Grammy-Nominated Musicians Support The Freedom To Marry

With the 55th Grammy Awards tomorrow several of the nominees have spoken out in support of marriage equality. Freedom To Marry put together a list of quotes from some of them. These are my favorites:

Jack Antonoff on the importance of everyone being free:

 

Michael Buble talking about his gay uncles:

 

The ever lovable Pink on the importance of being ‘color blind,’ so to speak:

 

Check out all the others at the above link to Freedom To Marry, and be sure to check out the Grammy Awards tomorrow.

An Interesting Take on Bisexuality

My fellow contributor, Alan Scott, brought this story by Chris OGuinn of AfterElton.com to my attention. The clips that have been compiled in the article (it’s 3 pages long) are from Make It or Break It on the ABC Family network.

Admittedly, I’ve never watched the show myself, but I have watched a handful of programs produced by ABC Family and I’m found them to be interesting enough that I’ve usually watched them in their entirety. One aspect that has stood out to me in the past is their protrayal of LGBT characters. They don’t use inflammatory material, tired Glee-style stereotypes, or the over-the-top hyperbole of The New Normal. What I’ve seen on ABC Family is primarily LGBT characters being portrayed as they exist in real society–dynamic, diverse, many-cultured, and going about their daily lives just like heterosexuals.

What stood out about this particular example was the description of Max’s (our character’s) sexuality. His true struggles are acknowledged. It’s not easy being in the middle. What is even more striking is Max’s straight friend’s reaction upon discovering that Max is bisexual. No hyper-hetero “I have to punch you/something to restore my manhood” no panicked fear and aggression. It’s very unusual to see this kind of portrayal. Personally, I want to think about it some more, but watch the videos, I’m curious what insight you readers have on the issue.

The Rainbow Feelings Playlist

I survived Patrick Henry College with a pastel iPod shuffle and a pair of earbuds that I rescued from the lost and found bin, after waiting the requisite week to make sure no one else wanted them. Was that one of the more unhygienic choices of my life? Yes, but it was also transgressive in another way — it was the first time my music was both portable and private. For the first time, I could listen to whatever I wanted. And what I wanted was to feel all the feels, without judgment from someone else.

Growing up in a fundamentalist family, I learned five emotions: joy, contentment, godly sorrow, righteous indignation, and fear. By the time I got to school, I was somewhat emotionally stunted. Just as I did not have the words to express my sexuality until I got to college, I also had not learned the proper emotions. Through music, I learned to feel and desire things beyond the narrow scope of my childhood limitations. I learned to feel romantic love, giddy happiness, heartbreak, anger, and attraction.

As a child, I thought of “diversity” as a bad word. As I left my segment of the fundamentalist movement, I learned that not only did they fear everyone who was different from themselves, but they also feared the diverse emotions of a nuanced human soul. I had learned to assign one note to those I feared. But now I’ve joined the ranks of those I was once taught to fear, and I allow myself my own range of emotions, in a quiet rebellion.

I do much of that through music. And when I began coming out to myself a couple of years ago, I did that with the help of a soundtrack of queer artists. They helped me put words to deep longings and old hurts. One of my favorite bands is Tegan and Sara (yes, I am aware that I am a walking queer cliche), and I was ecstatic when I heard they were releasing a new album in the next few weeks. I particularly love the single “Closer,” in all its flirtatious danceability.

I think sometimes in all our arguments back and forth about gay marriage and the “homosexual lifestyle,” people forget that LGBTQ people enjoy playful moonlit tumbles on trampolines and making out in magical fantasy tents festooned with streamers just as much as the next hetero. In other words, we don’t always fit neatly into the categories that others have created for us, such as “staid married couple grows oregano in their window container garden,” or “glittery slutty homo seeks same.”

Our emotions and our love lives can be messy and beautiful and heartbreaking and full of flirtation and frustration and longing and caught breaths and skipped hearts, and we really want you to listen to us, but maybe it would be better if we just made you a mix tape.

Born This Way?

I was perusing blogs again today and came across a most excellent quote from Dr. Marc Breedlove, Barnett Rosenberg Professor of Neuroscience at Michigan State University. He is currently sponsoring a lecture series called, Whom You Love: The Biology of Sexual Orientation, which is featuring the nation’s top researchers who have studied the science of sexual orientation. Anti-LGBTQ pundits like to talk about how there is “no gay gene,” but aside from us not even knowing how many genes there are or what they all do, it’s probably not as simple as “a” gay gene. According to Dr. Breedlove:

As to the question to whether there is a gay gene, it depends on what you mean by that. Have we found a gene, where when a person inherits it, they will for certain be gay? No, we haven’t found such a gene. There may or may not be one. But we do know there is a gene on the X chromosome that has been proven to have an influence on sexual orientation in men. What’s more, we know there are many genes that influence sexual orientation in people. Probably not just one, but a lot. And it will probably be the sort of situation where whether or not you are gay depends on whether which particular combination of genes you get.

The example I like to use is to talk about height. The estimates are there are 150 different genes that influence height. So, is there a gene for being tall?…No…but does that mean there is no genetic influence for height? Of course not, that would be silly. Of course there is a genetic influence on height. Of course there is a genetic influence on sexual orientation. The data are really completely firm.”

Along with the genetic influences there is strong evidence that prenatal testosterone and fraternal birth order play some role in influencing sexual orientation, most probably by the prenatal hormones activating or deactivating certain genes.

Of course, no discussion on this topic is complete without Lady Gaga’s Born This Way music video: (FYI if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s kind of insane, and graphic)

LGBT History Month: Day 28 Billy Strayhorn

Day twenty-eight of LGBT History Month features Billy Strayhorn, a celebrated composer and arranger.

From his bio at the LGBT History Month website:

“If you want something hard enough, it just gets done.”

Billy Strayhorn was a celebrated composer and arranger. Best known for his collaborations with bandleader Duke Ellington, Strayhorn had an important influence on the American jazz movement.

The youngest of five children, Strayhorn spent his early years in Hillsborough, North Carolina. His grandmother, who was active in her church choir, encouraged Strayhorn’s musical interests. In 1924, his mother moved the family to Pittsburgh. At the Pittsburgh Musical Institute, he took piano lessons and studied classical music. Strayhorn’s musical focus shifted when he was introduced to jazz, a genre dominated by innovative and successful black musicians.

In 1937, he began to compose in the jazz style and formed his first jazz group. The following year, he was introduced to Duke Ellington, who took him on as a protégé. Strayhorn worked with Ellington for the next 25 years as a composer, arranger and pianist. He composed the band’s best-known theme song, “Take the A Train.” Although Strayhorn and Ellington collaborated on numerous pieces, Strayhorn remained fairly anonymous and was rarely credited or compensated for his work.

In 1946, he received the Esquire Award for Outstanding Arranger. Ellington and Strayhorn were equally credited on “Drum is a Woman” (1957). In 1965, Strayhorn played his only solo concert to a sold-out theater at the New School in New York City. Some of his best-known compositions are “Chelsea Bridge,” “Day Dream,” “Johnny Come Lately,” “Clementine” and the Ellington Band’s “Lotus Blossom.”

Strayhorn was openly gay. There is speculation that his sexual orientation motivated his decision to avoid the spotlight. He was actively involved in the African-American civil rights movement. For the musical revue “My People” he arranged “King Fought the Battle of ‘Bam,’” dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At 53, Strayhorn died from cancer. Although relatively unknown during his career, his complex arrangements and classical elements have inspired generations of jazz musicians.

LGBT History Month: Day 26 RuPaul

Day twenty-six of LGBT History Month features RuPaul, the world’s most famous drag queen.

From his bio at the LGBT History Month website:

“With hair, heels, and attitude, honey, I am through the roof.”

RuPaul is one of the world’s most famous drag queens. He is a successful actor, singer and television host.

Born RuPaul Andre Charles in San Diego, California, RuPaul learned about fashion from his mother and three sisters. His parents divorced when he was 7. At 16, he moved to Atlanta to live with his sister and brother-in-law.

In Atlanta, RuPaul studied acting, performed as a bar dancer and sang with a band. He gained national exposure with a cameo role dancing in the video for the B-52s’ “Love Shack.” In 1987, RuPaul moved to New York, where he became a popular entertainer in the Manhattan nightclub scene. He was crowned “Queen of Manhattan 1990.”

In 1993, RuPaul collaborated with Elton John on a remake of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” The following year, RuPaul had his first solo hit single, “Supermodel (You Better Work),” which topped the dance music charts. Three more dance hits followed: “Back to My Roots,” “A Shade Shady” and “House of Love.”

His appearances in “The Brady Bunch Movie” (1995) and Spike Lee’s “Crooklyn” (1995), along with the release of his autobiography “Lettin It All Hang Out” (1996), landed RuPaul a talk show on VH1. He described the “The RuPaul Show” as “the most creatively satisfying, fun-filled working experience I’ve ever had.” That same year, he became a spokesperson for M.A.C Cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel. In six years, RuPaul helped raise over $22 million for the M.A.C AIDS Fund.

RuPaul had a role in “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” (1995). In the late 1990’s, he co-hosted the morning show on WKTU-FM, a New York dance music station. He produced and starred in the film “Starrbooty” (2007), which he adapted into a nightclub act. He is the host and executive producer of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and hosts “RuPaul’s Drag U” on Logo.

In 1999, RuPaul was named Entertainer of The Year at the GLAAD Media Awards. In 2002, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Most Beautiful Transsexuals in the World Association.

LGBT History Month: Day 20 Authur Laurents

Day twenty of LGBT History Month features Authur Laurents, a renowned playwright, director, and screenwriter.

From his bio at the LGBT History Month website:

Authur Laurents (Center)

“Entertainment is dessert. It needs to be balanced by the main course: theater of substance.”

Arthur Laurents was a Tony Award-winning playwright, director and screenwriter. He wrote the scripts for “West Side Story,” “Gypsy” and “La Cage Aux Folles.”

Born Arthur Levine, Laurents grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Because of anti-Semitism, he changed his last name to the less Jewish-sounding Laurents.

After graduating from Cornell University, Laurents took a class in radio writing and produced “Now Playing Tomorrow,” a comedic fantasy broadcast on CBS Radio. He was drafted into the Army in World War II, but never saw combat. He wrote training films and dramatized radio shows for the Armed Forces.

Laurents started his Broadway career with “Home of the Brave” (1945), which was adapted into a film. He moved to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting. He adapted the play “Rope’s End” into a movie, but his Hollywood career was cut short when he was blacklisted for Communist sympathies. Subsequently, he returned to New York City and resumed writing for theater and film.

Laurents wrote 12 plays and musicals, including “The Bird Cage” (1950), “The Time of the Cuckoo” (1952) and “A Clearing in the Woods” (1957). He wrote screenplays for “Anastasia” (1956), “The Way We Were” (1973) and “The Turning Point” (1977).

His scripts for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy” earned Tony nominations for Best Musical. In 1968, the Tony for Best Musical went to “Hallelujah, Baby!,” for which Laurents wrote the script. In 1984, he won a Tony for Best Direction of a Musical for “La Cage Aux Folles.”

In 2010, his autobiography, “Original Story By Arthur Laurents: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood,” was published.

Laurents was in a relationship with actor Tom Hatcher for 52 years. In 2010, the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award was established. It annually awards a $150,000 enabling grant to an unproduced play of social relevance.