Five Years In, Thanks for Following

It’s a milestone anniversary, but we’re only just beginning.

I missed our anniversary. On April 12, 2020 OUT in Michigan City turned five years old. COVID-19 has us all distracted. I was aware that the anniversary was coming up and I wanted to throw a huge party with our logo on everything. I had hopes of raising money for Michigan City PRIDE Fest 2020 by making our anniversary party a fundraiser. Yet here we are, like for so many people life is on hold. It’s like we’re fly’s stuck in amber watching the world go by without us. PRIDE events all over the nation are being cancelled including the iconic San Francisco and New York PRIDE events. I haven’t heard what’s going to happen in our hometown but I don’t have high hopes.

John M. Livelsberger interviews LGBTQ rights activists Steven & Joshua Snyder-Hill. Photo Jack Foos-Gordan

I started OUT in Michigan City five years ago after a visit to Indianapolis. My husband and I traveled to Indy so I could get an interview with LGBTQ rights activists Steven Snyder-Hill and his husband Joshua for an LGBTQ online news magazine based out of Chicago and we participated in a protest march during the weekend of the NCAA playoffs. The march was in protest of the newly signed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I had never marched in protest before, but what I found in Indianapolis was a community that pulled together. The energy and love in the air moved me and was so palpable you could almost reach out and touch it. By the end of the day I got my interview with the Snyder-Hills but I brought back to Michigan City so much more.

We have a large LGBTQ community here in Michigan City and in the surrounding communities, yet why weren’t we organized? So I started OUT in Michigan City. I wanted our community informed on what law makers in Indianapolis were doing. I wanted us to have a sense of community and I wanted us to support and love one another. Lot’s of city’s have a “gayborhood,” Michigan City is one big gayborhood and it was long past time that we pulled together as a community and showed our PRIDE in our city and each other.

From Left, Jayda Pill, Wilma Fingerdo, and Dena Richards. Photo: Facebook

In the five years since we went live others in our community have had the same idea. Michigan City’s LGBTQ community has arrived and we’ve become an oasis in Northwest Indiana where we can live and love openly and I could not be anymore prouder of my adopted hometown. We now have LGBTQ friendly business’s, those businesses are suffering because of the social distancing restrictions, yet there’s hope. Drag queens Wilma Fingerdo, Jayda Pill, and Dena Richards are helping support Fiddlehead Restaurant and it’s employees by running take out orders to waiting cars on Saturday afternoon. Because of them giving a few hours of their time Fiddlehead sold out of food they last two Saturdays and can remain open and pay their employees. There’s the love and sense of community I was looking for five years ago, as I figured it was right in our backyard this whole time.

Protesting RFRA in Indianapolis. Photo: John M. Livelsberger

Despite what’s going on in the world OUT in Michigan City is going to keep growing along with our LGBTQ community. We we first started we were just a Facebook page. Now you’re reading this on our website outinmichigancity.com. We’ve also started a podcast called The Bent Edge. It’s the Region’s first unapologetically gay podcast. Where as OUT in Michigan City is news oriented and serious The Bent Edge is irreverent and witty where no subject is off limits. So, to the over 1,655 people that ‘like’ or ‘follow’ us on social media, thank you, we hope you stick with us for the long haul, our story is just beginning.

Please give OUT in Michigan City a like on Facebook as well as The Bent Edge Michigan City only unapologetically gay podcast with new episodes weekly. The Bent Edge can be heard on Apple Podcast, Spotify and other platforms.

Peace, Acceptance, and PRIDE

We arrived at the bar Saturday night and the first thing that hit me was the crowd. There was really no one there that we knew, DJ Mark was setting up but that was about it. I had expected to see some friends or people I recognized hanging out having a cocktail or two while they waited for the show to start. Then I got a really good look at the crowd. There was a group of guys in their twenties, one of whom was wearing a pro-gun rights hoodie. I gave my husband a sideways glance as DJ Mark came up and sat at our table to chat. “I’m a little concerned with the crowd,” I said, “Do they know there’s a drag show tonight?” Mark nodded in agreement, but what was there to do? 

Welcome to the Other Sides Kane Richards. Photo: John M. Livelsberger

Soon Jayda Pill, that evenings drag queen and Kane Richards that evenings drag king arrived in full face and started working the crowd. Selfies were being taken and the mood in the pub quickly turned up a notch. Welcome to the Other Side, our local drag troupe were doing a spotlight show that night. Since we have no local gay bars anymore when the “straight” bars really want a amazing weekend turn out they go to the group and ask them to perform. About every other month they have a “spot light” show where two of their six members will perform small sets and in between numbers DJ Mark keeps the crowd pumped as he spins music that everyone can dance to. 

By 10pm when Jayda hit the stage for her first number the bar was packed and our friends had arrived. I took a minute to take a look around, there was no tension or animosity, gay people and straight people were interacting and dancing together peace and love where in the air, a far cry from a few short decades ago. Michigan City had come along way in the 16 years that I moved here. This was originally supposed to be a two year layover as I worked at the local casino and saved my money to move to Chicago. I had no intention of staying here, then when I least expected it as often happens to people, I fell in love. First with this city then with the guy I would end up marrying.

Jayda Pill performing at Creekside Bar & Grill. Photo John M. Livelsberger

Over the last couple years Michigan City PRIDE Fest has helped bring the whole community tougher and bridge a lot of gaps. No matter who you are Gay, straight, bi, questioning, you’re welcome at PRIDE and the sense of belonging is just paid forward through out the rest of the year. 

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is going into it’s third year and we’d like to invite you everyone one to come out and celebrate your lives and celebrate living your truth, no matter what it is.

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 20th, 2020 from 1pm to 9pm at the Guy Foreman Amphitheater in Washington Park, Michigan City Indiana.

Welcome to the Other Side can be seen at RG’s Bar & Grill, 9954 West, US-6, Westville, IN 46391, Saturday March 7th, 2020

Welcome to the Other Side will be performing a all ages drag brunch at Fiddlehead Restaurant Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. Click here for reservations.

Feeling the Love, at Michigan City PRIDE Fest

Michigan City PRIDE Fest isn’t just a party, it’s where you find your tribe.

The inspiration to start OUT in Michigan City came from a Religious Freedom Restoration Act protest march that I attended in Indianapolis in the spring of 2015. When I arrived I experienced first hand what a close nit LGBTQ community Indy had. The love and support in the air was so palpable you could almost touch it. I started to wonder why we could not have that kind of love and support in Michigan City and the rest of the Region.

Fast forward to January, 2018 when a group of people came together to form the committee for what would be the first annual Michigan City PRIDE Festival. It was my honor and privilege to serve on this committee. They say that nothing worth doing is ever easy. They were right, we worked hard and making this event happen took over my life as well as the lives of the other committee members. PFLAG, the host of the event, this publication, and drag entertainers Welcome to the Other Side, volunteers, and local businesses would all come together to make Michigan City PRIDE Fest a success. What a success it was. The committee expected maybe 400 people to attend and 2000 showed up.

As is turned out we filled a need, the community was hungry for a PRIDE festival and it was an amazing day. For the first time the LGBTQ community and our allies came together in Michigan City and in the region the love and support in the air was just as palpable as it was that day in Indianapolis. We made people happy and it was worth the blood, sweat, and tears we all poured into the event. 2019 festival saw 3000 people and now we are gearing up to do in again for 2020.

OUT in Michigan City was asked to help with the social media campaign this year and of course we jumped at the chance. This year is a little different though and I blame the toxic political climate and the up coming election. I’ve gotten messages on how straight people need a PRIDE event or why even have PRIDE in this day and age. Someone said that PRIDE should be reserved for the accomplishments in ones life not celebrating who they choose to have sex with, which is NOT what PRIDE is about. Despite the progress that the LGBTQ community has made in the last 10 years, coming out can be hard and in some cases life treating. Sometimes someone has to hide who they are to protect themselves both mentally and physically. Michigan City PRIDE Fest isn’t just an all ages drag show, food, entertainment, and vendors. Michigan City PRIDE Fest is a safe space you can come, let your hair down, or maybe put it up. It’s a place you can be yourself, even if it’s for just one day. It’s a place where you can find the resources you need for support, in a safe environment. It’s a place where you can find your tribe. Please join us on June 20, 2020 at the Guy Forman Amphitheater in Washington Park and feel the love.

If you need a safe space before June 20th then you as well as everyone is welcome to attend PFLAG monthly meeting the first Wednesday of every month at the Holdcraft Performing Arts Center, 1200 Spring Street, Michigan City starting at 6:30 pm.

The More You Drink, the Prettier I Get, Reflections on 5 Years of ‘Welcome to the Other Side’

Wilma Fingerdo and her partner in crime Jayda Pill, Photo by Christopher M. Voorhees

I recall distinctly placing a bet with the other WTTOS cast members shortly before our first show regarding the projected longevity of our shows. I believe the estimates averaged about a year, at that time. The local gay bars were in a slump, and Encompass had just closed. We weren’t sure that there was a market for drag shows. Regardless, EJ Marx had been approached by the owners of the Warehouse in Portage about putting together a show, and performing at their venue. I was initially hesitant about the idea, but thought we could give it a try. I had always blamed the recent onset of gay dating apps, like Grindr, for the closure of our local hangouts. There’s no reason to “go out”, I would say, when a “blow job is just a click away”. Looking back, I was short sighted, and didn’t take into account the camaraderie that was such a huge part of meeting at those gay establishments.

Dena Richards, Photo: Facebook

I was absolutely amazed that our reception for our first show! There were hundreds of attendees, and, of course, Welcome to the Other Side was born. We decided at the time, that we would host shows every other month, and we did that for the next few months, eventually working other venues into our schedule. Please understand that then, and now, I love a lazy weekend, without heels, eyelashes, wigs and girdles, and there was no way that I would strap my ass in a dress every weekend. We decided to take offers from what we considered to be the best venues. I still believe that we work with the best venues. There are many things that are important to me when we work with a partner, now, and into the future. First, and foremost, don’t screw

E. J. Marx, Photo by Christopher M. Voorhees

our patrons. I expect reasonable drink and food prices. Second, a reasonable level of service. Third, their acceptance of the gay and trans community. When Indiana proposed their religious freedom amendment, and gays weren’t able to buy pizzas in Shit hole, Indiana, I called each of our partners, and personally confirmed that they were open for everyone.

Kane Richards, Photo by Christopher M. Voorhees

My goal, now and into the future is to provide entertainment and a welcome environment for our gay, straight, trans, and questioning guest. I love an environment where everyone can feel comfortable in their own skin, and I sincerely hope that we have provided this for you. We have the best job in the world. We can to meet up with our friends, have some drinks and some laughs, and provide a little refuge from society’s judgement. Will you see us in 5 more years? I don’t know, but I can speak for all of us at Welcome to the Other Side…. We appreciate you, and thank you for the fun that we’ve had thus far. Hope to see you Friday.

XOXO
Wilma

Wilma Fingerdo and the entire cast of ‘Welcome to the Other Side’ will be performing at the Uptown Center for Performing Arts in Michigan City’s historic Uptown Arts District for their 5 years anniversary show Friday May 5th, 2017. 

Cocktails Lipstick and Love, Advice from Wilma Fingerdo

America’s Sweetheart Wilma Fingerdo

Welcome everyone to my first love and advice column. Our fans have been so good to us over the years that I just wanted to give a little something back to the community and this is as little as it gets. As I’m writing this I am poolside in sunny Florida sipping a mojito and dictating my new column to our pool boy Alejandro. I’m doing everything in my power to give this sweet boy an odd job or two to help him work his way through pet grooming school and you know what, it’s harder than you think to shape a poodle tail in to a little ball. Poor Alejandro’s always seems come out phallic shaped, I know he will keep working on it until he gets it right. If you need advice on love, life or how to mix that perfect drink don’t hesitate to write me, wilma_fingerdo@comcast.net.

Dear Wilma, I’m a young gay man in Northwest Indiana area and I’m wondering where I can go to meet other single men that doesn’t involve apps or online dating? Signed, Lonely Homo

Dear Homo, Northwest Indiana has a very open and friendly group of gay men that host events, and there’s no need to go alone! Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t go stag, drag the hag?” Get one of your lady friends and head out to Dark Star on Thursdays for Karaoke, Or you can follow the OUT in NWIN’s Facebook page for our local drag shows that are hosted in Michigan City, Portage and Winfield. Good Luck! XOXO

Hi Wilma! Have you ever had a doctor cup your balls and fondle them? Is this normal? What are they checking for? Thanks, Touched and Confused

Dear Touched, Heavens NO! I’m a lady for fucks sake. I’m no Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, but I believe that this will help to determine if you have a hernia. It’s either that or your doctor thinks you’re cute. XOXO

Dear Wilma, My boyfriends penis is really thick, do you have any tips for me? Sincerely, Ouchy

Dear Ouchy, Have you heard of booze and lube? That’s how I do it. XOXO

Dear Wilma, Valentine’s Day is coming and I was wanting some input, what would you do for a first date on Valentine’s Day? Where would you take your date and how much is appropriate to spend? Thank you, Anonymous Hopeless Romantic

Dear Anonymous, My legs rise according to the dollars spent, and “the sky’s the limit!” Seriously though, I think this is going to depend on the person you’re dating. I’ve spent many Valentine’s Days at home, but we’ve also indulged in $700 dinners in the City. Why don’t you cut to the chase and ask them what they want to do? You could spend as little as $50 for some pizza, a thoughtful card and Netflix, or thousands on a night on the town. I would let your date lead the way. Regardless, I think a nice card and some flowers always do the trick! Good Luck! XOXO

Wilma Fingerdo and Welcome to the Other Side can be seen performing at Shenanigan’s in Portage on February 25th 2017.