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Book Review: Beautiful People by Simon Doonan

In: Reader Submissions, The Arts, Totally GAY!

You may have seen the BBC series, but still, read the book. Its subtitle: My Family and Other Glamorous Varmints, says it all. Simon Doonan looks back on his life and the people in it.

If you’ve seen the show, you know some of the characters; they’re here, though different, perhaps more real. His flamboyant mother, his sensitive father, his (here gay) sister, his best friend Biddie, blind aunt Phyllis and her seeing eye dog Lassie. They’re joined by his crazy Uncle Ken, by his crazier grandmother Narg, and by a supporting ensemble of the quirky, the over-the-top, the grotesque, and the beautiful.

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Ethan Poe is an outlier. He doesn’t feel he fits in with any groups at his school, partly because of his Goth appearance (inspired by his distant relative Edgar Allan), partly because he’s gay. The only person that knows the latter though is his friend Jorja, a fellow outlier, and one who is constantly praying that Ethan will stop being gay. As Jorja becomes even more intense about her religion, Ethan’s brother Kyle too seems caught up in a religious fever, and in his case, it is becoming disturbing indeed.

If that’s not complicated enough for a sixteen-year-old whose parents are recently separated, life takes an interesting turn in the person of Max Modine, beautiful and mysterious, and apparently as attracted to Ethan as Ethan is to him.

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The minute anybody started paying attention to Sharon “The Fucking Future of Drag” Needles, girlfriend was in some hot water. It turned out she occasionally liked to perform wearing blackface and swastikas, brag on Facebook/Twitter about how she’s sooooo edgy, she “[doesn't] say n-word..i say nigger…” and associate her employers and all their countrymen with mass murder.

After a near-perfect run on drag race (having only fallen into the bottom two when it didn’t matter, as Willam was disqualified that episode anyway), Needles was finally told to sashay away this May the instant her spiked heel hit the airport runway in Vienna, Austria. Needles was booked to perform at the Life Ball, a schmancy international AIDS fundraiser (we’re assuming there was no distasteful punning with her name intended). Upon arrival, Needles, apparently drunk but probably in total control of her image and artistry as she is at all times because she’s obviously a genius, proclaimed she was happy to be in Vienna, the birthplace of Hitler.

That carefully planned performance piece must have gone over my head, because I thought Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn.

According to other passengers on the flight, Needles also told this joke: “Did you hear the one about the baby with AIDS? It never gets old.”

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It’s the story of a boy, growing up evangelically Christian, and fervently believing in his religion, and how he reconciles that religion to the growing realization he is gay. At the same time, he is dealing with being orphaned and left in the care of his older brother; being deserted by his childhood friend after learning that the feelings he had for him were reciprocated; becoming friends with a non-believer classmate Pearl; and finding dual father figures in Reverend Amos King, his godfather whose infectious religious rhetoric cloaks a secret of his own, and in Gregory Hart, a bachelor caring for his wheelchair-bound sister whose good heart cannot make up for the near-certain suspicion in this small Idaho town that Gregory is a homosexual.

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Book Review: A Secret Edge by Robin Reardon

In: Reader Submissions, The Arts, Totally GAY!

Jason Peele is your typical high school student, with one exception. He’s gay. Maybe. It’s something he’s just beginning to accept, and on this path to acceptance, he encounters both hurdles and helpers. Hurdles include jilted girlfriend Meg, a conservative and concerned uncle and homophobic bullies Jimmy and Dane. They’re balanced out by a supportive friendship with Robert and a tall, dark, handsome student named Raj.

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Coming out is hard enough. Coming out when you’re family is conservative and Christian is even harder. When Taylor Adams’ parents find out their son is gay, they ship him off for a six-week stay at “Straight to God” in the hopes that he can be saved.

Now Taylor had had no problems with balancing out his sexuality and his faith. His love for God was in no way affected by his love for his boyfriend Will. Still, to please his family, he is willing to endure this separation from the boy of his dreams. At “Straight to God”, Taylor is forced to try to put away all former images of his sinful life, easier said than done. The other kids in the program, whether there for drugs, violence, disobedience, or inappropriate lust, are a mixed bag. There’s some Taylor feels a connection with, some he doesn’t. First impressions aren’t always right though, and that’s only the first lesson Taylor learns at S2G.

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Book Review: Shirts & Skins

In: Reader Submissions, The Arts, Totally GAY!

It’s been a while since I came across a book that pulled me in and kept me hooked. Jeffrey Luscombe’s Shirts and Skins did though.

The book is written as a series of individual stories, seen through the eyes of Josh Moore, a young boy who grows up with his family in the poorer part of Hamilton. The first couple stories, when Josh is just learning how to process the world around him, are filled with past tragedy and scandal, but we only perceive as much of them as the very young Josh does. Already he begins to learn how to mimic the other people in his life.

As times goes on, Josh becomes even more of a human chameleon, observing, adapting, becoming what he needs to be to survive. The world around him is filled with artificial divisions. His family has them, between those who are already saved by Christ and those who aren’t. Sunday school has them, between God’s chosen people and everyone else. School has them, especially in gym class, between shirts and skins. Society has them, between gay and straight.

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I know that the word “great” in the title of this post is more than a bit lame, but I’d be willing to bet that for most people who have been waiting for this day, words simply cannot adequately describe the sheer depth and breadth of emotion that today’s Supreme Court rulings have given rise to, so it’s probably best not to spend much time trying.

DOMA

This morning, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, struck down s. 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, held that DOMA violates the US Constitution’s guarantees of liberty and equal protection as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

More on the rulings and what they mean after the jump…

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