From the Editor: Extra! Extra!

In the publishing industry, we see all sorts of trends and headlines. We write them, too. We get to shape how information is shared while trying to be as nimble as possible. Print isn’t dead, we aren’t all paying to read content on the internet as was attempted, ad blocking software is getting pretty savvy, and Facebook requires us to pay for you to see our posts…kind of like putting money in a slot machine and pulling the arm to see how many of you might see something at a given time of any day. Okay, it’s a bit more reliable than that, but the payout is similar to most pulls of the one-armed bandit.

Lavender-LinkLavender’s been steadfast in what we’ve offered and how we’ve offered it. We’ve had a usable and predictable website for years, our online magazine and its identical iPad/iPhone edition is free and easy to access, we don’t have ad popups that make you want to leave our site, and we try to share as much information as seems reasonable to our budget as a free publication on the pay-to-play sites like Facebook. But, as with most forms of marketing, promoting ourselves through our own methods that we control is one of the most effective ways to get information to you. Our website is our biggest promotional tool. Go there and you can find everything we’ve got. Period. How can we tell you about what’s on our website that’s more of a curated selection? We’ve now got an e-newsletter, Lavender Link, that I put together on a weekly basis that is driven by editorial content that is both in the issue and exclusive to just our website. It’s got both the usual events as well as featured events for you to consider. What you may not know as much about but is a pretty popular part of our website: we’ve got contests. Our contests might be a new Cyndi Lauper album (this past issue) or tableware or tickets to a show or, recently, an All-Clad Slow Cooker. We’re digging up free stuff for you all the time. And we’ll now be holding a drawing every two weeks for a $100 gift card to Target for those who’ve signed up for our e-newsletter, Lavender Link. Sign up, get the curated list of the latest stories from me, and get your name in for the gift cards…you’ll only be ineligible once you’ve won. So, get in there and get winning (www.lavendermagazine.com/resources/subscribe-to-lavender-link-weekly-newsletter).

Thank you for being part of our steadfast readership as we navigate the publishing industry to best serve you. We’re not in this for the clickbait, our mission to serve comes directly from one of our meetings the other day (and our very beginning in 1995) and I am very proud of it.

With you, with thanks, and with your next e-newsletter,
Andy

From the Editor: Their Time to Glow

Two Young Women Enjoying Nature
Bigstockphoto.com

I was recently asked to speak at a meeting of a gay-straight alliance at Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet School in St. Paul. GSAs play such an integral role in providing safe spaces for support and exchanges of information for students and I was thrilled that I was asked. What threw me off a little was that it was my nephew who was asking and he’s in 7th grade. He’s a proud ally who’s proud to have an aunt in this role for this community and I jumped at the chance to meet his group. Though my school didn’t have one out in the cornfield between Dassel and Cokato just west of the Twin Cities, I joined a GSA the moment I got to college. But middle schoolers? With a GSA? This is a brave new world and I am so happy to be a part of it.

The name of their group is GLOW, “Gay, Lesbian or Whatever.” And I love them for that openness and casual flair. Instead of a gay-straight alliance, they refer to it as a “gender sexuality alliance,” which is more inclusive. Each session begins with the students bringing up a “Big Gay Moment” that they may have experienced in the past week. That day, they ranged from someone seeing a bumper sticker about love, to a girl’s sister getting “gay engaged,” to another girl coming out to her mother. I fought to maintain composure as this young woman said that her coming out to her mother was a little deflated because her mother already knew since she’d seen the daughter fill out a form the week before at the doctor’s office that asked for her to specify her sexuality. Everyone was so happy for her and I wanted to give her a huge hug and maybe have a parade in the hallway, but I kept it together and was in silent awe of this whole sharing session, these kids, their stories, and their lives.

We only had a short amount of time to talk, so I tried to race through things like my background, what my education and preparation has been for this job, and the history of Lavender Media, which is a daunting task that’s pretty high-context. Looking around the group of about 35 kids all eating their lunches during this time of voluntary togetherness over their lunch period, I could see that I probably didn’t need to fill in too many gaps about what definitions are, as I could guess that much of the community was represented, especially since this particular sub-community was gay, lesbian, or whatever. They were questioning and they were curious. So I tried to give half the time we had to questions that had both been written the week before as well as had popped into their minds as I was talking and showing them some magazines. And, let me tell you, the question and answer period is where I was able to see their minds working and processing and opening and moving us all forward, the shifts seemed seismic to me at the time. Our future. Right there.

What’d they want to know? A lot. But the most commonly asked question was whether or not Lavender gets “a lot of hate.” Do people send in hate mail? Do they leave nasty comments? Are we the recipients of disapproval? I was relieved to truthfully report that no, we don’t get any hate. If it’s an indication that things do “get better,” I’m happy to give them that glimpse into our reality. And, especially for those who find this group to provide “lots of security” as “one of the only places that I can really be myself” as mentioned on a comment card from a student, I want to assure them that there are more public places out there where they are welcome and can find the same support as they get in that classroom every Thursday in St. Paul.

I know that this group is one of many that exists in the Twin Cities and that fact makes me extremely happy. When I asked about how it was formed, it’s apparently a process that depends on how open the specific schools may be to taking a bit of a risk in allowing such a group to exist, considering that parents may or may not be supportive of their children having access to such information or content. So, what I’ll do in the upcoming Pride Issue is include a piece on how students and parents can work with teachers, staff, and schools to form a gay-straight alliance. Seeing how hungry these kids were for knowledge and understanding that they give up their lunchtime to be there for themselves and each other gives me great hope that this old-fashioned consciousness-raising is raising a new generation that finds tolerance as native to their beings as all this technology that they seem to inherently know and understand. We need to make more spaces and more lunch hours and more resources available in schools. Now.

Thank you, members of GLOW, for inviting me in and teaching me so much. I am proud to now know you.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: The Fallacy of Privacy and the Securing of Safety

bigstockphoto.com
bigstockphoto.com

In a magazine dedicated to talking about Sports & Fitness, I find myself at a loss to not recoil at the thought of participating in an organized sport or working out at a gym. Athletics and exercise are daunting for those of us who haven’t yet found physical fitness and sports to be welcoming as a concept or a practice. But, worse, the barriers to accessing these spaces and activities are too great. The stigmas I have to jump over as hurdles are too high. The clubs and locker rooms are mine fields. The private is public and I choose not to accept those conditions.

I’m overweight. It’s a body type that has always existed but has been vilified and othered only in modern times, as the number of overweight people has risen while the cultural acceptance of overweight people has seen a steady declension. While I understand that there is great resistance to drawing comparisons between the struggles of people in different groups, being overweight has given me insight into the challenges faced by people who are transgender and gender non-conforming, as well as great empathy. There are a number of comparisons between being overweight and being a person who is transitioning into a gender that matches their identity: our bodies are different from the norm, we are hoping to “pass” and be seen as just one of the crowd of our peers, and our mere existence threatens the rules and codification of the gendered binary that seems to hold our heteronormative world together. We don’t fit the strict definitions of what our culture wants to be dominant, based on what we see presented in the media, which constitutes only about five percent of the world’s body types: lean, white, and fit. Not too much body hair, not too big or small of breasts, not too small of penis, not too short of neck, no rolls, no redheads, no cellulite, or flabby arms.

No five o’clock shadow on the face or five-month shadow in the armpits. For women. And men who’ve transitioned to be women. And queer people who are forced into picking a gender based on which door they walk through. And maybe the men should trim up to a certain point, too, while we’re at it. We are policing our bodies and each other’s bodies and we are suffering for it.

This idea of “passing” is something that a great number of people who fit the gender binary (women being feminine, men being masculine) adhere to and strive to stay within, something that doesn’t help those of us who are on the fringes. It’s a club whose members might both effortlessly fit into by virtue of being born with genes that fit the dominant culture, as well as those who torture themselves in order to maintain the guidelines that they see are constricting and choking, but lend order to their world and how they see it. People who are considered to be “passing” might do so at great risk to themselves and their health.

It’s a bunch of bullshit.

How is this bullshit most grossly enforced? By making people bare themselves in restrooms and locker rooms.

Take my example of being outside the norm by being overweight and expand the experience to include people who are transitioning, or have transitioned, to their authentic gender. Consider people who identify as queer and eschew gender definitions and limitations. Think about those of us who don’t want to fit into what a “woman” or a “man” are supposed to look like (and, depending on who you ask, plenty of recent versions of what “woman” represents would mean that we shouldn’t even be working out or playing sports, so kiss that Title IX goodbye). People are putting themselves at risk when they enter into such spaces where vulnerability has higher positioning than empowerment, no matter who we are or what we look like. The problem isn’t who’s going into the spaces. The problems are, simply, the spaces, first, and the expectations within them, second. This applies to both locker rooms and restrooms with both spaces having their own unique conditions and challenges to do such basic things: bodily functions and preparations.

Being a women’s, gender, and sexuality studies major, people often ask me what “gender studies” is, with good reason. Here’s a great example. If you compare the conditions of restrooms for men and women, there is a stark double-standard against men that our society has internalized and codified as acceptable. Women, apparently having more of a need and requirement for privacy (or safety if we’re talking about women naturally being the prey of men who are predators, another horrific standard that some people have internalized), have private stalls in which to use the same toilet they would at home, under the same circumstances that they would use it in the safety and privacy of where they live.

Men, on the other hand, are required and expected to use the restroom without private spaces, getting a trough or a urinal — two fixtures that had to be invented and manufactured by the plumbing industry for this purpose — and have to actually disrobe and bare the parts of themselves that we have deemed to be private in our culture. This double-standard is an incredible disconnect. We tell children that they have private parts that only they have control over; that nobody should ask to see or touch what has been deemed private. We tell them that, as they grow up, they can determine who has access to their private parts in terms of intimacy and sexuality. But then we tell boys that they don’t get to have that privacy in restrooms. That we’ve designed spaces and actually invented items to be manufactured that create restrooms in which men are required to dehumanize themselves as they publicly perform their basic, private functions multiple times a day. That, my friends, is why “gender studies” exists: to identify and call out discrimination based on gender.

As I’ve been asking the question of why haven’t we talked about the actual problems in the state of public restrooms, the fact that we require men to be treated so differently than women, plenty of men have expressed that they are not supportive of this double-standard. We should address this problem as one that is actual, rather than one that has been invented for an election year.

Really, consider recent history of what’s happened when legislators have tried to curtail the rights of members of this community in terms of marriage legislation. The community rejected that proposed discriminatory legislation and went so far as to push and secure those rights as law. In the case of transgender rights and who’s allowed in which private spaces, what are the possible outcomes here? First of all, people are definitely waking up to the fact that such proposed legislation scares a large number of people who will now be propelled to the ballot boxes on Election Day; a ruse that needs to be called out as often as possible. By making transgender people into something they’re not, whether they be framed as predators or oddities or new-fangled fads, they have been turned into a political strategy; invented as a new monster in this current wave of propaganda.

This concocted threat of transgender people requiring legislation to keep them out of restrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender needs to be shot down as a non-issue. In reality, we need to protect our transgender friends, family members, and people we’ve never even met from the people who want to restrict their rights and actually make them less safe, less human. Second, an outcome could actually be a push for restroom and locker room reform. You want safe and secure private spaces in restrooms? We need to expand that to include everyone, which means that this culture needs to stop discriminating against men. How realistic is it to say that a next step could be the redesign and reconstruction of all restrooms to have private spaces for toilets, removing the exposed urinals and troughs? Well, it’d be a great expense, but it wouldn’t be actually inventing devices for a problem that didn’t exist, like was done with urinals and troughs. And, in a crass way, it’d create jobs for such reform. Do I think it’s a realistic outcome? I don’t know. But my gender studies heart says it’d be a correct and just outcome.

No matter what the outcomes may possibly be, as with the fight for marriage equality, this is where we need to find empathy. I don’t offer up my stories of woe about being overweight in a locker room in order to compare and determine who’s suffered more, I offer them as a means of indicating that I can empathize with being an outsider. And I can empathize with having to do certain things to try to conform to at least some of the standards of “femininity” that people who are transitioning to being female have to now consider, thanks to the gender binary. And I can empathize with men who are being forced to do something private in a dehumanizing and public way, because I see it now and have named it. And I am sorry that these are our conditions.

We do not have to accept them. But, before we revolutionize the restrooms and locker rooms of the world, we should first band together to fight the people who want to make the conditions in such places even worse, even tighter, even more restricted and dehumanizing. Please find how you can also empathize with the people who actually are at risk: those who are forced or expected to conform to conditions that they don’t find acceptable, whether they be men using restrooms without privacy, people who don’t look like they “belong” in a locker room, and people who don’t conform to their original gender at birth.

Be vigilant, respectful, and protective of each other.

With you and with love,
Andy

From the Editor: Fancy Feasts

This Restaurant Edition hits some high points for this community, shining a light on what the data shows to be quite popular with our readership: nonprofits, new restaurants, and the arts. That we can hit a great food-oriented fundraising event for people living with HIV/AIDS, some new places to find fantastic food, and our dynamic drag queen brunches in one issue is sheer delight for me. When I travel to other areas and markets to become acquainted with some of what their GLBTA communities embrace and champion, I can usually find the fundraisers and cuisine, but I’ve got to say that we’ve got an amazing drag scene here in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Whether we’re talking drag queens or kings, the options we have for that segment of art and entertainment are enviable. I hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Recipes-and-CookingOn the topic of food, I’d also like to ask for your input and assistance. Lavender Media is producing videos of recipes now. I know I’m not alone in that I tend to go catatonic as I’m scrolling through Facebook on my phone and I see a video showing food prep in my feed…they’re enchanting, they make my mouth water, and they help me with meal planning, no lie. So, as we move into producing these, please go check out what we’ve already done (my disembodied hands are very recognizable, I’m told) on Facebook in our videos section, on our website under the Recipes & Cooking tab, or on Vimeo when you search for Lavender Magazine. Then, if you have a recipe that you’d like to see featured or produced, send it to me at andy@lavendermagazine.com with a little blurb about what it means to you and we’ll choose a few to produce as videos and publish in the Pride Issue. Please put “Pride Recipe” in the subject line. I can’t wait to see what you’ve got!

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Modern Love

Photo by Heidi Garrido, HM Photography
Photo by Heidi Garrido, HM Photography

Looking at this 2016 Spring Wedding Issue, what came to mind right away is the theme “Modern Love.” That we lost the singer of the song, dear David Bowie, recently only makes it more apropos. His song could be considered to be more of a negative take on weddings and getting to the church on time, or it could be just leaving everything up to interpretation, which is how weddings are usually best executed. How do I interpret the concept of modern love for the purpose of this wedding issue? Modern love includes people, fashion, florals, food, drink, photographers, and events that are now. And now is all about letting us define ourselves and where we fit into the world. It’s a post-marriage equality world, by definition, and we’re still striving to make it fit for each of us, regardless of relationship status, on our terms…for ourselves and for each other.

Spring is always the big time of year for wedding issues. I like to be sure we do a special feature that showcases some of our important new and emerging wedding vendors and venues in this issue, this time in a brand new space called Paikka in St. Paul. Nestled into a space that is adjacent to Lake Monster Brewing, this space is modern in its rustic repurposing. Taking what’s old to be new again is very now. Very appreciated. Very open to interpretation, which is the venue owners’ goal for this space: to leave you to decide how you want to use it for what you envision as your special day.

Given the parameters of spring and summer as the time period within the year of 2016, important and modern concepts must include where the food might be sourced and how the waste is handled. Not sexy concepts, but extremely relevant ones. Common Roots not only comes to mind as a caterer with tasty and attractive food, but also as one that is environmentally conscientious. Then, as the perfect follow-up to a delicious summer meal, I wanted desserts that will cool us down while also being natural and health-conscious. On one of the hottest nights last summer, I found salvation in a Strawberry Balsamic Basil ice lolly by Frio Frio at the Little Mekong Night Market in St. Paul. Around the same time, I had my first ice cream mini by Sweet Science at the Brave New Workshop, which was most definitely a gateway mini and I’m never going back to the way it was before that salted caramel cup of goodness. Both were shoo-ins for what to suggest to this audience as clever alternatives to wedding cake (though I would never kick cake out of my bed for leaving crumbs).

Fashion and florals are the steady components of wedding issues, but how they’re done is always evolving. Luna Vinca is a long-standing florist that gave us a modern take on natural elements, incorporating lichen and geometric shapes into bouquet inspirations. Flutter Boutique is giving us what is now, not what was then. When I asked what the trends are as we were pulling gowns, we passed on some gorgeous dresses that aren’t in the now for ones that showcase beading, lace, and even some higher necklines. Then, for the suits, though Milbern has been around for a very long time, they’re current on what works — and works in a budget — for 2016, which is trending away from suit rentals and toward ownership for both men and women. I trust what they say and want to pass that trust and transparency to the readership as something we value now. Today. And always.

To fill in the cast of characters for the fashion element in the feature, I was drawn to people who define themselves on their own terms in our community every day, night, and weekend. In the past, I’ve used models for these fashion features, who’ve been lovely and wonderful. But, last year, I started incorporating real couples from our community that have real relationships and history with each other, something that I made into my primary goal for this issue. You can see the connections between them, caught in the photography. With that in mind, I immediately thought of Zsuzsi Bork and her fiancée, Cheena Gorzalski, as well as Oliver Sharp and his boyfriend, Bryce Laine. These are beloved people in the community, something that was abundantly clear as I posted snapshots of the photo shoot in my Facebook feed and the likes and loves for the photos kept my phone notifications active for days. Zsuzsi and Cheena are also known as Xavier, drag performer as well as producer of Dragged Out at the Town House, and Nadi A’marena, burlesque performer and member of The Vigilantease Collective. Oliver and Bryce can be found at two of our favorite bars, The Saloon and Tattersall Distilling, respectively, and Oliver also is well-known as Harrie Bradshaw, a bearded drag queen with legs for days and sass to boot. These couples and who they are to us round out what modern love is and can be, progressive and self-defined.

Not as obvious in front of the camera as behind the scenes are Brett Dorrian and Heidi Garrido. Brett of Brett Dorrian Artistry Studios is my go-to when I think of styling as well as someone who knows the community and the aesthetics and issues that affect the ease and comfort of same-sex weddings. She walks into any situation and infuses it with a level of comfort and expertise that is required for modern weddings in this day and age. And then there’s Heidi of HM Photography who photographed this extensive feature in this issue, who’s been here for the community for years and years, fighting for marriage equality, photographing parades, and being the photographer for the wedding tent at Twin Cities Pride. She’s down to earth and here to make your vision appear in her photography.

As for the rest of the issue, there’s more modern to go around. A new book covers What To Do When Your Gay or Lesbian Child Marries. No, it’s not a new trend, marriages and partnerships have been happening throughout all time. But the difference is that this book actually uses data that’s been gathered since marriage equality has been enacted. The results are in. The conclusions are current. The advice is applicable now. And is open to our interpretation.

As for our engagement and wedding stories, the lovers are walking this world with us, going where we go, liking what we like, incorporating our pop culture that is now. Their thoughts and experiences resonate with us. And, the accompanying imagery fits. These are the photographers you want now. Eliesa Johnson of Photogen Inc is hotter than ever in both regional and national magazines and I still show off the 2013 Spring Wedding Issue that she shot for us as a showpiece of what Lavender has done. Melissa Hesse of Rivets & Roses gave us great insight into how to hire a photographer for this community’s somewhat-new and sometimes-sensitive weddings in the 2015 Fall Wedding Issue and not only can she shoot some gorgeous events, she knows what she’s talking about.

Most of all, we want you to know what you’re talking about. We want this to be your resource for ideas and inspiration. Now and in the future.

My heartfelt thanks goes to each person who made this wedding issue what it is and what it stands for as a snapshot of what Modern Love looks like in 2016. We’re still writing history. And I’m proud that you’re a part of it, whether you’re in the pages or reading them.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Everyday Epicurean

istockphoto.com/flyfloor
istockphoto.com/flyfloor

Oh, this is a gorgeous issue. I can say that because I’m not touting my own work, but showing off what others have allowed us to use. Look at the photos in the choreographer piece, the photos of the upcoming performances in the Spring Arts & Dining Pairings. We have such talented people here in the Twin Cities who not only put together tremendous productions for us to see, but also people who photograph what goes into those productions…the players, sets, costumes, lighting, and so much more. Our arts scene here is remarkable and our artists are accessible.

The same can be said for our dining and drink scene. We can walk into an establishment and talk to the chefs, the owners, the bartenders, the pastry chefs, the hosts, the servers. We can find them in food trucks and friend them on Facebook. We can interface with the people who design and make the works of art that we eat and drink. The producers and directors and players and costumers of the food and drink world. We are so fortunate.

I often pair up dining with going to see performances, whether before or after a show. I could free-associate such food and performance pairings while sipping some coffee and staring at the stars, it’s so fun. They’re often fairly loosely pulled together, and may say more about my mind than anything, so even my impulses are entertainment to me. As an example, Lasso of Truth made me want to go eat some of our own Wonder Woman’s Greek creations at Gardens of Salonica, which may have plenty to do with Diana Prince coming from Amazons of Greek mythology…and suddenly I find myself enjoying the best lamb shank before going to the Walking Shadow Theatre Company’s production at the Playwrights’ Center.

Sometimes, though, I can’t say that I want to have two competing interests in one night. When the food is so amazing and such an experience, to try to make it to a show would be too much. It might be gilding the lily and not giving each experience its own time and attention. So, in such cases, I like to keep the dining separate from the performances and make it the entertainment. Here’s a list of what I keep on my radar for dining-as-entertainment experiences.

Make a reservation for a chef’s table experience or tasting menu. We’re the VIPs for a show that’s just for us; written, directed, and acted by the restaurant’s visionary in charge. Where it used to be that there might be a table that showed up in the kitchen for people to book out for a whole lot of dough and enjoy the meals and melee of all the hard work and talent of the chef and team, now restaurants are designing and building the experience into their spaces. Chef Erick Harcey at Upton 43 just killed me dead with a 10-course menu, including what I’ve avoided my whole life but loved from him: lutefisk. Chef Landon Schoenefeld built in Birdie adjacent to Nighthawks for a chef’s table experience with a room of its own. Or, do the tastings and pairings with wine and food at Corner Table or beer and food at Surly’s Brewer’s Table. There are so many possibilities out there for your style of enjoyment.

Take a cooking class with a local chef. I love watching the Instagram feed of Kitchen in the Market during one of the Chef’s Night Offs. People buy tickets to go and cook with a predetermined chef from one of the hot and local restaurants…and then we watch the tasty hilarity ensue. The participants have jobs, learn from the pros, and eat and drink to a level of contentment that is enviable. And then sometimes you get some chef cameos when someone else from the food mecca in Midtown Global Market stops by and it becomes a party.

Subscribe to a food delivery service and have a ready-to-prepare meal show up at the front door. Local Crate is a box of tasty entertainment. I can go on the website (www.localcratemeals.com), order up the menus I’m interested in preparing, and a box of prepackaged assembly-ready vittles arrives with a recipe and instructions that make for a choose-your-own-adventure kind of meal. If I want something easy to make before leaving for the evening, I can order up something according to that level. If I want to have some people over and put us all to work making our meal, I can get a more difficult recipe and we can all muddle through it together. The results are predictable, which is also a great bonus to being sent a tried-and-true box of a DIY dinner.

And, of course, there are a number of ways to get your art with a side of something delicious at all sorts of venues. Tongue in Cheek gives free dessert to MPR members, drawing a wonderful connection between food and media/arts. I went to Meritage the other night after a dance performance at the Ordway and am now convinced that the after-show noshing on cheese plates, pommes frites, macarons, and sipping armagnac is a sumptuous nightcap. I am a fan of hitting up the in-venue eateries like Fika in the American Swedish Institute, Agra Culture in Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Level Five Cafe at the Guthrie. Just the other day, I had a ham and Jarlsburg waffle at Norway House before taking in the photography exhibit. Superb.

Dive into what we’ve got with gusto. Devour our arts and food scene. Delight in the richness.

I’ll see you in the seats and at the tables.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Orange You Glad I Got a New Car?

It’s like a knock-knock joke. Boy, am I glad I got a new car. And apparently most of my passengers are too. Just last spring, we had a tremendous auto issue, concepted and executed by and large by Randy Stern. In it, I presented an ode to my Jeep. I detailed everything I loved about it, from its Sky-Slider roof to its boxy shape to its ability to drive through — and out of — anything. I took that thing everywhere. It was very lived-in. I loved living life in it.

Editor IMG_2949And then I had to start making more repairs. You know, the kind that you don’t know are coming until they’re there. They make sense. Things need replacing after eight years of ownership. When the monthly repairs started costing more than a new car payment would, my mind started wandering.

While I was up at my family’s cabin by Brainerd for Labor Day Weekend and the week after, working remotely as a busy professional, the Jeep needed a new water pump. I was parked and stranded in paradise. Thankfully, I got it fixed and was able to come home to the metro area.

As timing would have it, that’s also when Randy’s Ride Review of the Fiat 500X came out. It came out, literally and figuratively. It was in the mid-September issue, but I was proofing that issue while I was stranded at the cabin, wondering what to do about my vehicle. What was very clear in his article is that Fiat and the manufacturers are very supportive of this community. They want GLBT people involved in every aspect of Fiat’s products, from being employees to being buyers. Just as I do with many of the products and services in my life, I love to find them in the pages of this magazine. It makes me feel good to symbiotically continue the support that has been given. And this was the right time and right circumstances for me to consider supporting Fiat.

Editor IMG_2960Oh, I wouldn’t have made the same decision last year. I am not a person who wants a small vehicle, which was my only impression of Fiats. It had to be the right Fiat for me, one that can fit a large Nordic woman and anyone in my posse. I still hate the idea of getting down into a car. I’d rather climb up and then fall out when I enter and exit a vehicle. And, anything I drive has to have good clearance from the ground for driving through snow and sand. And lava. Just in case.

What’s less easy to define is that je ne sais quoi about a vehicle I’m going to drive for years. I’d say that my instinct relies on a certain amount of uniqueness to my ride. The Jeep was silver and boxy with a roof that opened up completely. Loved it. People knew me by it. Whatever I drove next would need to have that similar head-turning quality, without beating anybody over the head with whatever makes it different.

Here enters the brand new Fiat, the one that is a Fiat on Viagra and basically just a swollen version of the 500, the 500X. So, one night I asked a friend if we could swing by the Fiat dealership and look at a 500X so I “could see how tall it is.” I just wanted to see if the stats I’d been reading that made them similar to a Jeep also included that they feel tall, instead of more of a car that I’d have to climb down into. Right. It would just take a sec, checking to “see how tall it is,” before we went to dinner.

Editor IMG_2735Of course, we ended up having dinner at 10:00, after I’d done the test drive, learned about the great trade-in and financing options, and picked out my new Fiat 500X to drive off the lot. I made sure I got one with AWD and the height checked out juuuuuust fine. My new vehicle, which is the color of a blood orange, is what I very characteristically call “The Fiat” because I have no ability to branch out into cutesy names like “Clementine.” I am very literal. I can’t even call it a car, because I don’t know if it really is one, being in the “cute-ute” category of sports utility vehicles. Ugh. Cute. Kill me now.

I will choose to also apply the “cute” characterization literally because it is a smaller vehicle. It gets a billion more miles to the gallon than my Jeep did, despite the tank being the size of a thimble. I can fit people in it, though we get a little closer, and it passed the test of being able to get IKEA shelving home without having to strap anything to the roof. I’ve already driven it all over the state and I could not be happier with how it turns heads as I drive along with my new Bluetooth-enabled blissed-out environment on wheels (the Jeep was pre-technology and relied on an aux cable…it’s a whole new world).

Through all of this, I learned that I can love something as much as the Jeep without it being the Jeep. And that you should never trust me if I say I just want to “see how tall” something is.

With thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Defining the Alphabet

Male and Female sexual orientation icons

I’ve gotten a couple of phone messages from a reader who has asked for clarifications and definitions of the terms of this community. You know, the community that doesn’t have one way of defining itself: GLBT, LGBT, LGBTQ, GLBTQIA, and so on. This reader has gotten into conversations where he’s left wondering what the difference is between transgender people and transvestites. What do the other words mean? Are some phased out? Why do people get upset?

These are all good questions. I want to encourage authentic questions asked by people who really want to know the answers in order to better communicate with each other. To be able to know each other better.

My answer is that it’s really up to who you talk to as far as what terms they prefer and how they define themselves. What each of those words means is different to everyone, because of the spectrums of both sexuality and identity.

To attempt to give definitions can be done, but it won’t be entirely accurate. Gay generally means men who are attracted to men. Lesbians are women who are attracted to women. Bisexuals are attracted to both men and women. Then there are men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women, but don’t define themselves as gay or lesbian or even bisexual. Transgender people aren’t in a category based on who they’re attracted to, but whether they identify as a gender different than that assigned at birth. And then there’s cis, which refers to the people who were born a gender and identify as that gender. Transvestite might be a phased-out term for people who choose to cross-dress while not necessarily identifying as GLBT; someone might choose cross-dresser as a more updated term instead. Drag queens and kings are performers who may identify on the GLBT spectrum and dress in the clothes of the opposite gender, sometimes in an exaggerated way. Queer may refer to people who don’t want to be defined at all or people who fall anywhere along the non-heterosexual spectrum or people who are a bit punk or alternative. Intersexuals are born with characteristics of both genders and the sexual identity may be determined later as it’s not immediately apparent at birth. Allies are generally straight people who pretty much pledge their support and assistance to the rest of the community.

And I probably butchered those definitions. And missed some. Here’s the deal. As a community, things are always changing. The “What is My Gender?” piece on page 34 about the spectrum makes clear that while there are definitions out there, we need to meet each other where we are. And feminism has done the heavy lifting by breaking down the binary that if you’re a woman you have to do “feminine” things and if you’re a man you have to do “masculine” things, which we need to continue to dismantle since very few of us might actually want to fit into those tiny boxes, no matter how we might define ourselves.

Be gentle with each other, both when we learn we’ve made a mistake as well as when we find someone who needs to know more about us. No, not everyone deserves to know our most intimate business, so also be aware of when to just smile a half-smile and move on.

It’s a movement. Nobody in this community was just invented overnight; however, some of the terms are very new to everyone. They’ll take hold as people learn them. I don’t think there’s any alternative to that happening. Thankfully.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Romance on a Stick

fondue women illustration web

I always raise an eyebrow when I think of “romantic dining.” I know, it’s a thing. But I’m wondering what, exactly, is romantic? I’m not poo-pooing the whole thing, I’m trying to suss out what it means, especially for an issue that features the topic. You might notice that I threw in a piece on medical tourism as part of our “romantic getaways” section. I’m stretching definitions a bit. I’m aiming for context and intention. In terms of medical tourism, it’s more like, “Honey, love of my life, I want to have children with you. Let’s go abroad and undergo reciprocal in-vitro fertilization.” There might not be a Hallmark card for it, but there’s a whole lot of love in that scenario.

Much the same can be said for any meal or drink or dessert shared between two people in love…or in lust…or in a-little-more-than-like. Bradley Traynor gets to that when he offers up five offbeat places for Valentine’s Day. I have one to add to the mix that’s not offbeat, but is definitely considered romantic. Does it fit the bill?

After our January First Thursday at The Melting Pot, I decided to give fondue a try. Sure, I’ve had fondue before, whether the taleggio greatness up at Scott Graden’s New Scenic Café in Two Harbors or at my own apartment with my red electric pot from Target. But I’ve never gone to a fondue restaurant for a whole meal that’s been prepared by dipping things in hot liquid. Oh, what fun. I wasn’t there on a date, so the friend who joined me for First Thursday is my surrogate for assessing whether or not it would be romantic, and I’ll tell you that it’s not just hype (“Oh, you guys should go for fondue! It’s soooooo romantic!”), it passed with flying colors.

We went for the four-course fondue meal. Together, we chose a cheese course, ours was the Alp & Dell option made with gruyère, raclette and fontina cheeses, white wine, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, and black pepper. It was constructed right in front of us (I took mental notes) then we were given pieces of apple, bread, broccoli, cauliflower, and cherry tomatoes to dredge through the glorious goo. Let’s stop and assess right here. Anything involving melted cheese will automatically get my pulse going a little faster. And if someone actually does all the putzy prep work by cutting up all those food items into smaller pieces, I’m yours. The risk at this point was that I was falling in love with the kitchen staff who prepared these goodies.

After choosing our own salads (I had the house salad and my friend had the pear and gorgonzola salad), we had to choose which style of entrée prep we wanted, as in, what did we want to be dipping our entrée meat into for cooking? There were two bouillon (broth) options, a bourguignonne (oil) option, and a coq au vin (wine) option. Since I’m not a drinker and the cheese course was a little wine-y for my preference, we knocked out the wine option. The broth would be tasty at some point, but perhaps not for our maiden fondue voyage. These choices that are shared are an interesting test for romance…can two people come to a cooperative decision about the cheese course? The entrée liquid? CHOCOLATE? It’s all about compromise and harmony. And, luckily, we had that going for us and chose baptism by oil. Then, we each ordered three different meats/foods for ourselves from a section of delicious offerings and sat back as our raw meats, raviolis, dipping sauces, tempura batter, veggies, and oil arrived safely and soundly at our table.

Speaking of cooperation and harmony, what I can tell you about fondue is that it is a time that is ripe for learning and laughing. And those two things make me amorous every time. We’re given some good instructions for cooking the different meats and went at it, making a mess and a lot of fun as we went. At one point, I dipped a piece of broccoli in tempura batter and deep-fried it to a crisp and professed my love to it. Sumptuous. The shrimp, steak, chicken, and pork that we’d chosen was no match for our full stomachs, so I cooked up the remaining raw meat and got a to-go box for the rest of it. Not as lovey-dovey, but very practical. Which can be romantic too, you know.

Ending our meal with a chocolate-caramel “turtle flambé” dessert fondue was something that neither of us will regret. It was impressive in presentation (FIRE!) and we made room in our dessert compartments for the pieces of pound cake, bananas, crisped rice bars, brownies, and other sweets that were dipped into the delectable chocolate. If I’d had a deep-fried tempura-battered piece of broccoli left over to try, I’m sure I would have dunked it right in. Since I place high value on interaction, cooperation, laughter, and talking (as well as I love to make and eat food), The Melting Pot definitely gets my nod for a “romantic dining” establishment, and I can’t wait to try it with someone I’m actually dating. But my friend gets major props as being highly dateable, and I’m sure his boyfriend agrees.

Whatever your plans, wherever you go, whoever you’re with, make every day a chance for romance. With to-go boxes.

With love and thanks,

Andy

From the Editor: Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2016. I hope the end of 2015 was satisfying and the move into 2016 hasn’t been too jarring. I always like to take this first issue and look at what’s coming up for the next year for Lavender Media. It’s an exciting time and we’ve got fresh eyes and minds.

I’m extremely pleased that Shane Lueck is now a full-time presence in our editorial department. From starting as a student volunteer four years ago to becoming a part-time employee to now being with us in full capacity, his impact has shown favorably on what Lavender Media’s become in recent years. Shane’s hard work, self-direction, superb interview skills, story ideas, and ability to string together stories in record time are all aspects that will enable Lavender to expand our coverage and footprint in Minnesota and beyond and free up some of my time for growing our influence and reach in terms of visibility and involvement.

In terms of increased visibility and involvement, I’m also happy to welcome John Mark to Lavender Media as Arts Editor-At-Large. We’ve already seen John Mark’s work in our pages in features such as the recent fashion piece, “Wintering,” and profiles of Lizzo (in the Pride Issue) and Shamir (in this issue), and now he’ll be telling us what’s what on the back page of every issue starting with the next one. The idea of having an Arts Editor-At-Large indicates that we’re spreading out and being more intentional with our community involvement both here at home and globally. John Mark is a choreographer, creative director, producer, personality, and overall wonderful addition to the Lavender team.

The Lavender team will also be expanding as I’ll be able to direct more attention to working with students. A few times each year, I’ve been invited to speak to some classes and visiting journalists at some of the area colleges and universities. This niche publication of ours is such a unique media outlet in terms of history and reach and readership that to be able to tell people about it is a passion of mine. But, even more exciting, is the prospect of inviting students to work with us and create content, making the voices more diverse in age and experience and knowledge. How can I help train their eyes to see things through the diverse lens of this community? How can they teach me to expand what I know? How can I learn from them and their newer, less scratched lenses? If you’re a college student in an area of study that could benefit from collaborating with Lavender Media and you’re reading this, consider this your invitation to find this post on our website and read how you can submit materials to me to be considered for the student volunteer program (scroll to the end of this post). I’d be happy to look at your school’s internship guidelines and see if we can work together.

Also in the areas of visibility and involvement, please find Lavender on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Newsstand. Facebook is a fickle creature, prone to flights of fancy. Though I fought tooth and nail against having anything to do with math or math lingo in my life, I now have to pay attention to algorithms on social media, thanks to Facebook. I always have to laugh that it seems like we need to depend on Facebook, despite having a website with all of our stories very obvious and find-able right there at www.LavenderMagazine.com. But, still, most of us keep a tab open with Facebook as we go about our days on our computers and now prefer to be invited to websites for content by way of cleverly introduced links…and Lavender does that, too. We invite you to find, like, and follow “Lavender Magazine” so you can be the first to know when there’s fresh content on the website, both stories that are in our print issues as well as online-only content that occurs multiple times every day. We’ll also be running contests on Facebook, promoting our events, and posting call-for-entries for reader submissions for our wedding issues and other features for which we’d like your feedback.

If you’re more of a links-only kind of person, we’re at @lavmag on Twitter. Prefer pictures? Find us at @lavendermagazine on Instagram. Want each free issue delivered to you automatically on iPhone or iPad? Find “Lavender Magazine” on Newsstand and subscribe. We want you to have as much access to our free content as possible, and we don’t even bug you with pop-up ads or videos that take over your computer when you click into our site. We can’t stand those hurdles in our own user experiences; we won’t do that to you, either. Find us, find our content, and find what you need without barriers.

Please tune in for Big Gay News. You can find it at @biggaynews on Twitter, subscribe to the Big Gay News podcast, and also follow it on Facebook. Linda Raines and Shane Lueck compile the stories and Shane and I started splitting the podcasting duties late in 2015 after taking over the reins from Pierre Tardif. I’ve learned that no matter how much I try to follow current world events for all sorts of subjects, yet one more news source for the Big Gay News makes my days even that much more rich. Not only do the stories keep me informed, but they help me draw connections between different world events and what goes on here in Minnesota. We are only a small part of such a big picture.

Here’s to a year full of rich information and experiences. Thank you for joining us and I’ll see you online, on the stands, and at our events.

With thanks and love.
Andy

 

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