Representation of LGBTQ individuals in popular media has rapidly increased over the past decade. When Queer as Folk (QAF), one of television’s first mainstream LGBTQ-interest shows, premiered in 1999, the concept of a show entirely (or, at least, primarily) about the gays was new and groundbreaking. By 2011, however, such shows are old hat. But unlike QAF and other LGBT productions, many of these new shows break the mold of “traditional” representations of gays and lesbians in popular television by rejecting rather than exacerbating hypersexual and gender-specific stereotypes of homosexuality. Let's take a glance at some of the heavy hitters:
As much as Glee, the wildly-popular musical comedy on Fox, has jumped shark this season, its writers have used new characters and plotlines to expose the complexities of gay life in high school. The show’s central gay character Kurt (Chris Colfer), often referring to himself as an “honorary girl”, represents an effeminized vision of homosexuality and fits comfortably into many people’s image of what gay men should be. Luckily, gay representation in Glee doesn’t stop there. Blaine, a newly-introduced character played by Darren Criss, challenges stereotypical conceptions by playing a masculine, non-marginalized gay man that's free, for the most part, of angst. The second significant gay storyline in Glee follows the pseudo-romance of characters Santana and Britanny. Santana gives voice to those already comfortable with alternative sexualities but unable or unwilling to come out, an archetype not often represented in popular media; Brittany’s sexuality, constantly in question (even by Brittany herself), is a breath of fresh air in an industry where it seems necessary that all characters have comfortable (but form-fitting) labels.
The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus (PGMC) greets their big 3-0 with a “rollicking” choral revue that highlights the musical stylings of boy bands from the 1960s to today. The performance will celebrate everything from pop superstars (The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Jackson 5) to teen heartthrobs (Hanson, ’N Sync, Backstreet Boys) and all the boy bands in between. PGMC also promises that songs from diverse acts such as Queen, The Monkees, and Boyz II Men will also appear among the nearly-sixty showcased during the show. One of Philadelphia’s premiere LGBT performance groups, PGMC creates music that “entertains, inspires and affirms with a spirit of friendship and hope.” Aw.
Sat., June 18, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., $20-$50, Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad St., pgmc.org.
As we mention in this week's A&E section, lead singer of Pretty Poison and South Jersey resident Jade Starling will headline and shoot footage for her new music video at nightlifegay.com's Triumphant Pride celebration on Sunday. We recently caught up with her for a chat about her new music, gay rights and why she think Lady Gaga should be the new Oprah.
City Paper: So a lot of people know you from the '80s group Pretty Poison and the hit song “Catch Me (I’m Falling),” but what have you been up to recently?
Jade Starling: Basically, this past year I’ve been trying to finish [my new] album, [Captive], and get all the producers and remixers together. I’m looking forward to putting out new music. I’m still with the group Pretty Poison. My bandmate and producer Whey Cooler did a lot for the new album.
CP: What can your fans expect from your new music?
JS: What they know us best for is dance and club music, so we’re getting back to the roots about what we do best. I love my fans very much and it’s great for me to be back in Philly again reaching out to the people who put us on the map. I’m so excited about doing Triumphant Pride and seeing all my family and friends from the area.
If the rainbow street signs in the Gayborhood don’t give it away, Philadelphia is home to a large lesbian and gay community. But while an entire neighborhood plays home to many who identify as lesbian, gay or bi, the last letter of LGBT is largely left without a specific home. With the help of Philadelphia's Trans Health Conference (PTHC), however, that's all about to change.
Now in its tenth year, PTHC is the largest trans-specific conference in the U.S. — welcoming folks from across the globe. Generally, conferences aren’t something people flock to unless they include adult video stars or storm trooper costumes, so why does this health conference have such a following? Surprisingly, it’s not the medical advice or free food, but the sense of community that these spaces provide. Joe Ippolito, an FTM psychologist who has been on the conference's event committee for eight years, is interested in the way the event functions as a community space for the trans-identified. “The trans community as a whole is dispersed compared to the L[esbian] and G[ay] communities. The conference provides a place to meet, talk and share experiences for three days, providing reliable connections after you leave. It’s a community.” When asked what made Philly such a perfect spot for this large event, it was clear it was more than just the central location. The group who has been putting the event on since the early days is committed to providing a diverse conference that is free and accessible to attendees. Ippolito noted how important it was to keep everything free as the trans population is generally lower on the socioeconomic ladder, and sometimes homeless. The conference provides free meals to those who need them as well as several outreach groups. Few events this large could sustain this level of aid, but this Philadelphia-based group, along with Mazzoni Center, is committed to the cause.
Feeling in need of liberation? Bored of the stale, traditional ways of activism? On Tue., May 24, Giovanni’s Room (345 S. 12 St.) is hosting a spoken arts event beginning at 5:30 p.m. The poetry slam is being put on by Gender Edge, a movement which promotes activism through art. Spoken word artists include Ms. Wise, J Mase III, indee, Jane Cassady, and Leah B. You’ll be hearing poetry in the tradition of Gender Edge’s “punk inspired” philosophy of empowerment and creativity, put forth by gender queer/ transgender youth. Right on.
As America grapples with childhood bullying — particularly against LGBT youths — the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus is putting a spotlight on the importance of raising children. In tomorrow’s performance at Temple, titled Cherish the Child, the chorus will present songs about the difficulties of growing up, as well as the challenges of parenting. Tunes will include the Stephen Sondheim classic “Children Will Listen,” from Into the Woods, as well as work by Morten Lauridsen, one of America’s premiere contemporary choral composers. The second half of the concert will feature lighter fare like “Miss Twinkleton's School for Sensitive Boys,” which tells the story of a school free from the threat of bullying — not to mention the pressures of sports. “Any man who felt somehow out of place in school will identify with this song,” says PGMC’s Sandy Smith.
Much of the concert’s first half will be devoted to the Philadelphia premiere of “Prayers for Bobby,” a narrative song cycle penned by Jay Kawarsky, an almost-Philadelphian (he’s from Princeton) and Ken Killpack. Video screens will help tell the tale of Mary Griffith, a mother who attempted to use prayer to “cure” her son’s homosexuality. Instead, the process led her to become a vocal supporter of LGBT kids. Griffith — whose story has been turned into a book, as well as a TV movie starring Sigourney Weaver — will be played by Philadelphia’s Pat Ciarrochi.
For the show, PGMC will perform in partnership with the Trevor Project, a leading organization helping LGBTQ young people through difficult times. Donations at the concert will aid the group in its battle against teen suicide. “Anyone who remembers what it was like coming out as a kid, or knows a kid exploring his or her own sexuality, would really appreciate this concert,” Smith says. “Given that there are more of us than people think, that might be just about everyone.”
Sat., April 16, 2 and 8 p.m., $25-$30, Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad Street, 877-462-7464, pgmc.org.
Even with your most gorgeous duds and glamorous 'do, you best prepare to be outdone: The Bingo Verifying Divas are busting out their curliest eyelashes and most extravagant gowns for the AIDS Fund’s 12th annual Black Tie Gay Bingo event, and they're out to out-fabulous everyone in the crowd.
The AIDS Fund is pulling out all the stops in its once-yearly benefit to combat AIDS, enlisting local Philadelphia businesses to donate prizes. If you’re in the market for cocktail gift baskets, accessories, restaurant gift certificates and more, you won’t want to miss the silent auction. The event will also feature cocktails, six rounds of bingo games and a choreographed dance number from the BVDs.
“They are the heart and soul of this event,” say Robb Reichard, AIDS Fund executive director of the all-volunteer troupe, all of whom have sacrificed their time to rehearse and money to acquire their own wardrobe and makeup. “They are an incredible group of guys.”
Besides the entertainment, the AIDS Fund will also give an award for Favorite Straight Person of the Year. Says Robb, “It's a way to recognize a person who has done a significant amount of work in the battle against AIDS."
12th annual Black Tie Gay Bingo, Fri., April 1, 6:30 p.m., $150, Crystal Tea Room, 100 Penn Square East, 215-731-9255, aidsfundphilly.org.
12TH AIR COMMAND PORNO BINGO BINGO-my gosh I think he has a boner... Every Sun., 10 p.m., FREE, 12th Air Command, 254 S. 12th St., 215-545-8088.
A READING WITH FIONA ZEDDE Zedde reads from Dangerous Pleasures, her erotically-charged novel about sex with no strings, dangerous one-night stands and a woman's desire to push her sexual boundaries. Sat., Feb. 26, 5:30-7 p.m., FREE, Giovanni's Room, 345 S. 12th St., 215-923-2960.
A READING WITH TOMAS MOURNIAN The author reads from Hidden, his novel about a teenager who runs away from an abusive gay-to-straight bootcamp and finds a safehouse with other teenagers in San Francisco. Its based on the internationally-syndicated article Mournian broke for the San Francisco Bay Guardian about real-life teens in the same situation. Fri., Feb. 25, 5:30-7 p.m., FREE, Giovanni's Room, 345 S. 12th St., 215-923-2960.
BOB & BARBARA'S DRAG SHOW Miss Lisa Lisa hosts Philly's longest-running drag show. If you jump on stage, don't be surprised if she gives you a spanking it's called tough love. Every Thu., 11 p.m.-1 a.m., $6, Bob & Barbara's, 1509 South St., 215-545-4511.
HUG: DELAWARE VALLEY LEGACY FUND VOLUNTEER EVENT Come join Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) as it thanks its current and past volunteers while providing a forum to learn more about DVLF and the volunteer opportunities it provides. Representatives from all DVLF committees will be present to answer questions and share information. DVLF works to to improve the quality of life and create a legacy for the LGBTQ community. Thu., Feb. 24, 6-8 p.m., FREE, Cityspace, 2200 Walnut St., 215-625-3650.
HOMOROBICS Dig out those rainbow-colored toe socks and that glittery midriff top for this class, where you'll dance to divas' hits and firm your tush at the same time. Fun attire is strongly encouraged. Every Sun., 7-8:15 p.m., $10, Crossfit Gym, 201 S. Camac St., 856-220-0699.
PGMC CONCERT: RAT PACK LIVE The inimitable cool of Sinatra, Martin, Davis Jr. and the rest of the Rat Pack are brought to life by the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus. For more information, visit this week's Agenda section. Sat., Feb. 26, 8-10 p.m., $20, Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, 2111 Sansom St.
RELAUNCH OF THE SCENE PARTY Dance your ass off at this hot LGBTQ party. Music will be provided by DJ Kash, who will spin mixes of gay faves like Nicki Minaj, Britney and Florence and the Machine. Sisterspace, a non-profit that supports lesbians in the Delaware Valley, will have shot girls and raffle prizes. Proceeds benefit them, so you'll be helping a good cause. Sat., Feb. 26, 10 p.m.-3:30 a.m., $5, Voyeur Nightclub, 1221 St. James St., 215-735-5772.
SECOND LGBTQ YOUTH EMPOWERMENT FAIR (YEF) The Educational Justice Coalition (EJC) presents this celebration of LGBTQ youth. Joey Kemm recently interviewed by Anderson Cooper will be a guest speaker. The Fiercest Life Youth Party starts right after in the ballroom. Fri., Feb. 25, 4-9 p.m., $5, William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St., 215-732-2220.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SUMMIT The anteparty for the Team Philadelphia Sports Summit gives you a chance to unwind and hear all about what the LGBTQ leagues have planned for this year. Sat., Feb. 26, 9:30 p.m., FREE, Westbury, 261 S. 13th St., 215-546-5170. Not gay enough for you? Check for more in our LGBTQ events database.
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