Dallas’ gay communities, from hairy to the big-haired, raise money for charity with calendars


BEAR WITH THEM | Photographer Tom Rubeck, above center, teamed with Giovanni Ramirez, above left and model Alex Sosa, above right, to put together ‘Boyish to Bearish,’ a calendar benefitting Home for the Holidays featuring Dallas-area men who have embraced their ursine identities (inset below); meanwhile, DIVA has just launched its first-ever Miss DIVA calendar, inset bottom, to help raise money for the Dallas food pantry. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)


ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

When you talk about a gift that keeps on giving — throughout the year — nothing fits the bill better than a wall calendar: 12 months (sometimes more!) of art that’s actually useful, too. Savvy shoppers can choose the perfect fit for folks on their list: Kittens or sports teams or mountain ranges or cartoons.

EMILIO-MASTERBut for gay Dallas, there are even more choices — very queer and very local.

That’s how Giovanni A. Ramirez and Tom Rubeck settled on the theme for their calendar. A few years ago, as Ramirez was leaving high school and exploring his sexuality, he was searching for a community to belong to.

“I was looking for a spot to be in,” he says. “That’s when I discovered the Dallas Eagle. It was a little intimidating and I felt a little out of my element because I was much younger than most of these grown men. But they said, ‘You look a little nervous,’” and made him feel at home.

Still, Ramirez initially eschewed being labeled a bear himself.

“Me being [in my early 20s], I was in no rush to be classified as something. [I thought], to fit into the bear category, you have to have these features. But being a bear had nothing to do with size. One thing about the bear community: It doesn’t matter your shape, size, color or background; they will welcome you. Not everyone was fit and not everyone was hairy, though a majority had facial hair. But it was a sense of community [I enjoyed]. It doesn’t phase me one bit to be called a cub now,” he says.

In fact, he embraced it so much that when Rubeck approached him about modeling, Ramirez got an idea: Turn one vanity photoshoot into something bigger, and give the proceeds to charity.

“I thought it would be really fun, to be doing something different not just with myself but with my friends,” Ramirez says. The result is Boyish to Bearish, which launched in September.

Rubeck, a hobbyist photographer and videographer for 20-plus years, saw Ramirez on a social media website and asked him to pose. “He said, ‘I’ve always wanted to do a calendar with my friends.’ I said, ‘Cool — let’s do it for charity.’”

From February to April of this year, they shot a series of sessions with friends of Ramirez’s and others tracked down via Facebook. The original idea was to have 12 to 16 models, each with a birthday in their month. “But of the original models, seven all had birthdays in July!” Ramirez says. Instead, the calendar advanced from cubbiest to most ursine.

“We played with the name — originally the title was Bearishly Dallas. We obviously didn’t want to get the bear community incorrect,” Ramirez says. The current title reflects the scope of sexy, bearish men — from thin young otters to grey wolves. Just doing the calendar exposed them to interesting subsets of the gay world.

“There was some terminology I have never heard before, like she-hulks [hyper-masculine men who sound very feminine when they talk] to gingers [redheads],” he says.

Diva-Calendar-PromoShotIf the sales are good enough, Ramirez and Rubeck might make the calendar a regular thing, especially if they can donate a sizeable bit to Home for the Holidays Texas, a charity that provides funds to those living with AIDS to visit their families during the holidays.

“It’s basically a way to give back to the Dallas community,” Ramirez says.

For the folks at DIVA — the Dallas Independent Volleyball Association — a calendar sounded like a good idea, too … only they didn’t want bears. They wanted babes.
Well, sort of.

DIVA has just released its first-ever calendar, the 2013 Miss DIVA Charity calendar, which contains drag divas from the sports organization’s history of fundraising.

“For about 10 years now, the Miss DIVA Pageant has donated the proceeds [from its drag fundraiser] to the AIDS food pantry,” says Bud Polston, public relations officer for the group. “This year’s Miss DIVA, Sophie Pilla, is having a calendar developed with the help of several former Miss DIVAs and some guys who play in our league.”

The group launched the calendar just last week, but it will be on sale for the rest of the year. Proceeds from sales will benefit the food pantry, an especially appropriate gift during the holidays.

Calendars are available at: Boyishtobearish.com (or email boyishtobearish@yahoo.com). Price: $20 (plus $5.30 to ship, and DivaDallas.org. Price: $15.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 16, 2012.