“I’m Gay,” How Two Simple Words Changed Television & Lives

Ellen DeGeneres on the cover of the April 14, 1997 issue of TIME magazine.

This weekend marks the “milestone” of Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office as P.O.T.U.S. There is also a another milestone happening this weekend, a more helpful more tangible milestone. The milestone I’m talking about continues to influence peoples lives and it changed the face of American television forever. A milestone that continues to empower the LGBT community of this country. A milestone that set the stage for not only TV characters but real life celebrities and everyday people to ‘come out of the closet.’ 20 years ago today, April 30, 1997, Ellen Degeneres came out not only in real life but in her sitcom “Ellen.” Ellen’s TV personality on her show, the character Ellen Morgan was the first main character of a TV show to come out. A show that was about her and named for her, during a time when there was no “Will & Grace” or “Modern Families” Cameron and Mitchell. This was a first for American television.

To commemorate the occasion I watched the episode in it’s entirety on You Tube. In quirky Ellen fashion it was entitled “The Puppy Episode” “The Puppy Episode” part one“The Puppy Episode” part 2 and it brought back bittersweet memories and emotions. Emotions and memories that I thought buried long ago. As with a lot of people my own coming out was not easy, but whose ever is?

Some of what made coming out so difficult was my own doing. I’m famously known for my procrastination or just simply not dealing with things that I don’t want too. I didn’t want to ‘deal’ with being gay and as Ellen put it when her character came out on the show, she thought these feelings “would just go away.” My “gayness” for lack of a better word didn’t just go away and neither did Ellen’s. In the show her character  couldn’t even say the word “gay,” but as the show progressed she said it and the world was listening. This was one of first times that I realized that art can imitate life. I couldn’t say the word either, until I did. At some point I came out to a close friend. I said, “I think I’m gay.” My friend looked me dead in the eyes and said to me “That’s okay, YOU ARE OKAY.” Amazingly lighting didn’t come from the heavens to strike me down and at that point that’s when I really knew that I would be okay.

The cast of “Ellen.”

 

“I’m gay.” Those two simple words uttered on a sitcom, simple words that changed the world of television forever. Simple words that have changed and will continue to change the world of the person saying them no matter who they are. After I said those words my world changed. I’m not going to lie and say it’s always been easy but it hasn’t always been hard. I’ve had my ups and my downs, but doesn’t everybody go through ups and downs in life, gay or straight? I will say this, the victories in life are a lot sweeter when you are living out of the closet, living your authentic life. At the same time life’s journey can be a lot harder to navigate if your are continuously watching over your shoulder worried that someone might figure out your secret. Carrying a secret burden can keep you just two little words away from the chance of happiness.

I don’t know if in 20 years anyone will remember what Donald Trump did in his first 100 day milestone, but I do know that on this same day 20 years from now we will be once again be looking back at how Ellen came into our living rooms via our televisions and told us all what most of us already knew about her and ourselves. She gave us the “OK” to say “I’m gay.”

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake on this 30th day of April 2017.

John M. Livelsberger will be talking about his own coming out on the podcast “The Coming OUT Lounge” airing on May 10th, 2017.

 

Spouting About Sprouting

Meghan Buell

“April showers bring May flowers.” That’s how the saying goes. Well, April is about to close out. I wonder what lies ahead in May. Flowers, I truly hope.

Springtime is this miraculous time of rebirth for many plants. Everyone begins to get excited as new spouts are starting to show through the soil top. As I see this ritual each year I reflect back to my own personal transition and, in many ways, my own Springtime sprouting. I had a surgery in January 2009. However, it wasn’t until April or May of that year that I started to “sprout” so to speak. The first 3 months were really all about healing. This is the standard healing timeline for many after undergoing a vaginoplasty procedure. Once that was in the rearview mirror the real growth began. My life was in the midst of change. In all essences I began “fulltime” at the same time that I had my surgery. Thus, I was in the midst of a long period of “coming out”. I had begun to peer out of my topsoil and people wanted to know what this sprout was going to become. Include me in that statement, also. I often wondered into what, or more precisely, who I would become. At times it was easy to be myself but it was also very tough. But, as with others who were inquiring, I wanted to see the results now.

My recovery did hit a bump in the road. I was very concerned about this and it began to consume me. It got so stressful that I collapsed at work one day. A co-worker drove me to see my doctor. I was checked out and then my doctor said words I have never forgotten. She grabbed a piece a copy paper with a tiny speck or blimish on it. She asked me why I was so focused on a tiny speck, (meaning my small hiccup in healing) that was on the paper. As a whole the sheet of paper was overall pretty good. It opened my eyes to the fact that things were, in fact, pretty good. I smiled and agreed that I needn’t stress out so much. I needed to let things run their course.

As the sprouts enter the world each Spring, it is important to remember that each of them will grow and change at their own speed and when they are ready they will show us their true colors. Patience my friends. Patience.

Transgender Prom King an Indiana First

North Central High School Prom King Alan Belmont and his date Anastacia Cohen. Photo: Courtney of Emma Brett, @emmaline.jpeg

North Central High School in Indianapolis hosted their annual prom and for the first time in the school’s history a transgender student is crowned prom king.

17 Year old Alan Belmont, who started coming out as transgender at the age of 15 knew that he identified as a straight boy. Belmont started running for prom king not out of a need to by popular but to show everyone including those who are younger and wrestling with their sexuality that they are okay, “I wanted young kids at my school, who are trans or maybe gay or just coming into their identity, to know that being LGBT doesn’t have to be a cripple and that being LGBT is something that you should be proud of and you should represent.”

Not all of Belmont’s peers were so accepting and after he had posted flyers at his school urging the student body to vote for him the words ‘prom king’ were scratched out and replaced with the words ‘prom queen.’ “I knew that there were going to be some people who weren’t as accepting as others, but I couldn’t let myself be depressed because if I did, I would let them know that they won, and I didn’t them to have that,” he said of the incident.

After it was announced that Belmont had been crowned prom king he had this to say, “It was honestly one of the most heartwarming feelings that I’ve ever felt. Just to feel an audience of my peers and an audience of believers in progression, to hear that my peers were on the same page that I was was incredible and to know that there were juniors I hadn’t met yet who voted for me was incredible.” Belmont attended the dance with his girlfriend, Anastacia Cohen.

Correction: The photo provided was courtesy of Emma Brett. Credit was mistakenly originally given to WTHR TV.

Reflections and the Final 12 Hours Before Top Surgery

Photo of Kane Fletcher courtesy of Facebook

It’s 12 hours before my surgery and I’m sitting in front of a camp fire. The very fact that I’m actually having top surgery has not set in yet and I’m thankful for the seven hour drive and the family and friends who are sitting here beside me. Their presence is calming and takes my mind off of my anxiety. I am so happy to all that have helped and I know I would not be here without all the unconditional love and support that I have received over the years.

I will say this, even thought I’m more nervous then I think I have been ever in my life, I am ready to wake up and see myself as the man that I’ve seen within myself all of my adult life. The man I know that I am.

The next few days and weeks after the surgery I will be healing, but when I do heal I’ll be able to share with you what I can’t possibly express right now. My excitement, my hope for the future, and my unapologetic life as the man I’ve become. The next time I talk to you it will be after my surgery, I hope that you all stick around with me for the new adventures yet to come.

Editors note: Kane Fletcher had his top surgery on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 and is currently recovering in Michigan City. Kane will be going back to his surgeon in Ohio for a follow up and you can expect his next column in a week or so.

Kane’s group “Welcome to the Other Side” will be performing at the Uptown Center in Michigan City on May 5th.

Editor’s Note: Thanks Daniel!

Daniel Ashley Williams (Left) and Wally Paynter (right) Photo: Facebook

We here at “The Beacon” wish to acknowledge the hard work and dedication to our own Daniel Ashley Williams. Daniel has put himself out there time after time and week after week sharing his experiences as an HIV positive man living in the Mid-West. Even though we mostly cover the LGBT community in Northwest Indiana and Daniel lives in the Southern part of the state, he was the first person that I thought to participate in our publication.

Because Daniel chooses to share his life though his column “Positive Perspective” and because of his tireless efforts to change peoples perceptions on what it is to live with HIV Daniel was asked to be the honorary chair of the Vincennes AIDS walk on Saturday April 22, 2017.

Thank you Daniel for your openness and thank you for sharing your life with us. We look forward to the things that you have to say and we love helping you say those things.

-John Martin Livelsberger, Publisher of The Beacon by OUT in Michigan City

Goldfrapp’s “Silver Eye” a Cornucopia of Style & Mood

“Silver Eye”, is the first album from vocalist Allison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, collectively known as Goldfrapp, since 2013’s “Tales of Us”. In a word it is a return in many ways to aspects of the duos past works. It is a definitely a departure from the the duos past two albums, 2010s Olivia Newton-John/ Abba tinged “Head First”, and the electro folk drenched “Tales of Us”, from 2013.

“Sliver Eye” starts out with the single, “Anymore”. This electronic gem with a nice base beat certainly is a good choice making all Golddfrapp fans wake up after listening to the groups last offering. We then get into “Systemagic,” kicking it into a higher gear with total electronic emersion of synth base and glitter reminiscent of our artists “Super Nature” days. “Tigerman,” is next, slowly droning on like something off the groups debut album “Felt Mountain,” only with teeth. We are then taken into the life affirming “Become the One.” The song plays on with distorted synth relish where one can’t help but to think of Depeche Mode and something from their “Sounds of the Universe” album.

The album then slows down a bit going into “Faux Suede Drifter.” The song lyrically looking like the end of a relationship or perhaps the start of something torturous, but sounding like something that would be on the sound track of the worlds end. Slow and haunting synths take us on a confusing somewhat disturbing journey between light and darkness. The listener is then treated to the equally chilling “Zodiac Black,” telling us that, “there is magic in the water.” The song phases in and out of a sonic soundscapes in a dream haze sounding as though “Hounds of Love” era Kate Bush may have been an inspiration.

The Beast that Never was,” takes the listener back to the slower edges of the groups “Black Cherry” and “Supernature” albums. The tune blips along like a heart monitor and at any moment the lister will think the song will open up and become more grandiose, but alas this disappointingly does not transpire. Although the end of the song ends in a flourish of synthesizer bliss the group, for the most part, keeps the lid on this offering unfortunately letting it simmer but never boil. We get more of the same with “Everything is Never Enough“, talking about excess and how we view our lives. The motto here seems to be the more we advance the more we become singular entities living not a life but a life in front of a computer screen, “…watching nature on my screen saver…in a wasteland.” Again, there is a a build in the middle to the song where one would think it will go up a notch into something faster and stronger, but unfortunately once again falls short.

Moon in Your Mouth,” gets us into soundtrack music type territory with epic sweeping vocals and instrumentation giving us that much needed yes finally! factor that were missing from the two previous tracks. The album ends with “Ocean,” aptly named because of its electro orchestral vastness making one think of what opera might sound like living in a “Blade Runner” universe.

In all this album is not bad. It does however leave the listener at times wanting more. “Silver Eye” is no doubt a amalgam of Goldfrapps’ 17 years of past work. It is worth picking up for any fan of the group whether you like their slower-tempoed fare or more of their mirror ball elctro-disco sound. This album has multiple personalities and there is something here for everyone.

T -4 Days and Counting Until the First Day of the Rest of My Life

It’s almost here, the day I’ve been waiting for. The day that I never thought would get here. I’m talking about ‘top surgery.’ How do I describe how I feel? It’s like there is an epic space battle happing in my stomach, ‘Battlestar Glactica’ epic. My palms are constantly sweaty and I feel every emotion under the sun all at once. Like I’m in the cockpit of a Colonial Viper about ready to take out a Cylon Base Star all by myself.

There are so many emotions that I am feeling right now, by far I feel excitement the most, it’s almost like an adrenaline rush. That’s how I can explain my immediate feelings about my surgery. Yet I’ve have never had major surgery before so I’m nervous. What if there are complications? What if something goes wrong? I guess that’s where faith comes in, faith in my doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. Faith in the unconditional love and support of my fiancé. Faith in the love and support of my family and friends. Faith in myself to see this next leg in my journey through.

With any surgery there is a risk and sometimes surgery is so vital that you have to weigh that risk. Is the risk worth it? In my case, yes the risk is worth it, but not for the reason that you might think. Yes I’m going through with this not only because it’s the next step on the journey I started over five years ago. I’m going through with this because sometimes doing something major has to do more with the ‘small’ things in life than it has to do with the big ones. Sometimes it’s the things that no one else thinks about because it’s just a part of everyday life, until it’s not. Sometimes it’s the things that most people take for granted.

For over five years I have been binding my chest. In that time I have not felt a shirt on my skin or the sun on my back. The thought of hitting the beach for the first time this summer with no shirt or the binder to restrain me makes my skin tingle, especially the closer I get to my surgery date.   It’s those little things that I miss most. This summer there will be no ‘over heating’ from wearing the binders. I will never have to buy another new binder again. Breaking in a new binder horrible, it leaves painful ‘rub lines’ that sometimes bleed. I know binders are a necessary part of being a trans man, but at the same time after years of wearing one I no longer look at it as necessary, I look at it as a medieval torture device.

The days of worrying if I look like I have boobs are almost over. So are the days of not standing straight and tall because I might look too chesty. There are places I don’t go because I worry that on that particular day I don’t look ‘man enough.’  I will stand tall and I will no longer be ‘afraid’ of my chest. I will no longer worry about wearing a tank top and hope that my binder is not showing in public.

So back to the question, ‘is it worth the risk?’ The answer is hell yes. This is one of the biggest events of my life and one the best things that I’ve ever done for myself. I can’t wait until I’m standing in front of a mirror and I see myself again for the first time. I’ll make sure I tell you guys all about it.

Kane Fletcher’s Group “Welcome to the Other Side” will be preforming May 5th at the Uptown Center in Michigan City’s Historic Uptown Arts District. 

 

Ryan White, a Legacy Not Forgotten

Photo: ryanwhite.com

27 years ago this month marks the anniversary of the death of Ryan White. Ryan was the teenager from Kokomo Indiana that after receiving a blood transfusion was diagnosed with AIDS. After his diagnosis in 1984 Ryan and his family faced discrimination and harassment because of the stigma HIV/AIDS had at the time. AIDS was no longer a disease confined to the gay ghetto’s in coastal cities. AIDS had come to the mid-west and it came to a 13 year old hemophiliac.

After Ryan’s diagnosis he was given six months to live, but after beating the odds Ryan was able to get progressively better. Ryan’s mother Jeanne, hoping to keep normalcy in the boys life, asked Ryan’s doctors if he could go back to school. Citing no danger to other students Ryan won the approval from his doctors to return to school. Unfortunately it would not be as simple as that.

Growing up in Indiana we all heard about Ryan White, “The boy with AIDS.” We also heard about the discrimination and harassment that Ryan and his family faced. Fearing that Ryan might infect other students, parents and school officials rallied against Ryan by circulating a petition to have him banned from school. To so many people living in the mid-west the faces of AIDS were promiscuous gay men living in San Francisco or New York. They would see these men dying horrible deaths on the evening news.

Taking the fight to the courts Ryan not only won the right to go back to school he won the attention of the national stage and became a celebrity of sorts. Ryan’s mother became and still is an advocate to the HIV community. She fought against the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

Ryan not only got America’s attention he got the attention of celebrities, one of them being Sir Elton John, who became a sort of father figure to the  boy and started a charity in his name, the Ryan White Foundation. A foundation to help those with HIV/AIDS, a foundation that would look for a cure. By the end of the 1980s Ryan was not just “The boy with AIDS,” he had shown the world that you didn’t have to be gay or an intravenous drug user to get the disease. He was able to show the world that AIDS is not a punishment from God. He was able to show the world that AIDS could affect everyone from every walk of life. After his initial diagnosis Ryan went on to live for five more years.

On April 8, 1990, one month before his high school graduation, Ryan White died of complications from AIDS at Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. 10 days after Ryan’s death President George H. W. Bush signed a bill into law known as “The Ryan White CARE Act.” This legislation provided more than $2 billion to help cities, states, and community-based organizations to develop and maintain coordinated and comprehensive systems of diagnosis, care and treatment, for those living with HIV and AIDS. The bill has been reauthorized twice.

Ryan’s death was not in vain and his life still has meaning even 27 years later. Programs named for Ryan are the largest provider of services for people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. In Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky the Matthew 25 AIDS Services provides clinical services to nine counties and has offices in Henderson, KY and Evansville, IN. In 2001 they were awarded the Ryan White Part ‘C’ Grant for early intervention services to open a medical clinic.

At a time when there was little understanding of a disease that would decimate a community and fear gave way to common sense a 13 year old boy brought the face of understanding to a nation scared of its own shadow. Ryan White’s legacy lives on and because of his legacy so many millions of people will continue to live on.

 

Seventh Circuit Court Rule Against Discrimination

Kim Hively

The full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in an 8-3 decision in favor of Kim Hively, who sued IVY Tech Community College on the basis of sex discrimination. Ms. Hively who had taught at the school had been discriminated against for being a lesbian and was not offered full time employment by the college. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is the same court that upheld Judge Richard Young’s decision to strike down Indiana’s gay marriage ban in June of 2014.

In the complaint against IVY Tech, Ms. Hively’s lawyer, Gregory Nevins of Lambda Legal claimed that not allowing Ms. Hively full time employment at the college violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. In the ruling, Chef Judge Diane Wood wrote for the majority, “It is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discrimination on the basis of sex. It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from sexual orientation.” The ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights act also protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination has the potential to reshape Title VII nationwide.

Attorney Nevin’s cited a case that appeared before the Supreme Court in the 1980s in which workers were discriminated against based on their mannerisms and who did not behave in the stereotypical social norms of male and female. The High Court found in favor for the plaintiff’s that their civil rights were violated. Mr. Nevin’s found the same argument applied to Ms. Hively’s case against IVY Tech Community College. “You can’t discriminate against a woman because she rides a Harley, had Bears tickets or has tattoos, but you can if she’s a lesbian.”

Eight out of the 11 judges that heard the case were all appointed by Republican presidents including Judge Richard Posner who asked the attorney representing IVY Tech, John Maley, “Who will be hurt if gays and lesbians have a little more job protection.” When Mr. Maley could not think of an answer, Judge Posner then asked Mr. Maley what the “big deal” was.

In the unlikely event the Republican controlled Congress chooses to amend Title VII to include sexual orientation, this case could still appear before the United States Supreme Court.

Ghost in the Box Office

“Ghost in the Shell” opened this weekend and is the live action version of the anime (for those of you who do not speak pop culture, anime refers to a Japanese cartoon usually for adults but there are some geared towards children),  movie of the same name and Japanese manga (comic book) written and illustrated by Masamene Shirow. To put it in an understandable terms for those of us who are not into post-apocalyptic Japanese futurism, its like if the movies “Blade Runner” and “The Matrix” had a bastard child.

The movie stars Scarlett Johansson as “the Major” a sort of riot police

Scarlett Johansson attends the “Ghost In The Shell” premiere hosted by Paramount Pictures & DreamWorks Pictures at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on March 29, 2017, in New York City. Photo by Getty Images

officer working for the government agency “Section 9” but funded by Hanka Robotics Corperation. The Major is a human brain that has been transplanted in a robot body. She can turn invisible, log into a computer networks, and has “enhanced” abilities, yet she has no memory of her past life or when her gray matter was transplanted into a department store mannequin. The major leads her team of augmented humans such as her partner Batou who, after the loss of his sight, receives prosthetic eyes that can see through things as well as using the spectrum of sight previously only available to dogs or sea life living at the bottom of the ocean.

The movie itself is visually stunning and that is probably the single most redeeming quality of the film. Johansson acting falls flat, and being somewhat familiar the character of the Major the casting called for more of a gritty performance. In a way it seemed hard for Johansson to move the plot forward without the rest to the Avengers along to carry her. The movie itself is true to the source material and I think the fans of the manga and the original anime will be pleased overall.

The plot finds the Major and her team looking for a killer that is murdering all the scientists who were involved the original project that created the Major and put her ghost or soul into a robotic shell. Over all the movies is a good way to kill time on a Sunday afternoon and although the special effects are amazing, especially in 3D I would save your money and wait for iTunes.

“Ghost in the Shell,” is directed by Rupert Sanders and stars Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Pilou Asbeak, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, and NgChin Han and is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America.

I give “Ghost in the Shell” two and a half poppers out of five.