Armistead Maupin Wants You to Watch ‘Tales of the City’ This Christmas

What’s your favorite thing to watch with the family on Christmas?

Many Americans tune in on the holiday to watch time-honored classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, which are all but playing on a loop on cable throughout the month of December. Maybe you’re the kind of person who prefers to celebrate the Yuletide with a darker choice: Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and Batman Returns are all set around Christmastime. (Hey, even Eyes Wide Shut is technically a Christmas movie.)

But Armistead Maupin has another idea for this season: Tales of the City.

I sat down with the beloved author ahead of the Independent Lens showing ofof The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, a documentary about his life and career airing January 1 at 10:30PM on PBS. We discussed his beloved book series turned television show, which first debuted on PBS in 1993 before being brought back by Showtime for two additional installments in 1998 and 2001. A hallmark of queer TV, the show follows the residents of 26 Barbary Laneincluding Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney), a secretary who moves to San Francisco to find her destiny, and her eccentric landlady (Olympia Dukakis).

A planned Netflix reboot is reportedly set to debut in 2019.

In a condensed version of a much longer conversation, Maupin talks the upcoming documentary, his return to the small screen, the ongoing importance of LGBTQ representation, and why longtime fans seek out his work around the holidays. As he explains, the lovable misfits of Barbary Lane represent the family you createnot the one you’re born into.

You say in the documentary that your success as a writer was concurrent with you coming out sexually. How do you think your coming out influenced the way you saw the world and, thus, wrote about it?

Well, as anyone will tell you who has gone through the process, it’s a huge weight lifted off your shoulder. I was full of joy and self-discovery. I was young, living in San Francisco, and enjoying the life that I was writing about. I was surrounded by people that realized their openness as gay men and women was the best thing they had going for them. Harvey Milk felt that wayand a number of women within the city government in San Francisco and elsewhere. It made you special.

I knew I had a great thing going for me because there was this whole story going on in San Francisco that was ripe for the telling.

There’s a great passage in the film where you say that you were writing about something that wasn’t being coveredalong with a lovely little montage of gay couples. What did it mean to you to be a chronicle for LGBTQ life at a time in which queer people had so little representation?

It was thrilling because I got to provide it. Every morning I came to work and thought, “What am I going to write about today? What do they not know about?” Even something so simple as writing about the gay night at the roller rink, it was a revelation to many people.

I remember a very handsome, strapping lawyer that I knew. He said that I had betrayed him because everybody in his law office knew he went skating on Tuesday night. And now they knew why.

You accidentally outed him!

I had outed him with the roller rink.

A lot of the things that you were writing about hadn’t really been written about in literature before, like the HIV/AIDS crisis. There was also Anna Madrigal, who was one of the first transgender characters portrayed in a really affirming way. There was also Myra Breckenridge, but I would not hold that up as an example of anything, as much as I like Gore Vidal.

Myra is not gonna beat my transgender woman.

And oh God, and that movie! But how did you approach the subjects? There were so few roadmaps or blueprints for you to figure out how to do this. As a fellow writer, I’m just wondering how you got into the headspace.

I just assumed the humanity of everybody I wrote about. I used my grandmother for Anna Madrigal. I used her to create a loving, accepting, interesting woman. And then I began to educate myself about all of it. But I’ve always said, writers by nature are transgenderor they should be. Because we have to inhabit everyone’s skin and we have to do it convincingly. We have to feel them from the inside out.

So I always felt like a woman when I was writing my female characters, all of them. That’s one of the reasons that Laura Linney and I became instantly close. When she was playing Mary Ann Singleton, she was understanding the character so well that I realized she kind of understood me on a certain level.

The documentary discusses the fact that you really had to push for Anna to be transgenderso much so that you had to delay gratification in finding out that information about her. Why was it important for you that Anna be trans?

Well, nobody had done it before. It would be a complete surprise to the readers because I could have a character who had once been an unhappy man who is now a very evolved woman. And I could open their eyes to that. It was an opportunity to write about something that other people hadn’t written about.

As you said, Gore Vidal did in Myra Breckinridge, but I think Anna gets credit for being the first likable, fully evolved person. The Myra fans may disagree with me.

Your writing is a Trojan horse for readers, where you sneak in certain issues or themes disguised in your very good writing. Did you look at your work that way?

I made them like characters and then oh my God, Mona’s got a girlfriend. In those days, everything was taboo in terms of what could be discussed. The newspaper had cut out a segment where I had DeDe at a women’s music festival looking at her lover’s face in the firelight and really realizing how much she means to her. The paper tried to cut that. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why. That doesn’t make any sense anymore.

But I think that my chief aim was to show that everyone was capable of love in all sorts of different ways. And my job was to examine that.

When I introduced a trans man 10 years ago in The Tales of the City book series, my editor at Harpercollins cut out the sex scenes. They weren’t very explicit, but she said, “They make me uncomfortable, and I think they would make other people uncomfortable.” I said, “Well, that’s what I want to do. I want to make them examine why they feel that way about two people making love.”

That’s so interesting. Were there any other storylines that editors wanted cut out of your columns?

It was often just petty stuff. They would say, “You can’t say ‘shit.’” And I would say, “I said ‘shit’ last week!” “Well, that was shitkicker. That was part of a word.” You know, just completely irrational stuff. You just dealt with the whims of the editors. I wrote a column in which Michael [Tolliver] reacts to the referendum in Floridathe anti-gay Anita Bryant referendum. And Michael said, “When I came out of the closet, I nailed the door shut.” It’s as firebrand as I ever got.

I was told by someone behind the scenes that the newspaper was pulling that column. They thought it would upset some of the readership. I had to put my foot down and say, “I’m not gonna write anymore if you don’t leave that column in there.”

I won that battle. The editor called me up and said, “OK, we’re gonna do it.” As a gay man who was out and comfortable with himself, I was always about five steps ahead of everyone else I worked with at the newspaper. I had to just be patient and wait for them to catch up.

Tales from the City is headed to Netflix with a planned revival, which will debut at a different time from either the original novel or the television series. What do you hope that your work will offer to a new generation of LGBTQ people?

AM: It’s a chance to see themselves and their own lives reflected. The new series will be very much set in the here and now, with a much more diverse cast than I originally created. And the single word I come back to with Tales of the City and how people respond to it is that it celebrates decency. People in these stories are pretty nice people. They are trying to be decent. They’re trying to be good people. And there’s not a lot of meanness in Tales of the City. I hope there won’t be in the [Netflix] miniseries, per se.

I like for viewers to be able to watch something that lifts their hearts, makes them happy to be members of the human race. I’ve worked with a lot of people recently, and they say they watch the old miniseries at Christmas because it gives them that experience. It takes their mind off of the Orange Orangutan.

So much of the show is based around family that I think at the holidays, this idea as you describe in your work of a “logical family” really resonates with people. I was telling my partner the other day that I hate Christmas movies because I feel like that dynamic was never my experience.

But watching Tales of the City well, that seems like a great thing to do on Christmas.

Some of my favorite Christmas movies don’t mention Christmas. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is something I love to watch during the holidays. You can actually notice on television that some shows are clearly chosen because they have a certain quality, even though they’re not about Christmas. And God knows, you want to slit your wrists if you watch the Hallmark Channel.

My sister and I were talking about it because I was confessing that I had watched a few of those. And it’s very I wouldn’t say addictive, but it does give you this sense of “all is right with the world” when every frame of the movie has Christmas decorations in it. And every single frame of those movies has some sort of Christmas decorations in it.

I think it’s probably doing some good. I think watching the stories and people are getting their minds off the deterioration of the country when a lot more people are watching that channel than ever.

It provides people a sense of comfort. I think people find comfort in lots of different ways, whether that’s the Hallmark Channel or reading your books or watching your show. It feels like home.

Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Deck the Halls with These 10 Queer-Inclusive Christmas Films

It’s time to bust out those holiday traditions. Whether it’s biting your tongue during every excruciating family conversation or trying to make a gift card seem like an actually thoughtful gesture for that coworker you barely know, we all have our favorite Christmas moments. Or, you know, you could just enjoy a spiked cup of hot chocolate (I recommend a good pour of butterscotch schnapps) with a good holiday film.

Sure, you can stick with the good old childhood favorites like The Santa Clause or Jingle All the Way. Or you could go with the obscure off-genre classics like Die Hard and Gremlins. If you’re a particular brand of masochist, you could just go with one of the 15 tacky Hallmark Channel originals that Candace Cameron-Bure or Melissa Joan Hart has starred in this year.

Don’t forget the queer classics this season. I know a holiday that centers on Christianity and American capitalism doesn’t scream “queer-friendly,” but some of our favorite seasonal films feature queer characters and storylines.

Add these titles to your queue before the holiday ends.

Mixed Nuts


This ‘90s classic stars Juliette Lewis, Steve Martin, and Adam Sandler at the prime of their careers, with cameos from a young Parker Posey and Jon Stewart. But our favorite character is Chris (Liev Schreiber), a trans woman who seeks a safe space for the holidays at the headquarters of a suicide hotline operated by Martin’s character. As a chaotic series of events ensues during Christmas Eve, Chris finds love with the young Sandler’s ukulele-playing character.

Tangerine

Trans actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor give stunning performances in this 2015 indie hit. Sin-Dee (Rodriguez) is a trans sex worker who’s been released from jail, just in time for the holidays. When her best friend Alexandra (Taylor) informs her that her boyfriend/pimp (James Ransone) has been cheating on her, she sets out to put him and his new lover in their places. Meanwhile, aspiring musician Alexandra prepares for a big performance.

Carol

Based on the 1952 literary classic The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, this 2015 Oscar-nominated film tells a forbidden love story between a married woman and a young photographer. When retail worker Therese (Rooney Mara) meets the beautiful Carol (Cate Blanchett) at a department store during the holidays, the women develop a passionate relationship, which soon complicates both their lives.

Breakfast with Scot

Eric (Tom Cavanagh) is a retired hockey player turned sports commentator, who’s secretly living with his life partner, sports lawyer Sam (Ben Shenkman). When they suddenly become the guardians of Sam’s brother’s stepson, Scot (Noah Bernett), they find the demands of being parents during the holidays are overwhelming. The demands of caring for a flamboyant young boy as a closeted gay couple are even more stressful, but ultimately force the new dads to embrace who they are.

Make the Yuletide Gay

Gunn (Keith Jordan) and Nathan (Adamo Ruggiero aka Marco from Degrassi, aka most millennials’ first gay TV crush) are the perfect gay couple at their liberal college. But when Gunn returns home for the holidays, he has to play it straight, a tough task with a sudden visit from Nathan. With the support of his loving boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend (Hallee Hirsh), he works up the courage to tell his family the truth.

Tokyo Godfathers

This rare Christmas classic comes in the form of an anime comedic drama. Gin (Darren Pleavin) is a middle-aged alcoholic, Miyuki (Candice Moore) is a teenage runaway, and Hana (Myrta Dangelo) is a former drag queen. But together, they’re a homeless makeshift family surviving the streets of Tokyo during Christmas Eve. While rummaging through the trash for food, they find an abandoned newborn baby. With only a few clues, they search Tokyo for the infant’s parents.

The Family Stone

Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rachel McAdams, Claire Danes, and Luke Wilson make up the impeccable ensemble of this holiday favorite, which is a total tearjerker. As the Stones struggle to welcome the eldest son, Everett’s (Dermot Mulroney) girlfriend, Meredith (Parker) to the family during Christmas, an uncomfortable argument breaks out about his deaf and gay brother, Thad (Tyrone Giordano). It results in a fierce, queer-advocating mama bear performance by Keaton and a perfectly GIF-able quote from Parker.

Holiday Heart

Ving Rhames stars as the titular Holiday Heart in this emotional and undersung Christmas movie. A drag queen whose boyfriend has recently died, Holiday opens up his home to a drug-addicted single mother, Wanda (Alfre Woodard) and her daughter, Niki (Jessika Quynn Reynolds). Holiday befriends Wanda and becomes a father figure for Niki, but when Wanda gets involved with a drug dealer named Silas (Mykelti Williamson), the relationship threatens their happy new family.

Go

This 1999 crime comedy follows the intertwining lives of a group of people in LA on Christmas Eve. Sarah Polley stars as Ronna, with Katie Holmes as Claire, two grocery store clerks who attempt to sell some pills at a Christmas Eve rave to make ends meet. Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr) are two famous soap actors in a secret relationship. On the hook for their own drug crimes, they attempt to set up Ronna for a drug bust in exchange for their own clean records.

Less Than Zero

Bret Easton Ellis’ debut novel comes to life in this 1987 film starring James Spader, Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, and Robert Downey Jr. When Clay (McCarthy) returns to LA for Christmas break from his first year of college, he reunites with his former best friend, Julian (Downey Jr.) and ex-girlfriend, Blair (Gertz), who are now in an unhealthy relationship. Although the book is much queerer than the movie, there is an element of veiled bisexuality in the film.

Lenses on Queerness: Artist Eve Moreno

Every day this week we’ll be celebrating a different photographer who is using their social media to tell queer stories.

Eve Moreno is a brown trans and queer multimedia artist based in South Central Los Angeles. Born to immigrant parents from El Salvador and Mexico, their work challenges the white, heteronormative, patriarchal lens mainstream media pushes onto our societies. Moreno’s personal identity, visual art, and poetry provides a platform for trans and queer communities of color to see their identities reflected in the media.

In addition to specializing in photography, Eve also enjoys working in other mediums like paint (digital and traditional), graphic design, writing, videography, installation and performance art.

They’re currently studying at Los Angeles City College with a double major in Photography and Visual and Performing Arts.

Eve enjoys cooking plant based food, listening to hoe-positive music, and watching Sailor Moon.

What made you want to shoot film?

I fell in love with photography when I picked up the camera in middle school. So when I started studying photography in college, I started shooting film because it was a requirement for the degree. I fell in love with film when I discovered the double exposure technique method in an advance film photography class. Film taught me the value of composing a shot and making sure every frame is just right; every shot counts. I shoot and self process a lot of black and white film, but I’ve only ever shot color. l want to process color film one day.

What or who inspires your work the most?

It’s funny because I’m not inspired to create photography by any photographer in particular. I am inspired to paint, draw, write, and shoot photography because of artists likeEdxie Betts, an autonomous organizer and liberation artist; Navor Re, a community organizer and illustrator; Alan Pelaez and Kay Ulanday, award winning migrant poets; and my photography is inspired by my trans and queer communities. I want to highlight my communities and further empower the beauty that queer and trans people of color are!

Why is LGBTQ visibility important to you / your work?

To be specific, LGBTQ visibility through a people of color lens is important to me because our narratives often are not highlighted. Growing up, I did not see my identity reflected and or positively represented in the media. This led to a lot of self destructive behavior that almost costed me my life. I feel like it is my responsibility to create artwork that reflects the identities of queer and trans people of color, so that folks who have identities similar to my own can see artwork that validates their own identity.

Obscure random fact no one knows about you?

I was apart of the drill team at Heliotrope Elementary School in the City of Maywood. During my time on the team we performed Selena’s “Techno Cumbia” at the Maywood Fair, and created a dance routine for Janet Jackson’s “All for You.”

What’s on the horizon for you in 2018?

2018 is definitely going to be filled with tons of growth, and new content! I will be releasing a performance video in early February titled “Non-Binary Mami,” a poem dedicated to mothers, trans femmes and our rage. I will be hosting an event on March 1 at the University of California Santa Barbara titled, “Honor the Scorned: A night of expression with Eve Moreno,” where I will be sharing my poetry and photography work.

I also want to begin organizing around an art show featuring trans and queer people of color! I’ll finally be transferring out of community college and hopefully (fingers crossed) going to attend the University of California Los Angeles or Brown University. No matter what school I attend I know that I’m going to thrive, survive and continue to resist.

See work from Eve Moreno onInstagram.

Additional research and curation for this series provided byHadas.

Read about yesterday’s featured photographer:Mickey Aloisio.

Report: Donald Trump Said Haitian Refugees “All Have AIDS”

Donald Trump reportedly dug into some very old stereotypes while discussing refugees into the United States, according to a new report about the president’s anti-immigration stances in the New York Times.

During a June meeting with his national security team, Trump reportedly fumed that so many foreigners were still immigrating into the United States, despite his several attempts at passing a travel ban.

According to one person at that meeting, when Trump found out that Haiti had sent 15,000 people to the United States, the president muttered that they “all have AIDS.” Another person who was not present, but was briefed on the meeting, confirmed the comment to the Times.

In a statement to the Times, the White House denied that Trump ever used the word AIDS or “huts” to describe people from another country.

Trump’s association between Haitians and HIV is part of a long-standing stereotype from a time when some people thought only certain groups could contract the virus. HIV used to be called the “4-H” disease because people thought it only affected homosexuals, heroin addicts, hemophiliacs and Haitians.

President Barack Obama lifted a travel ban on HIV-positive immigrants entering the United States in 2009. The ban had been in place since 1987, when HIV was much less understood. When Obama lifted the ban in 2009, the United States was one of only twelve countries, including Armenia, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, that still had bans according to HIV status.

Haiti does have a high HIV prevalence rate, though it does have a rather high number of people on treatment, as well, according to UNAIDS. Currently, about 55% of people living with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment and the number of people diagnosed with HIV ever year has fallen 25% since 2010.

He Fought to Marry His Partner in Texas. Now He Wants to Be Its First Openly Gay State Senator

Texas may be gearing up for a repeat of the 2017 special elections in Virginia.

Last month, Democrat Danica Roem defeated Del. Bob Marshall, a Republican who had served in the House of Delegates for more than two decades, by nine points.

The contrast between the two candidates couldn’t have been more extreme: Marshall was one of the country’s most openly homophobic lawmakers, pushing an anti-trans bathroom bill to keep a “biological male” from “[showering] with the cheerleaders.” Roem, a journalist turned politician, is transgender. Her opponent refused to refer to her by female pronouns throughout the race.

Dallas may be set for a similar showdown. Openly gay attorney Mark Phariss, who fought the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, could face off against Angela Paxton, wife of one of the state’s biggest opponents of LGBTQ rights, in the 2018 election.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gave county clerks permission to refuse to sign marriage licenses for gay couples following the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex unions. The Republican ignited a firestorm of controversy after posting that “a man reaps what he sows” in a tweet widely viewed as a response to the Pulse shooting in June 2016, in which 49 people were gunned down at a gay nightclub. (Note: He later deleted the post.)

Phariss, who announced his candidacy this week to represent District 8 in the State Senate, hopes to ride the same wave of support which saw Roem become America’s first openly transgender state lawmaker.

“If you look at Virginia and other special elections this year, there’s been a swing of 12 points on average toward the blue side,” the 57-year-old tells INTO in a phone interview, citing a recent FiveThirtyEight study on the 2017 Democratic surge. “Donald Trump only won this district by eight points in 2016. It’s definitely a winnable race.”

If Phariss is elected next November, it would be a history-making moment for the state: No openly gay politician has ever served in the Texas Senate.

He is one of two LGBTQ candidates running for the upper house of the state legislature. Fran Watsonwho married her partner, Kim, in 2014is running in District 17, which is located in the Houston area. Although the district is historically Democratic, Republican Bill Flores has held the seat since 2011. He was re-elected in 2016 with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Pharris believes it’s the right moment to shatter that glass ceiling.

“There are spokespeople in the Texas Senate for LGBTQ equality, but it’s time for there to be an LGBTQ person at the table in the Senate,” he claims. “They’re spending a lot of time on issues that are divisive and do not improve the lives of Texans one iota.”

The Texas Legislature introduced more than 20 bills targeting the LGBTQ community in 2017, most of which would have allowed county clerks, health care professionals, and wedding caterers to deny services to queer and transgender people on the basis of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” One such bill, which allows foster care and adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples, was signed into law.

Republicans in the legislature also attempted to force through legislation preventing transgender people from using bathrooms which correspond with their gender identity. That effort stalled numerous times, but the governor called a special session in July to strong arm its passage.

It failed again.

Phariss and Holmes believe these bills don’t reflect the values of their state. After the couple signed onto a lawsuit lobbying for the right to marry in 2013, they went to their lake house in Gun Barrel City, a small town located in East Texas where the major local attraction is a Denny’s. The city, which Trump won by 60 points last year, makes no effort to hide its conservative leanings: Its logo is two crossed pistols.

But the pair weren’t met with disdain or disgust when they arrived. Their neighbors greeted them with hugs, congratulating them and patting them on the back.

“I don’t think Texans care who I love or who I marry,” says Phariss, who has been with his partner for 20 years. “I think Texans care if their kids are getting a good education. Texans care if they have congested streets. They care about the day-to-day issues that affect them.”

“Our sense is that our leadership does not understand Texas,” he adds.

Holmes agrees things have changed in the Lone Star State five years after they initially sued to strike down a 2005 Constitutional amendment limiting marriages performing in the state to one man and one woman. That provision was approved with 76 percent of the vote at the time.

Over adecade before the same-sex marriage ban was approved, Texas governor Ann Richards, a Democrat, ran for reelection in 1994. Although Holmes calls her a “brilliant governor,” her bid was derailed by a whisper campaign suggesting that she was a lesbian. He says that the opposition distributed “leaflets and flyers… to damage her reputation.”

“If you were actually LGBTQ in Texas, it was difficult to get on a ballotlet alone be elected to office,” Holmes tells INTO.

“One of the reasons that tactic worked so well in the past is that LGBTQ people as a population was painted as being bad and demonic, wanting to recruit your kids and take over your schools,” he continues. “As people have grown to know members of the LGBTQ community, they learned that isn’t true.”

If last year was a turning point for the nation, the couple believes Texas can follow.

At least 40 queer and transgender candidates won their respective races in the 2017 special elections, a record number. In addition to Roem, the tally included Jenny Durkan, who will become the city’s first lesbian mayor. Two trans candidates, Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, were seated to the Minneapolis City Council. Jenkins, a social worker, is the first transgender woman to hold public office in U.S. history.

Even with a blue bump that carried these politicians to victory, Phariss faces an uphill battle in his district. Republican Van Taylor won District 8 with 79 percent of the vote in 2014, beating Libertarian Scott Jameson by 59 points. There was no Democrat in the race.

But Phariss says there’s been a palpable excitement around his candidacy.

The Democratic hopeful has been endorsed by State Sen. José Menéndez, State Rep. Celia Israel, and House Rep. Mary González. Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling, donated to Phariss’ campaign unsolicited, Phariss says. Both Obergefell and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro have offered to appear at fundraisers to mobilize support.

Phariss claims that he raised $30,000 in the first week after announcing. The campaign didn’t even have a website yet, he says.

“The support I’ve received so far has been more than I expected,” Phariss says. “It’s been humbling and even worrying. Everyone who gets out and urges their friends to vote me, everyone who gives a dollar, and everyone who is volunteering phone bank for me, I just know they’re putting their hopes on me, and I feel the burden.”

“It’s motivating me,” he adds. “It will make me work harder.”

Davey Wavey Is Changing The Way Gay Men Watch Porn

Widely known among internet-savvy millennials as Davey Wavey, this YouTube personality has certainly turned heads with his frequently shirtless appearances. But he’s proven time and again that he’s not just another pretty gay boy who’s good at social media. Davey has curated a fun and interesting body of work that holds a mirror to the queer community and tells the stories of many of its subcultures.

With his latest project, he goes where we all hoped he would: porn. But it’s not in the way you probably assumed. He recently launched Himeros.tv, a new take on gay porn that provides homoerotic content with a concentration on sex positivity. Doing away with the unrealistic expectations set by most of the gay porn industry, he has talented filmmakers collaborate with sex experts to present an appealing form of sex education, something not so available to most queer people.

We recently caught up with Davey Wavey to talk all things sex. He filled us in on his sexual awakening, how he came up with Himeros, and how he hopes it will impact other queer people.

How did you come up with the idea for Himeros?

When I was in college, a boyfriend once told me that when we had sex, it was like being in a porn. “You’re welcome,” I replied.

The thing is, it wasn’t a compliment. But like most gay boys, I learned how to have sex by watching porn. I replicated in the bedroom what I saw on my computer screen.

I’m not alone. As a community, we’re having lots of sex. But how much of that sex is connected or ecstatic? How much of that sex brings us joy?

Let’s be clear about one thing: The goal of porn is to make you ejaculate. And to that end, porn is effective. But if you use porn to learn about pleasure or connection, you’ll come up empty handed, no pun intended. Therein is an opportunity.

I love porn, but what if there was more? What if gay erotica could also demonstrate real sexual ecstasy or encourage your own journey of sexual exploration and discovery? Is it possible to make erotic content that isn’t just hot, but that also enhances your experience of sex and sexuality? Those are the questions that gave birth to Himeros.tv. And I believe the answer is yes, yes, yes.

How involved are you with the production of the videos?

We’ve filmed more than 40 videos for Himeros.tv, and each one is a unique labor of love. I’m not a tantric expert or sex coach, but I do understand where most gay men are at in their relationship with sex. My role is to work with experts much wiser than myself to translate their knowledge into consumable, hot videos.

Doing this takes effort, time, and resources, but it’s a commitment that I’m happy to make. I produce the videos and work with the directors, crew, models and coaches to ensure that the magic happens. Of course, there is a learning curve, and we’ll continue to raise the bar on the content we make.

Each Monday, we upload a new video to Himeros.tv and you never really know what to expect.

What’s the collaboration like with the filmmakers and the sex experts?

On one hand, you have people like myself who are hungry for knowledge about sex. And on the other hand, you have incredibly talented sex coaches and tantric experts who hold a tremendous amount of wisdom. With the filmmakers, we become the conduit between these two disparate parties. Everyone who creates content for Himeros.tv, from the directors to the models to the crew, is united by a common mission of enhancing gay men’s experience of sex and sexuality through exploration, connection and ecstasy.

How else do you differentiate the site from all the gay porn on the internet?

It all comes down to intent. Porn is about getting you off. Himeros.tv is about getting you in

in touch with pleasure and what feels good, in touch with your desires, in touch with real connection and intimacy.

Do you intend users to derive both self-pleasure and education from the site?

We have createdand continue to createa wide variety of content. I suspect that different members will get different things from different videos. Some videos are created to be a guided masturbation. Some videos are instructional guides. Others are examples of sexually ecstatic couples or depictions of kink or fetishes. I think each person will react to the videos differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to interact with the site.

Do you think this might help destigmatize queer sex or sex in general?

Yes. As someone who grew up Catholic, and who attended Catholic high school and college, I understand shame. In creating Himeros.tv, one of my intentions was to portray gay sex in a way that lifts it out of the shadows. The opposite of shame is joy, and it meant infusing our content with joyful ecstasy.

When you go to many porn sites, there are lots of dark colors. You get the impression that you’re doing something wrong. You’re in the shadows. Himeros.tv is something different. It is light. It is bright. And it is certainly joyful.



What role did gay porn play in your own sex education?

Until recently, gay porn was my sex education. Most gay porn follows the same formula, and that was the formula that I replicated in my bedroom. Gay porn taught me that fucking hard was the same as fucking good, and that sex is something you do on a bed, and that sex ended with a cumshot, and so on. These beliefs are limiting and don’t serve your sexual evolution.

Himeros.tv is an invitation to step outside that box, ask questions, explore, and experiment.

Did you have any other source of queer sex education?

Growing up, I always knew that there was more. And a few years back, I connected with a tantric coach about creating a full body orgasm video. It opened my mind, and it opened a door. I walked through the door and now encourage other gay men to do the same. I can’t promise that you’ll like everything. But I can promise that you’ll learn a lot about yourself and a lot about life.

Do you often find other gay men to be in need of such an education?

Gay men are hungry for this knowledge. When we launched Himeros.tv, we didn’t know what to expect. But the response has been beyond our wildest hopes. At times, we’ve had to put up a waiting list for new members, to help keep the site intimate and safe. I think most gay men recognize the sex most of us are having is just scratching the surface. Most of us can see that there is more, and this is an opportunity to dive much deeper.

Is the site intended for queer teens as well? Or do you plan to come up with a version that could reach them?

Because the website is explicit, you must be 18 years of age or older to view the content. However, we’ve been uploading YouTube friendly content on the Himeros.tv YouTube channel that is accessible and free for all people.

Subscribe to Himeros.tv and see more of Davey Wavey’s work at daveywavey.tv.

Victory! Tennessee Town Votes Down Resolution Condemning Same-Sex Marriage

Christmas came early for East Tennessee’s LGBTQ community.

On Dec. 22, the Hamblen County Commission narrowly voted down a resolution which would have condemned the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and advised state lawmakers to defy the verdict. The symbolic measure failed in a 5-4 vote, with four members of the commission abstaining following a two-hour deliberation.

Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project applauds the vote in a statement to INTO.

“Some people were disappointed that it wasn’t a unanimous vote against the resolution, but when you consider how far down we started, we’re pleased with the result,” the executive director says in an email. “I’m really grateful that LGBTQ people and allies in Hamblen County fought so hard.”

More than 50 people showed up outside the Hamblen County courthouse to protest Friday’s deliberations, which were brought to the floor following a near-unanimous 7-1 vote on Dec. 11.

At the time, the county board appeared to favor the resolution. Tim Goins, a Hamblen County Commissioner, claimed in a Dec. 12 interview with the Knoxville news station KBIR that marriage “should be between a man and a woman.” He added that the county’s government is “Christian-based.”

“I hate the way our country is going altogether,” Goins says. “I think we’re going down the wrong track, for the most part. I think we need to be careful with what we do here in the short future.”

The tone among commissioners on Friday was completely different.

Hamblen County Commission Chairman Louis “Doe” Jarvis claimed that approving the resolution would be an “embarrassment” for the tiny municipality.

“I don’t think it’s our business as a commission of Hamblen County to deal with matters of the U.S. Supreme Court,” says Jarvis, who was the only commissioner to vote against the symbolic measure earlier this month.

“We try to be progressive and this type of thinking in my mind isn’t progressive thinking,” he continues.

Hamblen, which numbers just 26,000 residents, would have been the ninth county to pass a resolution decrying same-sex marriage in the past two years. Similar decrees passed in neighboring Hawkins, Greene, Carter, Johnson, and Sullivan counties in late 2015 and early 2016, all of which are located in East Tennessee.

Sanders attributes the difference to the tireless work LGBTQ activists put in to mobilize opposition to the resolution.

The community advocate claims that over 130 volunteers with the Tennessee Equality Project contacted the commission to oppose the measure. In the days leading up to the vote, reports suggested that the effort was paying off.

“We kept getting word that we were peeling away votes from the resolution,” he says.

An additional 20 people came forward the day of the meeting to voice their concerns about the ordinance’s passage. One local community member, Lawrence Glover, claimed the measure would “negatively impact [the] county” and creative divisiveness.

“This is something that we need to stop,” he says, as Knoxville’s WATE reports.

“We were on edge until the vote, even though we had filled the room,” Sanders says in an email. “The speakers from Hamblen County did an incredible job telling their stories and making their arguments.”

The victory is just the latest win for LGBTQ advocates in Tennessee in recent months. The small town of Portland, located near the Kentucky border, dropped an ordinance which would have banned drag shows in its downtown area. The proposal was killed following threat of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Jeff Hiller Steps in for Drew Droege During ‘Bright Colors and Bold Patters’ Extension

Drew Droege has provided many quality laughs for his queer fan base. Whether he’s serving weird it girl in his Chloë Sevigny videos or intoxicatingly recounting an important tale in Drunk History, his wit and infectious personality are worthy of the big stage.

Luckily, he was able to prove that in his off-Broadway run of Bright Colors and Bold Patterns. Written by Droege and directed by Michael Urie, Droege stars as Gerry, friend and wedding guest of Josh and Brennan. Arriving at their Palm Springs nuptials, he incites a drug and booze-fueled riot, out of anger over the invitation, which reads, “Please refrain from wearing bright colors or bold patterns.”

Following a three-week limited engagement in 2016, the show earned rave reviews during its current off-Broadway run. Sunday, January 7 will be Droege’s final performance as he hands the role off to Jeff Hiller, who will star in the one-man show throughout a six-week extension, ending Sunday, February 25.

Meanwhile, Droege plans to perform the show around the country on a national tour.

“I’m so excited to perform Drew’s hysterical show and finally have a stage all to myself,” Hiller says.

Droege and Urie also expressed their excitement to welcome Hiller to the show.

“I am insanely thrilled and honored to welcome the wicked genius of Jeff Hiller to our play,” Droege says. “I hope he likes margaritas.”

“It’s quite a coup to get comedy master Jeff Hiller to bring a different take on this character and explore his antics from another angle,” Urie adds.

Hiller is a frequent performer at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York and Los Angeles and has appeared in such TV shows as 30 Rock, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Community, Broad City, and Difficult People.

Catch Drew Droege in Bright Colors and Bold Patterns at SoHo Playhouse until January 7, and see Drew Hiller take over the role until February 25. Tickets are available online.

Lenses on Queerness: Photographer Mickey Aloisio

Every day this week we’ll be celebrating a different photographer who is using their social media to tell queer stories.

Mickey Aloisio is an American born artist who is currently based in Queens, NY. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a concentration in photography in 2016.

Aloisio’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and he recently released his second self-published limited edition monograph at the BGSQD: Queer Division in New York. Aloisio addresses ideas of belonging, desire, and vulnerability while evoking concepts of conventional beauty within their portraits.

What or who inspires your work the most?

I’ve found that I’m inspired by the opportunity of the photograph, specifically within my portraiture. It’s more for me about the chance of spending time and getting to know more about the person in front of my lens, or to just experience one another in a way we normally wouldn’t.

In a way, the camera is just a middle man. The same idea is applied when it comes to landscapes. I have to be there to make that photograph, right? I think that journey of creating the photograph is as big of an inspiration as any.

In terms of aesthetic inspiration, I’m influenced most by formality and tradition. I think it’s interesting to play with classic ideas of design, lighting and composition within the execution of my images, while evoking more modern concepts of conventional beauty through the subjects.

Why is LGBTQ visibilityimportant to you / your work?

I think as being a part of the LGBTQ community, it’s easy to think of yourself as being at a disadvantage. Throughout history the community has faced pushback or rejection. The government’s response to the AIDS crisis, the seemingly perpetual fight for marriage equality, and the exclusion from donating our blood are just a few examples. However, through my images, I strive to reflect and shine light on the positivity that comes from belonging to this communityechoing the care, connection, and trust within its people to the viewer. Photographing the subjects in a way that emulates the good, the happiness and playfulness that’s unfortunately often overlooked by too many. Instead of a more common, hyper-sexualized approach of representing queer people.

Obscure random fact no one knows about you?

I have super long toes which I recently found out were known as “lingers,” which makes it hard for me to find shoes that I’m super into. I’ve kind of always had toe-envy when I see other people with cute little stubby nubs for toes.

What’s on the horizon for you in 2018?

So I’m actually pretty pumped for 2018. During April, May, and June, I plan on making new work throughout Europe, which will be my first time leaving America. The goal is to travel through Europe to create new portraits of gay men and gay culture of certain European cities. I’ll be spending some time in Spain, London, Germany, Amsterdam and where ever else I wind up.

Essentially resulting in a body of work quite similar to my last project, “American Wildlife,” in which the completed series will be comprised of landscapes, individual portraits, and self-portraits of my interactions with the subjects. Of course I expect this new project to grow in a new direction that the other’s haven’t; however, I find growth usually happens organically and so only time will tell.

See work from Mickey Aloisio onInstagram.

Additional research and curation for this series provided byHadas.

Read about yesterday’s featured photographer:Justin French.

14 Holiday-Themed Songs From Queer Artists

Going home for the holidays can be stressful and tough for queer people, especially in conservative homes. No matter if you’re struggling, closeted, out, questioning or just feeling lonely and unsafe, know that you can always trudge through the snow and run into the warm and welcoming arms of the LGBTQ community.

If you’re feeling gay with holiday cheer, you’re not alonewhich is why we’ve curated a list of holiday songs exclusively by queer musicians. Along with eggnog and a footed onesie, these songs are absolute musts for your holiday celebrations.

“Sleigh Ride” – Miley Cyrus

This year, Spotify released a playlist of Christmas songsoriginals and coversperformed by the biggest artists in the world. Luckily for us, many of those artists are queer! Pansexual pop star Miley Cyrus covered the holiday classic “Sleigh Ride,” offering that powerful, belted vibrato that’s become customary to Cyrus’s sound. Miley’s cover of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is also on the Spotify Singles: Holiday playlist.

“Last Christmas” – Wham!

“Last Christmas” is one of the best and most famous Christmas songs put forth by a pop group. Wham frontman George Michael tragically passed away in 2016, but undoubtedly, his legacy lives on through his music. While this classic has been covered to the ends of the earth, I’d recommend checking out the xx’s live cover, mostly because queer lead singer Romy Madley Croft is a total dreamboat.

“Christmas Tree” – Lady Gaga

Bisexual queen Lady Gaga released an original Christmas song in 2008. There’s something inherently disturbing in hearing someone refer to their vagina as a “Christmas Tree,” but nonetheless, the song gives all the “ra pa pam pams” and “fa la la’s” you need. And feel free to skip her “Baby It’s Cold Outside”duet with Tony Bennett, unless you’re a total masochist.

“River” – Sam Smith

Following the release of Sam Smith’s massive second studio album The Thrill of it All, the soulful crooner joined the fun at Spotify and covered Joni Mitchell’s chilling Christmas-themed “River.” Smith has dabbled in holiday music before, having covered “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in 2014. Motion to replace all Michael Buble’s Christmas songs with Sam Smith songs.

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” – Demi Lovato

Also on the Spotify Singles: Holiday playlist, bisexual singer Demi Lovato graced us with her own version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Lovato is no stranger to holiday cheerin 2012, she performed a live cover of “All I want For Christmas Is You” at the Christmas in Washington concert (R.I.P. Obama). The pop star also covered “Wonderful Christmas Time” during her time as a Disney starlet.

“Make It Jingle” – Big Freedia

Freddie Ross, the musician known professionally as Big Freedia, is known for her influence in the Louisiana bounce music scene. She’s an advocate for gender fluidity and insists that she is comfortable with both male and female pronouns. In 2016, Big Freedia released a hilarious, fun and poppy Christmas song for us to twerk to. “Make It Jingle” is the only Christmas song I need this year, TBH.

“Splits on Christmas Trees” – Todrick Hall

In 2014, gay YouTube comedian and performer Todrick Hall released an original Christmas song, “Splits on Christmas.” It has that classic, hilarious Todrick Hall flair and is perfect for your Christmas Eve turn-up.

“Lonely in December” – Kehlani

Queer musician Kehlani burst onto the R scene this year and made waves in the LGBTQ community with her wlw music video for “Honey.” In 2014, before we knew just how badly we wanted to cuddle up next to her by the fire, she released a Christmas song called “Lonely in December.” It’s a deep cut, but the song still has that familiar, smooth Kehlani touch.

“Thank God It’s Christmas” – Queen

Led by the iconic queer front-man Freddie Mercury, Queen released a Christmas single in 1984 titled “Thank God It’s Christmas.” The song is filled with just enough cheer and togetherness to pump you full of Christmas spirit, especially if you’re craving an ‘80s vibe.

“Wish List” – Neon Trees

The lead singer of Neon Trees, Tyler Glenn, struggled to come out as gay because he was raised Mormon. After struggling with his sexuality and religion for years, he released a Christmas song with Neon Lights in 2010. If you’re looking to snuggle with that special someone this holiday, “Wish List” will be right up your alley.

“Everyday is Christmas” – Sia

This year, Sia released an entire Christmas album titled Everyday is Christmas. Each song has the sexually fluid singer-songwriter’s iconic pop sound. If you’re a Top 40 fan, it’ll be your new favorite holiday albumunless you’re still stuck on Ariana Grande’s fantastic 2015 EP Christmas & Chill.

“Ay, Ay, Ay It’s Christmas” – Ricky Martin

The ’90s are alive and kicking. Ricky Martin’s Christmas song is a high energy, Latin-infused, certified bop. If you’re a fan of the gay pop star, you’ll love his holiday music. Be forewarned: it’s cheesy.

“Can You See” – Fifth Harmony

Fifth Harmony released a new original holiday song titled “Can You See,” which was featured on the Spotify Singles: Holiday playlist. Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony came out as bisexual in 2016 and has strongly advocated for the LGBTQ community ever since. If you’re looking for more Fifth Harmony holiday vibes, check out their 2014 cover of the Mariah Carey classic “All I want For Christmas Is You.”

“Merry Christmas” – *NSYNC

In 1998, *NSYNC dropped a Christmas album featuring their now-classic song “Merry Christmas.” Eight years later, Lance Bass came out as gay in an exclusive interview with People Magazine. The album is utopian holiday listening for ’90s and 2000s kids, as it features the pop sounds customary to the late ’90s and early 2000s, plus that boy band charm and flurry of Christmas spirit.