Of Flamingos and Motel Pools: Queer New Orleans Artist Brings Her Work to Bayou City Art Festival by Josh Inocéncio

"For queer Southern artist Amanda Bennett, inspiration rises up from family memories and the routines of her environment. Her multimedia work, which she refers to as “digital art,” is rooted in her native Huntsville, Alabama, as well as her adopted homes of Birmingham, Nashville, and, currently, New Orleans. Her subject matter—ranging from mobile homes and corded telephones to local barbershops—will be familiar to many in the South. Later this month, her nostalgic work will appear in Houston at the Bayou City Art Festival–Memorial Park."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine. 

Quiet Disruptions: Houston Grand Opera Premieres 'Some Light Emerges' by Josh Inocéncio

"This month, the internationally renowned Houston Grand Opera will premiere a new piece, Some Light Emerges, in The Ballroom at Bayou Place. The chamber opera explores the power and beauty of Houston’s iconic Rothko Chapel, following five characters in Houston over several decades as they unexpectedly encounter the purple-and-black paintings that hang on the walls of the interfaith sanctuary. The creative team consists of composer Laura Kaminsky and co-librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, all of whom worked together on a previous opera entitled As One."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine. 

Traveling Under Trump by Josh Inocéncio

"'I heard the first foreign leader Trump is meeting with is Theresa May. Tell me, boys, will he grab her fanny?' quipped an Irish cab driver as my friend Jeff and I piled into his car on our way to a train station in Dublin.

Witty questions like these rained over our recent trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom, a stark reminder not only of realities back across the Atlantic but our changing image in Europe as President Barack Obama ended his eight-year tenure to make way for President Donald J. Trump. And while we mustered laughs in response, our somber transition from Obama to Trump was as gloomy as the moors we rode through from Dublin to Galway.

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

First, We March: A Texas Boy in Dublin by Josh Inocéncio

"Thus, on our second day in Ireland, Jeff and I journeyed to the Garden of Remembrance still wobbly from jetlag. As the morning drifted into a cloudy afternoon, a tiny group of women holding the official Women’s March banner transformed into a legion of female and male marchers with signs opposing President Trump and demanding the repeal of the eighth amendment in the Irish constitution that bans abortion—a rallying point for both Irish and American women and a stark reminder of the shortcomings of reproductive rights even in the “progressive West.” And while those present were mostly Irish, there was no shortage of Americans, both travelers and expats, including a Kansas woman Jeff and I connected and remained with the entire march."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

To Hell with Unity by Josh Inocéncio

"Let me be clear: I cannot forget nor forgive the hatred that Trump popularized and validated over the last year. We’re looking at a man who only belatedly and reluctantly distanced himself from David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacist groups. What’s done is done and an apology is worthless. I’m not approaching Trump with an “open mind” (sorry, Hillary). He has already stirred the dregs of America into mainstream discourse. We’ve seen at least one hate crime against a gay man and tons of hate speech toward Muslims, blacks, and undocumented immigrants in just a few days. My opposition to Trump isn’t about me being a sore loser, because this isn’t about Hillary Clinton. This is about the safety of millions of Americans who now find themselves in a more violent America ever since Wednesday morning."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

Ties Across the Pond: LGBT Precedents in Indigenous American and West African Cultures by Josh Inocéncio

"Embedded in our history on this continent is a sacred beacon for LGBT Latinas/os and African-Americans to remember their queer ancestors and the vital roles they played in their ancient societies. As presidential candidates and lawmakers spar over granting basic rights for LGBT people, I turn to pre-constitutional roots to gain inspiration for envisioning a 21st-century America where we are not just tolerated, but embraced.

Before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mesoamerica, muxes, or third-gender individuals, thrived in Oaxaca—and many still do. Near modern-day Mexico City, the Aztecs acknowledged a god, Huehuecoyotl, who represented male lovers. These pre-Columbian cultures integrated gender-nonconforming and same-sex-loving people into their societies, and they often occupied spiritual roles. North of the imperial borders, Native Americans referred to these individuals as “two-spirits,” indicating that they are born with both male and female energies in balance."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

Mixing the Culture Pot: Growing Up Gay and Austro-Mexican in Houston by Josh Inocéncio

"This family lineage colors my earliest memories. Grandpa José died from a heart attack nine years before I was born, but Oma Fritzi told me her tales about Austria and Mexico, fashioning fantasy images in my child’s mind of the far-off lands from which my ancestors emerged. Lands where Saint Bernards bounded through avalanches to rescue lost wanderers, lands where La Virgen granted prayers for those whose knees dug deep into her earth. I heard these stories along with the fairy tales Oma read me, and all of them ignited my love for crafting narratives through performance.

Growing up as an Austro-Mexican, cultural awareness was always present. I knew which languages I wanted to learn, and I had family members with whom I could practice. I learned our recipes that were passed down orally through generations and still converge in cultural harmony during the holidays when we eat tamales for dinner and Linzertorten for dessert."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

Immigrants v. the World: Lawyer Raed Conzalez Talks Electoral Politics and LGBT Discrimination by Josh Inocéncio

"Originally from Puerto Rico, Raed Gonzalez has crafted a career here in Houston as an immigration attorney dedicated to defending immigrants and refugees from all over the world. Over the last 18 years in Texas’ largest city, Gonzalez has argued and won three Supreme Court cases (all pro-bono) that have fundamentally changed how courts interpret immigration laws in the United States. In addition to those successes, Gonzalez has cultivated an inclusive firm that welcomes LGBT immigrants, and particularly transgender individuals who still experience severe discrimination both in their home countries and in the U.S. legal system."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

Gay with a Gun: Packing More than Just Heat by Josh Inocéncio

"While the Texas course for a CHL is surprisingly more rigorous than other states, the one-day session certainly isn’t producing “good guys with a gun” equipped to stop mass shooters in gay bars, elementary schools, or movie theaters. While shooting to obtain the CHL, I could give my utmost concentration to the stationary paper figure hanging across the desolate range. And yes, students in the course can fail the target-practice section; but the learning curve is steep and they get multiple attempts. However, right-wing gun apologists craft a narrative that by virtue of owning a gun or taking a CHL course, you’ve received action-packed training in Dirty Harry-style scenarios where students are blasting moving and threatening objects. Unencumbered by any external forces, I was hardly prepared to “save the day” from a storming shooter by the end of the course."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine. 

This Independence Day, I'm Just Flying the Pride Flag by Josh Inocéncio

"The Chicago pride parade I attended last June was only two days after the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. With a huge achievement for the LGBT community, the crowd roared in celebration as politicians, church leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, and others marched through Boystown, Chicago’s gayborhood. But most interestingly, there were chants of “’Murica, ’Murica, ’Murica!,” an oft-used word with a conservative inflection to demonstrate American patriotism and exceptionalism.

For a moment I found myself exhaling the chant, too, but then three years of queer theory and 24 years as a gay man flashed before my eyes as I asked, 'Is this what we’re fighting for?'"

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

We're Guilty: Orlando's Blood Runs Fresh Through America's Stripes by Josh Inocéncio

"Can I grasp his hand as we stroll through the zoo? Can I rest my head on his shoulder as we drag along Austin’s streets in our Uber? Can I lean in on the sidewalk, press his hips to mine, and taste the spice on his tongue after dinner? 

Flash. Gay couple’s faces smashed in Philadelphia, blood stains the city streets that allegedly gave us our freedom. Thirty mugged or beaten in Oak Lawn, police slide the case files to the bottom of the stack. Forty-nine—49—slaughtered in Orlando, phones ringing and vibrating as their bodies waste on the club floor.

Dreams for public affection dissolve into dust."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

The First National LGBT Monument: President Obama Memorializes the Stonewall Inn by Josh Inocéncio

"Aside from the obvious historic import that Stonewall carries, President Obama couldn’t have chosen a better site, given that the riots were led by two trans women of color: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Much more than a museum commemorating past struggles, the Stonewall Inn is a beacon that can unite the LGBT community now. In the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots, the LGBT community splintered as white gay men (who largely set the agenda for political activism in New York City and beyond) neglected the needs of the trans community in favor of securing their own rights. This harsh division led Johnson and Rivera to launch the aforementioned STAR group, which focused explicitly on trans rights. As the We’ve Been Around docu-series iterates, Johnson and Rivera fought for 'people who fell between the cracks of the gay and straight worlds.'”

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

At the U.I.L. Vanguard: High School Production of 'Holy Day' Confronts Male-Male Rape by Josh Inocéncio

"There are two pervasive issues in our society that high schools, especially in Texas, don’t confront enough: rape and colonialism. But these harsh realities are what Carnegie Vanguard High School’s U.I.L. One-Act Play production of Holy Day by Andrew Bovell forces audiences to contemplate. This production, which has stirred audiences across Texas for its visceral portrayal of male-male rape and colonial violence, has advanced to the 6A State contest and will appear at The University of Texas in Austin on May 25. In a special collaboration to raise funds for Holy Day to attend the Edinburg Fringe Festival, the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) hosted a performance, which is directed by Carnegie’s theater teacher Steward Savage."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

Houston's Christopher Luke Moore Gears Up for AIDS/LifeCycle Ride by Josh Inocéncio

"From June 5–11, Houstonian Christopher Luke Moore, 26, will ride 545 miles on his bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles for the annual AIDS/LifeCycle ride. Joined by thousands of cyclists across the nation, Moore will traverse trails through California’s hills and beaches for seven days in order to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS research, which is sponsored by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. For this year’s ride, Moore seeks to raise $10,000, which will ultimately support critical HIV/AIDS services, such as testing, medical treatment, and education services."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

White, Gay, and a Beyhive Boy: For Whom is the Formation? by Josh Inocéncio

"The tendency is fraught among white gay men to conflate institutional homophobia toward the white gay body with systemic racism toward the black female body as if there is little to no nuance. I am not referring to the femininity through which many gay men challenge the gender spectrum; but rather, a caricatured performance of blackness that fetishizes and steals from black female culture, ultimately glazing over black women’s history."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

Performing for Equality: Spring High School's Production of 'Looking for Normal' by Josh Inocéncio

"For weeks, the LGBT community has witnessed Republicans organize a national campaign that seeks to undercut protections for gays and lesbians by packaging bills as “religious freedom” laws. To pass these bills, politicians are also peddling the myth that transgender individuals who seek to use public facilities corresponding to their gender identity want to violate women and children. But amid the so-called “bathroom bills” gripping the South, Spring High School’s theater program in the Houston area’s northern suburbs is a beacon for equality in the University Interscholastic League (U.I.L.) One-Act Play competition."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

OP-ED: Democrats, Get Behind Hillary by Josh Inocéncio

"The issue, of course, is that fights between Hillary’s supporters and Bernie’s supporters are devolving into nastiness worse than the fractures between Hillary and Obama in the 2008 primaries. While chatter surrounding a brokered Democratic convention has died down after Hillary’s recent wins, we will be wounded if we don’t unite and learn how to compromise. On social media and on the streets, I hear many Hillary supporters voice their willingness to support Bernie if he’s the nominee, considering there is so much at stake with healthcare, LGBT rights, climate change, etc. if a Republican finagles his way into office. However, many of Bernie’s most devout followers are pledging to renege on civic duties and stay home during the November general elections if Hillary is the nominee."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

Where Is the Outrage Worthy of a Nazarene? by Josh Inocéncio

"But for a man who has declared himself a 'Christian first, American second,' Cruz and his cohort seem confused on the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice. As the Nazarene preaches in the Book of Matthew, 'Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.' The core of the four New Testament gospels is Jesus coming to Earth in human form and fulfilling the laws of Leviticus with his ritual sacrifice on a crucifix. In the final chapters of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus dies and 'the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to the bottom.' This passage is remarkably simple in demonstrating the force of the crucifixion, heralding a new age and rendering the old laws archaic. To cite Leviticus with the passion of Pastor Swanson is to misinterpret the Christian scriptures. Cruz’ right-wing crusade, then, is grounded in the bloodbath of Old Testament wars and a direct repudiation of the radical love embedded in Jesus of Nazareth’s sacrifice."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

Beam Us Up: Why the Next Star Trek Series Needs an Openly Gay Captain by Josh Inocéncio

"The reason I love Star Trek (even slightly more than Star Wars—yes, I said it!) is because the series has always soared to the final frontier of social-justice issues. During the Civil Rights movement and the Cold War, the original 1966 Star Trek presented us with a diverse crew featuring Sulu, a Japanese helmsman; Chekov, a Russian security officer; and Uhura, an African communications officer. Although 1960s-era sexism did infiltrate the writing, Star Trek projected a future where there is no longer any race or gender discrimination on Earth (as characters in each installment frequently point out). By the 1990s, Deep Space Nine and Voyager even featured an African-American captain and a female captain, respectively. Yet despite this longstanding commitment to representing minority groups, the show hasn’t been nearly as progressive with representing LGBT individuals."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

A Feminist's Viewing of 'Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens' by Josh Inocéncio

"The space for white men to “save the day” is pushed to the outer rim in this new story. We quickly learn the impotence of the major white male characters: After failing to train Kylo Ren, Luke went into hiding. After failing to master the Light Side, Kylo Ren vowed to resurrect grandfather Darth Vader’s industrious plans. And finally, after failing to bring his son back to the Light, Han is murdered by Kylo Ren. But by the penultimate scene, Rey, who is relatively inexperienced in the Force, wields Luke’s long-lost lightsaber in a duel where she narrowly defeats the trained Kylo Ren before escaping a collapsing planet. In short, a woman must now perform the tasks that men have failed to do."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis Is an LGBT Fight, Too by Josh Inocéncio

"Now, it’s no secret that Governor Greg Abbott has refused to accept Syrian refugees into Texas where Dallas and Houston are key resettlement cities. Even though his legal justification is tenuous, the governor might waylay the refugee resettlement process in the courts. But I’ll remind the Jade Helm conspiracy theorist Gov. Abbott that, as Politico reports, former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, as well as former CIA director David Petraeus, “have joined other national security experts and military leaders in calling on Congress to stop proposals that could deter the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S.” According to these officials, the current vetting, which could take up to three years, is “robust and thorough.” Logically, this should allay Mr. Abbott’s concerns."

For full article, check out the original publication at OutSmart Magazine.