so sorry that I couldn't see that you were a beautiful and gifted young man with so much love for so many people but not enough love for yourself. I am sorry that I couldn't give you what you needed at that time to learn to love yourself. I am sorry that I couldn't be brave enough for you to ask for help and to let folks that loved you know that you were hurting and wounded and needed a little bit of strength to get the help and support you needed. I failed you then, but I won't fail you ever again. I love you now, and I love me now, and I forgive us both.

Life will always give you a chance to see the truth....it's up to us to figure out how to really see it.

PS Thank you, Lonnie. You have always been such a gift to me in my life, and yesterday you gave me a blessing that I value so very much.

PPS Dear Younger Self....why couldn't you get your shit together....looking back at my pictures...you were real pretty....we could be living large off of a model's back account. Forget what I said. I'm mad at you again. (Just kidding).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sexy Positive Body: The Beach Reveal

While I was unable to organize myself to actually compete in the Mr. Fire Island pageant this summer, which was one of the goals of my Sexy Positive Bodies photo journaling project, I did decided that I would, instead, reveal the work that I have done on my body and body image on the Fourth of July while at the beach with some good friends.

The two pictures I allowed to be taken are included here.

So, roughly a year after starting my Sexy Positive Bodies photo project, yesterday's beach adventure brings the project to a close. I will be putting together a poetry, essay, and photo display/exhibit that talks about the process, the intention, the feedback (including the recent anonymous digs), and discussions about the politic and ethic behind it. Look forward to future workshops (offline) about this topic, but you will notice that most of the shirtless pictures have been removed my FB profile, if you happen to be one of my Facebook friends.

The next phase is choosing the photos that I am going to use for the display, writing poetry that goes with some of them, figuring out how to integrate some of the blog postings that I have done on various subjects related to HIV and desire over the last year, incorporate both the negative and positive feedback about the project (ranging from the hundreds of poz people that have contacted me to thank me for doing this work to the half a dozen that said it was nothing but narcissism and immature....I heard both with equal respect...though not agreement)...and meeting with a couple of multi-media artists to talk about how to best design the production, and then launching the production. The LGBT Center in the Hudson Valley has offered to host a showing of the project, which is very generous. So now that I have most of the raw material, I need to figure out what to do with it all.
The public shirtless pictures will be very few and far between if they happen, as opposed to the systemic process I went through over the last year. But the gym and I are friends and will continue to be. A part of this process was also fighting my own body dysmorphia, and proving that it can be done on your own terms and that you can finally tell the mirror to fuck off. Yesterday I proved to myself that I had done enough work on my process that I can now go back and look at what it took and all the incumbent issues (internal and external) that have come with it. Including becoming an Executive Director towards the end of the process and how that has impacted what I was attempting to do and how it has been seen. I am hoping to have this all rolled out by October.

So stay tuned. Sexy Positive Bodies will continue in a new and exciting format.Thank you to the literally thousands of you that cheered me on in this 15 month process of personal, spiritual, physical and mental transformation. Thank you to all of the folks from the poz community that shouted out their love and support, came out to me during this process, or let me know how much it meant to them to see someone claim sexual space for poz folks. This process, project, and new way of being wouldn't have been possible by myself. One love folks.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Top Ten Blog Posts June-July

Once again, for those of y'all that was wondering around all over the place during Pride month....having the sex....drinking the dranks....and other things and sundry...here are the top ten blog posts from June until July.

1. Sex, Shirtless Pics, HIV, Desire, and Leadership
2. Meds Today
3. Starting Meds or HIV Sucks
4. Breaking Down and Lifting Up
5. Injustice for CeCe McDonald: When Tools Rule
6. Anonymous Responses and Blogging: Stop the Shade
7. Call My Ass Tigger
8. Everyday Heroes: David Berube
9. Colored Girls Hustle: Summer Accessory Line
10. My Shades of Grey

That's them...check them out. Share them out. Thanks for reading.