Good Friday with Guster & Garlin

I got to spend Good Friday with my favorite Jewish guys from Tufts.  Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, and Brian Rosenworcel have been in my CD player, on my iPods and in my heart ever since we were all around the same age in college when they hit it big with “Amsterdam” and “Careful.”  Little did I know that those two songs were just the tip of the iceberg.  With the addition of Joe Pisapia–and then the swap out for Luke Reynolds who’s with them now–Guster has only gotten more rounded-out and awesome.  And, in a venue such as the Pantages Theatre, we were in for a real treat.

As it turned out, we were in for an odd one.  I’m going to call it a “one-off.”  When they were in Minneapolis last year, the euphoria from the show carried me through until this one.  This year, there was more of an “aggresso-vibe” in the crowd, at least I think that’s what Ryan called in when I talked to the guys afterward.  Jeff Garlin was to be on stage with Guster and, for those of us who know him, we might’ve gotten a little tip-off that this wasn’t going to be your mama’s music show.  But, billed as it was as an acoustic show, I had hope that it’d be nicely segmented into comedy followed by music.  Jeff Garlin does a great roast.  Offensive, yell-back humor is his forté. Taken separately, Jeff Garlin is stinking hilarious just as Guster (with the addition of acoustic cello and violin) is harmonious.  Thrown together, it was more of a cacophony.

The crowd.  Oh, the crowd.  Talking to folks as the evening progressed, it was just plain confusing. From the start when the comic opening for Jeff Garlin got booed (it’s GUSTER…who boos at Guster?) to the end of the show when they sang us “Jesus on the Radio” without amplification, it was a wild ride. The comics did their thing, but the crowd reacted to the brash comedy by becoming a bit boorish and belligerent. The beer and booze went in, the din raised to a roar, and the control was never really regained from the stage.  Tweets and social networking posts seemed a bit low for the amazing music we were hearing–Guster was playing some of their early stuff that we rarely get to hear live any more, let alone with cello and violin…but we couldn’t hear it very well.  The jackass behind us who was “only there to spend time with his ‘mate’ and didn’t care about the music” had gotten himself a little too tipsy and his from-across-the-pond charm was wearing thin on everyone around him, but he would simply not shut up.  The whole quadrant of the main floor behind my right shoulder couldn’t have heard much of the show as the people who were yelling back at Garlin during his stand-up were still being obnoxious throughout the music set.  What could’ve been a great mix of hilarity and harmony just didn’t happen.

Frankly, the chemistry experiment went haywire.

I kept trying to get the pulse of the situation.  Tweets were saying stuff like it was the best show ever, but I don’t think everyone left with the same elated feeling as when we saw the Guster guys last.  It probably was the best show, but we just couldn’t hear it.  It was distracting to have Garlin on one side of the stage doing something while the musicians were on the other, playing music.  I get it that it was a new format and one that isn’t going to be permanent, but that was our one shot to get our fix.

After the show, I was nervous to meet the members of my favorite band.  Natch.  But, I was more nervous because I hadn’t shaken the ooky feeling of unease.  A Friday night with Guster should’ve been a sit-back, close-my-eyes, and let-my-toes-curl evening of just enjoying.  Instead, it just wasn’t.  As a member of the media, I got to ask the questions that were bugging me: How did they think it went?  What happened?  Why?

I got what I needed to hear: Validation.  I’m not going to over-process this and have some chai tea and ponder it for too long, but I just needed to hear that the night went sideways and it was not expected.  Ryan explained that since they didn’t have a new album to promote, they thought they’d mix it up with some comedy.  But that “aggresso-vibe” happened and, as he said, even the folks who could normally be calmed by the music weren’t coming back.

Believe me, Guster, from what we could hear of the amazing string additions to the old and newish songs we love, you didn’t need to mix it up any more than that.

Please come back soon.  Perhaps an Acoustic Redux?

See photo gallery:

From the Editor: The Business of Being Everywhere

Every once in a while, I’ve got to talk business.  The business of getting you the goods, the business of what we’re up to, and the business of enriching our community both here in Minnesota and on the World Wide Web.  At this point in time, Lavender is available via five platforms: print magazine, online magazine (on the web), online magazine (on the iPad), online magazine (on smartphones like DROID or iPhone), and the website.

As always, Lavender is free.

What may be confusing is what the differences are between the different platforms.  Do you want or need to go to multiple places? Do you need to check out the various platforms to get all the information?  Is there more than what’s in the magazine that you can pick up on stands?  The answer is yes.

Being a free publication, our print page count relies solely on advertising dollars.  It’s a business model that works–it’s one of the reasons Lavender’s been around since 1995.  But, because of technology, we can expand the page count of our online magazine to accommodate more material.  For instance, the last issue–The Wedding Issue–was bulked up to 92 pages in print…but exceeded 120 pages in the online magazine.  We use that platform to show additional photos, videos, recipes, and all sorts of pieces that don’t fit in the print issue.  The same advertisers are in both, but the ads are enhanced and clickable in the online magazine to be able to get to the websites of the companies that want you to know that they’re there for you.  Even better, the online magazine is viewable on any computer by simply going to the top of our website at and clicking on ONLINE MAGAZINE.


More Lavender.

The online magazine is also now viewable not only as an iPad Newsstand delivery but also on smartphones like iPhone and DROID.  You can set up your iPad in Newsstand to automatically deliver the latest Lavender when it hits the internet–slick.  And, if you’re sitting around with time to browse on your smartphone, consider going to our website and clicking the ONLINE MAGAZINE button to scroll through the current issue at your leisure.  New and completely for you.

Lastly, the website is where it all aggregates–everything from the print issue, the expanded online magazine, and anything we report and post whenever it strikes our fancy.  Reviews and recipes and news and videos and everything that is relevant to the community both here and across the globe.  It’s split up into sections for sorting ease, but also it’s clear to see what’s been added to the website most recently by looking at the RECENT POSTS area at the top of the content.  The photos in the home page slideshow illustrate new stories as they publish and the fresh content is readily apparent.

We’ve seen great traffic in the recent months.  Since we revamped and started using our new website after the New Year, our stats are looking good and people are really starting to engage with Lavender as an online community platform.  People are showing ownership of the online calendar by adding events to it and we couldn’t be more pleased.  But, keep watching. More will be happening in the upcoming weeks and months to make our free content even more relevant and plentiful.

We can’t wait.

With thanks,


From the Editor: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Recycled glass helps carry a watery, seaside appeal in this bathroom. Photos courtesy of Castle Building & Remodeling, Inc.

Recycled glass countertops are an artistic and green way to revamp your bathroom.  Loren Schirber of Castle Building & Remodeling, Inc. gives it a green thumbs-up as a really cool product with a competitive price point.  Shown here as part of a bathroom vanity top, you can consider coordinating the vanity top with the drawer pulls and other fixtures–with a great breadth of colors, the possibilities are great.  For more photos, colors, and options, go to

From The Editor: The Wedding Issue

The Wedding Issue.  It’s kind of a big deal, double entendre intended.

Weddings and marriage and legislation and love.  Hopefully, we’ll look back on 2012 as the year that banning same-sex marriage was kept out of the constitution.  Still, it won’t be legal–even if somehow passed in Minnesota–due to the Defense of Marriage Act.

Still. And. But. We have a Wedding Issue.


Because you keep having weddings.

You are committing yourselves to each other.  You are signing documents.  You are rallying your friends and family to bear witness to your love.

You are loving.

Lavender has put out Wedding Issues in the past, but they’ve been small–a few articles here, a few photos there.  Perhaps they’ve been indications of how we’ve been pussy-footing around the issue of weddings, until now.

This issue–in your hands, on your screen, on your iPad–is evidence that same-sex weddings are a force to be reckoned with, as are the people getting married.  And their friends.  And their families. And the wedding industry, itself. As I approached people to potentially contribute to this publication’s editorial content, I asked: 1.) Do you work with same-sex couples and 2.) if you do, do you have photography or stories you’d like to share?  The response was overwhelmingly positive.  Many wedding industry professionals welcome you. They want to work with you. And, many who already have, are featured in the pages here.

These folks aren’t quite pioneers, as people have been having union and commitment ceremonies for a long time.  But, “coming out” as supporting same-sex weddings from within an industry that has relied solely upon heterosexuality, well…these advertisers and vendors deserve some major props for being on the front end of the wave that is sure to come.

What I hope most is that you see yourself in these pages, whether you’ve got a wedding in your future or your past, as a bride or groom or guest.  Or whatever you would like to call yourself.  The significance of this issue is that it lends legitimacy to what we’re working toward.  Equal rights.  A legitimacy that includes you.

All my best,


See expanded issue online and via iPad app.

From the Editor: A Journey, A Dance

Jin Xing pauses in telling her personal story, admitting that for a time she questioned why there was such a fascination with her as a transgendered person, as opposed to an accomplished dancer. She answers that question saying that she realized her personal story and artistic one were intertwined and if her story “can contribute to art, then fine.”  –Lannie Walker

Intertwining life and art.  Not a new concept, but one that is particularly sensitive when one’s life has been as dynamic as that of Jin Xing.  Reading about her life in Lannie Walker’s article, I learned much more about Jin than I knew when I photographed her for the cover.

This cover shot and the photos here are the results of a great turn of fortune for me as a photographer and journalist.  I was invited to sit in on the dressing room session as Jin Xing had her hair and make-up done for the reception and performance by her troupe, Jin Xing Dance Theatre Shanghai, at the Orpheum Theatre.

If you’ve ever watched someone applying make-up or having make-up applied, you may be able to envision the intimacy of the situation.  The dressing room at the Orpheum was central and small—surrounded by her dancers in various states of dressing themselves and eating their suppers.  Jin was seated in front of the lit mirror and her make-up artist had trays and bottles of make-up that the other dancers would request and receive like children seeking their allowances.  Their movements were slight and their bodies took up little space in the small area, my ample Nordic frame squeezed into the corner to give them—and my lens—breathing room.  I spoke only when spoken to and was allowed to simply observe and document.  This was Jin’s time to prepare, to watch her own artist make her face into a dramatic accessory to the dances she choreographed—both off stage, and on.

Short, soft words were exchanged between Jin and her make-up artist.  Not knowing the language, I didn’t know what they meant—but they were not alarming, not tense.  They made for a staccato rhythm to the session, but only in their infrequency…not their actual timbre.  The artist and her palette are well-acquainted, her brushes touched exactly the places that required coloration.  The stroke of black across the eyelid, the plume of rouge up the cheekbone, the strategic stripes of definition down the sides of the nose; I was privy to all of it.

And, as I watched, I thought of this woman’s journey.  Not knowing she’d undergone numerous surgeries to reach her current state of being, I simply pondered in awe how she came to be—as I want to know how anyone has become what they are today. Jin, having started male but being unmistakably female, held herself with the grace of what one can consider to be feminine and I can’t imagine she would have ever presented herself in any other manner.  She spoke few words to me but tsked me off the edge of the countertop I was leaning against to wipe any vestiges of foundation from it so I wouldn’t end up with a line of make-up across my pants. Though I didn’t really know her, I felt relief that she had become what she is today—not only the accomplished artist, but the seemingly peaceful woman.

When I read Jin’s statement to Lannie questioning the public’s fascination with her sexual identity and how it overshadows her accomplishment as a dancer, the answer is so simple: Jin is an accomplishment.  Where she drew short in her conclusion was when she stated that if her story “can contribute to art, then fine.”

She doesn’t merely contribute—she is art.  She has danced her whole life between worlds.  She danced that evening in the dressing room even as she sat still, hands clasped in her lap.

We can all draw inspiration from the fact that she now choreographs her own dances and those of the people around her—despite adversity.

May we all aspire to do the same.

With thanks,


From the Editor: My Pet Monster

He’s 48 pounds with the sturdy build of a wrestler. A bow-legged juggernaut.  Blonde-haired and blue-eyed.  Black eyeliner, nose, and paw pads.  He’s my little monster, Grendel.

I was celebrating a significant birthday a while back when I got the harebrained idea that I should have a dog.  You know, arbitrarily attach a significant choice to a somewhat irrelevant life event?  Yeah. It was a rather weak excuse for making the best decision I’ve ever made.

You see, my brother and I weren’t raised with dogs.  Other than Titanic, the unsinkable golden newt that I had in third grade, we didn’t have pets. Even Titanic met an untimely demise when I left him (her?) in a cereal bowl instead of his tank.  He skulked off to somewhere, never to be seen again.  I hold out hope that he’s a gargantuan creature dwelling in Lake Jennie between Dassel and Hutchinson, turning more into lore than a victim of my failed pet ownership.  That would be the hero’s ending that Titanic would deserve.  I fear that’s not the case.

A wayward newt is hardly a case against dog ownership, but I didn’t exactly have a stellar track record to build on. Something that I’m sure we could blame on my parents, my older brother got a dog as soon as he hit adulthood, marriage, and nesting.  I took on the love and caring for Danny the Dog as part of my raison d’être.  That big horse of a dog was the cat’s meow with me.  He was big, fluffy, and Not Mine.

Then, happened.  Bored at work, my friend and I would pass links to profiles of cute dogs back and forth to each other.  It started with a puggle (pug and beagle mix) and ended with Grendel.

Grendel is my dear, sweet Glen of Imaal Terrier.  I didn’t know what that breed was, either, when he came up as a breed possibility for my lifestyle constraints: Lives in apartment in the city without a yard, doesn’t jog and won’t jog, has family members with allergies, and may subject animal to small children of blood relation.  Petfinder located the only Glen within states of here at the Mower County Humane Society in Austin, Minnesota.  Now, if you’re one to put credence in signs, not only was he the only one in reasonable proximity, but his profile said that he’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed, hates cats, and doesn’t bark.  That’s my boy.

Okay, I don’t hate cats.  But, I don’t mind that he does.

I brought Grendel home without even knowing how to give a dog a bath—and boy, did he need one. We spent much of that first stretch of time learning how to take care of each other.  First, we got really wet as I learned the baptism-by-fire way to give a dog a bath.  Then, we figured out the rest of how to live with each other. And, we haven’t deviated much from the routine we set that first weekend that he came to live with me in my apartment in Minnetonka.  Now, as I’m looking at his fifth anniversary of living with me, I can do our routine in my sleep.  And, sometimes I do.

Grendel is my pet.  I’m not a pet owner who is referred to in parental terms because I think a pet is even more revered in my world system.  He’s my perpetual dependent who I am to love and cherish and make comfortable and happy.  I don’t expect anything of him and he won’t develop much past where he already is.  People ask me if I’ve had him trained and I usually respond somewhat shamefacedly that I have not.  I’ve noticed, though, that we have trained each other.  I don’t give a darn about whether or not I’m a pack leader, when I say things like, “Move over,” he moves to his side of the couch.  When I say, “C’mere,” he does.   When I say, “Wait,” I’m pretty sure he hears, “GO!”  We’re still working out the glitches.

For someone who’s never owned a pet, I had no preconceived notions of how pets should be.  He’s not my work dog; he’s too lackadaisical.  He’s not my hunting dog; I’m still mortified when he killed a squirrel on one of our walks.  He’s not a playful dog; he never brings anything back when we play “fetch.”  He is simply my companion.

It’s a beautiful relationship.

And, though I don’t refer to myself as his parent, I certainly enjoy the irony of being “Grendel’s Mother.”  If you’re unfamiliar with the story Beowulf, I’ll offer up the smallest of spoilers when I say that the real monster in the story isn’t Grendel, but his mother…which isn’t far from the truth in our lives, either.

You mess with my dog, you mess with me.

He was the best $50 I’ve ever spent.  Every time I turn on the iPod music, grab the red Kong, fill it with a spoonful of peanut butter and say, “Kennel up,” I begin missing him until I can get home again…which is why it’s time to sign off now.

It’s time to go home.

To this guy.

With thanks,


From the Editor: Fallacy v. Reality

I admit it.  I’ve had some work done.  A cognitive nip here, a mental tuck there.  I feel good.  Heck, I look good.  Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, all of us could probably benefit from having a professional get in our heads every once in a while.  Look under the hood.  Monitor the dipstick.  It’s maintenance.

Maintenance usually involves an overhaul.  An overhaul of my ideas and what I hold to be true.  What I consider when I make decisions.  What I cling to as validation for my choices.  Ideas that may not actually be accurate. It is a very real and very common tenet of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy that we humans believe distortions.  We cling to versions of reality that can be found anywhere on the spectrum between truth and fallacy.

I joke with my friends that we shouldn’t let my copays go to waste whenever I share a kernel of knowledge from my work with psychology professionals.  Many of the lessons are easily applicable across a broad base.  The basis of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is that our emotions affect our thoughts which affect our behaviors. It’s triangular between the three.  What we think changes how we feel and then how we act.  Likewise, how we act changes how we think and feel.  And, how we feel changes how we act and think.  Stay with me.

If I look in the mirror and think “I look fat” and feel shame and then I reach for a candy bar, I will probably feel sad because I’ll think “I’m a failure” because I just ate a candy bar and will still look fat.

Not so unfamiliar a thought pattern, is it? Thinking, emotions, and behavior.  Right there. But, it’s not always as easy to see the triangle happening between the three—sometimes the thoughts are really ingrained and subliminal and the actions are veiled even to ourselves.  It gets hairy.  It’s why the professionals get paid to do their jobs.

I remember the day that my particular professional handed me a paper with the 15 Cognitive Distortions listed on it.  Google it.  You’ll find them, too.  They’ve been accepted and they’re used widely in helping people to figure out how we might see things a little less accurately than they really are.  I was pretty pissed that day.  Being shown—not told—that something isn’t how I thought it is tends to be a pill I don’t swallow very happily.

What?  You mean that I shouldn’t save my friend from herself?  I should just let her throw her life away and go down the road to ruin because she’s making a choice that I don’t agree with?  How could I live with myself for letting her do that?  How could I stay friends with her after failing her so?

You see, I was a caretaker, among other things.  I knew what people should do, how they should do it, and when they should do it.  I could give you ten reasons why it should be done and assure you that Andy knows best. But you know what?  Andy didn’t know best.  That is simply untrue.  It was a distortion. Consider the 15 Cognitive Distortions that I paraphrase from those presented by Aaron Beck and David Burns.  With each, I’m including a small example from my distortion arsenal:

1. Filtering: Taking the positive aspects out of a situation and focusing only on the negative. “That typo ruined the whole magazine.”

2. Polarized Thinking: Things are either/or—there’s no gray, but just black or white.  “Either I answer all the emails in my inbox immediately or I’m not doing my job right.”

3. Overgeneralization: If something happens once, we might think it’ll always happen that way.  “I didn’t get any feedback from that Facebook post, nobody cares. I’m going to stop posting.”

4. Jumping to Conclusions: Without having firsthand knowledge, we think we know what someone else will do or what they’re thinking, particularly about us. “Oh, he’s super busy and important.  He doesn’t want to talk to me.”

5. Catastrophizing: Using the “what if” scenario to try to minimize or maximize a situation out of proportion.  “What if I print that review and someone doesn’t like it and the world ends?”

6. Personalization: This happens when we interpret unrelated events to be about us.  “She just walked across the room when I got here—she hates me.  She’s probably talking about me right now to that person. Look.  He scowled.  He hates me, too.”

7. Control Fallacies: External control fallacies include those that are based upon things happening to us, “My piece isn’t that good because my internet connection was bad and I couldn’t research”; internal control fallacies are those that are based upon what we think we caused, “Why are you upset?  Because of something I did?”

8. Fallacy of Fairness: We think we know what is fair and we expect people to agree with us. “It was my turn to get the good assignment even though she knows more about the subject.  I should’ve gotten to pick.”

9. Blaming: We either blame others for our feelings, “He makes me feel worthless”; or blame ourselves too much, “I’m just being too sensitive again.”

10. Shoulds: We have ironclad rules about how people should behave.  “She should have gotten me a card, I remembered her birthday and got her one.”

11. Emotional Reasoning: We believe that what we feel must be true, automatically. “I’m sad because you said that, therefore you must be wrong.”

12. Fallacy of Change: We expect people to change to our liking if we pressure or cajole them enough.  “He knows I hate it when he drinks too much, he’ll stop doing it for me.”

13. Global Labeling: Taking one error and making it true for all situations.  “She didn’t tell me the truth.  She is a liar.”  Or, “She moved to another city. She always abandons her friends.”

14. Being Right: We always have to be right no matter what the circumstances are or how it makes another person feel.  “Didn’t I tell you that was a mistake? Yeah.  I was right.”

15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: We expect our self-sacrifices to pay off, as if there’s a big scoreboard in the sky.  “I just need to grin and bear it.  Then, I’m sure I’ll get the raise I deserve.”

Here’s the deal.  There might be some truths to these claims but there might not be.  Where we get into trouble is when we base our thoughts, actions, and feelings on these ideas without pausing to reflect.  Depending on the typo, it could ruin a magazine.  A person can be busy and not want to talk, but I won’t know until I ask…and suggest a different time to talk. Things beyond our control can impede our progress but we can also mitigate problems by way of what we can control.  Nobody will change because you want them to.  And yes, some victories are hard won, but we shouldn’t have to suffer as a matter of course to get what we want in life.

I know which distortions I tend to cling to—I come by some of them honestly as a Scandinavian Lutheran Martyr…and some of them I’ve developed on my own, lobbing shoulds and shouldn’ts around like grenades.

It’s when I can look at that list and laugh that I know I’m on the right track.  I can see them.  I can laugh at them.  And, I can try not to think them.  That’s when I can avoid the triangle of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that might lead me to make unhealthy choices.  If I see a situation for what it is and try to change it, I may not need to find a way to cope with it.  I may just change my true reality to be better.

At the end of the day, what I hope for all of us is that our realities can be truthful and, in them, we can find comfort.  And, if we need to, get a little work done.  Spread our copays around.  Pay it forward.

With thanks,

From the Editor: Valentines and Love

I’m so sorry.  If you lifted up this issue and spat or guffawed, I’m sorry.  I know what we’ve done to Valentine’s Day.  I know we’ve made it a painful reminder of not being paired up or even romantically involved.  What other euphemism can I use?  Not hooked up?  Not sheet dancing?  Not committed?  (Well, the double entendre of “committed” could definitely apply to some of us more often then not…I kid, I kid.)  However you look at it, Valentine’s Day can really smack for the singles.  I’m sorry.

Gifts?  Chocolate?  Candlelit dinner?  We can buy ourselves heart-shaped things, eat a box of chocolate, and dine in dim lighting any given day.  By ourselves.  We can snag our own flowers on they way home, trim their stupid stems, and arrange them in a vase to plunk on the counter.  And we’ll stinking like it.  Do we feel good when we do this?  If not, why don’t we?  Is it missing that validation of knowing that something was a gift from someone who cares?

This is when we need to talk ourselves off the ledge and get a grip.  There are so many of us on the ledge that it’s precarious, anyway.  Unsafe.


It can also smack for the romantically involved.  What can also put us on a ledge is not getting what we think we should receive on a day like Valentine’s Day.  Or, our gift not being received as we’d hoped.  Ooh, this isn’t better or worse than not having a Valentine…it’s different.  But, think of the stress that happens when one person in the relationship is thinking that the box looks like it might contain jewelry, but it’s really a Joni Mitchell box set.  Then, the relationship is on the ledge, too.

Also menacing.

So, let’s look at it from a different perspective–all of us, saddled or single.  Whether on a ledge because we had to buy our own flowers or upset because the reservation was made at the wrong restaurant to our partner’s chagrin, we can step back and look at love in a less limiting light.

There is a multitude of websites talking about the Love Languages. You can take quizzes.  You can buy t-shirts.  You can probably dial up a Love Language Horoscope for all I know.  They’re striking a chord because there could be some credence to the topic of love languages.  I’ve heard about them for years and believe that the person who started the conversation with specific love languages in mind was Gary Chapman.  Now, set aside that he may be talking from a perspective that may not want to be found in the pages of a GLBT publication (or revel in the fact that I’m throwing them in here as a sort of reclamation), and let’s look at the love languages.  Apparently, humans give and receive love in different ways; not all of them include cards in the shape of a heart or are restricted to one day a year.

Instead, Chapman asserts that there are five Love Languages.  Loosely, they include 1.) what we say and how we say it (words); 2.) how and with whom we spend time (time); 3.) the gifts that we give and how we come to choose them (gifts); 4.) what we do for others (service); and 5.) how we physically express or receive affection (touch).  These love languages aren’t all about how we receive love, but how we give love.  Expectations of others can get wacky when we receive love one way but they give it in another.  If I would feel loved by you vacuuming while you’d rather give me diamonds, we’re out of sync.  (And I’m a little daft.)

So, for the coupled, knowing each other’s love language is important—especially at high-anticipation days such as Valentine’s Day.  But, for the singles, it’s also important to look around and see how others show us love all the time—without being required to by virtue of being in a relationship.  Meeting for dinner and spending time together is a very valid expression of love, sans flowers or chocolate.

Think about how you might receive love.  In my life, sure…I like presents and stuff, but they don’t make my world go ‘round.  Spending time with friends is precious, but I probably take that more for granted than not.  We aren’t a terribly touchy lot, but we hug upon arrival and departure, usually.  Again, as a matter of course, hugs are expressions of love–but peripheral.  None of those really get me too amped, but all have roles in my life.  It’s logical that we don’t rely solely on one of the love languages and none of the others, but that we have a scale of preferences.

It’s taken a while, but I’ve figured myself out—at least for this era of my life.  In romantic relations, communication is pinnacle; I’m a words woman.  But, as far as friends and family are concerned, every time my people help me move to a new home, they’ve taken a day of time and given me hours of service.  Whoa.  Love.  Not because I expect them to help, but because they do help.  Willingly.  I am deeply in love with my friends and family and feel great gratitude for their service.

Perhaps it’s what we need most at the time.  Service is appreciated with help is required.  Words are appreciated because uncertainty is uncomfortable.  Sometimes we need a hug or require a roll in the hay.  The love languages might be completely contextual.  No matter how mysterious or situational they are, there’s still something to them.

Love helps us know who we are—as do the people with whom we have relationships.  And, thinking about the languages of love gives us more even more insight. As I was working on the Valentine Gift Guide later in the issue, the one item that resonated was the small pendant that simply says “loved.”  It doesn’t need to be written on a pendant and gifted, but wouldn’t that be nice to know?  Somehow?

Whether Valentine’s Day or any day, I hope you are loved.

With thanks,


From the Editor: Happy New Year

What a year it will be.

While resolutions are on our minds and thoughts stray to the past, I can’t help but think about where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going.  The holidays were a time when, I hope, our readers found tidings of joy rather than shame, fear, or closets…but I know that expectations need to be realistic and I’m sure that going home wasn’t a pleasant option or experience for everyone.  I thought about home as I was at the “Center Stage: Home for the Holidays” fundraising event for Minnesotans United for All Families last month (photos on 12-13 in the print and online edition).

Watching the crowd at the Center Stage event at the Cowles Center, there was a diversity in appearances—whether ages or genders or apparel or skin color be the case—and there was a comfort. An ease. A normal.  The performers and their acts were everything we expect from performers from the local stages—talent and excellence. The content varied from songs and dances to drama, spoken word, comedy, and drag.

One of the more surprisingly poignant parts of the show happened when Miss Richfield 1981 asked all the same-sex couples in the audience to stand up.  Then, increment by increment, she had them sit down…those who had been together 5, 10, 15 years until fewer were standing, but had been together for over twenty years. More, even. The house lights were up and we could see who they were.  We applauded. I felt chills and warmth all at once.

As I looked at the couples, I had another thought: There are people I know who don’t believe you exist.  Looking around the theater, I thought: They don’t believe in you, either. You as a couple.  You as a single.  You as a gay man.  You as a lesbian.  You as a bisexual.  You as not even knowing how you’d identify. It was a sinking feeling.  The realization after the high.  Where’d it come from?  Nowhere far.

Thinking to numerous recent conversations I’ve had with people who may keep rather narrow circles, they’re still asking me for scientific proof that homosexuality is natural—which doesn’t even get into anything like gender identity or the like.  It’s strictly surface and rather elementary, but that’s where they are.  Words like hippocampus and hypothalamus come up.  Genes.  Chromosomes.  Nature versus nurture.  Choice or not. It’s a place that we may consider, but we don’t stay there.  We don’t put down roots in the curiosity—because we don’t base whether or not GLBT people exist, or should exist, on the answer to the question.

Why don’t we?  Because we are them.  All around us, wherever we fall in the GLBT or A community, we’re there.  We know we exist because we exist.  It doesn’t take much more faith than that, usually.  I see you, you see you, we see each other.  Our versions of homosexuality and sexual identity are from personal experience, rather than from television or “that one guy” we knew.

After the show, I walked away from the Cowles Center and toward my parking ramp in City Center.  As I crossed Hennepin and continued on the sidewalk, I heard a man say gently, “Hey, girl.”

I looked.  I think it’s the naïveté in me that makes me look every time…not very street-smart at 11:00 at night on Hennepin. A tall man carrying a grocery bag was strolling toward me.  Behind a beard and a scarf I recognized my childhood friend, Aaron, the only person in the history of my time in high school who was ever unabashedly out.  The one who was teased mercilessly both for his way of being as well as his ability to act like any high school boy or girl can, rather dramatic and somewhat needling.  He’s wickedly smart and for a long time after high school I worried where he got swallowed up by the city and if he’d been spit out.  He’s from home and many of us from home aren’t ready for what greets us outside of it. It’s scary, it’s unknown, it’s yet uncharted…by us at any rate.  That night, he was simply walking home to Boom Island with his groceries. Very urban, very normal.

Thankfully, we’d caught up in the recent months, sharing our stories and lives and even celebrating my new job.  At the time, it occurred to me that he was the most coincidental person to run across that night after that event.  The thoughts still racing in my head, I ran them past him.  I asked him what he thought about it—that people at home don’t necessarily believe that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people actually exist, or should exist.  He very calmly and peacefully responded in agreement, but not necessarily with as much militance as I was exuding.

He may be ambivalent.  He may be more forgiving.  He may want nothing to do with them.  I don’t know.

The people who implicitly or explicitly question whether or not homosexuals exist are more numerous and intelligent than we might think.  If we’re wondering how we’re going to win this fight against the anti-marriage amendment in November, they’re wondering why they have to vote on something that doesn’t exist.  Or shouldn’t be  made to seem like it does exist, because it doesn’t without proof. There are many fights this year—and this rather hidden one can’t be underestimated.  The people who tell us to our faces that they’ll vote for the amendment to make sure the abominations aren’t given equal rights may not be the ones to worry about as much.  The people who are rational and even contemplating the questions of origin are the ones to pay attention to.

The ones that we have to be the proof to.

People who are not near us or in a more densely populated and diverse area may not have that similar awareness.  Oh, yes.  It’s a slippery slope to do anything so stupid as to pit city folk against country folk.  That’s underestimating all of us.  But, there’s something to be said for not only being exposed to people who are different, but being exposed to many of them, frequently.  Constantly.  Until members of the GLBT community aren’t seen as archetypes or all the same, it’s hard for the voting body of Minnesota to understand that inclusion is going to be the norm.  This is happening.  We’re not asking you to believe in something that doesn’t exist.  We’re right here.

But, they don’t see us.

Aaron and I are now in the city.  We left home.  Guess what?  I daresay that most of us did.  It’s why we’re so comfortable. We have normalcy.  We applaud relationships.  We walk with people who needed to know who we are—who may not have been so open-minded as we force them to be, simply by existing—but now do.

What I consider to be home is about an hour west of the Twin Cities.  My great-grandparents’ family farm was in rural Litchfield, my parents raised us in Dassel and Cokato, and Cokato is where I go home to—if you know your geography, yes, that butts right up against the Sixth District.  An hour away from the Cities.

There are a fair number of us who’ve left that home, in particular.  In the pews of my home church have sat Joe, Executive Director of the Aliveness Project; former Minneapolis council member, Scott; and new OutFront Minnesota staff member, Javen, husband of Oby.  Another of my oldest classmates and friends is political activist and Facebook sensation, Del.  Heck, HGTV’s David Bromstad went to my high school.  Not only did everyone survive, but everyone returns home on occasion.  We don’t conspire or contrive any gay agenda while we’re here in the city, but perhaps we should.  Perhaps our gay agenda should be to go home and be unapologetically normal.  Exist.  Expose.  Simply raise awareness by being there.

It’s an important year.  There is so much work to be done.  Some of it might be more passive than we think.  Because, we can’t ask someone to vote against something that they don’t know is hurting us, because they don’t know that we are us.

May you have a wonderful year.  I look forward to existing with you and everyone in the GLBT and A community.  And I look forward to more applause.

With thanks,

From the Editor: Person of the Year

We have multiple people within the issue who have done amazing things this past year: Stephan who outlived homelessness in Justin Jones’s piece; the politicians and organizations who spoke out against the atrocities in Uganda as detailed by John Townsend; donors and artists and musicians and all sorts of patrons. People do great things. And, people deserve recognition.

This year, we chose John Kriesel, Minnesota Representative of District 57A, as our 2011 Person of the Year. We chose a white man. A heterosexual. A politician. A Republican. A veteran. A person with artificial limbs. A young adult. A suburbanite. A husband. A father. A guy with a great smile.

Without blinking.

It was a fascinating process. As we talked about the issue in the office, the idea was mentioned. Immediately, there was recognition. Of course we know who he is. Of course we know what he did. Of course.

He accepted it humbly. When I called to discuss the issue, I approached as a friendly. My call wasn’t expected. It wasn’t foreseen. I doubt it could even have been dreamed up as a possibility. Likewise, his allegiance and leadership regarding Marriage Equality was just as much of a surprise to many of us.

But, it wasn’t a surprise to him. He knew he was going to stand and speak out for Marriage Equality before he did it. Then, back on that day in May, he did it with conviction and strength.  And, as of press time, he’s planning to do it at the Minnesotans United for All Families event on December 12 with Governor Mark Dayton, Senator Scott Dibble, and others.

Of course.  It’s about rights.  It’s about putting himself in the position of others, some of whom are his 40,000 or so constituents, some of whom are fellow citizens. It’s about not going with what is popular, but what is the right thing to do.

And, for Lavender, recognizing him as Person of the Year was the right thing to do.

We hope you agree.

With thanks,

See the video here via UpTakeVideo: