Rabbi, run

Andrea Myers’ funny and poignant tale of converting and coming out

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RELIGIOUS AWAKENING | Rabbi Myers started life in a much different place than where she ended up.

Like most of us, from the moment Andrea Myers was born, her parents had certain expectations for her. They expected her to grow up with morals, decency and kindness, strength and smarts. They hoped she’d be productive, happy and live a long life. Dad might have dreamed she’d take over the family business. Mom might have wanted to teach her to ride a bike or a horse. They saw great promise in her future.

But as Myers shows in her memoir The Choosing, they had a few surprises in store.

Born in Queens and raised in Long Island, little Andrea loved to ask questions. No answer was ever thorough enough, and certain things were never discussed. Controversy was forbidden, topics of religion and sexuality among them.

Myers’ mother was a Sicilian Catholic who had been “insulted” by the church and, as a result, Myers and herbooks-1 siblings were raised in their father’s Lutheran faith. Theirs was a unique and boisterous family: Myers’ devout grandmother lived upstairs and fiercely loved her granddaughter; Myers’ mother steadfastly stuck up for her children, no matter what; and Myers’ father had a dubious flair for fashion.

With her inquisitive mind, there was no question about college but when it came time for Myers to apply, she felt as if there was little choice. Her boyfriend said that if she chose a local college, they might as well “talk marriage.” But what he didn’t know was that Myers had been dating girls, secretly, for several years.

She chose Brandeis University, a predominantly Jewish school, and left home. There, she found people who didn’t care that she was gay, and a religion that seemed to answer a lot of endless questions but that asked even more.

Seeking out a beloved campus rabbi, Myers told him that she wanted to convert to Judaism and become a rabbi herself. He didn’t follow tradition by turning her away three times; instead, he welcomed her, but warned her that it wouldn’t be easy. Undaunted, Myers embraced the challenge by moving to Jerusalem to study. In so many ways, it was a decision that changed her life.

Filled with wisdom, humor, and the kind of contentment that only comes when one has found his or her right place in the world, The Choosing is one of those books that leaves you feeling oddly serene. Myers writes vividly about her life — her quirky family, memorable childhood experiences, her wife and children, mentors and friends — but she also takes opportunity to educate readers on Talmudic teachings, Jewish laws and her own spirituality. There’s plenty of humor as well — you can almost hear the twinkle in Myers’ words — but at the same time, she imparts a sense of refreshment, subtly pointing out the miraculous in the everyday.

If you’re looking for inspiration, direction or a few gentle laughs, you’ll love this surprisingly charming book. Grab The Choosing and you can expect a very good read.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Drawing Dallas • Rick Phillips

With the holiday upon us, floral designing is a labor of love for Dallas’ Rick Phillips

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name: Rick Phillips

Occupation: Floral designer

Spotted at: Dog park on Swiss Avenue

Tanned, fit Aquarian Rick Phillips was born in Dallas but raised in neighboring Grand Prairie. He sprouts from a small but creative family: His mother sings opera, his brother is a drummer in a rock band, and his grandmother was also a gifted artist.

Labor of Love: Rick has been creating beautiful floral arrangements for more than 17 years. His first job interview in the business was to create a funeral arrangement. “I almost cut my thumb off,” says Rick, “I think they felt sorry for me. I got the job!”

Studying photography in college led to a natural progression into painting and finally into floral design. The instant gratification he gets from the process satisfies his art muse. Rick says he makes up his arrangements as he goes along. “I have a concept about color and shape when I start, but after that I free-wheel it.” He has been the exclusive florist for a high-profile jewelry store for eight years.

When he’s not handcrafting floral masterpieces, Rick enjoys cooking and shopping vintage and junk shops for awesome shirts and cool coats (and he can’t wait to for the weather to get cooler so he can wear them!) He loves all kinds of music from classical to techno/dance.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Outraged’ 80-year old Iowa grandmother supports her gay son and blasts the haters

This is so, so great:

H/T Dan Savage.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

Iowa Grandmother: Discrimination Affects All of Us

Despite a recent vote in the Iowa House of Representatives to roll back the clock on marriage equality, a number of Iowans continue to make fair-minded, emotional appeals for supporting the rights of all committed couples to marry. First came the moving testimony of Zach Wahls, an Iowa college student raised by two moms. And more recently, an 80-year old grandmother named Jean posted a YouTube video about how anti-gay discrimination impacts her family.

“When our son came out to us in 1980, we were stunned, confused and angry….years later, after the shock wore off and we saw the life our son had created with his future husband Bob, I realized that he is still my son – and that in many ways, nothing has changed,” says Jean. “The actions and words of some affect my son, his husband, my family and my grandchildren. My son is not an issue. He is a person, just like you.”

Iowa is currently one of five states and the District of Columbia that issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples – but the security of marriage equality in Iowa cannot be taken for granted. Several months before the February House vote, three state Supreme Court judges who ruled in favor of marriage equality were ousted from the bench following an unprecedented campaign waged by well-funded anti-gay interest groups. 

Jean’s video provides a timely reminder for many Americans that marriage equality – and the swirl of rhetoric and politics surrounding it – is an issue that deeply impacts families all across the nation:

“I was sickened when the state Supreme Court judges were dismissed by the voters, removed because of peoples’ prejudices. Discrimination affects all of us – not just me, as a mother of a gay son.”

Watch Jean’s message here. To learn more about the current state of marriage equality in states across the country, visit http://www.hrc.org/issues/marriage.asp. And join HRC in calling on President Obama to publically and vocally support marriage equality for all Americans.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Good question

Lesbian writer Abby Dees wrote her book more for straight friends of gays than for gays themselves

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Author Abby Dees. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Abby Dees wrote Queer Questions Straight Talk from her own experiences while learning about how others perceived gay people. The book, with “108 frank & provocative questions it’s OK to ask your lesbian, gay or bisexual loved one,” was imagined as a gift from gays to their straight parents, family or friends, to put them at ease about what being gay means — and to see that others have had the same questions. But Dees has also heard of gay people using the book to ask each other questions as a party game. But she can see it used as a part of a sensitivity training session, as well.

While she discusses the topics briefly, the book is a collection of questions, not answers. And she starts out with the basics: “Do you think you were always gay or lesbian or bi?” Comedian Carol Leifer submitted that one; others were collected by e-mail and through Facebook.

Dees found was that virtually all of the questions were things she’d heard before — everything from “Does this mean I’m not going to be a grandmother?” to “Are there any real lesbians like the ones on The L Word?

She mostly avoids sexually graphic questions and steers the conversation to “What’s your perfect date like?” (A response of “Dinner, good conversation and a movie, what’s yours?”) is more likely to help someone understand similarities than vast differences.

“What’s the most challenging thing about having a relationship with someone of the same sex?” she asks. Her own answer is that she would find it more challenging to have a relationship with a member of the opposite sex because of vastly different interests of men and women.

Dees says that her relationship with her mother has always been good and her mom edited the book. But reading the questions prompted them to have more discussions.

“She’s very proud of this book,” Dees says. “She went from ‘happy with you honey’ to a PFLAG mom who outs me every opportunity she gets.”

Dees describes her evolving relationship with her mother as more than a 20-year process. The questions in this 100-page book are meant to start a series of conversations, and were not meant to be raced through in one quick session.

The toughest section of the book to write, she says, deals with religion. She wrote it first and then went back to it last to lighten the tone. She admits that for the person whose only reference is that if you’re gay, you’re going to hell, this book might not help. But for others, “Do you feel you can be [gay] and go to heaven” might be a good starting point for a conversation.

She stressed that there are no right or wrong answers. And you don’t need to be an expert to answer these questions. “‘I don’t know.’ is a really good answer,” she says.

— David P. Taffet

…………………..

Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep: A Definitive Guide to the Loud & Proud Dislikes of Millions by Freeman Hall (2010, Adams Media)
$14; 216 pp.

How many fashion faux pas does someone have to endure before everyone understands that plumber’s butt and muffin tops are not acceptable? Don’t those people look in mirrors before they leave the house? Do you need to rent a plane and sky-write “Wear pants that fit?” It’s enough to make you scream or want to break down in public — but you hate that.

But that’s not the only thing that you hate. There are dozens more, as you’ll see in Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep.

So somebody gives you a bottle of cheap booze or wine. Or you got tacky home décor for Christmas. These kinds of things make you want to simply crawl into a fetal position until it all goes away … and they’re all throughout this book.

Justin Bieber: Now he really makes you want to bawl your eyes out. So does Richard Simmons and a certain Mama Grizzly with lipstick. The Kardashians — sniff. Guidos and Guidettes — pah! And that Angelina Jolie and Hugh Jackman are not gay? Waterworks.

If this book doesn’t make you weep from laughter, there’s something wrong. It’s absolutely hilarious.

With his signature snarky sense of humor and his feel for the absurd, author Freeman Hall pokes fun at kitschy, faddish, everyday things, places and people that practically beg to be ridiculed. There are more than 200 entries so hilariously, awfully tragic that you don’t have to be gay to want to break down in tears, even if you’re a guilty party (though it doesn’t hurt). And once you’re done reading, you almost have to come up with your own “Stuff List.”
Wrap yourself in your Snuggie because you need a good laugh out loud. Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep is an absolute scream.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Steven Daigle hospitalized, arrested

Things could be going better for North Texas’ Steven Daigle. After he was booted from Big Brother in 2008, he told me that he tried to live by his grandmother’s advice while he was in the house: Never do anything you wouldn’t want to read about on the front page of the New York Times.

So much for that.

Daigle parlayed his quasi-fame into a quasi-career, going from reality TV footnote to hardcore gay porn actor — perhaps the only one ever to use his full, legal name as his porn name.

Now, he’s got another dubious moniker: Jail bird. JRL Charts, which touts itself as the “official” gay adult film industry publication, reports that Daigle and his boyfriend, fellow porn actor Trent Locke, were involved in a fight Monday that sent both to the hospital an landed Daigle in jail on $20,000 bond.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones