“I Am Michael” directed by Justin Kelly and Executive Produced by Gus Van Sant filmed in 2015 made the rounds on the film festival circuit winning rave reviews at Sundance. Two years later, the film earned a distribution deal. The true story based on Michael Glatze, a former LGBT advocate and San-Francisco based editor of the gay magazine XY, abandons his “homosexual” lifestyle to become a Christian pastor.
We hear stories about men living heterosexual lifestyles who engage in DL activities or leave their families for the same sex. But rarely to do we see the flip side. James Franco plays Michael with ease. His performance as a gay man in a relationship who enjoys partying and threesomes is comfortably effortless.
Franco’s partner played by Zachary Quinto is his support system and biggest cheerleader. However, Michael is never satisfied. He seems to want more out of life and has a deep desire to help gay youth on a grad level. He wants to change the world.
Michael is neurotic often having panic attacks. He lives in constant fear he will die of a heart attack. Due to a health scare, Michael turns to prayer. One is left to assume he thinks God saved him. Michael becomes obsessed with reading the bible. He seems lost; you can see it in his eyes.
As Michael rejects his former life, he is deeply conflicted with feelings of lust for other men. That doesn’t stop him from marrying a fellow bible student played by Emma Roberts. She accepts him and his past. Their chemistry feels awkward, somewhat forced.
I don’t know if Michael truly becomes “heterosexual” – the point being it doesn’t matter. “I Am Michael” is about removing labels and self discovery. A topic Franco embraces with delight.
“I Am Michael” is showing in select theaters and is available on iTunes and OnDemand.
I woke up on Christmas morning by a text reading George Michael died. A tear rolled down the side of my face. Here’s why…
When I was around 8 years old, I remember driving in the car with my sister, her friend Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s mom on the way to the bowling alley in Mill Basin, Brooklyn. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! played on the radio. We just loved the song and sang with joy. In this moment, life was perfect…
By 1987, I was in the 7th grade and although I attended Catholic school, I knew exactly what George was singing about in his “I Want Your Sex” video. George Michael by then was a bonafied MTV solo star. He shook his ass and donned a dangling cross earning. All while promoting monogamy.
The single “Freedom! ’90” was released in 1990 on the acclaimed Listen With Out PrejudiceVol. 1 and “Too Funky” on the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Dance. George began to shy away from the camera focusing on an elite group of “Super” models – he blended music, art and fashion. Two of the most iconic music videos of all time and personal favorites.
Six years later, while in college at SUNY Oswego, I discovered an “Older” sense of self and George Michael. His music continued to speak to me and well as his sexy look in the “Fastlove” video. I wanted to look just like him when “I grew up.”
In 1998, George Michael got busted for performing a “lewd act” in a Beverly Hills public restroom. He proudly came out as gay and made ZERO apologies. I too was out as a young gay man and appreciated his f*ck you attitude. He even poked fun at the situation with the release of the cheeky dance track “Outside.”
In 2004, I stayed out all night and fell in love with a bartender who worked the bar Eastern Block in NYC. Gabe and I shut the place down with his friend, preformed drunk yoga and listened to “Amazing.” The next day at work, I sat at my desk and played the song thinking of my wild night. I never saw Gabe again…
In 2008, my friend Eric invited me to see George Michael’s 25 year anniversary tour at MSG. It was one of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever seen. George Michael’s voice was razor sharp, one of the best. I watched and listened in awe of his great talent. A wonderful memory.
George Michael will be greatly missed by myself and millions around the world. A truly beautiful man…
More and more, I am finding myself less attracted to gay men with eyes focusing on the straight ones. I gave up chasing after straight guys in college after one left me with a broken heart. But I am finding myself fantasizing about walking down that road again and reminiscing about the one that got away…
“Jeff” stood in the doorway and held his hand in mine. He pulled me closer and gave me a gentle kiss on the lips. I looked at him and said, “I want more,” and he kissed me harder before returning to his dorm room across the hall. In that moment, everything was perfect. The young man I desired for two years was mine – if only for a fleeting moment.
The next day, he avoided me. I understood, but my heart was crushed. I had never been in love or had anyone I cared about feel the same. Now that I had experienced it, I had to let it go. He was graduating in two weeks and was set to marry his long time girlfriend.
I first spotted “Jeff” on a typical snowy day in the art building on the SUNY Oswego campus. He had an athletic build, olive skin and the most beautiful crystal blue eyes. It was love at first sight. Fortunately, the art department was small and getting to know each other would be unavoidable. We shared a night class and slowly became friendly.
The following semester, I studied in London. While I was away, “Jeff” began to hang out with one of my girl friends. I was filled with jealously, but when she wrote he had asked about me, I melted with excitement about returning to campus. Being somewhat of a stalker, I got ahold of a floor plan and moved in a few doors down the hall from where “Jeff” would be living. I was determined to get to know him better. I wasn’t aware of his sexuality and I didn’t care. It was about what I wanted.
Soon enough, we become buddies. As we grew closer, my feelings deepened. I was a shy virgin and could not express my longing. It killed me to learn he had a fiancee. While I wasn’t sure what our relationship was, we clearly had chemistry. People began to notice how happy he would act around me – almost giddy.
The night of the kiss, he drunkenly whispered that he had kissed a boy once. I said, “I’ve kissed a girl” too. With that, we laughed. I asked him if he loved me. His response “I lust for you!” I wanted him to love me, but his admission of lust was validation for what I had suspected. I said, “You don’t love me just a little?” – He nodded “yes”. We walked home from the local bar silently that night, until we reached my room and shared our first and last kiss in the doorway.
18 years and numerous heartbreaks and disappointments later, I am still looking for love. I thought moving to West Hollywood would be an opportunity to throw myself into a new dating pool, but I am seeing only the same stereotypes I found in New York. When I walk down Santa Monica Blvd., go to gay bars or cruise online, I am again confronted with the bear, the otter, the muscle head, the steroid queen, the fashionista, the coupled, the partnered, partiers, leather daddies and self proclaimed “pigs.” I may get heat for making such generalizations, but I am turned off by the options available.
Recently, I’m finding myself again increasingly drawn to straight men. I perceive straight men as being self-confident without trying hard to fit in. Straight men seem to have it all and appear able to do what they want. These days, straight men can be sensitive, sport a man bun, get mani/pedis and be fashionable without forgoing a sense of sexuality identity. Perhaps it’s simply the forbidden fruit syndrome? Maybe we should just stop putting labels on ourselves?
I’m not giving up. At the end of the day, you never know when love will strike – it just happens and it could be with anyone. Love does not discriminate. As for “Jeff”, last I heard he got divorced. The struggle is real.
Photo: Fox (Empire). Openly gay actor Jussie Smollett as Jamal Lyon (left).
For decades, Hollywood has unequally represented the LGBT community. Today even with prominent LGBT characters popping up this season on Fox’s Empire and Scream Queens there is a lack of LGBT characters being represented on television. According to GLAAD’s annual Where We Are On TV report, “there are only 35 LGBT characters being represented, compared to 881 Straight characters.”
As a new gay actor in Hollywood, I’ve discovered not only is there an imbalance of LGBT vs. straight roles, it can be totally confusing figuring out which roles to go for. For example, while combing through countless casting notices that read “30-40yr old males to play role of dad.” I ask myself, “would I be believable as a heterosexual dad?” I usually breeze over these notices, I automatically think, the “dad” is straight. But in reality, he could be gay too OR be equally played by a gay man!
Although the numbers are stacked against me, I booked several jobs working as an background actor. For one job, the Casting Director asked “if I was comfortable” playing gay. I chuckled and thought to myself “I have no issue with being type cast.” In fact, I welcomed it.
We ended up shooting an additional scene that day and to my surprise, I was paired with a female to portray a heterosexual couple on a date. For some reason, it gave me an odd sense of feeling validated — to think the Assistant Director saw me as straight. Yes, I have the ability to transform, this is acting. However, I questioned why I felt surprised by being cast in the role. I often wonder if straight actors playing in gay roles ask themselves similar questions?
Nick Jonas who played two gay characters on TV this year, recently told USA Today that he doesn’t consider “whether the character is gay or straight, but about what the story is and what the audience is going to get out of it.”
Photo: Fox (Scream Queens), Nick Jonas.
Well said, but there seems to be a double standard. If a heterosexual actor portrays an LGBT character they are referred to as “courageous.” On the flip side, if a gay actor plays straight they are rarely referred to as “brave.”
Actor Milo Ventimiglia (who took his first LGBT role at age 18), has spoken on the topic. While disucussing his gay following and playing LGBT roles, Milo once told The Advocate a producer said, “It’s very brave of you to consider something like this.” Ventimiglia challenged this notion and replied, “Why? It’s a great role.” “I tend to lean toward a good role despite any stigma that’s possibly attached to it. The fact that people are still worried about stuff like that just baffles me.” Milo is right, it is baffling!
Photo: Fox (Gotham), Milo Ventimiglia.
Although there is an imbalance in roles and stereotypes to combat, I’m learning to remain open and not to let anyone’s perceptions (including my own) stand in the way of pursing my dreams. Hopefully, we will continue see our lives equally reflected in the future.
GLAAD’s CEO & President, Sarah Kate Ellis notes, “We’ve witnessed tremendous progress in television since GLAAD began tracking the presence of LGBT characters 20 years ago, but there is still a great deal of work to be done and many new and exciting stories to be told. We will continue to applaud networks and streaming services telling these stories – and hold their feet to the fire when they don’t.”
Have you ever been in love with one of your best friends? People say, “friendship is a good place to start” but I’ve found the opposite to be true. I met Mr. X thorough mutual friends and was instantly was attracted to him. I kept my crush secret from everyone in the friend circle because I wanted to get to know him better; to see if this was someone I’d actually want to date. Something between us clicked and before you knew it, we ditched everyone else in the group and mostly hung out one on one.
While I didn’t out right express my feelings toward him, I certainly showed it through my actions. I invited him to a concert, I was paying and rented a car to get us to New Jersey. We sat very close, legs touching, paying more attention to each other than the concert; apologies Jennifer Lopez. I was in heaven, until he made a sexual comment about another guy he found attractive. My body language changed and I pulled away. I was deeply disappointed but didn’t say anything until he brought it up on the car ride home. He said, “I love spending time with you, but something is missing on a romantic level.” My heart sank to the floor; all I wanted to do was go home and cry. I told him “the friendship was important to me and I didn’t want to lose him.” Mr. X agreed; we were going to keep it platonic but from that point on our relationship only grew more complex.
We started playing the part of a happy couple; people would often ask if we were together. We didn’t bother to correct anyone and let people assume we were. We would text each other as soon as we woke up in the morning and all throughout the day. Often meeting up after work and even spent weekends taking road trips. He worked near my apartment in Brooklyn but lived outside the city, so he started to sleep over. We would cook or go out to dinner, watch TV and pretty much alienated ourselves from all other friends. He even said, “I could see things changing between us.” I thought things were progressing but we stayed in this state of limbo for months. I liked the companionship, so I tolerated the dysfunction. I grew deeper in love with him and kept my feelings to myself but eventually confessed. He didn’t respond too well, he was angry and felt I was being nice to him because I had an agenda. Which was true, my agenda was to take our exclusive “friends relationship” to the next level!
One day, I was in the kitchen washing dishes. Mr. X was sitting behind me, my back was turned to him. He made a snide remark which clearly was designed to hurt my feelings. It was in this space and time, where I had an Ah hah moment!! I said, to myself, “you don’t need this!” If I was going to devote so much of my time to someone, it better be with a guy who was on the same page. I loved him and it killed me to let him go but I knew it was what I needed to do. I felt used and vowed never to repeat this behavior again.
Sometimes, we compromise ourselves against better our judgment to feel loved. I diminished myself from what I truly wanted from a partner because I didn’t want to fail. I’ve seen many of my friends do this as well – stay with people who they know deep down are not good for them. This is not love and love should never feel that way. I can see that now in retrospect. I’ve learned a lot from this experience, if I were ever to find myself developing feelings for a friend, I would be honest from the get go. If the person does not feel the same, then I’d choose to step away and not torture myself with unrequired love. Everyone’s experience is different, perhaps you are reading this and are married to someone who started off as a friend? That is great, kudos to you! My message here is not to dissuade people from dating their friends but to encourage others not to remain in stagnant relationships not beneficial to their greater good. We should always value ourselves and realize we are worth someone’s whole heart.
After our “friendship” break-up, Mr. X tried contacted me several times trough social media; by liking photos and leaving comments. I saw this as yet another sign he was not ready to give me what I wanted. If he really wanted to make things work between us on any level, he would have picked up the phone and made a real effort. Although our friendship was dysfunctional, I value the time spent and lessons learned. I’ll always have a place him my heart for him but understand we cannot be together which is OK! Life goes on, as does my quest for true love. #NeverGiveUp
Natsuya Uesugi is living proof that in spite of being bullied as a child for being intersex, you can rise above and emerge a superhero.
Natsuya was raised with no particular sense of gender. Natsuya was brought up with the notion that you could be anything you want with the right education. Natsuya excelled in academics, music, language and won multiple medals for running track all though high school. Like with any race there are hurdles and Natsuya did not have it easy “I was bullied in high school and had a hard time finding who I was.” Natsuya wants gay, trans, intersexed and questioning teens to know it is alright and no one should bully you for being who you are.
Like many gay, trans and intersexed youth, Natsuya struggled with a sense of self. In school, Natsuya continued to make achievements like earning a track scholarship to college to Georgetown University at age 16. Natsuya turned it down but still attended school there. While on the outside, it appeared as if everything was just fine that wasn’t the case. “In freshman year, I tried to commit suicide because my body did not align with my mind. Finding the way to your genuine self can be a long and difficult road. There is family to think about, society and friends. Finding my genuine self was a battle that I had to wage. I spent much of my teenage years trying to understand my feelings and get in touch with myself. The direction of society weighed on my mind and at that time psychiatrists were not familiar with transgender and questioning. Much of the pain I faced was because people were trying to tell me who I was.”
When Natsuya become involved in a relationship, things started to change for the better. “When I met my boyfriend who was gay in college I had a sense that I was a gay man, the thought of being straight never crossed my mind. My boyfriend was openly gay it was a badge of honor for him. I can even say he helped me embrace gay culture and understand my place in the LGBTQ spectrum. In a sense, it was liberating because for the first time I was expressing my genuine self and being who I was. I had always had to explain myself and where I was coming from. My boyfriend just got it and I didn’t have to explain everything to him.”
Natsuya graduated from Georgetown, took a huge leap of faith by moving to New York City. Natsuya didn’t have a job lined up and ended up sleeping on the streets. “When I first got to New York City straight out of college I left with $120 in my pocket, a bag of stuff and no place to live. I ran away to New York City. I thought that if I could make it there I could make it anywhere and that is why I went.” Natsuya’s unique look caught the eye of talent agent and while walking down the street was stopped and offered a modeling contract. Natsuya didn’t want to become a model, it just happened and provided much needed income. “I started modeling and was neither happy nor unhappy that I was doing it. It was a way to put food on the table. I tried to keep my gender identity out of it. When I was modeling I had to “be a woman.” It was difficult to reconcile these two worlds.” Natsuya eventually quit modeling to pursue a business career. “I quit modeling because it was superficial. Even though I had a modeling contract and made good money at it, I wanted more. I wanted to be known for my mind not my body.”
Once again, Natsuya was forced to assimilate. “When I first entered the business world, I soon learned that I was going to have to conform to a gender. I learned that woman and men are not equal. Later on, when I went to work for a large Fortune 500 technology company, I learned that transitioning can cause problems. My resume said one thing and I was accepted as that but when I went to change my exterior people around me had issue with it. It was very uncomfortable at my work many years later when I told them that I was transgender and would be taking hormones. When I did that, everything seemed to change. Before I declared that, my gender was not really an issue I was androgynous and presented like that. Actually, declaring I was transgender seemed to change the dynamic. Today I have changed my name at work and present in my target gender. My current job does not have an issue with it like my last job did. I think, I am excelling at my current job because I can be gender neutral, transition and be myself. Having the weight of gender over my head would be an extra worry. I am glad my workplace is LGBTQ friendly.”
As a creative outlet, Natsuya began to take acting classes and started to write which lead to The Grydscaen series. In addition to being a successful systems analyst, Natsuya is also a celebrated science fiction author! The Grydscaen series features an array of heroic characters representing the LGBTQ community. Writing has provided Natsuya with a platform to present LGBTQ characters in positions of power; depicting role models living as their genuine selves. “I want to relay that LGBTQ people deserve equal rights like non-discrimination, marriage equality and equal pay for equal work. Transgender rights play a big theme in my sci fi Grydscaen series. There are actually 1 MTF and 1 FTM character in Grydscaen, a bisexual character and an asexual character. The main character of the series Ameliano Dejarre is a gay male.”
Natsuya is currently recovering from gender assignment surgery and is fully male…“I now know who I am and I am whole. Some people chose not to transition for one reason or another. I have chosen to walk the transition path, this is who I am, I will not be defined by the gender box someone wants to put me in. Being intersexed the box might be a little different but in the end we are all people!”
Every day, we are inundated with news stories of the challenges facing the LGBTQ community. While informative and necessary, the news can be slightly depressing. It seems our stories of success and love get lost in the debates. Spotlight on David Harris and Tre’Darrius Anderson, David and Tre’Darrius made national news, in 2013, when at the age of 19, married in front of the Lincoln Memorial becoming possibly America’s youngest African American gay couple to wed in the country. It’s been two years now and these young Millennials, who meet on Twitter, are going strong. Through their non-pro-fit organization Guys With Pride, they are on a mission to promote self-affirmation, dignity and equality rights. I too met David and Tre’Darrius on Twitter and through an exchange of tweets, direct messages and emails, I learned more about their inspiring journey.
I have to ask, why did you guys marry so young?
We didn’t think getting married age 19 was such huge milestone in the world, ya know?! People called us brave, bold, and daring for getting married at such a young age. It was the love between us both that brought us together.
Getting married at 19 – whether gay or straight makes a statement. Did you feel like you were making a statement?
We did not think the world was going to take this serious. Expressing our love is what we were doing, but the outcome was truly amazing. We went from no family wanting to support us, to thousands of people sending us love from all over the world. We did not know marrying each other would make headlines. We shared our video on YouTube and we went to sleep that night. The next morning everyone was talking about our video. The world was praising us but then we had people telling us we wasn’t going to make it a week, or even a month.
All the attention must have been over whelming. No family support, really? Has that changed?
Yes, a lot of more family is supporting us now. We have the support of both of our mom’s now. Our relationship is being accepted more by our family as the days go by. Everything takes time and we believe things will work out for the better. Sooner or later.
You live in the south, what’s everyday life like in Memphis?
So normal, not so progressive. Our marriage is not legal here which also upsets us! That’s why we chose to get married in D.C.
What are your thoughts on the religious freedom act?
The religious freedom debate has touched a particularly raw nerve in Indiana, where a GOP pushed to amend the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage and civil unions was defeated last year — exposing tensions within Republican caucuses that already have more than two-thirds super majorities in both the Indiana House and Senate. Several Indiana cities already have anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation, but the legislative fix to the religious freedom law will be the first time protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity are recognized statewide. We have faith that things will get better.
How have you been embraced by the African American community particularly?
Indeed, we have met tons of people on this journey. People of all races has supported us equally.
In gay culture, it seems, gay men in their early twenties are looking to explore their freedom and sexuality; leaning in the opposite direction of marriage. Why do you think that is?
When you’re in the early twenties you are still trying to figure out who you are as a person individually. You want to live life to the fullest, with no strings attached. Marriage is not for everyone.
What has been the best thing about marriage? Do you have plans to start a family?
The best thing about marriage, is knowing that there will always be someone to run to. Having someone to love, grow old with, and share memories is the best! Of course, we want kids! Two boys and a girl. We have already named them also, lol! We are huge on family and would love to have our own someday. We have decided that we will be going the surrogacy route.
As advocates of love and marriage equality, what do you hope to achieve? What are your dreams?
Honestly, we just want to inspire others and help make change for the LGBTQ community. Whether is through television/film, social networking or etc. We want to be that voice that uplifts and motivate our peers. Just let them know that they are not in this alone. Our dreams are to be television stars. There are so many people who come to us in support and for guidance. We get tons of emails, witter messages, and facebook messages for help. We would love to have our own show one day.
If you were to be given that opportunity to share your story on a greater platform, what would you like people to learn from you? What advice would you give to other young gay couples?
Always to stay true to yourself! Believe that tomorrow will be a new day and things get better! Not to care what others think; you can only live for yourself.
Lastly, tell me about Guys WithPride?
Guys With Pride (GWP) A non-profit organization, we started takes a positive stance against discrimination, violence and bullying toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Our mission is to promote self-affirmation, dignity and equality rights. As well as to increase their visibility as a social group, build community awareness, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance, as opposed to shame and social stigma of being gay. Our marriage equality movement starts later this year with the launch of our website GuysWithPride.org
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, Antonio Biaggi, adult film star, owner of biaggivideos.com and animal rights advocate wants you to know that there is to him more than meets the eye. Antonio refuses to be defined by his profession; challenging the perception that porn stars are one dimensional. Biaggi, recently tweeted a picture and condemned a group of thugs holding the decapitated head of a cat. When I saw this, I was horrified. My first thought was how could anyone do such a thing? Secondly, I became curious and wanted to find out more about Antonio the person. So, I reached out for an interview and Antonio agreed….
Do you feel people have a pre-conceived opinion of you?
Yes, many people judge me, just because I do porn. They don’t think those working in the porn industry have a private life and have things that are important to them, that have nothing to do with porn. Just because I have sex on camera, does not mean, I don’t have life.
Why do you think that is?
Because many are ignorant, every time there is a blog post about porn actors it’s about whose been arrested or when there’s a HIV case or something bad. No one talks about the good things that some of us do.
Being an adult film star, do you feel it’s harder for people to take your animal advocacy seriously?
Not by my fans, they respect and support me. My fans admire that I care about animals.
Have you always been an animal lover?
Yes, always! As a kid, we had a parrot and we still have it, since they live to 80, lol. My family always had two dogs, fish, rabbits, chickens and even horses.
Why are animals so important to you?
I love animals, I have a dog named Harper and a fish named Mantequilla, they are my babies. I think we have to protect them since they can’t speak. It’s our responsibility to defend and protect them.
What makes you most angry about some of the animal abuses that go on in the world?
Not giving food to a pet or when people just burn or kill them just for the fun of it. It’s very sad. I hate it when I hear about Tigers and Rhinos that are hunted just to make decorations – that makes no sense.
What do you hope to change?
I hope people see the bad stuff that happens to animals, so they learn. I hope people get encouraged to rescue a pet or donate money to a charity that supports animals or if they see abuse they can report it to the police. If you are unable to make a donation, you can donate your time, one hour helping at the closest rescue.
What animal rights charities do you hold close to your heart and why?
Pet rescues, I usually donate specifically to non-kill rescues. Since most of my dogs, have been rescued from shelters. Harper was about to be put to sleep at the ASPCA. A friend of mine worked there, so I went and rescued him the day before they where going to put him down and now it’s been 5 amazing years with him!
Antonio is right, as a cat owner myself, I understand how special animals are. Antonio is someone who cares, who loves animals, who wants to raise awareness, who happens to be a porn star. So be it. That said, I’ll be making a donation to the North Shore Animal League, the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization. To learn more visit: http://www.animalleague.org
Photos via Twitter: @XxxBiaggi
Pop Culture, Celebrity Interviews, Hollywood BTS, Commentary & more.