WATCH: Storm, the genderless baby

The Stockers have just had their third child, Storm, a beautiful, healthy, bouncing baby. They’re keeping the child’s sex a secret from the world so that Storm may grow to develop his or her own identity without the social expectations of masculinity or femininity. The family has two other sons, Jazz and Kio, whom they have given complete freedom with identity. Jazz loves his long hair and his sparkly dresses, and Kio adores purple.

After receiving media attention and outrage the couple has declined further interviews. The response they’ve gotten from the public and the media has been mixed. Some are convinced that they’re setting their child up for bullying and a lack of self-identity. Without the direction from his/her parents on how he/she should act and dress, how can Storm grow up like a normal child?

From a transgentleman’s point of view, I am completely and totally supportive. A lot of transfolk have expressed that their gender identity was such a struggle to find because of social pressures placed on them for being a boy or girl. If they hadn’t had those gender stereotypes placed on them, maybe they would have been able to discover their true identity earlier. If we weren’t judged and reprimanded for expressing masculinity or femininity regardless of our sex, then maybe our gender identity wouldn’t be so hard to find.

I applaud this family for what they’re doing with Storm. If the world weren’t so focused on “boys do this, girls do this” then maybe we wouldn’t have so much gender dysphoria in our society. We would learn to develop our own sense of identity without the expectations placed on what’s between our legs. I know that I, personally, wouldn’t have gone through so much confusion and inner chaos when I was younger if I hadn’t been raised with the idea that I would be rejected if I didn’t act and dress a certain way.

I can see the validity in the negative responses to the genderless baby. It’s true that the baby might be teased and Storm might have trouble with his or her identity without the structure of gender stereotypes. However, studies have shown that children raised in unconventional ways have developed into strong, confident people. Some hold the view that the parents are being selfish by using their child as an “experiment,” with one commenter comparing Storm to a lab rat.

There hasn’t been a study on raising genderless children. I can only speculate, from someone whose life has been a mass of doubt and uncertainty because of gender, that Storm will grow and develop into whomever Storm wants to be — without the constraint of gender roles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjLGVdZHm2Q

—  admin

Granola cluster

IMG_0376

Hot men, a funky vibe, a thriving downtown scene and easy acess to the mountains add up to make Denver the Austin of the Rockies

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

“There are two seasons in Colorado,” asserts Cartman on South Park. “Winter and July.”

That’s not really true, anymore than the cliché that Dallas is always hot. (Remember three snowstorms this year?) In fact, it’s not all that unusual to see folks walking around in shorts or without winter coats, albeit in weather that would chill most Texans.
With summer on the horizon, the already highly livable Mile High City is ideal for warmth-seekers who want to enjoy the outdoors — or the many sophisticated options Denver offers.

Some cities are tweedy; some are silky or denimy or flannely or, God bless ’em, polyester’d; Denver is a hybrid of Gor-Tex and burlap — in the best possible way.

What is it about hilly college towns with capitols that breed a certain crunchy, alternative-lifestyle vibe? Dallas doesn’t have it, unless you count Deep Ellum, which you can’t (at least not since 1996). With its comfortable, old condos and warehouses, an easygoing pace, overcast skies and small-city atmosphere, Denver resembles a Rocky Mountain version of Austin or Seattle.

But there’s more to the appeal of Denver than just the environment. Colorado is the state with the fittest population in the Union, and many of the men here exude an unpretentious, earthy masculinity — one local woman told me the unofficial nickname of the city is “Menver.” Scruffy guys are common here, hot in a granola-hiker-outdoorsy way. (Grindr, though, is a lot more popular that Scruff; go figure.)

Maybe what attracts them to this city of 600,000 is the diversity of options, from fine dining to museums to history.

It’s easiest to stay downtown, where tons of options — from a performing arts center to an urban mall with moviehouse to a full-fledged convention center — provide a hub of activity. The Hyatt Regency, a skyscraper of a hotel with an upper floor bar overlooking the Rockies, an extensive in-house gym and refreshing spa (complete with expert massages), provides a comfortable, mainstream and centrally located hotel option. Clean, well-appointed and easy to spot, it fits the bill nicely.

Denver was founded in 1858, and has long remained the hub of culture and industry in the mountainous part of the western plains. Cowboy culture exists, of course, just like in Texas, but there’s an urbane sensibility as well.

Consider the Tattered Cover, a cavernous hardwood-and-exposed-beam-and-brick bookstore and café in a former warehouse on 16th Street in LoDo (Lower Downtown). While bookstores across America are closing, Tattered Cover is a destination for locals who line up for their scones and to read a paper. Then, you can stroll around the corner and visit Rockmount Ranch Wear. The storefront for the company that invented the sawtooth pocket design and snap short buttons is a friendly place where you can see a display of their most famous shirt: The one worn by Jake Gyllenhaal (and rescued by Heath Ledger) in Brokeback

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DESTINATION DOWNTOWN | Public art, thriving businesses and a free shuttle makes Denver accessible and packed with options. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Mountain. (It sold at auction for $101,000.)

Both are in the LoDo district, near the terminus of the 16th Street Mall. This mile-long plaza, designed by I.M. Pei, is served by a fast, convenient and free shuttle that makes getting from one part of town to the other a breeze. While in LoDo, visit the old Union Station, now undergoing a facelift but still operational. Across from the station, duck into the historic Oxford Hotel, a charming boutique property with an enchanting foyer (much refinished after years of disrepair following its stint as a brothel.)

In addition to accommodations, the Oxford offers food and drink worth your time. The Cruise Room Bar is a reproduction of the interior of the Queen Mary cruise ship, complete with art moderne accents and classic cocktails. Across the hall, McCormick’s prepares mouthwatering fresh-off-the-boat seafood. The clam chowder here is among the best I’ve tasted, and the crab and mango tower was heavenly.

In general, Denver is a great city to enjoy exquisite food, including seafood (unexpected for a landlocked state). I arrived during Restaurant Week, a nationwide event held in many cities throughout the year; but I have never encountered a town where diners take it so seriously.

ChoLon may be the hottest place in town, a spacious, Asian-inspired bistro from chef Lon Symensma that recalls New York’s Buddakan or Las Vegas’ Tao, both in décor and in clever twists on Vietnamese and other Asian dishes. A sesame rice cake the size of an hibiscus bloom, served with tomato chile jam, replaced the traditional bread basket, while the peanut and tamarind glaze on the lamb shank perfectly balanced its savory and sweetness.

Not far from LoDo is Larimer Square, a fashionable pocket of fine dining and high end shopping a la Highland Park (stop in at Goorin Brothers Hat Shop not just for the novelty of a hat shop, but for exquisite toppers). Local celebrichefs predominate here, including Jennifer Jasinski, chef/co-owner of Rioja, a Mediterranean restaurant of intimate charm and intense, flavorful dishes, like sturgeon with grilled artichoke and tomato tart mousse and sea scallops with a tower of potato and carrot medallions. For a quick drink, Corridor 44 is unique: A champagne bar serving flights of sparkling wine.

You can get drinks and more at the Corner Office Martini Bar and Restaurant inside the distinctly boutique-y Curtis Hotel. The food is a hodgepodge that includes yummy shishito peppers, excellent mac and cheese and delicious fish tacos, plus on Sundays a disco brunch that gives life to the campy retro character of place.

History buffs will enjoy exploring the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which currently has a massive exhibit called Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah, a slave ship that became a privateer. (The collection includes an authentic reproduction of the gally — complete with creaky floorboards and a rocking motion — as well as countless artifacts from gold coins to iron cannons to the ship’s bell, unearthed from a sandy grave after 300 years underwater.) Closer in town the Denver Art Museum houses an impressive collection of Western art as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

You can buy some of your own art from local artisans at the First Friday art walks in cultural neighborhoods across the city. The Santa Fe District boasts an eclectic array of galleries displaying everything from abstract paintings to handmade jewelry and sculpture to Warhol-esque, ultra modern art. North Denver’s Tennyson neighborhood features a different style of galleries, including bookstores, glass blowers and antique dealers. The Pattern Shop, a beautiful home and gallery in the RiNo (River North) area, is worth the trip.

Like most cities in North America, Denver celebrates its Gay Pride Week in June (PrideFest 2011 is June 18 and 19). The community in this region is sizeable, with the gayborhood in Denver concentrated on the opposite end of the mall from LoDo. It’s a refreshing walk off the shuttle to the Denver Wrangler, a neighborhood leather-and-Levis bar with pool tables and videos. On Sundays, the patio turns into brunch central, resembling a corral of beefy gay men penned for branding. Close by are JR’s Denver and Hamburger Mary’s, which are hubs of gay life here. You’ll have to take a car to get to one of the rougher clubs, Compound, but like most things in Denver, it’s worth the hike.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Sunny and sharing: Chaz Bono is a new man

Transitions

Transition by Chaz Bono (with Billie Fitzpatrick), (2011, Dutton), $26; 245 pp.

The face in the mirror is instantly recognizable: The chin, the eyes that droop when fatigued, the mouth that’s etched parentheses around itself. The hair, they eyes, the nose. But what the little girl America knew as Chastity Bono saw on the outside was not what she felt inside.

In Transition, the biological daughter of pop icons Sonny and Cher explains what it’s like to feel like you’re in the wrong body, and how a tiny Hollywood darling went from daughter to son.

On the wall of his home, Chaz Bono has a picture of himself and his parents, taken when he was a toddler. They all look happy, though Chaz says he doesn’t remember the day it was  taken —or much else of his childhood, for that matter. What he does remember is that he always felt like a boy.

As a kid, he dressed in boy duds as often as possible and answered to a male nickname. He played with boys at school, including his best friend. Nobody thought much about it, he says — that’s just how it was.

Puberty was rough; eventually, Bono came out as lesbian, but something still wasn’t quite right. He didn’t identify with women, gay or otherwise, and distant feelings of masculinity colored his relationships with them and with his family. Still, he lived his life as a woman: falling in love, starting a band, buying a house and trying to stay out of the public eye.

Bono’s father seemed supportive of his lesbianism; his mother had trouble with it.  Happiness eluded Bono so he turned to drugs to cope with the frustration. By then, though, he thought he knew what he needed to do.

On March 20, 2009, he “drove myself to the doctor’s office… I felt only confident that what I was doing was right. … After all the years of fear, ambivalence, doubts and emotional torture, the day had finally come. I was on testosterone, and I have never looked back — not once.”

Chaz says he was never very good at transitions, though he did a pretty good job at this one (with a few bumps along the way).

Transition is filled with angst, anger, sadness and pain, but topped off with wonderment and joy. It’s also repetitious, contains a few delicately squirmy moments, and its occasional bogginess is a challenge for wandering minds.

For wondering minds, however, Chaz is quick to defend and explain away his family’s reluctance to accept his gender reassignment, but he’s also willing to admit to being hurt by it. Still, contentment and awe shine forth at the end of this book, and readers will breathe a sigh of relief for it.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Feminist mystique

Lovers’ Carolyn Berk finds zero limits as an out musician — but gets a little nervous coming back to Texas

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

THREE WAY | Carolyn Berk, center, and Lovers return to the masculine state of Texas with feminist pop.

LOVERS
With Sextape and One Red Martian. Andy’s Bar, 122 N. Locust Road, Denton. May 13. 9 p.m. $6–$8.
LoversAreLovers.com.

………………………..

Smilla might have had a sense of snow, but Carolyn Berk — frontwoman for the Portland-based trio Lovers — has a sense of sex. And it makes her a bit nervous to be coming to the Metroplex.

“Portland is a very feminine city, but when I’m in Texas, I feel it’s a very masculine place,” she says. “There is an energy that I don’t quite get. I can experience masculinity in myself but when it’s used in a certain way, I start feeling uncomfortable. I’ve never been to Dallas because, honestly, I’m intimidated by it. I don’t feel particularly safe in Texas.”

Berk doesn’t mean to sound like she’s railing against the state, but she wants to be upfront how her feminist roots may feel challenged next Friday, when Lovers plays at Andy’s Bar in Denton. It’s no surprise that she loves Austin, but she doesn’t say whether the band intentionally sidestepped Dallas in favor of Denton. But we choose not to see it that way — anyway, fringe bands thrive in college towns.

“One of the interesting things about going back to the same towns again is seeing the people you met last time,” she says of touring. “Hopefully we’ll see that some of the seeds are growing and more people come out. I always hope that each tour is better than the last.”

Lovers has five albums under its belt, and through rotating members, the touchstone has always been Berk. But this current incarnation of the band seems to find Lovers at its best self. Berk, Kerby Ferris and Emily Kingan have produced a confident album with Dark Light, and after a decade of doing this, Berk feels this is the band at its strongest.

“When we came together, it felt very egalitarian and feminist and comfortable,” she says. “I hadn’t experienced that level of confidence and there are a lot of benefits to having our kind of connection. I felt like this was a really great place to be creatively.”

This confidence has taken Berk to new levels, as an artist and a person. All three members identify as queer, and for Berk, that offers a comfort in writing her music. Although she starts the song on her acoustic guitar, the others chime in for a group dynamic.

At 32, her personal growth over these 10 years has manifested differently in Dark Light than it has on any of the previous releases. She’s out of the closet, but this album shows Berk coming out of her shell.

“I feel like I sort of went from being an artist who was working mostly to exorcise personal demons to someone who, with time, is able to looking more outward,” she says. “This is the most extroverted album Lovers has ever had.”

Those demons stemmed from losing her mother at 15, as well as growing up surrounded by death. Seeing it up close at an early age was just a “weird way to start life.” But it shaped her knack for some pretty epic lyrics. In Light’s “Shepherd of the Stray Hearts,” she says volumes in the line Just like a shepherd of the stray hear /  leaving you whale bones in your front yard and a basket of spearmint on the gate behind your swing / and a white scarf around the cello cart you’re always pushing.

“The song is about having a secret romance and those images come from a some very romantic places in my life,” Berk says.

And while the object of affection may be to a woman by a woman, Berk and company have faith that their music will transcend labels.

“At this point in my career, I just feel limitless,” she says. “I feel very visible through the music and at the same time anybody else can insert their experiences into a song.  I’m very open in my music, but I don’t think that means its closed for everyone else. “

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Exploring spirituality, in Radical Faerie style

Pan-pagan group started as a gay-men-only movement, but has grown more inclusive with time

M.M. Adjarian  |  Contributing Writer mmadjarian@gmail.com

Dallas area Radical Faeries
IN THEIR OSTARA BONNETS | Members of the Dallas area Radical Faeries get in on the Easter Bonnet Parade fun with their own version of festive headgear celebrating Ostara, or the vernal equinox. (Photo courtesy Radical Faeries).

“Mainstream gays have always regard[ed] the euphemism, ‘faerie’ [as stigmatic]” says Paul Singleton. “Many men find it countermand[s] their ideas of masculinity, which is far from actual reality.”

Singleton is a member of the Radical Faeries, an alternative gay men’s movement started in 1979 by pioneer gay activist Harry Hay and dedicated to the spiritual exploration of gay culture and identity. He is one of about 15 locally based faeries, a few of whom gather together every Saturday for “coffee, tea and communion.”

“We are the Nature People, the lavender tribe of the Rainbow Family, in harmony with the principles of peace, justice, freedom, sustainable culture and the sacredness of the Earth. We love ceremonies, focusing on group spirit, and oneness… And we like to be pretty!” says Steven Hanes, another member of the DFW Radical Faerie community.

Hay, who died in 2002, originally patterned the Radical Faeries after the women’s separatist groups of the 1970s and limited membership to men. But in more than 30 years of existence, the Radical Faeries have evolved — albeit gradually and with difficulty — towards embracing a more sexually diverse membership.

Some Radical Faerie groups accept people of all genders and orientations with the idea that anyone who identifies as a faerie is one. However, many older members still require gatherings to be male-only and the issue of inclusion continues to be controversial.

“As an oppressed people, gay men [have] had to overcome their own prejudices against women, bi, trans [and] intersex people,” notes Singleton, who at 28, is part of the younger generation of faeries.

The movement, which began in the U.S. but now has followers worldwide, has been described as pagan in spiritual orientation. While it does borrow elements of its basic philosophy from paganism, it also borrows from other faiths as well.

As such, it reflects the eclectic religious backgrounds of its members, who are anything from Catholic to Buddhist, agnostic to atheist.

Two other elements unify the Radical Faeries. One is that member relationships are based on the giving and receiving of mutual respect and empathy.

“We are on equal footing — there is no dominance of subject over object,” says Singleton.

This notion derives from Hay’s idea that homosexual relationships, unlike heterosexual ones, were based on longings for a companion that was identical — and therefore equal — to the self in all ways.

The second element is internal operation based on consensus rather than majority rule — a feature that Townley attributes to “Hay’s communistic roots.”

Dallas area Radical Faeries
FAERIE FASHION | Members of the Radical Faeries celebrate spring. (Photo courtesy Radical Faeries)

“[This] can present certain challenges in efficiency,” Townley admits. “If anyone chooses to block consensus, we will ‘talk the issue to death.’ … When we are through, there are fewer bad feelings — except perhaps exhaustion — but we all understand many differing points of view.”

The group’s emphasis on equality can also be seen in one practice — borrowed from Native American spiritual traditions — in which almost all faeries participate: the Heart Circle. As a ritual, the Heart Circle is an exercise in both speaking and listening, designed to foster greater emotional self-awareness and interpersonal empathy.

“We form a circle, pass a token/speaking stick/talisman and only the person holding the token may speak,” Townley explains. “We agree as a group that we will speak from the heart when holding the talisman and the rest of the circle will speak from the heart. … The token goes around until all have had their say.”

While not the most visible of groups in the Dallas spiritual landscape, the highly individualistic Radical Faeries do participate in festivals and celebrations — such as Witch’s Night Out and Winter SolstiCelebraton — sponsored by pan-pagan organizations.

And though not a service organization, the DFW Radical Faeries does have membership ties to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group dedicated to AIDS education and activism.

As a movement, the Radical Faeries exist to raise consciousness, especially — but not exclusively — within the LGBT community. By identifying themselves as “faeries,” members reclaim a word that has been used pejoratively against gays. And while not radicals in the sense of being extremists, they get the root of things, in this case, who they are as gay people.

“Spirituality is having a renaissance,” Singleton observes.  “People are sick of ‘fanclubs’ and are looking within to find themselves.”

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

—  Michael Stephens

Body art

Gay dancer Rob Laqui finds therapy in the fantasy of MOMIX’s ‘Botanica’

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

‘Botanica’ turns nature into art through dance with cast member Rob Laqui, below.
AU NATUREL | ‘Botanica’ turns nature into art through dance with cast member Rob Laqui, below.

MOMIX: BOTANICA
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora St.
Sept. 10–11. 8 p.m. $19–$125.
TITAS.org

According to Rob Laqui, he’s pretty easy to spot. In MOMIX’s Botanica, amid the vast imagery created by the cast, you’ll know it when you see him onstage. And it’s not because he has an inflated sense of ego.

“I’m the only Filipino guy!” he laughs.

Laqui is soft-spoken but with a sense of humor that’s part dry, part snappy. He also has a flair for the poetic. As a gay man, he can see why the community might be fascinating by MOMIX, which brings its latest show to the Winspear Opera House this week, courtesy of TITAS.

“In my experience and in my opinion, there is this certain soft masculinity there,” he says. “I think everyone responds to the beauty of the images of this show but especially the LGBT community. We like pretty things! But also, gays have a certain sensitivity to that [beauty].”

Laqui is starting his seventh season with MOMIX — quite a run for a man who started out as a musical theater major in college. Moving to New York City from Minnesota, he planned a career on the stage acting and singing, but something clicked in him that made him decide traditional theater wasn’t exactly his thing. He began working on body movement that played into some of his characters and slowly surfaced into his interests.  Then he saw MOMIX perform.

“I remember thinking that it was just awesome and I wanted to work with that,” he says.

His dream came true.

Rob Laqui
Rob Laqui

He describes MOMIX as “Cirque du Soleil Lite,” but with a wink and a nod: In the same vein, but minus ethereal acrobatics and eerie clowns.

Ultimately, though, Laqui considers the troupe illusionists.

“I will describe it as modern dance, but with us, the audience will look at our movements and then it takes a second for them to wrap their mind around what they are seeing, “ he says. The eclecticism of the movements into images and shapes, is more than dancing; it’s a challenge.

In Botanica, the show lives up to its name. Choreographed by Moses Pendleton, the cast creates a world of nature by moving their bodies into different kinds of natural imagery be it flowers or creatures or both.  Pendleton paints these pictures with each dancer serving as his brushstroke — a role Laqui cherishes for its art and his sanity.

“Dance allows me to go to these places where I can be fierce or cruel even thought I’m super nice in person,” he says. “That’s the beauty of it.

Every dancer has the capacity to encompass every emotion. It’s our job to communicate that. That’s why I do it. It’s the cheapest form of therapy.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas