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HIV VIRUS

The “Undetectability” Of It All, Part Two

     This past March, I penned “The Undetectability Of It All,” for Wyattevans.com.  The article stated that the AIDS United Public Policy Committee declared that it has “strongly affirmed the conclusive evidence proving that people living with HIV who have achieved a sustained, undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to sexual partners.  This evidence-based declaration reinforces AIDS United’s programmatic, policy and advocacy work to expand access to antiretroviral medications to all people living with HIV.”  AIDS United is the largest and longest-running national coalition of community-based HIV/AIDS organizations.

     And now, there’s additional evidence that supports the AIDS United declaration.  But before we examine those findings, let’s answer the question:  what does it truly mean to be undetectable?   

     Well, it doesn’t mean that the HIV-positive individual is cured.  However, it does mean that antiretroviral treatment is being effective, and that the amount of HIV in the blood is so low that even the best available tests don’t detect it.

     To have an undetectable viral load means that there are fewer than 20 copies of the virus in one milliliter of blood.  Typically, the tests of those who have just been diagnosed and not having undergone treatment show millions of copies in the exact same sample size.

     Now, let’s examine the new study that supports the AIDS United proclamation.  The findings demonstrate that there were no transmissions of the virus within mixed-HIV-status couples when the partner living with the virus was on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and had a fully suppressed viral load.

     This study, entitled Opposites Attract, was comprised of gay/SGL (same gender loving) couples that had nearly 600 cumulative years of follow-up data and about 12,000 reported acts of condomless penetration.  These acts excluded any for which the HIV-neg partner was taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

     Based on the Opposites Attract data, the investigators were able to estimate that the annual risk of HIV transmission in which only one infected partner with an undetectable viral load is between zero and 1.56 percent.

UNDETECTABLE8

     According to Poz.com, Andrew Grulich, PhD, an HIV epidemiologist at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and chief investigator of the study, stated, “’We think this is a really exciting result and adds to a body of research that HIV is not passed on in the context of undetectable viral load, even with high rates of sexually transmitted infections’.”

     Opposites Attract did not restrict potential participants according to whether they used condoms or had undetectable viral loads.  By the end of last year, the study had enrolled 358 gay/SGL male couples in which one partner was poz (158 from Australia, 105 from Thailand, 96 from Brazil).

     So, just how was the study conducted?  “Researchers collected information about sexual behaviors from the HIV-negative partner at each study visit,” stated Poz.com.  “These partners received HIV testing along with sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing upon entering the study and at all subsequent study visits.  The HIV-positive partners received viral load and STI testing at each study visit.

     “The investigators defined an undetectable viral load as less than 200.  For all new HIV infections in the initially HIV-negative partners, generic testing was conducted to determine whether these men likely contracted the virus from their partner in the study.

     “A total of 343 couples made at least one follow-up visit, contributing 591 cumulative years of follow-up data.  (Each year of data on a couple counted as one year of follow-up.)  The men reported anal sex with any man beside their study partner at 57.4 percent of these visits.”

     The online publication continued.  “Upon their entry into the study, 79.9 percent of HIV-positive men were on ARVs and 77.9 percent had an undetectable viral load.  A total of 75.2 percent of the men on HIV treatment maintained a fully suppressed virus throughout their participation in the study.

      “Overall, 14.3 percent and 11.7 percent of the HIV-positive and -negative men, respectively, were diagnosed with an STI during the study.

     “A total of 73.8 percent of the couples reported engaging in condomless sex during the study.  These men provided 318 cumulative years of follow-up data on periods when they reported engaging in condomless intercourse within their study partnership, including a total of 16,889 reported such acts.”

     Grulich concluded the following about the Opposites Attract findings.  “’This is life-changing news for couples of differing HIV status’.” 

     However, the chief investigator of the study cautioned, “’But it is important that the HIV-positive partner is under regular medical care and does not miss any of their antiretroviral medication in order to ensure they maintain an undetectable viral load.  Our data add to previous studies that show that there has never been a recorded case of HIV transmission from an HIV-positive person to their HIV-negative sexual partner when the HIV-positive partner had an undetectable viral load’.”

Not a Box of Crayons, Yo 

     For most of the long Independence Day Holiday, I was “takin’ a (generous) bite outta” the Big Apple! (LOL)  And at one of the parties I attended, an incident got deep under my skin and really rankled me.

     This particular soiree was interracial:  roughly, the breakdown was 50% Black, 30 % Caucasian and 20 % Latino/Blatino.  And, it was mostly a “singles thang;” which meant that more than a few of the “menz” were “on the prowl!”  (LOL)

     As I socialized, I heard inane and nauseating crap like:       

     “Oh no, dahling!  I can’t get down (in more ways than one, if you catch my drift!) with that one!  He’s much too dark.  Now, if he wasn’t, well…”  A brotha with a paper-brown complexion uttered that insulting drivel to his buddy.

     “Nah, that guy’s much too ‘black’ for my tastes!  (Pause.)  And don’t you think his features are too…‘African’?”  A white guy delivered that assessment to his group of “flamers.”

     Shaking my head, I ruminated:  “’Gawd, dang’!  We are in the year 2017, aren’t we?”   After I shook my head a couple of times, my spirit rejoined the “ju-say par-tay,” filled to the brim with mucho eye candy.

    However, what I heard became lodged in the recesses of my fertile mind.

     The term colorism sounds innocuous, a little exotic—you think?   

     Well actually, not by a long shot.

     Colorism is an insidious form of racial discrimination that continues to be waged against African-Americans.  Born during the advent of slavery, colorism is the practice of using the differences in complexions to pit one group of oppressed people of color against another—a strategy of “divide and conquer.”  It was an effective “skin tone scheme” that the slaves had to adopt in order to survive.

     Colorism is a form of racial discrimination in which individuals are accorded different social status and treatment based on skin color. As well, the term is used to label the phenomenon of persons discriminating within their own ethnic groups. 

     When African-Americans level it against one another—weaponize it, if you will—they are practicing self-hatred.  It’s racism internalized.  You see, these Blacks believe that anything white is superior, the best of the best.

      Now, let’s delve deeper into this crippling, destructive malady. 

We Definitely Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Crayola Crayons Here

     Colorism is based on the ideal that an individual’s worth is directly related to the color of his or her skin, valuing lighter hues over darker ones.  Armstrong Williams, conservative African-American columnist, media personality and entrepreneur, has stated, “This brand of racism is particularly insidious because it is subtle.  Unlike the time when racists donned pointed hats and stomped down the streets, the colorist is subtle, their contempt concealed beneath the still waters of social etiquette.”

     In “The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African-Americans,” co-author Dr. Midge Wilson traced the origins of colorism, and laid out its devastating implications and ramifications.  “To understand the root of this deviant behavior, we have to go back to when slavery was in full effect,” she wrote.  “Fair-skinned slaves automatically were selected for the better jobs, which were located in the master’s house.  After gaining the trust of their masters, many of these fair-skinned slaves traveled throughout the nation and abroad with their masters and families, therefore affording them the opportunity to be exposed to the finer things, and many became educated as a result.”

     Dr. Wilson continued, “The darker-tone peers labored relentlessly in the fields.  They were the ones who were beaten, burned and hanged, the ones permanently condemned to be the lowest of the low in U.S. society.  For them, even the three ‘Rs’—reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic—were illegal.  Consequently, these actions resulted in a caste system.  It seems the closer you were to your master, the better off you were—‘good’ hair, good clothes, good jobs, and an education were an inevitable result from those actions.”  Prior to the Civil War, social status among Blacks was strongly associated with skin color.

Blue Veins…and Paper Bags 

     Twelve years ago, the ABC news program “20/20” aired “Skin-Deep Discrimination: Colorism Shows We’re a Long Way from a Color-Blind Society.” The program reported that historians state that friction between Blacks of different skin tones originated during slavery because light-skinned Blacks—often the children of slaves and their white masters—received better treatment.  “They were the ones who maybe worked in the house, as opposed to the darker-skinned Africans who worked in the fields who were beaten more readily,” explained historian Anthony Browder.

     The program featured Marita Golden, author of “Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex,” who stated that the lighter skin began to be associated with privilege and beauty.  She added that after emancipation, skin color continued to divide Blacks.  And then, light-skinned Blacks formed exclusive clubs.

     “These groups of people were called Blue Vein societies, because in order to ‘belong,’ the test of how light you were was could you see your blue veins through your skin?  And if they could, you were in,” she commented.

     Golden also referred to the “paper bag test,” a criterion one had to pass to get into some churches, fraternities, and nightclubs.  “The paper bag would be held against your skin.  And if you were darker than the paper bag, you weren’t admitted,” she said.

     “Animosity had to grow out of that unfair relationship,” Browder added.  “Darker-skinned Blacks began to resent light-skinned Blacks who were given opportunities to succeed.”

     Let me simply close with this:  Traditions—particularly discriminatory, self-defeating, odious and hateful ones—sometimes die hard. Or not at all. 

     You think? 

Refuge from the Storm

     With his continuing lies, deceit, (attempted) obfuscation, and reckless and injurious strokes of the pen (executive actions) Trump continues to dismantle and defame this country—bit by bit, piece by piece.  He’s hard and assiduously at work violating the Emoluments Clause; enriching himself, his family and friends; shredding the safety net; and chipping away at the hard-fought gains that LGBTQ and minority individuals have made. 

      The latest wreckage:  with his “dedicated assistance,” those craven lizards and greedy crocodiles in the House has passed Repeal and Replace, which is really just a “hugely big” gift of a tax cut gift for the already wealthy.  Nearly 900 billion (not million!) from Medicaid—the medical lifeline for so many Americans—is earmarked to be slashed. 

     And transferred to the rich.

     LGBTQ and minority individuals are right to be acutely concerned about what could very well to happen to them during the next four years—and unfortunately, quite possibly the next eight.  And the way events are unfolding, thing’s ain’t lookin’ pretty.  And, you don’t have to “Captain Obvious” to know that The Orange One is trying to obliterate President Obama’s legacy because of his hatred for him.

     Since the inauguration, I’ve talked with many folks in our Community who repeatedly ask, “How are we gonna survive this maniac?”

     Well, lemme tell you the very first thing you must do in order to survive Trump.  You must look deep within yourself…and safeguard and nourish your soul!

 

     Sometime ago, a certain experience caused a profound shift in my thinking process.  You see, I had the good fortune of stumbling across Wishes Fulfilled, the PBS television special based on the wildly popular book of the same title.

     Dr. Wayne Dyer, motivational speaker and international best-selling author, penned Wishes Fulfilled.  The tome’s overarching message is:  “a change in feeling—and thinking—results in a change in destiny.”

    So in this column, I’m going to encapsulate Wishes Fulfilled so that perhaps you—like I did—can a form and maintain a mind set that will enable you to be  even more successful in the various areas of your life. 

     Ready?  Well then, let’s “rock and roll!”

     There are three basic tenets to Wishes Fulfilled.  Dr. Dyer states that the first is:  “If you want to accomplish something, you must expect it of yourself.”  That’s quite straightforward.

     According to the author/motivational speaker, the second tenet is:  “I AM.”  Every time you say things to yourself like, “I am weak…I am incapable…I am not successful,” you defile the name of God.  Therefore, you must retrain your subconscious mind to attract what you really want.

     The third tenet is composed of five parts, which Dr. Dyer names “The Foundations.”  Actually, after analysis, they’re pretty commonsensical.  They are as follows:

  • Imagination. According to Dr. Dyer, “You must place in your imagination what you want to be reality, and then fervently believe it.”
  • Living from the end. The popular author/motivational speaker says, “You must staunchly believe that you already possess what you want to achieve—which is the end result.”
  • Assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled. According to Dr. Dyer, “You must actually feel what it is that you want—as if you already have it.”
  • Attention. Dr. Dyer asks, “What kind of attention do you place on your desires? How much effort are you actually expending to achieve your goals?”  He explains, “Don’t complain, don’t explain what you place into your imagination.  Don’t allow anyone to tell you what is possible or impossible for you.”
  • Now I lay me down to sleep. Dr. Dyer states that it is when we sleep that the subconscious mind is busy at work, when negative instructions are being sealed into your subconscious.  He elaborates, “During the last five minutes, you’ll marinate in your subconscious mind for the next eight hours.  Most people use the last five minutes before sleep on the negative; it’s our ‘worry time’.”  He emphasizes, therefore, that you must reverse the process.  “So, in those last five moments before drifting off to sleep, you should say to yourself:  ‘I am successful!  I am capable! I am a winner’!”  Dr. Dyer advises to let go of your senses, others’ opinions of you, your fears, etc.

     The bottom line?  You have to SEE your Wishes Fulfilled –that which has not yet come to pass as if it is NOW with you.

      And always remember:  a change in feeling—and thinking—results in a change in destiny.

The “Man of the Evening” Returns!

“Love can be so, so…well, over-rated.” 

     As so many of you recall, I published “Interview With An Escort:  An Update” last summer.  It was a raw and revealing follow-up with “Jase,” an exclusive and popular NYC gay/SGL “Man of the Evening,” whom I first interviewed in March 2015.

     I’ve decided to build a series around this individual.  Why?  Three basic reasons:  the first is that the utilization of “specialized” services of escorts arguably is a staple of gay and bisexual male culture.  Second, this person’s continuing story has been one of the most popular articles on Wyattevans.com.  Third–and certainly most appetizingly—Jase is a fascinating brotha with charisma oozing outta his pores.  

     I’ll never share Jase’s website and contact information because this series is NOT about advertising or promoting his services.  Instead, it’s to give you, the reader, an illuminating bird’s-eye view of his world–one you just might step into one day.

     In this installment, we finally learn about a pivotal life experience that shaped  Jase, thrusting him on the path that he currently treads.

 

     Prelude.   

     A few years ago, a Huffington Post article entitled, “Sex for Tuition:  Gay Male College Students Using ‘Sugar Daddies’ to Pay Off Loan Debt,”featured a New York University student who was desperately trying to manage his $50,000 tuition bill. 

     His solution?  Midway through college, Kirk started turning tricks in order to pay the bill.

     And even after graduation, the young man continued to escort.  According to that Huffington Post article, “He has continued selling his wares on what he describes as ‘virtual street corners’—websites where young gay men seek out the companionship of wealthy older suitors.”

     Kirk is far from the only man, be he young or not-so-young, who’s amongst the ranks of “the oldest profession.”  Sometimes, while on my promotional trips to Manhattan (NYC), I’ve sat down with arguably one of that city’s most popular escorts.  To “get into his head,” I asked him a wide range of questions. 

     I’m not using his real name (or the “handle” he uses, for that matter) because it’s not my purpose to give him free promotion.   My purpose is to give you some insight into the life of an escort.    

     Actually, “Jase’s” story mirrors Kirk’s.  He, too, got into the “bizness” to settle his college debts.  And like Kirk, even after he earned his degree in communications (rather apropos, don’tcha think?), the articulate, sophisticated and charming Jase continues to escort.  He’s been at it for nearly seven years now. 

     Uncommonly handsome, dominant and very self-assured, Jase (early thirties) exudes raw sexuality!  And, let’s not even talk about swagger.

     At 6’2”, 228 pounds, this African-American is hugely and thickly muscled.  He sports a military haircut, ‘stache and goatee.  Being well-groomed is his hallmark.   

     Superbly masculine, he’s very accessible.  His dazzling white smile and smoldering eyes are disarming. 

     Although personable, Jase is all bizness.  You don’t mess with him, you don’t cheat him.  You don’t fuck (with) him.

     ‘Cause, ya see, he’s ALL about the money.

 

His-Story

     (It’s March 2015.)

     WYATT:  Jase, thanks for this interview.

     JASE:  No problem, glad to do it.

     WYATT:  Let’s just jump right into it.  Why did you become an escort?  Did childhood experiences somehow coerce, force you into it?

     JASE:  Oh, hell no!  Although you hear that a lot about other folk, that wasn’t the case with me.  For me, it’s all about money:  after the economy imploded in 2007, there’s a “whole new world order.”  You’ve had to find different streams of income.  I was drowning in student debt, and I believed that escorting was the best way of quickly getting the most cash possible.  (The stud has one helluva deep, melodious voice.)

     WYATT:  And you continue to escort even after you paid down your debt, after you graduated and found a decent job?

     JASE:  As you know, graduates have tens of thousands of debt.  It’ll take almost forever to wipe it out.  That’s the new world order.  And even though I was lucky to get a good job, it still doesn’t pay what I would like.  So, I decided to continue “seeing” guys.  (Then, he flashes a wide grin.) Besides, I enjoy it!

     WYATT:  Well, what appeals to you most about escorting?

     JASE:  I’m highly—and I do mean highly—sexual!  I like the thrill of being with multiple guys—of different ages, races, body types, personalities.  And man, look at me (hearty laugh)—folks should pay to sleep with me!

     WYATT:  Jase, do you sleep with guys and not get paid for it?  Like, “recreational sex?”

     JASE:  Nope.  Not at all.

     WYATT:  Really?

     JASE:  Really.

     WYATT:  I see.  Are you gay–or “gay for pay?”

     JASE:  Totally gay…totally into men.  Been there and done that with women!  A woman can’t do anything for me.

     WYATT:  Jase, describe your clientele.

     JASE:  Although I’m open to all races/ethnicities, my clientele is mostly white, professional, well-to-do, married.  The percentage breakdown is, like, 65 (white)/25 (black)/10 (Latino).

     WYATT:  You appear to be pretty exact!

     JASE:  Mos’ definitely!  I’m a professional, very methodical.  I treat “everythang” in life as a bizness.  You have to.

     WYATT:  Do you use drugs with your clients?

     JASE:  Hell no!  If a client wants to when he’s with me, that’s cool.  However, I refuse to indulge.  For my safety, I can’t afford to be mentally impaired.  (Pause.)  And where anal sex is concerned, it’s condoms all the way!  None of this bareback crap.

     WYATT:  I assume you’re top?

     JASE:  Oh, so totally. 

     WYATT:  Well Jase, exactly what do you do in bed with your clients?

     JASE:  I’m a top, both anally and oral.  Lots of body contact.  I like to deep kiss—as long as there are no breath issues.  Heavily into licking and sucking nips.  And, I just love “tossin’ salad”…before I give my client the main course, if you catch my drift!    Also, I get into role playing: daddy/son, prison guard/inmate, etc., etc.  

     WYATT:  What sexual act with a client do you most enjoy?

     JASE:  Hmmmm…getting my dick s**ked.  Hands down!  Bro, how I “LUV” the feel of a slick, wet, hot mouth up and down and all over my throbbing, rock hard, juicy “thang.”

     WYATT:  Jase, our readers and I wanna know:  just how BIG are you?

     JASE:  Nine and a half.  Wide and “phat” (fat).  Nice mushroom head.  Curves to the right.  (He chuckles.) Yo, he’s my Buddy!  My money maker.

     WYATT:  Whoa.

     JASE:  Lemme stop talking about this!  I can get hard at the drop of a hat. 

     WYATT:  On the average, how many clients do you see a week?

     JASE:  Three, sometimes four.  I have a good deal of regulars.  

     WYATT:  So, you get your clients via the internet?

     JASE:  Definitely.  That’s the safest, most efficacious way to go.  As you know, I have an elaborate website.

     WYATT:  You certainly do. Have you ever been busted by the cops?

     JASE:  Not once, knock on wood!  I’m very low key, if you will.  If you’re sane in this bizness, sure, you have concerns.  You’re must always be vigilant.  And, I put potential clients through a detailed, lengthy interview.  After that, I can tell if the guy is “on the level.” 

     Besides, my site specifically states “companionship”—and that’s what the client is paying for.  Companionship.   Now, being consenting adults, if after meeting we decide to have sex, well…

     WYATT:  Jase, have you ever found yourself in a dangerous situation with a client?

     JASE:  Fortunately, no.  My physical size and demeanor prevents that from happening.  However, I’ve had a couple of escort buddies who weren’t so lucky.

     WYATT:  What happened?

     JASE:  Well, one was set up by a cop.  Another was raped by a client and his friends.

     WYATT:  Have you ever been stiffed by a client?

     JASE:  Two times, and two times only!  The first happened the first year I began escorting.  A bounced check! (Jase’s ire is rising.) That’s why I NEVER accept checks from non-regulars; a regular is someone I’ve seen for at least a year. 

     The other time also occurred during my first year.  After the session, the client claimed he “left his wallet at home.”  I remained in his hotel room for hours, having my way with him—if you know what I mean!  (Jase’s expression is simultaneously funny–and scary.)  Lessons learned…   

     WYATT:  So Jase, how long do you plan to continue escorting?

     JASE:  Honestly Wyatt, I don’t know.  It depends on the economy.  However, if I lose my spark, my desire for it, I’ll be done.  I’ll vanish.

     WYATT:  Jase, thanks for giving my audience a window into what’cha do.

     JASE:  It’s all good, Wyatt.  Now, you’ve gotta become a ghost, ‘cause I’ve gotta “break in” a new client in 30 (minutes)! 

    A few months after that, Jase took down his escort “shingle,” and pretty much became that “ghost.”

 

2016:  Returning to Form

     (It’s June 2016.)  

     WYATT:  Yo, Jase.  It’s good to speak with you again!  How have you been since our last talk?  Are you still on the, as we say, “straight and narrow?”

     JASE:  “Straight and narrow?”  (There’s his patented hearty laugh!)  A great way of putting it…

     WYATT:  Well?

     JASE:  Wyatt, I’ll be honest…

     WYATT:  I want you to be.  (I’m laughing now.)

     JASE:  I’m back in.

     WYATT:  The bizness?

     JASE:  Yes.

     WYATT:  Whoa!  What happened?

     JASE:  I was fired from my regular gig three months ago.  No severance, no nothing!

     WYATT:  Man, I’m really sorry to hear that. 

     JASE.  Thanks.  I saw it coming, and it was quite messy.

     WYATT:  Any prospects?

     JASE:  I’m interviewing like crazy!  Meanwhile, I got back into escorting.  I refuse to be financially compromised.  I gotta eat, if you know what I mean.

     WYATT:  I feel you.  Let me ask you:  when you find another position, will you continue to escort?

     JASE:  (Hesitating.)  To be honest, I couldn’t tell you for sure.  (Long pause.)  However, if you’d put a gun to my head, I’d have to say, “yes.”

     WYATT:  Really?

     JASE:  Yup.  And you know what?  I missed all the sex!

     WYATT:  Can you explain further?

     JASE:  Look:  as I said when we spoke last time, I crave sex…and with multiple guys!  And I have to admit that I “get off” on being desired…and being in control, sexually.  Point blank period.

     WYATT:  Well, that says it all.

     JASE:  It does.

     WYATT:  Jase, I hope you find a regular job soon, and one that really inspires you.  And, be careful out there.

     JASE:  No doubt, no doubt.

     WYATT:  Thanks for your time.

 

When Opportunity Knocks, Well Go On and Answer the Door!

     (While I was in the Big Apple in February meeting with producers on “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!,” Jase and I had a sit-down scheduled.  Unfortunately, an emergency on his part prevented that.  However, near the end of  March, I snagged an extended Skype session.)

     WYATT:  So Jase:  I trust everything turned out okay.

     JASE:  Everything’s all good now.

     WYATT:  Great!  You know, your story continues to be one of the more popular—and intriguingWyattevans.com articles.

     JASE:  Now that’s what’s up!  (That infectious laugh again!)

     WYATT:  It’s been nearly a year, and my readers wanna know just what you’ve been up to.  (Now, I’m doubling over in laughter.)

     JASE:  (A naughty glint in his eyes.)  Wyatt, what you really mean is, “WHOM I’ve been into.”

     WYATT:  Ahem…well, yeah!

     JASE:  Well, as you know, when we last spoke, I had gotten back into the biz.

     WYATT:  I recall.  But before we jump into that, let me ask: have you been able to land that mainstream job…you know, the one “on the reg?”

     JASE:  Knock on wood, yes! It’s a flexible consulting gig.  I’m lovin’ the positive energy, so I plan to keep it for more than a “minnit.”

     WYATT:  Does it pay well, may I ask?

     JASE:  (Grinning.)  What you’re really askin’ is if it’s enough for me to quit being a Man of the Evening.  And Morning.  And Afternoon.

     WYATT:  Oh, you clever devil, you!  Correctomundo!

     JASE:  I could kinda swing “thangs” with the consulting being my only source of income.  However…

     WYATT:  “However” what?

     JASE:  As I’ve said before, I’m a fuckin’ sexual connoisseur…a bedroom athlete and experimenter!  Translation:  I fuckin’ crave sex, and with more than a few “menz” (mens)!

     WYATT:  And in our last interview you admitted, and I quote, “I ‘get off’ on being desired…and being in control, sexually.  Point blank period.”

     JASE:  (Flashing his very own version of the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s eye roll/scrunch.)  True dat.

     WYATT:  Jase, you’ve also said, and I quote, “Look at me!  Folks should pay to sleep with me!”

     JASE:  Hell yeah!  (The bruh’s dazzling white smile and smoldering eyes are as disarming as ever.) 

     WYATT:  So, your shingle’s still up?

     JASE:  Yup.  And that ain’t all!  You feelin’ me?  (He chuckles.  Oh, what a clever man!)

     WYATT:  (I’m LMAO!)  “Aight,” now.  I’m tryin’ to keep this clean!

     WYATT:  (I quickly interject:)  Jase, before I forget:  have you ever done porn?

     JASE:  Nada.  Once you do porn, you can’t take it back—your image is out there.  Porn can fuck up any career aspirations you have.

     WYATT:  Cool, cool.  Now, let’s go back to that shingle conversation.  As they say, “Inquiring minds wanna know.”

     JASE:  (Leaning back in his chair and getting quite comfy.)  I’ve drastically cut back on seeing clients, though.

     WYATT:  Really?  Why?

     JASE:  (Inhaling deeply, then throwing a playful wink.)  I’ve met someone.

     WYATT:  But in our previous talks, you said you don’t do recreational sex.

     JASE:  True dat.

     WYATT:  Well, do explain.

     JASE:  (Becoming serious.)  Okay, here’s the deal:  nearly three months after our last interview, this cray cray wealthy and connected gay German guy (“Helmut”) hired me as an escort for a couple of hours.  Things got so so freakin’ hawt that it turned into an over-nighter! 

     WYATT:  Whoa!  Interesting.

     JASE:  Bro, that ain’t the half of it!  (He’s grinning from ear to ear.)  Helmut kept coming back fo’ mo’…and more!  This led to him putting me on a very, very generous retainer. 

     And, it wasn’t just about the bedroom!  We began to go out socially, to get to know each other in different ways.   Helmut’s taken me to his mansion in L.A., and his compound right out of Berlin.  He was born and raised there.  (According to Jase, his “benefactor” also has a Manhattan apartment, and a home in Maui.)

     Then, right before Christmas, Helmut told me he was falling in love with me.  He wanted an exclusive arrangement, and for me to move in with him here in NYC, where he lives most of the year.

     WYATT:  Dang, Jase!  That’s a lot to take in.

     JASE:  For me, too!  At first.  But I played hard to get.

     WYATT:  “Inquiring minds wanna know…”

     JASE:  I told him that if I was gonna do this, I expected to be compensated—and very, very well!  A new vehicle titled in my name, credit cards in my name with continuing healthy monthly balances, etc.  And for now, I’d keep my consulting gig.

     WYATT:  Jase, I have to ask:  do you love him?

     JASE:  (He grimaces.)  Oh, no, no, no!  It ain’t about THAT.  Love can be so, so…well, over-rated.

     Now, truth be told, I’m fond of him.  And, I’ve told Helmut that.  He’s easy on the eyes, hot in bed.  He’s had valuable business and life experiences that can benefit me.  So for now, it’s a win-win.  For both of us.

     WYATT:  Man, I’m not being judgmental, but aren’t you leading him on?

     JASE:  (Becoming a tad agitated, slightly defensive.)  Not at all!  Look, he knows what he’s getting into:  I’m an escort, for gawdsakes!  However, I’ll always be upfront, and not disrespect him.

     WYATT:  Exactly what do you mean, Jase?

     JASE:  Now that we’ve hooked up, I’ve agreed not to see any other clients. However, there is a caveat.

     WYATT:  Which is?

     JASE:  As I’ve stated, I’m highly sexual!  I need variety.  Point blank period.

     WYATT:  You’ve told Helmut that?  How will you reconcile that and still have an exclusive arrangement with him?

     JASE:  (Clearing his throat.)  Yup, I’ve clued him in.  I told him that for me to be happy, we’d have to have threesomes from time to time.

     WYATT:  Did he go for it?

     JASE:  A little begrudgingly, but yeah.

     WYATT:  Jase, to be blunt:  will the third party pay you?

     JASE:  (Smiling.)  Of course!  Helmut has buddies with truckloads of cash.  And, I think he’s kinda turned on by the prospect.

     WYATT:  Now, let me play devil’s advocate.  Aren’t you screwin’ with this guy’s head, trashing his heart—in other words, using him?

     JASE:  (Quite assertive.  And on the “defensive tip.”)  No way Jose, Wyatt!  He knows what he’s in for, and I’ve been very clear about it.  He met me as an escort.  And, he’s fuckin’ lucky to have me! 

     Yo, I’m superb eye candy!  And, he’s got a man on his arm who’s refined, well spoken, and sophisticated.

     WYATT:  I see.  Now, I’d like to circle back to a certain issue, if I may.

     JASE:  Sure thang!  Give it your best shot.  (Having gotten stuff off his chest, he again flashes that helluva infectious smile!)

     WYATT:  (My eyes zero into his.)  Jase—why have you sworn off falling in love?  That seems like such an anathema to you.

     JASE:  (Becoming visibly vulnerable.)  You really wanna know?

     WYATT:  (Maintaining my laser-like eye contact.)  Yeah, I really do!  And, knowing will enable our readers to understand you better.

     JASE:  Okay, okay.  But first, lemme say that I’m not some cold, calculating bastard trying to roll over and get over on folk.  (Pause.)  As an escort, I satisfy a request for companionship—and it’s not always sexual.  It’s a transaction between two consenting adults, who both know what they’re getting into—and getting! 

     JASE:  (Now smiling and pointing at his divinely muscled body.)  Look at me!  There’s no false advertising here.  Hey: I don’t put a gun to any guy’s head, forcing them to use my services.

     (I’ve been careful not to interject, interrupt.  I want Jase to finally get to “the heart of the matter,” if you will.  He continues.) 

     JASE:  My dad, whom I worshipped, died suddenly when I was 15.  It hit me like a ton of bricks! 

     I was lost, and desperately needed a father figure.  Unfortunately, there was no one who stepped in to fill that void.

     JASE:  When I was 16 and a high school junior, I played football.  And then, my coach—a married man–entered the picture.

     JASE:  (Swallowing hard.)  I was attracted to him from the jump!  Man, he was built from head to toe, dominant, and had this incredible swagger about him!  Like a fuckin’ shark smelling blood in the water, he saw my extreme neediness.  And exploited it.

     WYATT:  Jase—so, you’re saying he sexually molested you?

     JASE:  Yes.   But first, he “groomed” me—giving me extra special attention, encouraging me, telling me over and over just how “wonderful” I was!  Made me think he was my greatest friend and supporter.  He flirted with me.  Seduced me.

     Needless to say, I fell hard for him!  He was like my best friend, brother…and daddy, all rolled into one.  It was sooooooo fuckin’ intoxicating.

     WYATT:  Man, I’m so sorry…

     JASE:  Eventually, he took me to bed—at his place one weekend when his wife was out of town.  The affair lasted months.  I have to admit that even to this day, Coach is the best I’ve ever had.

     WYATT:  I know it ended at some point; because more often than not, the abuser eventually disposes of his young victim. 

     JASE:   (Sadness—and a tear or two—begin to well up in his expressive eyes.)  Ain’t dat the truth! (Pause.) After a few months, he cut it off! (For dramatic effect, the big man runs his beefy hand under and across his neck.)   No warning, no explanations!  I was devastated.

     (He’s working hard to maintain his composure; doesn’t want to show any “chinks in the armor.”)

     JASE:  To this day, I can still remember what he said:  “I’m ending THIS.  What we’ve done together stays between us.  If you tell anybody, I’m gonna put you in a whole world of hurt!  In more ways than you could ever imagine.” 

     And hell yeah, I believed him!  Ya see, Coach was intimidating, imposing…he could be a thug if necessary. 

     WYATT:  Damn.

     JASE:  Yup.  So, I acted like nothing ever happened. 

     (Then suddenly, Jase snaps back to his “normal” self.)

     JASE:  That’s why I’ve vowed never to be emotionally vulnerable, never to open up and share my heart with another guy.  

     WYATT:  Jase, thanks for sharing your experience with us.  I really appreciate it.

     JASE:  Sure, Wyatt.  No prob.

     WYATT:  Any last thing you’d like to share about your current “arrangement?”

     JASE:  I’m gonna ride this gravy train for as long as I enjoy the ride!  And as long as it’s profitable.    Yo:  I’m covering my black ass in as many ways as I possibly can!  Ya feelin’ me?

Crisean

Crisean:  Musical Breath of Fresh Air

“Being my authentic self—that is, openly gay—frees me to be more creative; it allows me to write and sing about things other than love and parties. I believe I have a duty to be visible.”  

      Poignant and sagacious words from the androgynous and openly-gay/SGL African-American musician known as Crisean (pronounced “Cris-Shawn”; born Christopher Snowden).  Innovative and uber-talented, he’d been singing Disney songs around the house and putting on shows for family members since the age of eight.  Crisean also dabbled in writing lyrics and creating topics for songs.

     Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, this exciting and emerging musical talent sat down with me last week to discuss his new album, Opus: I,which drops this summer.  The singles, “Blow Speakers” and “Light A Match,” have just been released. 

     EVANS:  Crisean, welcome to WYATTEVANS.COM.  You’re such a busy guy!

     CRISEAN:  I am, indeed—and loving it!  I’m blessed.  It’s good to be with you, Wyatt.

     EVANS:  Crisean, before we discuss “Opus: I,” the new album, let’s chat about you being an openly-gay/SGL (same gender loving) artist.  I commend you for that!  What was your coming out process like?

     CRISEAN:  Well, for a long time, I’d just basically lived how I wanted; I just didn’t tell my mother that I liked guys.  Then one day, my mother was telling me about a co-worker’s daughter whom she was planning to hook me up with.  So, I had to reveal my true sexual orientation.  After I told her, I went out to dinner.  When I came home, I found her in disbelieve!   

     She asked how she could have two gay sons, what did she do to “cause” it, and how did she go so wrong.  I told her that she did nothing wrong, and emphasized that she’d been blessed.  I ended with, “It’s just life.”

     I’m having to overcome the fact that I’m feminine and androgynous, and that some people have something negative to say about it.  However, I’m handling it much better.

     EVANS:  Crisean, how does being your authentic self—openly gay—free you to be more creative?  Isn’t it psychologically and emotionally draining when one covers up his/her true sexual orientation?

     CRISEAN:  Yes, being your authentic self definitely frees you to be more creative.  It truly is an emotional and psychological drain and burden hiding who you really are.  It was such vindication for me that I could actually be the artist I always knew I could be.  I believe that I have a duty to be visible.  Now, concealing things just won’t work.

     EVANS:  You’re an independent talent.  What does that mean, exactly?

     CRISEAN:  It means that you currently don’t have a record deal, or a company doing everything for you.  For the most part, you’re doing everything on your own.  Though in this way, you can get a keener and fuller understanding of the business.   

     EVANS:  Your music is pop, dance and soul/R&B infused.  Quite the intriguing and eclectic mix!  What prompted you to immerse yourself in those genres?

     CRISEAN:  I grew up around R&B, so that was just my upbringing. I came out a little commercially, so dance music was at the helm of that. (LOL). Watching Logo TV and really getting into gay history, dance music saved a lot of lives and it just pulls on my heart strings. I got into soul during my music classes. I just have a deep appreciation of the music and where soul comes from. It’s the pain and the heart that are poured into the genre.

     EVANS:  What are your musical influences–and why?

     CRISEAN:  Beyoncé is my biggest.  I have a lot of influences from Monica, Lady Gaga, and Adele to legends such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Etta James, The Temptations and Prince. They are my inspirations because they have painted their own lanes and they sing with so much soul in their voices. M.J., Bey, Gaga and Madonna just will shut down a stage in seconds!

     EVANS:  Crisean, before we jump into “Opus: I,” let’s talk about your previous album, “Sound Approved—EP,” which dropped in 2014What topics/issues did it explore and address?

     CRISEAN:  “Sound Approved—EP” addressed a lot of relationship problems, and me knowing my self-worth in every aspect of my life–from relationships and being a Black gay man.

     EVANS:  You wrote and produced each track?

     CRISEAN:  Yes, I wrote and produced every single track on “SA – EP,” as well as my upcoming “Opus: I.”  When you’re an independent artist, you do a lot of things on your own.

     EVANS:  I see.  So, how well was “Sound Approved—EP” received?

     CRISEAN:  It was great exposure!  And, it provided amazing opportunities to do things that I’ve always dreamed of, including preforming and getting press.

     EVANS:  Now, let’s delve into “Opus: I.”  What inspired you to record the album?  What was your muse?

     CRISEAN:  This album is a labor of love and forgiveness.  My muse was my life and what I’m going through. I’ve been through so much since the last project, and I have “war wounds” and heartbreak.  I’ve developed thicker skin and have grown.

     EVANS:  As with “Sound Approved—EP,” did you write and produce each track?

     CRISEAN:  Yes, I’ve written and produced each track. I even did some of my own mixing, and learning some techniques of engineering.

     EVANS:  Crisean, describe the album—what topics/issues are addressed?  In general, what emotions and feelings do the songs convey?  

     CRISEAN:  “Opus: I” explores the pain and heartbreak that I have gone through in the past couple of years–dealing with bad relationships, being on my own for the first time, and even having friendships fall apart. I’ve been inspired by what’s going on in the world and with people of color, where I stand as a gay Black male, my regrets, and forgiving myself and others for a lot of things.

     EVANS:  Crisean, I find your work to be romantic, innovative, clever, and bursting with energy! At times, it can be both playful and serious. And, it has that  “Prince-esque”, The Purple One vibe going on!  Is that pretty much an “on-point” assessment?  What qualities do you ascribe to your work?

     CRISEAN:  Why thank you, Wyatt! I will take that. That’s a compliment for the Gods (LOL)!  I have to write about serious issues because I have to get them off of my chest and not let my pain get bottled up. I also have to have fun and just live life. If you dwell on the bad, you can lose yourself or who you want to be.  And, I have to get on that stage and burn shit down!  (LOL)  

      EVANS:  Blow Speakers” and “Light a Match” are the new, just released tracks.  What are the meanings behind them?  What are they all about?

     CRISEAN:  “Blow Speakers” is just a fun song. I wanted something that I could just have fun with. It’s my first song that I didn’t have to think hard about. I just had fun making it. It’s becoming an anthem!  (LOL) My single friends love it because it’s liberating. It’s very much inspired and influenced by Baltimore club music.  Growing up, I loved club music.

     “Light a Match” is a pop/dance and EDM (electronic dance music) inspired song which makes you want to fall in love. It’s about my many nights going out to clubs and falling in love on the dance floor. Those relationships never amounted to shit for me, but were fun times.

     EVANS:  Describe, if you would, “The Crisean Brand.”   

     CRISEAN:  The Crisean Brand is composed of my talent.  Ever since I had the thought to want to become an entertainer, I have believed in myself.  Determined and hardworking, I have spent long hours on my craft–countless open mics, talent shows, etc.  I will keep persevering until there is nothing left in me; and then, I will have yet another go at it.

     EVANS:  What unique obstacles and struggles confront openly gay artists—in music, and in other fields of entertainment?

     CRISEAN:  I believe it’s the lack of support and visibility. People just can’t or don’t want to support us. Then it’s the lack of money: we don’t have the financial backing. So, it can be extremely difficult to have the chance to see if we can make it. Even though we’re living our lives and it’s very much real, we’re still an underground community.

     EVANS:  Crisean, what advice do you have for young people trying to break into the music business–particularly those who are LGBTQ?

     CRISEAN:  I will tell them the truth:  that there is no lane for us, and they will have to be a part of a bridge that is not yet finished.  It will take time, and it will be hard!  There are so many gay musicians and artists out there who are talented and driven, who inspire me each and every day.  I feel as gay people, we allow society to tell us what we can and cannot do.  Hopefully, I can reach such heights that young and old gay like can say, “It’s possible, because Crisean did it.”

     You can connect with and follow Crisean in the following ways:

The “Undetectability” Of It All

     For years, I’ve been reporting and writing about HIV/AIDS.  When I’ve asked individuals the question, “Would you be sexually intimate with someone who’s undetectable?,”  I’ve gotten some rather blunt and curt responses.   Here are three:

    “Uh-uh.”

    “But doesn’t pre-cum contain the virus?”

    “Nah…I’ll think I’ll pass!” 

    However, the 44-member AIDS United Public Policy Committee—the largest and longest-running national coalition of community-based HIV/AIDS organizations–strenuously begs to differ.  According to AIDS United, its Public Policy Committee very recently has “strongly affirmed the conclusive evidence proving that people living with HIV who have achieved a sustained, undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to sexual partners.  This evidence-based declaration reinforces AIDS United’s programmatic, policy and advocacy work to expand access to antiretroviral medications to all people living with HIV.”

     Before we go any further, let’s clearly and completely understand what it really means to be “undetectable.”   First, it doesn’t mean that the HIV-positive person is cured.  However, it does mean that antiretroviral treatment is being effective, and that the amount of HIV in the blood is so low that even the best available tests don’t detect it.

     To have an undetectable viral load means there are fewer than 20 copies of the virus in one milliliter of blood.  Typically, the tests of those who have just been diagnosed and not having undergone treatment show millions of copies in the exact same sample size.

     Therefore, on March 6, the AIDS United Public Policy Committee released the following statement:  “Substantial evidence strongly demonstrates that a person living with HIV who has a sustained, undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to another person.  Continued analysis of large-scale clinical trials has shown zero cases of HIV sexual transmission.  This expands on prior data that the risk of HIV transmission from a person living with HIV who is on antiretroviral therapy and has achieved an undetectable viral load (viral suppression) in their blood for at least 6 months is negligible to non-existent.”

     AIDS United concurs with the stance of the Prevention Access Campaign (PAC), which is “People living with HIV on ART (antiretroviral therapy) with an undetectable viral load in their blood have a negligible risk of sexual transmission of HIV.”  PAC “is a multi-agency health equity initiative to end the dual epidemics of HIV and HIV-related stigma by expanding access to HIV prevention, and empowering people with and vulnerable to HIV with accurate and meaningful information.”

     The AIDS United Public Policy Committee added, “Too many people living with HIV are not getting the message of this benefit of treatment and sustained viral suppression from their clinical providers or the HIV education and advocacy community.  Understanding that maintaining viral suppression through successful antiretroviral therapy not only maintains health but also prevents transmission can encourage people living with HIV to initiate and adhere to treatment regimens and may help reduce HIV-related stigma.  We acknowledge, however, that social and structural barriers exist that prevent some people living with HIV from achieving viral suppression.”

     Sadly, antiquated U.S. HIV laws and policies simply do not reflect the up-to-date science regarding HIV transmission risks.  “Scientific evidence about the reality of transmission risk based in this data about viral suppression and transmission risk has already had an impact on HIV criminalization statutes and prosecutions in Europe,” according to AIDS United.

     The organization, therefore, makes two critical recommendations:

  • That providers and educators consistently share the message that new evidence demonstrates that a person living with HIV who has a sustained, undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to another person.
  • That HIV criminal laws and policies in the United States be modernized to reflect the science related to viral suppression and HIV transmission risk.

    Jesse Milan, Jr., AIDS United president and CEO, termed the transmission evidence “a landmark development” that too few of us are hearing about.  “This development puts each one of us living with HIV at the forefront of stopping new infections,” stated Milan, Jr.  “It gives everyone strong, clear and direct language to stop the stigma and move all communities faster towards ending the epidemic.”

Teens & IPV/A

     Recently, I was contacted by Ms. Katie Fitzpatrick, features editor of the  Torch, the official site of the Glenbrook North High School student-run newspaper, located in Northbrook, Illinois.  Ms. Fitzpatrick had read my Advocate Op-Ed entitled, “Making a Great Escape from an Abusive Relationship,” and wanted to interview me for an article she was co-writing on teens in abusive relationships.  (To read that Advocate Op-Ed, visit: wyattevans.com/making-a-great-escape-from-an-abusive-relationship/)  I was most happy to oblige.

     Sadly, Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A) and Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) are on the rise in both the LGBTQ and heterosexual communities.  According to Fatima Smith, assistant director of sexual and intimate partner violence, stalking and advocacy services at Virginia Commonwealth University (whom Fitzpatrick also interviewed), “relationship abuse is ‘abusive and controlling behaviors that one person uses against another in order to gain or maintain power and control in the relationship’.”

     And Jeff Temple, director of behavioral health and research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (also interviewed), stated, “’Relationship abuse affects both adults and teenagers.  About 10 percent of high school kids nationwide experience physical (relationship) violence with many more victimized by psychological abuse’.”

     Temple added, “’Because teens may have less experience with relationships, they can have difficulty recognizing relationship abuse, especially psychological or emotional abuse’.”

     To read the complete Torch article, visit:  http://torch.glenbrook225.org/in-the-middle/2017/02/03/recognizing-relationship-abuse/

Love Both Ways

      “Two families.  Two cultures.  One love.” 

     That’s the driving force and the heart of “Love Both Ways,” the meaty and riveting new novel from Dr. Martin Luther Patrick, whose storied literary career spans decades.  A novelist, playwright, and former university professor of film, drama, and cultural studies, he has a PhD in Cultural Anthropology.

     Patrick (his parents are Jamaican) was born and grew up in London, England.  Currently residing in the Borough of Hackney, he began his literary journey when he was 18.  In 1985, he entered London’s Channel 4 Television script competition, placing second.

     Three years later, The London Theatre Coop named Patrick “Best New Young Playwright.”  As well, he’s has won other prestigious awards as a playwright.

     In 2012, Strategic Books published Patrick’s debut novel, “JJ’s Isolation.”   Subsequently, he established Great New Writers Ltd, his teaching and tutoring  enterprise.  Its mission is to support aspiring LGBT, Black, Asian and Hispanic writers.  

     Now, Austin Macauley Publishers LTD has just released the prolific Patrick’s brand new novel, “Love Both Ways.”   This prestigious publishing house is headquartered in London and New York. 

     So, what’s “Love Both Ways” all about?  First, the smart and clever title truly encapsulates the tome’s essence.  It’s rather intriguing and affecting synopsis is as follows:

     “At fifty, Michael thought his life was over.  In his mid-thirties, David wanted his life to begin.  After these fathers divorce, they meet at a support group and fall spiritually and passionately in love.  Their romance forces them to fight for the love of their children and battle against bigots who refuse to understand their lives as Italian and Black British fathers who love both ways.”

     Patrick has created an amazing literary work.  What delights me to no end is that he’s a meticulous, insightful and soulful writer. 

     “Love Both Ways” is chock full of rich characterization.  That idiom, “a fly on the wall,” describes just how the reader feels.  And, Dr. Patrick is more than up to the task of keeping the reader engaged. Delightfully so.

    “I think all writers should know their craft and write beyond life in their immediate area,” states Patrick. “America isn’t the center of the world. I’d like to read more of a world view or a universal perspective that reaches a greater readership.”  This is invaluable advice for authors—both established and aspiring.

     “Love Both Ways” is a celebration of masculine romance.  It’s thought-provoking, and readily accessible.  And, Martin Luther Patrick is a vibrant and compelling literary voice–destined to be heard throughout the world.

     On Thursday, February 9th, I’ll have the distinct pleasure of having Martin as my

very special guest on Wyatt’s Man Cave, one of his first radio appearances as part of his “Love Both Ways” tour.  Details are forthcoming. 

     To learn more about this talented novelist, click on the links to the Huffington Post Queer Voices articles I’ve written about him:

     http://wyattevans.com/a-sublime-gem-across-the-pond-part-one/

     http://wyattevans.com/a-sublime-gem-across-the-pond-part-two/

     Why not find out how you can “Love Both Ways.”

Black & Blue (Is That You?)

     Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, or IPV/A, is no joke.  Known as domestic violence and abuse within the LGBTQ community, IPV/A is a demoralizing, stigmatizing and potentially life-threatening cycle of behavior. 

     And IPV/A is more prevalent than once was believed: one in four LGBTQ relationships/partnerships is abusive in some way.  A recently-released study bears this out.  Soon, I’ll discuss the disturbing results of this landmark research.  

     As a journalist, I’ve made Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse my signature issue, and conduct national IPV/A seminars and workshops.  Just recently, I shared my own experience in a column I penned for The Advocate.  Visit:  wyattevans.com/making-a-great-escape-from-an-abusive-relationship/

     Before we go further, let’s examine exactly what Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse is…and means.  According to The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, it is “a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship.”  

      Each year, between 50,000-100,000 lesbians (or more) and as many as 500,000 (or more) gay/SGL men are battered.  Again, IPV/A is no joke.

     According to psychologists and authors Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith, “Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only:  to gain and maintain total control over you.  Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her ‘thumb.’  Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.  The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable.  You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.”

     Stigma is largely responsible for keeping this destructive behavior “swept under the rug,” which leads to it being dramatically underreported. Therefore, figuratively, this keeps us (locked) in the closet.  Stigma is the albatross around your neck, choking the hell outta ya. 

     Now, to the study.  Entitled “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence in 2015,” and released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), it examines the experiences of 1,976 IPV/A survivors in 14 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Vermont).  This new report is the 2016 release edition.  NCAVP “works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-affected communities.”

     According to the organization, the study “looks at the unique ways that LGBTQ and HIV-affected people experience IPV, as well as the barriers they experience when attempting to access care and support.”   The following is the report overview:

  • People of color (POC) comprised 77% of the reports of LGBTQ and HIV-affected IPV homicides, and 54% of the total number of survivors who reported to NCAVP members in 2015.
  • Transgender women were three times more likely to report experiencing sexual and financial violence.
  • LGBTQ survivors with disabilities were two times more likely to be isolated by their abusive partner and four times more likely to experience financial violence.
  • There was an increase in the percentage of undocumented survivors from 4% in 2014 to 9% in 2015.
  • Forty-four percent of survivors attempting to access emergency shelter were denied and 71% reported being denied because of their gender identity.
  • Out of the total number of survivors who interacted with law enforcement, 25% said that the police were either indifferent or hostile, and31% of LGBTQ survivors who interacted with police said they experienced misarrest.

     These findings demonstrate that it is critical to consider the multiple identities and experiences of LGBTQ victims and survivors because they substantially impact their incidences of IPV/A.  “The bias and discrimination that these communities experience everywhere, from workplaces to shelters, both makes them more vulnerable to IPV and creates unique barriers to accessing services,” the report states.  “For example, we know that LGBTQ and HIV-affected people often experience workplace discrimination, making them less financially secure. Abusive partners often take advantage of financial insecurity to control their partners, as seen in the high number of survivors experiencing financial violence.”

     The new report includes survivor stories that illustrate some of the complicated, nuanced and intersectional ways LGBTQ individuals experience IPV/A.  “’We must start listening to the experiences of LGBTQ people of color, LGBTQ undocumented people, LGBTQ people with disabilities, and transgender and gender nonconforming individuals to learn more about what these communities need to feel safe’,” stated Tre’Andre Valentine from The Network/La Red.  Some time ago, I featured this organization (located in Boston, MA) in the Huffington Post Queer Voices. 

     “’We must protect, uplift, and center those within LGBTQ communities who have been traditionally isolated and shamed for their identities and experiences’,” added Valentine.  “’It’s only with their voices at the center that we can truly begin the work of ending intimate partner violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people across the country’.”

     Now, major highlights from the report:

  • LGBTQ People Experience IPV/A in Different Ways. “This year’s report found that transgender women were three times more likely to report experiencing sexual violence and financial violence compared to survivors who were not transgender women within IPV.  Additionally, the report found that LGBTQ survivors with disabilities were two times more likely to be isolated by their abusive partner and four times more likely to experience financial violence when compared to LGBTQ survivors without disabilities.  This year there was an increase in the percentage of undocumented survivors from 4% in 2014 to 9% in 2015.  ’It’s vital that we understand the unique vulnerabilities to IPV and the unique barriers to accessing services for LGBTQ communities, particular LGBTQ people of color, LGBTQ people who are undocumented, transgender and gender nonconforming people, and LGBTQ people with disabilities’, said Julia Berberan from SafeSpace at Pride Center Vermont. ‘We need to make sure we’re reaching all survivors and supporting their specific needs in a survivor-centered way’.”
  • LGBTQ survivors often experience discrimination when trying to access IPV services. “NCAVP’s 2015 report found that about 27% of LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors attempted to access emergency shelters.  Of those survivors who attempted to access emergency shelter, 44% were denied, with 71% reporting being denied for reasons relating to gender identity, highlighting the negative consequences of sex-segregated emergency shelter options for LGBTQ survivors. ‘Shelter access issues most often impact transgender survivors—particularly transgender women—and cisgender men, who are often denied shelter at historically sex-segregated shelters that only serve cisgender women’, said Lynne Sprague from Survivors Organizing for Liberation in Colorado.  ‘Survivor-centered and identity-affirming housing options must be made available to all survivors’.”
  • LGBTQ IPV survivors experience violence and criminalization from the police. “Similar to previous NCAVP reports on IPV, LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors reported experiencing misarrest, verbal harassment, and other hostile behaviors when interacting with law enforcement.  Out of the total number of survivors who interacted with law enforcement, 25% said that the police were either indifferent or hostile.  In 2015, 31% of LGBTQ survivors who interacted with police said they experienced misarrest, meaning the survivor was arrested rather than the abusive partner, up from 17% in 2014.  ’Negative and violent experiences with law enforcement where survivors are revictimized are exacerbated with LGBTQ survivors of color, LGBTQ survivors with disabilities, undocumented survivors and other communities that hold multiple marginalized identities which are frequently subjected to violence by police’, said Aaron Eckhardt from BRAVO in Ohio.  ‘Police must be trained to recognize signs of IPV in LGBTQ relationships.  Moreover, we must also seek and create alternatives to the criminal legal system, especially for the safety of those whose identities are already criminalized in our society’.”
  • IPV can be deadly for LGBTQ people. NCAVP documented 13 IPV homicides in 2015.  “’We know that this number does not accurately represent the total number of IPV related homicides of LGBTQ people in the U.S.’, said Beverly Tilery from the New York City Anti-Violence Project.  ‘The lack of awareness and visibility in the media of LGBTQ victims of IPV contributes to this issue being ignored as a national problem.  Transgender victims are frequently misgendered and misnamed in media reports, and the intimate partner relationships of same gender couples are often reduced to friendships in media accounts of these homicides.  This needs to change’.” 

     There is a bright spot, however.   The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides protections for LGBTQ survivors of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse.  The new report highlights the fact that currently, there are available resources for LGBTQ survivors of IPV/A.  “In 2013, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) created the first federal legislation to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  ‘VAWA-funded services like emergency shelter, crisis counseling, and attorneys are essential to helping survivors of IPV regain security’, said Justin Shaw from the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, in Missouri.”

     As I state in my national seminars and workshops, the most potent and deadliest weapon the abuser has in his/her arsenal is silence.  To make your Great Escape, you must snatch that weapon away from your abuser—and then shatter it into a million pieces!  Let the reverberating sound liberate you.

 

     To download the full NCAVP report, visit:  http://avp.org/about-avp/national-coalition-of-anti-violence-programs.

    If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, visit my special section complete with resources and more:  http://wyattevans.com/lgbtq-domestic-violenceabuse-making-your-great-escape/  And, call: the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901).

“FRENZY!” Excerpt: “The Interview”

     Greetings!  “FRENZY!” is the brand new installment in my explosively HAWT “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart” series of novels.  “FRENZY!” is all about Wes and ‘Tonio, two star-crossed lovers who must confront severe obstacles that thrown their relationship into dire jeopardy. 

     “FRENZY!”  is chock full of masculine romance, intrigue, danger, twists and turns…and not to mention off-the-hook sexually provocative encounters!  Hell yeah!

     Now, here’s my special treat to you–and it’s in two parts!  First, here’s the 411 on the red-hot “FRENZY!”–

     What would you do after the man of your dreams battered you because he believed you’d been unfaithful?  Could you forgive this man to whom you’ve given every piece of your heart?

    Desirable, wealthy gay/SGL African-American celebrity Wesley (Wes) Laurence Kelly yearns for a gratifying and enduring love.  Unfortunately, it has slipped through his fingers.  Repeatedly.

    Enter Antonio (‘Tonio) Miguel Rios, a deliciously muscular gay/SGL Puerto Rican whom Wes has hired as his bodyguard.  He, too, has failed at love.  Miserably.

    But without warning, that magical, irrefutable and irresistible force known as chemistry totally engulfs the pair!  They forge a strong bond. However, they’re still too afraid to act on their escalating romantic feelings and sexual urges.

    Soon though, Wes and ‘Tonio break down and profess their love!

    However, a mysterious individual throws their monogamous relationship in dire jeopardy!  This vicious entity manipulates ‘Tonio into believing that Wes is being unfaithful.

    Taking the bait, the FRENZY!-ed bodyguard physically brutalizes his soul mate!  This results in Wes kicking ‘Tonio to the curb.

    And that–along with childhood sexual abuse–cause Wes to split, to become another personality: “Walker”!  The polar opposite of Wes, Walker has a heart of ice!  And, Walker’s deadly to the very core.

    Does Wes reclaim himself?  And, what secrets are buried deep inside ‘Tonio?

    But, most importantly: can Wes and ‘Tonio work their way back to one another?  And, can they still vow that “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart?”

      Part Two is the extended version of the excerpt, “The Interview.”  Freakin’ enjoy!

 

     Celebrity and entrepreneur Wesley Laurence Kelly meets Antonio (‘Tonio) Miguel Rios, Jr. for the very first time when he interviews him for his Chief of Security position.

     Y’all, Rios was a fuckin’ sight to behold!  A ruggedly handsome brickhouse, he was 6’4”, 280 muscularly immense pounds. 

     Massively built and exquisitely proportioned, Rios was, hands down, a bodybuilder’s bodybuilder.  Powerful, wide neck.  Barn door shoulders. Bowling ball biceps.  Horseshoe triceps.  Chiseled, expansive, impeccable pecs.  Narrow, firm waist. 

     And the way his jeans fit.  Daymn!  I could detect that he owned humongous glutes and calves…and (gleefully) something else.  Sumthin’ else, indeed. 

     The stud was clad entirely in blackshirt, jazzy (but tasteful) tie, formfitting jeans, and kick-ass cowboy boots.  Masculinity with touches of sensitivity oozed outta him!  I was fuckin’ taken aback– which usually doesn’t happen often.   I felt I was losing control.   I had to regain it.  Like yesterday.    

     “It’s a ‘pleasuah’ (pleasure) ta meet’cha, Mr. Kel-lee,” Rios smiled, broadly.  That 100-watt grin could’ve lit up all of Washington, D.C.  

     Immediately extending his power-packed mitt, he followed with, “Thanks so much for dis opportunity!”  “Stud Man” had this syrupy, so sensual, low baritone with a full heapin’ helpin’ of Latin accent stirred in for good measure.

     And his eyes!  A liquid blue-green, they appeared to be as endless as an ocean… sucking you right in!  They peered deep inside, searching for the real you.  I swore they seemed to have a life of their own… 

     Rios had a caramel-tinged complexion, and short, curly, jet-black hair.  His sideburns connected to a neatly trimmed goatee, which in turn merged into his ‘stache.  He had these full lips, which begged you to kiss them.   Mos’ def!

     And his handclasp!   Gawd.  It was warm.   Supremely confident.  Well-manicured, those hands were like meat cleavers–so thick, so sturdy, and so powerful.   His touch, his grasp, made my whole freakin’ body tingle through and through!   Nobody—and I do mean nobody—had touched me that way in what seemed like fuckin’ eons!   I swallowed hard. Dang!  Hot in here.         

     Floating back to earth, I responded, “I…I’m sure the pleasure is ALL MINE, Mr. Rios.  Welcome.”  Not to be outdone, I returned a formidable clasp of the palm myself.  

     Then, without warning, our eyes seemed to zoom into each other, like heat-seeking missiles!  After reaching their final destination, they settled into the lockdown position.  And all of a sudden, that ole magical thang called chemistry burst forth, spinning around– totally engulfing us!  The sensation was electric, hard-hitting, exciting…though downright scary!

     Hmmmm…I could swear he was checkin’ me out, scopin’ me, as wellAnd I noticed him noticing my erection.  (Yo!  I’ve got a “Big Whopper”–and I ain’t talkin’ Burger King!  LOL.)  The muscle stud’s eyes stretched wide for more than just a few seconds… 

      “Mr. Kel-lee,” Rios offered, “Puleeze…call me Antonio.”   

     “Thanks, ah, Antonio,” I responded.  Geesus, his name sounded so divine falling off my lips.  He was marinating in Givenchy’s Grey Flannel (the light blue liquid version), one of my favorites.  Not too much, just enough to tease, to tantalize.  And Lawd, he had this pleasant cinnamon-spearmint breath!

    As I chatted with Mr. Man, the chemistry between us was becoming red hot, deliciously intense.  It had gripped me so tight it made me wanna holla!  Antonio radiated such pure animal magnetism…along with enticing, sensitive masculinity.  This attraction, although irrefutably appealing, was intoxicating, bordering on the overwhelming!

     In other words, these sensations were exhilarating, dizzying; but at the same time, somewhat unnerving.  And daymn!  Our eyes were still bearing down on one another. 

     “Oh, Lawd,” I thought, “was he feelin’ what I was feelin’?  He had to be!  Well…wasn’t he?”

     Breaking eye contact for a few seconds, I announced, “Antonio (Whoa!  Once again, that name sounded sooooooo good dripping from my lips.), let’s adjourn to the library.”  Walking side by side, we reached the room.  Opening the doors, I ushered him in. 

    Glad I did, because I was rewarded with an absolutely mouthwatering sight!  Antonio had this phine “basketballbubblebuttazz!”  Pushing through his pants.  Perfectly round.  Beefy and meaty.  Bootylicious.   Ready to be squeezed…and PLUNDERED!  (Ya see, as an “azz connoisseur,” I’m an expert on these affairs.  LOL.)                                              

     I was teased even further when he sauntered into the library.  His musclebootybutt jiggled ever so slightly, ever so nicely, in his tight black jeans. Meanwhile, I had to quickly adjust Mr. Woody in an attempt to conceal my burning, growing arousal.  (You do know what part of the anatomy to which I’m referring, right?  Sho’ ya do.)

     “Antonio, please have a seat,” I invited, motioning to the sofa opposite the mahogany desk.  I climbed into the leather chair behind it, picking up his resume. 

     As I scanned his resume, I became aware of “BigGuy’s” (my later nickname for him) eyes inspecting, dissecting, and analyzing me.  He was trying to read me, workin’ to figure out what I was thinking…about him.  Meanwhile, the mounting, swelling sensations (Hell, in more ways than one, if you catch my drift!) I was experiencing were inflaming my potent, pent-up desires.

     I became lightheaded!  Beads of sweat formed on my forehead.   My left wrist, with the Rolex wrapped around it, began to sweat and itch.  And, the chilled Evian I was sipping in earnest couldn’t seem to wash away the parched feeling that had stubbornly claimed my throat.

     Then, all of a sudden, in that moment, my mind stumbled into a dense fog.  I began to fantasize, have “NASTEE” thoughts about Antonio, which went sumthin’ like this:

     Ahhh, yes…both of us butt nekkid, him doggy style, perched on my broad mahogany desk.  Ahhh…me kneeling, with his bubblebuttbootyliciousazz all up in my face…me swathed in delicious anticipation while I’m stroking, fondling and squeezing that marvelously round, voluptuous treasure. 

     Me, salivating, as I’m slowly, so deliberately parting the tepid, lusciously solid muscle cheeks…squeezing them, prying them W-I-D-E open!  Him enthralled in passion, vocalizing erotic murmurs. 

     Me, after thoroughly licking and lapping the entirety of that musclebooty, for what seemed like forever–and two days…me skillfully and leisurely delving my tongue so deeply in and out, in and out of the tight, lush, moist “valley” of that bubblebuttbootyliciousazz!   Me, becoming even more aroused by the exquisite sensations inspiring and driving Antonio to grunt and groan, shake, rattle and roll…him forcing my head ever closer into his glorious “musclebootytreasuretrove” (The Butt!  The Bum!  The Posterior!  Dat azz.)… 

     Me, after finishing my delectable, tasty feast and at the zenith of my nasteeness, carefully and totally lubing up the entrance to BigGuy’s valley, which had the heat and moisture you could liken to a tropical rain forest.  Next, me slipping on a black latex “raincoat,” and…

Welcome, 2017!

     I want to wish each and every one of you a fulfilling, joyous and prosperous New Year!  Now, let’s make 2017 a meaningful and rewarding adventure.

     2016 was another banner and stellar year for me, and I thank God and Jesus Christ for the continued blessings.  I’m truly humbled.

     I’m elated that through WYATTEVANS.COM, I continue to reach and touch more and more of you in substantive, engaging, informative and entertaining ways!  I’m proud to say that LGBTQ folk and their Allies from all walks of life in over NINETY Countries visit my on line home.

     And speaking of WYATTEVANS.COM, my Community of Guest Columnists— LaToya Hankins, R. L. Norman, Buster Sly and Carlton Smith—continue to deliver their timely, progressive, thought-provoking and unique insights and POV’s on issues that impact LGBTQ individuals and their Allies.  I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for their amazing creativity and efforts!  And later in 2017, I’ll add more Columnists to the roster.

     This year, I’m embarking on an exciting, critical and much-needed project:  I’ve been selected as Special Consultant for ViiV Healthcare’s “Positive Affirmations—ACCELERATE!” Initiative.  The project is a bold community engagement effort targeted to Black MSMs (men who have sex with men) who reside in and around Baltimore, Maryland.  To learn more about The Initiative, visit:  wyattevans.com/its-all-about-positive-affirmations/

     And, “Good Golly, Ms. Molly!”  On January 12, 5 PM ET/ 2 PM CT, I’m back on the airwaves!  My new radio program, entitled “WYATT’S MAN CAVE,” is produced by the highly-regarded and popular LesBe Real Media.  My new show  explores and tackles men’s relationship and wellness issues.  HOT guests come into my Domain.  “WYATT’S MAN CAVE” is provocative, raw…and real!  To get the scoop, visit: wyattevans.com/enter-wyatts-man-cave/

     As you know, the exhilarating, decidedly DEE-LI-CIOUS and explosive brand new installment in my “NOTHING CAN TEAR US APART”series of novels has just been released!  Entitled “FRENZY!”, it’s a real roller coaster ride–and is continuing to receive rave reviews!  My national “FRENZY! Book Tour–2017” rolls on through the New Year—along with my Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A) seminars and workshops.  For the 411, visit: wyattevans.com/nothing-can-tear-us-about-frenzy-book/

     Along with all THAT, I’m finalizing some kick-ass projects that I’m not allowed to speak about right now!  But when I can, you’ll be the first to know.  (LOL) Stay tuned, ‘cause they are gonna freakin’ blow your collective mind!

     I wholeheartedly plan to make 2017 my absolute B-E-S-T!  Make sure you do the same.

      And have BIG FUN doin’ it!!!

LGBTQ, holidays!

Ditch Those Holiday Blues!

     Oh, “Gawd!”  You’re an LGBTQ guy or gal simply dreading THAT time of year—the holidays! 

      Why might you be in a major funk?  Well, maybe you feel you can’t be your authentic self around family:  you’re still closeted.  Or, you might be alone, feeling isolated.  All of this can throw you into a nasty tailspin.  And where do you crash land?  Into one “helluva” depression!

santa-bro-2

     Research bears out that the rates of depression and stress definitely increase during the holidays.  To counteract that, here are ten tools to help you vanquish those holiday blues–courtesy of Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a multi-award winning psychotherapist:

  • Keep your expectations balanced. “You won’t get everything you want, things will go wrong, and you won’t fell like Bing Crosby singing ‘White Christmas’.  Remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect and don’t worry about things that are out of your control.”
  • Don’t try to do too much. “Fatigue, over scheduling, and taking on too many tasks can dampen your spirits.  Learn to say no, delegate as much as possible and manage your time wisely.  If you choose to do less you will have more energy to enjoy the most important part of the season–friends and family.”
  • Don’t isolate. “If you’re feeling left out, then get out of the house and find some way to join in.   There are hundreds of places you can go to hear music, enjoy the sights or help those less fortunate.”
  • Don’t overspend. “Create a reasonable budget and stick to it.  Remember it’s not about the presents.  It’s about the presence.”
  • It’s appropriate to mourn if you’re separated from or have lost loved ones. “If you can’t be with those you love make plans to celebrate again when you can all be together.”
  • Many people suffer depression due to a lack of sunlight because of shorter days and bad weather. “Using a full spectrum lamp for twenty minutes a day can lessen this type of depression called SAD (Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder).”
  • Watch your diet and remember to exercise. “It’s normal to eat more during the holidays, but be aware of how certain foods effect your mood.  If you eat fats and sweets, you will have less energy, which can make you feel more stressed and run down.” 
  • Be aware of the Post-Holiday Syndrome. “When all the hustle and bustle suddenly stops and you have to get back to the daily grind, it can be a real letdown.  Ease out of all the fun by planning a rest day toward the end of the season.”
  • Learn forgiveness and acceptance. “If some of your relatives have always acted out or made you feel bad, chances are that won’t change.   If you know what you’re getting into, it will be easier to not let them push your buttons.  If things get uncomfortable, go to a movie or for a drive and adjust your attitude.”

Making a “Great Escape” from an Abusive Relationship

     I have ab-so-lute-ly outstanding news to share!  The Advocate, the premier—and Number One–international on-line and print LGBTQ media outlet, has just published my commentary on Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A). 

     In this important piece, I discuss my very own personal experience with IPV/A– and how it has impacted me.  Additionally, I reveal why—as both a journalist and author—I’ve made this demeaning, demoralizing and potentially life-threatening behavior my clarion call.  IPV/A is the overarching theme of my “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart” series of novels.  “FRENZY!” is the brand new installment.

     Thank you Advocate for assisting me in continuing to shine a bright light on Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse!  To read my commentary, visit:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/12/06/making-great-escape-abusive-relationship

ALL Bear

Feel the Intense ‘FI-YAH’ of the “FRENZY!”

     Yo!  FEEL the “Fi-Yah” (fire)! 

     The latest issue of ALL BEAR (November/December 2016) magazine is now available!  With its informative, real…and erotic features, I’ve bestowed upon ALL BEAR the title, “The Playboy of the U. K. (United Kingdom).”

      What’s wayyyyyyy cool about this issue is that I sit down with Mr. Colin Gunn, publisher, for an in-depth and engrossing interview, which includes the lowdown on my brand spankin’ new novel, “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!”   And as a bonus, there’s a sensual and sexy excerpt from “FRENZY!”  This is a red-hot, not-to-be-missed ALL BEAR exclusive! 

     To read all about it, visit: www.all-bear.co.uk.

The “FRENZY!” Is Now ‘Across The Pond’!

     News Flash!  “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!” has become international!  The riveting novel has traveled “across the pond,” to the United Kingdom!

     BlackOut UK (blkoutuk.com) has just written a major feature on “FRENZY!”  Created by a collective of Black gay/SGL men, BlackOut UKis an influential, non-profit enterprise.  BlackOut UK “recognizes and celebrates the diversity of experience and views among black queer men in the UK (extending even to what we call ourselves) and are seeking to create spaces to explore and reflect on our commonalities and differences.”

     To read the feature in its entirety, visit:  https://blkoutuk.com/2016/11/05/read-actions-speak-louder-wyatt-obrian-evans/

The Rainbow Times Has The “FRENZY!”

     Ab-so-lute-ly outstanding news!  The Rainbow Times, the largest and most influential publication dedicated to the LGBTQ community and its allies, has penned a cover story on Yours Truly—and my brand new novel, “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!” 

     It was truly an awesome experience!  I want to thank Nicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief, and Gricel Ocasio, Publisher, for this exceptional opportunity.

     To read the full article, visit:  http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/frenzy-reveals-provocative-insight-gay-men-color-ipva-bullying-mental-illness/

Structural Inequality Fuels HIV in Black MSM

   A brand new—and perhaps controversial—study has uncovered that economic insecurity, housing instability and stigma largely shape the sexual relationships of many African-American men who have sex with men (MSM).  According to this study, these structural inequalities influence the kinds of relationships and sexual behaviors that men have.

     It’s a fact that the bulk of HIV prevention interventions and studies focus on the individual. However, according to Columbia University’s Caroline Parker in an article published in Culture, Health and Sexuality, “Our research underlines the continued need to attend to the structural drivers of HIV among Black gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.”

     Before we drill deeper into the study, let’s define the term structural inequality. It’s the condition where one category of individuals are ascribed an unequal status in relation to other categories of persons.  This relationship is perpetuated and reinforced by a confluence of unequal relations in roles, functions, decisions, rights and opportunities.

     Between 2013 and 2014, Parker and her colleagues conducted a qualitative, ethnographic study in New York City.  Roger Pebody states in his Aidsmap.com article, “Structural Inequalities Create Vulnerability to HIV for Black Gay Men in New York,” “In-depth interviews were conducted with 31 black MSM and participant observation was conducted in locations frequented by black MSM (such as parks, community organizations and house parties).  In addition, 17 community advocates and healthcare professionals were interviewed.

     “Amongst the men interviewed, whose average age was 29, social problems were common.  Ten had spent time in prison, 15 were unemployed, 16 had housing problems, and nine had no health insurance.  Five men told the researchers that they were living with HIV.  Whereas half identified as ‘gay,’ the others described themselves in a variety of ways, including bisexual, straight, discrete and having no sexual identity.”

      According to the study, men who struggle with housing instability and unemployment sometimes used sex to meet their material needs.  They described exchanging sex for shelter, food, clothing, the payment of phone bills and taxis, alcohol and drugs.  Some used dating app profiles to sell sex.

     And, the men’s precarious circumstances constrained their ability to negotiate condoms.  One man explained:  “’Okay.  If you are eating and you have clothing, you have shelter, you’re probably going to resist it and a very blatant resistance.  But if you are hungry, that’s a different ballgame.  I can sit here and tell you I’m a very proud person but you let my stomach rumble for more than three days, okay, you can call me’.”

     Pebody wrote, “While sex without a condom put men at risk of HIV, a lack of food or shelter might have a more immediate impact.  Men made choices which made sense to them in their current circumstances (for example, having multiple partners to access temporary housing and other resources).  Interviewees with fewer economic problems had different approaches to sexual relationships which did not reflect these pressing economic considerations.”

     The researchers took note of the way in which different places and environments formed men’s sexual relationships.  Some of the interviewees stated that they had experienced disapproval or homophobia in their family homes.  As a direct result, four of the men were made homeless. 

depression-20

     As well, many men did not introduce male sexual partners to family members; consequently, sex was more likely to occur at a partner’s home or in a public space.  Recalled one interviewee: “’I couldn’t bring any company over or they couldn’t stay overnight or whatever, (but my brother) could bring girls over and there was discrimination towards me with my mom’.”

     According to Pebody, “Some men who lived independently also avoided bringing male partners home because of homophobic reactions from landlords or neighbors.  Men sometimes felt unsafe in their own homes.

     “Many respondents met partners and had sex with them in parks, streets, sports clubs, trains, supermarkets and restaurants.  This was particularly the case for men with unstable or no housing, and for men who identified as straight or discreet.  These meetings might be arranged on apps like Jack’d and Grindr. 

     “These interactions were usually rushed—men were afraid of being observed by other people, being assaulted or being arrested. The rush meant that condoms were less likely to be used.”

     Respondents of the study stated that they went to gay bars and nightclubs, particularly those frequented by Black and Latino men.  According to the respondents, they felt that these settings were safer places to socialize and meet other MSM (men who have sex with men).

     “For men who sold sex, bars provided some protection against the police,” wrote Pebody.  “Men with housing difficulties sometimes went to clubs to find ‘a generous friend’ with a place to stay. However, commercial venues did not always feel welcoming to men who did not have money for drinks or the right clothes to wear.”

     The researchers concluded:  “’Among most of the men in this sample, the pursuit of same-sex relationships took place in a social context characterized by economic insecurity, housing instability, and widespread stigma and discrimination.  We draw attention to how men’s position in a social structure configures their opportunities, restrictions and priorities in sexual relationships and how these shape their choices and behaviors in health-relevant ways’.”

Louder Than The Silence!

      WESURVIVEABUSE.COM, the well-respected and go-to-it domestic violence and abuse online resource, has honored Yours Truly by featuring my brand new novel, “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!”  The overarching theme of “FRENZY!” is Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A),which is domestic violence and abuse within the LGBTQ Community.  IPV/A–demoralizing and potentially life-threatening behavior–significantly impacts the LGBTQ Community.

        Tonya GJ Prince is the founder of Wesurviveabuse.com.  An expert in both domestic and sexual violence issues, Ms. Prince has more than two decades of experience in these critical arenas. Her particular emphasis is crisis counseling and education.  Herself a survivor, the prolific Ms. Prince is an author, advocate, counselor, motivational speaker and mentor.

tonya-2

     To read the feature, visit:  www.wesurviveabuse.com/2016/10/the-forbidden-truth-about-intimate.html  Tonya, thanks for your invaluable, continuing support!

“Ferraris & Football”

“Ferraris & Football”

     Yo!  Guess what?  I’ve just had the super-cool opportunity to create and write a short saga exclusively for Mr. James Butler’s The Big Boy Project (BBP)!  And the exhilaration of crafting“Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!” provided me with such consuming waves of creativity and energy!   

     As you know, BBP is a dynamic and cutting edge infotainment site that is specifically designed for larger men—and those who have an affinity for themIt truly is an oasis for bigger guys.

     My short saga is entitled “Ferraris & Football (F & F),” and there’s a hell of a lot behind the meaning of that catchy title!  It’s the story of Shon and WAR, two masculine, big muscle bear boyz who “git all caught up” in a tangled and quite messy “LUV THANG.”  

      “Ferraris & Football” is a fast-paced, masculine romantic adventure.  And of course, it has that Wyatt O’Brian Evans signature mix of rich drama, intrigue—and sexual “hawtness!”  And Lawd and Geesus:  there’s one twist of a breathtaking cliffhanger!

     And who knows:  Yours Truly very well might turn “F & F” into sumthin sumthin regular!  Only time will tell….

     So, jump on over to The Big Boy Project, and get your “Ferraris & Football!”  Visit: www.thebigboyproject.com/blog.

The Sandy Rodgers Show

“FRENZY!” In the Evening!

     On Tuesday, October 4 @ 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST, I’ll be the Special Guest on Life Love Wellness: The Sandy Rodgers Show—a popular, inspirational and empowering nationally-syndicated radio program!  Sandy and I will have a conversation about my brand new novel, “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!”  

     Since Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A)–also known as domestic violence and abuse–is the overarching theme of “FRENZY!”, Sandy and I will discuss this critical and potentially life-threatening behavior.  Some of the questions we’ll answer include:  What causes IPV/A to happen? Should the victim stay in the marriage/relationship–or seek safety on the outside?  What are the warning signs?  What’s “Separation Assault” all about? 

     We’ll also talk about my journey as an author, what moves me…and much, much more!  And, I’ll entertain questions from callers. 

     Do join me on the evening of Tuesday, October 4 Be prepared for a slice of engaging, informative and lively radio!

     Life Love Wellness: The Sandy Rodgers Show!  Call in on 516-531-9819 or online atblogtalkradio.com/sandyrodgers to be a part of the conversation!

Frenzy!

The “FRENZY!” Is In Total Control!!!

     Ahhh, yeahhh!!!  As Little Richard says, “Good Golly, Miss Molly!”

     “FRENZY!”, the brand new installment in the “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart” series of novels, hasjust arrived!  And, it’s well worth the wait!

     “FRENZY!”  is the continuing hawt saga of Wesley and Antonio, who struggle to nurture and maintain their romantic relationship against the odds—and the challenging and daunting obstacles that come their way!

     Now, here’s the 411 on “FRENZY!”

     What would you do after the man of your dreams battered you because he believed you’d been unfaithful?  Could you forgive this man to whom you’ve given every piece of your heart? 

     Then, what happens when a tragic accident causes you to split, to become another personality—one that’s deadly to the very core?

     And on top of that, what secrets are buried deep inside your soul mate?

     This is the continuing saga of Wesley and his partner Antonio, in “FRENZY!”– the latest installment of the popular, provocative, and mind-blowing “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart” series of novels!

    So, does Wes reclaim his true self?  Can Wesley and Antonio work their way back to one another? 

     And, can they still vow that “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart?” 

 

     The rave reviews on “FRENZY!”  are already coming in!  Visit:  wyattevans.com/what-folks-are-sayin-about-frenzy/

     Hey!  Don’t get left out of all the rich drama, masculine romance, action, intrigue, twists and turns—and sexually-charged, provocative situations!  From start to finish, “FRENZY!”  is one helluva breathtaking, thrill ride! 

     “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!”  is available at online retailers.  However, to receive your very own special 20 percent discount, make sure to order “FRENZY!” right here at Wyattevans.com.  Here’s the link:

wyattevans.com/nothing-can-tear-us-apart-frenzy-book/ 

     So, Y’all,  just “do it to it”: go on with yo’ baddddd selves, and git yo’  “FRENZY!”  on!!!

Jonathan Towslee

Jon Towslee: Supreme “FRENZY!”-aholic

     I’m happy to announce that Mr. Jonathan Towslee has become the President of the Wyatt O’Brian Evans Official Fan Club!  Actually, one of the refrain’s from The Pointer Sisters’ megahit “I’m So Excited!” better describes my feeling.  Openly gay and hailing from Boston, Mr. Towslee is a financial industry executive and community activist. 

     I’m proud and privileged that Jon has come on board!  And to formally introduce him to everyone, I decided to present the following clever little tete a tete.  Here it is:

     WYATT:  Jon, welcome to WYATTEVANS.COMThanks for taking on the role of President of the Wyatt O’Brian Evans Official Fan Club. 

     JON:  It’s my pleasure, Wyatt.

     WYATT:  Now Jon, you’ve been one of my earliest supporters.  I thank you for that.  So, why did you assume “The Presidency?”  (LOL.)

     JON:  As you know, I came to find out about you through some mutual connections on Facebook. Once that happened I went and visited your web site, listened to your radio shows and read your books and blogs.

     I realized right away through your various outlets, you were doing some powerful and important work in an area that often gets swept under the rug.  So, I took on the role of President because I immediately became a strong believer and supporter of what you’re trying to accomplish.

     You and I have had many conversations on where you envision your brand going, and I am honored to be there to help support and get you there.

     WYATT:  Jon, as MJ (Michael Jackson) might have said, “Tito…gimme a tissue.” I’m just joshing—I really appreciate your sentiments. 

     WYATT:  Now, I’m curious.  What three words best describe me?

     JON:  Jovial, Genuine and “Cocksure” (Sorry; the last one was just too good not to use!).

     WYATT:  LMAO!!!

     WYATT:  As President, what is your mission? 

     JON:  My mission is to keep you and your audience connected.  The next twelve months in particular will be huge for you.  As an Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A) Advocate and Specialist, you’ll be conducting seminars/workshops across the country on this issue, which tends to be taboo in the LGBTQ Community.  As a Motivational Speaker and Lifestyle Coach, you’ll be speaking on substantive topics including depression and how to get the life you really want.  In several months, you’ll be relaunching your provocative radio program, “The Wyatt O’Brian Evans Show.” And of course, there’s your launch of “FRENZY!”, the latest installment in your “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart” series of novels.  I have a major role in planning the “FRENZY!” book tour and contests—and more.  So everyone:  stay tuned to WYATTEVANS.COM for news and updates. 

     WYATT:  Jon, in 50 words or less, give everyone the 411 on “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!” 

     JON:  It’s a wild/crazy ride involving a couple who have gone through some deep/intense/emotional stuff, together and alone.

     WYATT:  Tell us:  Who are Wes and ‘Tonio, the main characters of “FRENZY!”?  Just who are they?  What kind of guys are they, anyway?

     JON:  Wes and ‘Tonio, the two compelling leads, are both very intense individuals who have gone through a lot of stuff in their lifetimes.  Collectively, they are soul mates, but have faced many challenges that often get in the way of keeping them together.

     WYATT:  Jon, what character trait of each man is most appealing to you—and why?

     JON:  For Wes, it’s his loyalty to the ones he loves.  For ‘Tonio, it’s his passion/dedication–even though that often gets him into trouble.

     WYATT:  Why does “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!” appeal to you?

      JON:  Great question, Wyatt.  Well, I have to say that “FRENZY!” has universal appeal—it resonates with such a broad audience.  Be you gay, straight, bisexual or transgender, you can relate toWes and ‘Tonio because these are two individuals who are deeply and passionately in love with each other on many levels, and are pushing back against the obstacles that throw their monogamous relationship in dire jeopardy.  These men are grounded in reality.

     Also, the reader is like a “fly on the wall.”  You feel that you are very much a part of what Wes and‘Tonio experience. 

     Additionally, “FRENZY!” explores topical and critical societal issues (including IPV/A, child sexual abuse and mental illness) without being “preachy.” And then, there’s rich drama!

     WYATT:  And what about the provocative, sexually-charged situations?

     JON:  The situations in this book, compared to your others, seemed to be much more extreme.  I’m specifically referring to when Walker and his crew are “auditioning” people for their new business adventure.  I won’t give away just who Walker is.  However, I will say that Walker is very, very closeto Wes.

     WYATT:  If you could create a character for the series, who what he/she be?  How would he/she interact with Wes and ‘Tonio?

     JON:  This question is very hard, because no matter what I say is going to give something away about the story. 

     I’d love to see a character that benefits greatly from the non-profit organization that Wes and ‘Tonio decide to create at the end of the book.

     I’ll leave it at that, so I don’t give anything away.

     WYATT:  Tell us, Jon: why the need for LGBTQ literature?

     JON:  Because there is such a vast market for it.  There are many of us in the LGBTQ community who love to read books about characters going through the same things we face in life.

     I also think it’s important because those outside of the LGBTQ community who elect to read this genre are able to learn more about and therefore better understand what LGBTQ life is like, and the challenges we face.

     WYATT:  What are your favorite literary genres?

     JON:  When I was a kid, my favorite was horror.  I was obsessed with Stephen King.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve gravitated more towards biographies about music artists.  I’ve loved music my whole life, and in recent years, many artists I’ve listened to throughout my life have written books. It’s been very insightful, and a lot of fun to read and learn about their lives.

    WYATT:  what are your favorite authors—and why?

     JON:  My all-time favorite author is Stephen King.  There are a lot of reasons behind this.  For one, I grew up in a very small town in Vermont.  The majority of King’s books take place in Maine, in a small town.

     To me, King has always perfectly captured what small town life is like.  It was something I could always relate to, outside of the “horror” aspect of the book.

     As a kid, I also have fond memories of my grandmother (she passed away in 2003) around Stephen King.  Throughout my whole life, she always gave me a book for my birthday.  It started out with books by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.

      And as I got older, she always gave me the latest Stephen King book in hardcover.  I still have all of these books today.  Anytime I see them, I remember her fondly.

     Dennis Lehane is also a favorite author.  The last book my grandmother ever gave me was his“Mystic River” in hardcover.  That was the first book I read of his, and I was instantly hooked.  Most of Lehane’s books take place in Boston (where I live).  He captures Boston life perfectly.

     A few years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Dennis Lehane at an event at a local community library.  Of course, I brought my copy of “Mystic River” with me.  And after he was done speaking, he came over to me and asked if I’d brought a copy to be signed.

     My answer was, of course, “Yes!”  I also took the opportunity to share with him the aforementioned story:  about how my grandmother always gave me a book for my birthday and Christmas, and that this was the last one she ever gave me.

     Lehane was deeply touched by the story, which was a great moment.  I’ve always been an avid reader because of my grandmother.  It meant a lot to have an author I love appreciate my memory of her.

     Last, but not least, another favorite author is, of course, you!  I’ve loved all three of your books. However, I take the most value from your various articles/interviews/blogs.  You often touch on very sensitive issues that many are afraid to talk about.  I feel this is very important and a great value for many within our community.

     WYATT:  Jon, such a touching experience you had with Mr. Lehane!  And, I really appreciate your sentiments regarding me.

     WYATT:  Now, let’s get “up close and personal.”  What are you passionate about?

     JON:  Music, my dog, reading, community, the Boston Red Sox.  I’ll only elaborate on the Sox here as the others are touched upon in other questions.

     One of my favorite memories as a kid is listening to the Red Sox on the radio with my parents and grandmother.  My town in Vermont didn’t get cable until I was a freshman in high school.

     I loved just sitting outside in the summer listening to the games with family members.  I still sometimes do it today, even though we have HD TV.  There’s just something about listening to a Sox game on the radio.

     When the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, I cried such happy tears!  My parents and I have been Sox fans our entire lives.   

     I also had a very special moment remembering my grandmother, who was the biggest Sox fan I knew!  She passed away during the first round of the MLB playoffs in 2003.  And, she was born in October of 1918 (days after the last time the Sox won the World Series before 2004).  Therefore, she never got to see the Sox win the World Series. 

     I had a Red Sox hat that I wore for years, but never wore again after the night the team won the World Series in 2004.  I still have the hat, but it sits in a box with other memories of my grandmother.

     WYATT:  You are a community activist.  Tell us about that.

     JON:  Growing up, my mother was always very active within our community, serving on the school board, helping run community events, etc.  Her actions became instilled within me.  Though as a child, I never really thought much about it.  

     Prior to moving to Boston in 1997, I always did volunteer work, etc. for various organizations. After I made the move here, I continued. 

chessie-the-one

     Throughout my career in banking I’ve conducted countless financial literacy seminars for all types of organizations/non-profits.  A few years ago I was asked by someone at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department to start doing conducting seminars at their jail.

     Being candid, I was very nervous to do so, as I’d never set foot in a prison before.  After doing my first session there, it became one of my favorite places to go.  The men I do the seminars for are all due to get out between 3 and 6 months.  The majority of them were very excited to have another opportunity to get back into society and do right by themselves and their family.

     Another thing I’ve done, with the help of two community partners is an annual FREE community Thanksgiving dinner.  We do it every year at my friend’s restaurant.  We started this back in 2011, and served around 25 dinners to the community.  Last year we served over 175!  Our goal this year will be to break the 200 mark.

     I also spend a lot of time volunteering and raising money for the Boston Living Center.  The BLCis a nonprofit community and resource center that fosters the wellness of all HIV positive people and responds to the changing needs of the HIV/AIDS community through education, treatment information and support services.

     They also do an annual Thanksgiving event where I volunteer as a “TIPS” server.  I, along with many others raise money through donations for the Boston Living Center.  A week before Thanksgiving, the Boston Living Center hosts a huge Thanksgiving dinner for all of their members and their families.  As a “TIPS” server, you will serve them the entire meal.  This has become my favorite event of the year.

       Another thing I’m proud of is 2 years ago I created a radio show called “Our House” for a local radio station, TOUCH 106.1 FM.  The show discusses various events going on in the community, along with various banking topics to help educate the local community. I spend a good deal of time educating many within the “inner city” of Boston on how to make themselves “bankable” (again), to build/establish credit, set a budget and even buy a house.

     WYATT:  Are you a proponent of marriage equality?  Why or why not?

     JON:  I am absolutely a proponent for marriage equality.  No matter whom you love, you should have the right to marry the person you love. 

     I often struggle with this subject (and many others around equality).  On the surface, we are making great strides.  However, because of that progress, the amount of hate from people who are against it also seems to be growing.

     You and I have had many discussions around this.  People have become so divided around so many issues.  In the end, I still believe love will conquer hate.

     WYATT:  This is the presidential election year.  Jon, if you were elected president, what three issues would you zero in on and try to pass in your first 100 days?

     JON:  Gun control, income equality/poverty, and LGBTQ Rights.

     WYATT:  In “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!”, you see that I’m enamored with eyes.  Yours are so expressive, with wonderment and promise of the future.  Do you believe that eyes are the “windows to the soul?” 

     JON:  Thank you for that compliment.  Many people have told me something similar about my eyes.  Yes, I do believe that eyes are the “windows to the soul.”  When I meet someone for the first time, I instantly can tell the type of person they are from their eyes. 

     In “FRENZY!”,  I think you did a phenomenal job showing how this is true.  That’s all I’ll say as I don’t want to “give the book away” to those who haven’t read it yet. 

     WYATT:  What are the keys to success? 

     JON:  I think the most important one is to find something you’re passionate about, and put everything you have into it.  So many of us, spend the majority of our time in a career/job we are not happy with.

     I know this is easier said than done, but there are countless stories of many who have done it. You’re doing it now!

     WYATT:  Your “sidekick” is Chessie, your “wonder dog!”  I call her “Madam Diva.”  Share her interesting back story. 

     JON:  I’ve always loved dogs.  Chessie is the fifth dog I’ve had in my lifetime.  Nine years ago this past July, I rescued and adopted her.  Chessie was in a high kill shelter in South Carolina. 

    Before Chessie, I’d rescued Bea.  Unfortunately I had to put Bea down two years after I’d adopted her.  She was an older dog and developed bone cancer.  Bea was a Brittany Spaniel/Beagle Mix.  Once she was put down, I vowed never to get another dog again.  The heartbreak was just too much.

     Though about a year later, I casually reached out to the New England Brittany Rescue Association (where I got Bea from) to see if they had any dogs that were similar to Bea, but much younger.  Right away they responded, “You won’t believe this, but we just found out about a dog in South Carolina who is the same mix as Bea (Brittany Spaniel/Beagle), about 3-4 years old.”  It was Chessie.

      Next, they informed me of Chessie’s situation (being in the high kill shelter), sent some pictures and told me that I needed to act fast.  Because of how long she’d been in the shelter, she was due to be put down the next day.

     I immediately became emotional and said, “I’ll take her!”  I knew I was her last chance.

     It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Chessie is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had (Unless you’re another dog and try to get her food!).  I don’t know her full story, but my guess is that she came from a good family, as she was well trained and behaved.  I think she was either lost or abandoned.

     Going back to eyes being the window to the soul:  I’ve never seen a dog that has eyes as intense as hers!  You can immediately tell what she’s feeling when you look into them.

     WYATT:  So, what’s your most fav thing to do while on VACAY?

     JON:  Go to the beach.  I can stare at the ocean for hours; it fascinates me.  As well, I love to walk the beach.  And, I spend lots of time reading there.

     WYATT:  Hey!  You’re a “Pearl Jam-Aholic?” 

     JON:  Most definitely! But I’m equally obsessed with the Dave Matthews Band (DMB).  I’ve seen DMB 63 times, Pearl Jam 33.  I love both bands equally; the difference in the amount of times I’ve seen each comes from DMB touring every year–and always playing in my area.  Pearl Jam has toured almost as often, but tend to only do a certain part of the US. 

     In the last few years, I have traveled to see Pearl Jam.  And they were just in Boston, at Fenway Park (my favorite place in the world).  Their two shows at Fenway was on this past August 8 and 9. Honestly, it’s been an amazing year going to so many shows!  I’m truly blessed by the number of wonderful people I’ve met from all over the world who have the same passion for the band as I do.

     Both bands helped me through some very dark times with their lyrics.  Allow me to share one specific story, it’s around a Dave Matthews song called “Dancing Nancies.”

     When I was 23, I went through a very dark phase dealing with my sexuality.  I became very depressed and thought about suicide a lot.  Wyatt, as you know, I’m not one to express my feelings. Music has always been my escape/outlet to deal with any issues I’m having.

     There was one night where I couldn’t stop crying and wanted to die.  I put “Dancing Nancies” on repeat and managed to cry myself asleep.  The song’s about someone wishing their life was different and they could be somebody else.  In short, what I thought and wished for pretty much every second of the day. 

     “Dancing Nancies” also talks about how we all need to just take a step back and appreciate the powerful, yet simple beauty of the world we live in.  When I woke up the next morning, I was still depressed–but not nearly as much as I was the night before.  The lyrics are what got me through what was the darkest point of my life. 

     I don’t know how many times I’ve seen DMB perform this song, but anytime I see them do it, I get choked up.  I always go back to that night.  I honestly don’t know if I would have made it through without that song.

     WYATT:  Amazing!  I’m so glad that song helped you to “make it through the storm.”

     JON:  Thanks, Wyatt.  As I stated earlier, my grandmother passed away in 2003.  During the funeral, the priest talked at length about spiritual immortality; his words provided comfort in my time of sadness.  When we left the service, the first song that came on in the car was Pearl Jam’s“Immortality.” I immediately became choked up (again) about the loss of my grandmother.

     I was a pallbearer at the funeral.  The weather that day was cold and rainy.  Most everyone stayed in their cars as we went to lay my grandmother to rest.  It was myself, some cousins and uncles.  Of course, we were all quite emotional.

     When I returned to my car, my sister told me that the song that came on the radio while we were walking my grandmother to the grave was “Gravedigger” by Dave Matthews. 

     After breaking down for a few moments, something hit me.  I realized by hearing both “Immortality” and “Gravedigger” (songs by my two favorite bands), it was a sign that my grandmother was okay.

     My closest Pearl Jam friends know this story.  I was with them at the last show (at Wrigley) of the band’s 2016 Tour; we all started the tour back in April in Ft. Lauderdale.   Each of us had general admission tickets, and were able to all hang out together. 

     When the band starts to perform, we know within seconds which song is being played.  As soon as the opening chords started, my friend–who was behind me– immediately put his hand on my shoulder. 

     I’ve experienced many bonding moments like this over the years at both Dave Matthews Band and Pearl Jam concerts.  Ultimately, I think that’s what draws me the most to these bands, and keeps me going back year after year.  It’s the community you always have around you, and who all have the same love and passion for these acts.

     WYATT:  Jon, thanks so much for sharing such personal and poignant experiences.

     WYATT:  Now, let me ask you:  if you were on a deserted island, what three things would you need or/and want?  Would a certain individual be part of that list?

     JON:  If it’s need, it’d be food, water and shelter.  If those bare necessities were already there, I’d then pick my iPod (that somehow runs on solar power), Chessie and my grandmother. 

     WYATT:  You’re devising a “What Makes You Go ‘FRENZY’!” Contest for my fans.  Tell us, Jon:  what makes you go “FRENZY!”???

     JON:  PASSION!  Anytime I become passionate about something, or see someone I love/care about become passionate, I go…ROAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     WYATT:  YOWZA!  Any parting words?

     JON:  Everyone should get ready for the Official Release of “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!”, which will occur this coming Saturday, October 1On the same day, the “FRENZY!” Trailer debuts everywhere on YouTube and other social media platforms. 

     And, stay tuned for upcoming tour dates, contest details and other news.  You can do this by visiting WYATTEVANS.COM; FACEBOOK (www.facebook.com/wyattobrianevans; The Wyatt O’Brian Evans Official Fan Club); TWITTER (www.twitter.com/MisterWOE).

     JON:  Wyatt, thank you for presenting me with the opportunity to become President of The Wyatt O’Brian Evans Official Fan Club!  I’m truly honored, and will do everything in my power to help you reach your fans and expand your fan base.

     WYATT:  Actually, my friend—Thank Y-O-U!!!  I appreciate it more than I can adequately express.  What I will say (again) though is, “Ohhhhhhh Tito—gimme (anotha) tissue!!!”  (LOL!)

Countdown: FRENZY!

     What would you do after the man of your dreams battered you because he believed you’d been unfaithful?  Could you forgive this man to whom you’ve given every piece of your heart?

    Desirable, wealthy gay African-American celebrity Wesley (Wes) Laurence Kelly yearns for a gratifying and enduring love.  Unfortunately, it has slipped through his fingers.  Repeatedly.

    Enter Antonio (‘Tonio) Miguel Rios, a deliciously muscular gay Puerto Rican whom Wes has hired as his bodyguard.  He, too, has failed at love.  Miserably.

    But without warning, that magical, irrefutable and irresistible force known as chemistry totally engulfs the pair!  They forge a strong bond.  However, they’re still too afraid to act on their escalating romantic feelings and sexual urges.

    Soon though, Wes and ‘Tonio break down and profess their love!

    However, a mysterious individual throws their monogamous relationship in dire jeopardy!  This vicious entity manipulates ‘Tonio into believing that Wes is being unfaithful.

    Taking the bait, the FRENZY!-ed bodyguard physically brutalizes his soul mate!  This results in Wes kicking ‘Tonio to the curb.

    And that–along with childhood sexual abuse–cause Wes to split, to become another personality: “Walker”!  The polar opposite of Wes, Walker has a heart of ice!  And, Walker’s deadly to the very core.

    Does Wes reclaim himself?  And, what secrets are buried deep inside ‘Tonio?

    But, most importantly: can Wes and ‘Tonio work their way back to one another?  And, can they still vow that “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart?” 

     The above is the 411 on “FRENZY!”, the latest installment in my “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart”series!  I’m elated and proud to announce that “FRENZY!” is nearly ready to hit the streets:  itsOfficial Release Date is Saturday, October 1

     Now, if you thought that “RAGE!”—the current installment in my “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart”series—was a to-ta-lee unpredictable HOT thrill ride, you ain’t seen (actually, read!) nothing yet!

     And, the reviews are already coming in for “FRENZY!”:  Here are some— 

     “There are some stories that eat us alive internally as long as they remain untold.  Thank you, Wyatt, for telling a story that can be used to open overdue dialogues for healing our community.”–Bobby Smith (“Bits of BS”), Founder, Know No Oppressive Thinking (K.N.O.T.), Inc., an Atlanta-based community organization.

     “Once again, author Wyatt O’Brian Evans turns up the heat to 11 in his new novel, ‘Nothing Can Tear Us Apart–FRENZY!’  Following on from the events in his highly successful ‘Nothing Can Tear Us Apart–RAGE’, ‘FRENZY!’ hits the floor running and does not let up!  Continuing the story ofWesley and ‘Tonio, ‘FRENZY’ is destined to be remembered as the story we have all been waiting for. Get ready to be worked up into a ‘FRENZY!’”–Colin Gunn, Editor, ALL BEAR Magazine.

     “’FRENZY!’, the latest installment in Mr. Wyatt O’Brian Evans’ Nothing Can Tear Us Apart’series, is sexy and bold!  Get ready for a front-row seat to rich and compelling drama–not to mention the twists and turns!  ‘FRENZY!’ is both an educational and rewarding experience!”—Carlton R. Smith, Executive Director/Founder, The Center for Black Equity-Baltimore; Founder, Baltimore Black Pride; Columnist, “Conversations With The Duchess.”

     “‘Nothing Can Tear Us Apart – FRENZY!’, is a delectable read. The story deals with so many relevant current day issues of child abuse/violence, unresolved emotional traumas and the solid love in a relationship between two people.

    “The gripping dialogue kept me spellbound in the explicitly-narrated scenes. It was hot, steamy, sexy and mesmerizing while dealing with the pains of childhood abuse and bullying. Unresolved issues will always creep its ugly head back into our adult lives as clearly illustrated by the character of Wesley/Walker. 

    “Intimate Partner Violence and (IPV/A) is alive and well in all segments of society, and every human is affected in some way–either directly or indirectly. ‘FRENZY!’ deals with this communal issue in a raw yet provocative style. It grabs your attention and maintains it throughout the entire manuscript. Well- written, the story pulls you in like quicksand and never lets you get away. You are caught, hook line and sinker. Masterfully detailed and beautifully written. You get to know each character intimately: I felt like I was present as the story unfolded!   I was totally entwined in the happenings, literally living every word and unable to abandon the work until the end.

    “Wyatt, thank you so much for taking on the task of dealing with such an important topic, adding ‘real life’ to it, and also showing us the beauty of true LOVE between two people. My deepest admiration.”–Rev. Sandy Rodgers, Author, Educator, Minister and Radio Personality (“Life, Love, Wellness: The Sandy Rodgers Show”).

    “Mr. Wyatt O’Brian Evans confronts a plethora of important issues head on in ‘Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!’  Great continued character development and command of storytelling, while describing physical and mental conditions that make this a worthy sequel to ‘Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—RAGE!’   Mr. Evans keeps the dialogue lively and the action moving along. This book has something to impress nearly all readers!”—Khalid El-Bey, Activist; ONYX Mid-Atlantic; Leatherman of Color 2016.

     “In the compelling and highly-satisfying ‘FRENZY!’, the latest installment in the ‘Nothing Can Tear Us Apart’ series, Wyatt O’Brian Evans gives the reader strong and relatable drama, even more nuanced character development, and twists and turns.  And, kudos to Mr. Evans for confronting critical societal issues.  ‘FRENZY!’ certainly has universal appeal! –BRUHS, Book Reading Uplifts His Spirit.

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     So, the clock is tickin’:  the “FRENZY!” Official Release Date is Saturday, October 1!  In the days to come, I’ll share the “FRENZY!” Official Cover and Poster, bonus graphics—as well as the ab-so-lute-ly hawt TRAILER!  Stay tuned…

     And check this out:  during the month of October, I’m giving a 20% percent discount on each copy of “FRENZY!”—that is, if you order from my on line home, WYATTEVANS.COM!  It will be very easy to do.  So, be sure to regularly visit WYATTEVANS.COM for continuing details on “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!”   Freakin’ YOWZA!!!

     Y’all, get ready for OCTOBER 1!!!  It’s one helluva Main Event.

One Step Closer To The Cure

     Outstanding news! Just recently, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) was awarded a contract from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help advance the development of potential AIDS vaccines.

     IAVI is a global, non-profit, public-private partnership that works to accelerate the development of vaccines to prevent HIV and AIDS. The Initiative researches and develops vaccine candidates, conducts policy analyses, serves as an advocate for the HIV prevention field, and engages communities in the trial process and AIDS vaccine education.

     While emphasizing the need for new AIDS prevention tools, IAVI takes a comprehensive approach to HIV and AIDS that supports existing prevention and treatment programs of the virus. And, the initiative works to ensure that future vaccines will be accessible to all who need them.

     The contract earmarks $98 million over seven years. And specifically, IAVI will provide various services to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)—part of NIH—in its mission to manufacture HIV envelope protein immunogens that can prevent infection. These immunogens are being developed to induce a protective immune response that wards off HIV. The hope is to manufacture immunogens and then test them in human clinical trials.

     Mark Feinberg, IAVI president and CEO stated, “’IAVI is dedicated to expediting the development and global availability of an effective vaccine, and is committed to supporting the success of the overall efforts of the HIV vaccine field. Building on IAVI’s experience in the characterization and production of HIV envelope vaccine candidates, our efforts to advance the work of NIAID-supported investigators will also provide additional opportunities to develop and share insights and innovations into how to make the HIV vaccine production process as reliable, robust and timely as possible’.”

     Continued Feinberg, “’Given the imperative to accelerate HIV vaccine development efforts, this new partnership with NIAID promises to facilitate meaningful progress and impact towards this goal’.”

     2016 is a banner year for IAVI: it marks two decades that The Initiative has been searching for an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Chris Dickerson—“Profile in (Fierce) Courage”

“What a man, what a man, what a man…What a mighty good man…” –Whatta Man,” by Salt-n-Pepa with En Vogue. 

     When I was growing up—as my gay identity was forming and burning brightly within–that’s what I ascribed to African-American bodybuilder Chris Dickerson, an IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness) Mr. Olympia legendOn a number of levels, I was intrigued by and enamored with him.  And being a bodybuilder enthusiast intensified my “crushing” on the handsome and virile competitor, known for his heavily muscled, symmetrical physique:  at 5’6”, he had a competition weight of 184 pounds.

     And then there was Dickerson’s “mad” skills on the posing dais that elevated his impeccable musculature, and helping him excel as a bodybuilder.  His study of acting, dance, music and gymnastics always made his routines pure theatre.  As a result, he’s widely considered as one of the best posers the sport has ever known. 

     Actually, “Whatta Man” fits Chris to a tee because he was the very first bodybuilder to come out as gay/SGL (same-gender-loving).  That took such amazing chutzpah, intestinal fortitude and “brass balls” because of the era: the late 1970’s. 

     One of the world’s most titled bodybuilders, Dickerson’s competitive career spanned 30 years and 50 contests.  And, he became one of the greatest ambassadors the sport has ever known.   

     This maverick, this man before his time, turns 77 on August 25.  So, Happy

B-DAY, Mr. Henri Christophe “Chris” Dickerson!  This is your life.

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Beginnings 

     Chris was born on August 25, 1939 in Montgomery, Alabama, the youngest of a set of triplets, which included Alfred and John.  His mother, Mahala Ashley Dickerson, was a legend in her own right.  Counting the Civil Rights trailblazer Rosa Parksas a lifelong friend, she chalked up a number of firsts:  Alabama’s first Black female attorney in 1948; Alaska’s first Black attorney, admitted to the bar in 1959; and the first Black president of the National Association of Women Lawyers, from 1983-1984.

     Mahala remarried and the family moved to Indianapolis when Chris was 13.  According to www.davidgentle.com, a website dedicated to the history of physical culture, “Chris attended Quaker school.  And after high school in 1957, he went to the New York Academy of Dramatic Art and studied acting, dramatics and music, aiming to sing opera.  His singing coach later suggested that weight training would help to improve his chest and lungs, and therefore his singing voice.”

     The website continued, “He then went on to California to visit his aunt, and saw a photograph of Bill Pearl (the iconic bodybuilder champion of the 1950’s and ‘60’s; named “World’s Best-Built Man of the Century”) in a muscle magazine.  The picture inspired him enough to take the plunge into the world of weights, and visit Bill’s gym to seek guidance from the top.”

     Now 24 (which today is considered rather “late in the game” to start a bodybuilding career), “Chris first began his quest for the impossible dream of a short, black man to win the top bodybuilding accolades,” stated the site.  “So in September 1963, Chris went from his L. A. home to Bill Pearl’s gym on Manchester Boulevard where he was personally coached and also encouraged by Bill, at first training three times a week, whilst then working at an L. A. hospital as an orderly.”  

 

The Competitive Life 

“’Sometimes, I feel disappointed with bodybuilding.  To be able to have such big muscles, I feel, should make man’s character strong, but sometimes, this is not the case’.”

     Now, fast forward to October 1965.  Chris entered his first contest—The Mr. Long Beach—and placed third.  He later said, “’To this day, this trophy remains my sentimental favorite.  I was never to be the same again after winning my first trophy’.” After returning to the East Coast in 1966, he captured a total of 12 titles in 12 months, including the Mr. New York State, Mr. Eastern America, and Junior Mr. USA. 

     And according to davidgentle.com, “All the while, his acting abilities, dance and mime from dramatic arts complemented his posing to make the most of presenting his ever improving physique, along with his now famous diamond-shaped calves, which Chris admits were a gift of genetics.  Asked then of his views on what constituted an award-winning physique, he said, ‘The ideal physique is one with broad shoulders, a small, tapered waist, shapely and developed legs.  The neck, arms and calves should all measure the same or close to it.  It is equally important to work on your posing in order to show off what development you have attained to your best advantage’.”

     While emerging as a successful competitor, Chris worked as a physique model, appearing in all the physique mags.  As well, he posed for a multitude of nude photos–including some for the iconic Colt Studios.  Of course, this was a huge factor in his popularity within the gay/SGL community.

     In 1967, Chris won the Mr. California—assisted by those FAB-U-LOUS calves, which caused a considerable stir.  Rarely did this competitor train his lower legs; instead, he devoted most of his efforts and energies to abs, arms—and, of course, posing. 

     “It was after his Californian win that his real dream began, that of winning Mr. America,” according to the site.  “He tried at first in 1967 placing 6th, and in 1968 placed 3rd.  In 1969, Boyer Coe beat him by the closest margin in bodybuilding history—just a quarter of a point!”

     “(But then in 1970) his dedication, persistence and long training under Bill Pearl had come to fruition, and Chris had achieved his impossible dream to become the first Black bodybuilder to win the Mr. America.”  The win allowed Chris to travel extensively, give lectures, and book guest appearances and TV spots.  Along with that came an invitational posing tour of Japan.

     His advice to beginners?  “’Be prepared, have your poses down pat, practice, practice and practice.  Expect to be nervous, but try to enjoy yourself on stage; and if you do not place number one, blame yourself and not the judges.  Keep in mind no one will remember your losses.  People only remember the winner’.”

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The Mr. Os:  The Controversy and “The Vindication” 

“’Being a competitor can be really rough.  Physique competitions are difficult to judge.  Learning to win is easy but knowing how to lose is a much truer test of the stuff we are made of.  Being a competitor can bring out the very best and the worst in our nature’.”

     In 1980, Chris had to really cling to that statement after the Mr. O (Olympia), the most prestigious–and the ultimate–bodybuilding tournament.  You see, Arnold Schwarzenegger–who was retiring and “in less than perfect shape” and still riding the crest of the success of “Conan the Barbarian”–beat out Dickerson.  Actually, many observers believed Chris should have won the title.  According to bodybuilding.com, Bill Reynolds of Muscle and Fitness magazine stated, “’Arnold wasn’t in his best shape but fairly good shape at the 1980 Olympia’.”  He added, “’Not bad after a five year retirement…whipping himself together in such a short period of time’.”

     And in the following year, Chris placed number two.  Once again. 

     But ahhh…the winds of change were a-comin’…

     For finally in 1982, at age 43, Dickerson became the first African-American, the oldest, and first openly gay Mr. Olympia. Although he had lots of fame and was living rather comfortably (his own line of gym apparel, lectures, travel, etc.), he stated that “the real money” never came.  Unfortunately, the advertising contracts and lucrative deals eluded him.

     In 1994, Chris won first place in the 50+ category at the IFBB Masters Olympia, his last contest.  Discontinued in 2003, the competition was designed as a venue for former champs past the age of 40.  And in 2000, he was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame.    

 

Afterlife

     What’s Chris up to today?  Well, he’s an active Florida retiree writing his memoirs (having had three serious relationships). A personal trainer, he works with an older, more mature clientele looking to live a longer and healthier lifestyle.  And, he continues to lecture.

     Even after seeing much and having been through a lot (he’s undergone knee, hip and shoulder replacement surgeries), he maintains his optimism. 

     As I stated in the intro: “What a man, what a man, what a man…What a mighty good man…!”

 

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The Big Boy Project: The Oasis For Bigger Guys

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”—Milton Berle, iconic comedian/actor.   

     This is the mantra that James Butler lives by.  Mr. Butler is the founder of The Big Boy Project (BBP), a dynamic and cutting edge infotainment site that is specifically designed for larger men—and those who have an affinity for them. 

     According to Butler, who is 28 years old and openly gay/SGL, The Big Boy Project is “about bears/big boys of color coming together to express our opinions on world news, gay topics, and pop culture news.”

     As you’ll soon learn, BBP was born out of Butler’s poignant and at times uneasy journey of self-discovery.  Just recently, I had an exclusive sit-down with the engaging and driven founder of this fascinating, growing and evolving enterprise.  

 

     EVANS:  James, welcome to Wyattevans.com!  I appreciate you taking the time.

     BUTLER:  Certainly!  It’s good to be here, Wyatt.

     EVANS:  Well let’s jump right into things by getting personal.  You grew up in Leesburg, Georgia? How far is that from “Hawtlanta” (Atlanta)?

     BUTLER:  (Smiling.)  Leesburg is about three or four hours away from Atlanta;  all depends on the traffic.  (LOL.)

     EVANS:  So, what was growing up like in Leesburg?

     BUTLER:  Growing up in Leesburg was an interesting experience!  I had to deal with two types of people:  the southern hospitality side and the southern racist side. To make things short, it was a roller coaster ride.

    EVANS:  James, you’ve stated that you “detested school.”  Why?

     BUTLER:  I was so shy and awkward in high school, which made me an easy target for bullying and ridicule–as well as dealing with teachers who did not want to teach.  They just wanted to collect their paychecks.

     EVANS:  That was unfortunate.  James, you’ve also stated, “Being in the South, racism and bullying were also a day-to-day battle.”  

     BUTLER:  Some people in the South are still stuck in that old-school mentality that people of color are beneath them; so at school or work, I had to hear ignorant statements about me and my skin color, which caused me to keep to myself.

     EVANS:  Exactly why were you bullied?  Was it because of your size and/or sexual orientation? 

 

     BUTLER:  The answer to that question is “D”–all of the above!  (He takes a deep breath.)  I was a fat, awkward Black boy with acne and sexual identity issues.  I was a very easy target.

    EVANS:  Needless to say, that had to be traumatic.  What was the impact of the bullying and racism?  How did it affect you emotionally, mentally?

     BUTLER:  Oh, I hated myself!  I believed everything the bullies told me about myself; so much that I often cried when I got home from school. I remember eating lunch in an empty classroom to avoid being picked on, thinking that no one wanted me around.  (His eyes acutely expresses those memories.)

     EVANS:  James, when and how did you come to the realization that you were gay/SGL?   How did that impact you? 

     BUTLER:  The 11th grade was the year I fully realized I was gay. It was a confusing time for me. I didn’t have people to talk to about my gay feelings. My parents were not any help; so basically, I had to learn things on my own by doing research online–as well as by physical trial and error.  (LOL.)

     EVANS:  Would you say that this realization–along with the bullying and racism–caused you to become more reclusive? 

     BUTLER:  Yes, I became extremely reclusive.

     EVANS:  I see.  How did you deal with and manage the hurt and pain?

     BUTLER:  By reading and drawing, which were my two forms of escape. Later, writing came into play.

     EVANS:  You’ve said that the Internet was instrumental in your self-validation.  You’ve stated, “The answer to my problems was the Internet; finding gay social sites like BGC Live and Bigger City was a life saver for me. Interacting with gay men was an amazing experience, but one site named Kingz Place made me want to have something of my own. A website dedicated to bigger black men, Kingz Place was where you could create your own groups, chat with black bears, have intelligent conversation–and so much more. It was my go-to place for acceptance and I loved it.”  Can you elaborate?

     BUTLER:  Sure.  The Internet was a big help. When I had questions that I couldn’t ask out loud, I’d always go to it for the answers.   (He smiles.)  So one day I was looking up something crazy–I forgot what it was–but I remember clicking on a link that took me to BGC Live, and I was in heaven!

    Seeing gay men like me in one place was amazing!  From there I also discovered other social sites like Bigger City; my favorite site at the time was Kingz Place.

     EVANS:  And, you created your own group on Kingz Place?  What was it called? 

     BUTLER:  I really don’t remember the name of the group; I just remember that it was dedicated to chubby nerds.  (LOL.).

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     EVANS:  With that experience, you created The Big Boy Project.  You’ve said that blogging was instrumental in its formation? 

     BUTLER.  Correct.

     EVANS:  According to you, “Throughout the years, blogging became my therapy where I could write and discuss the issues I wanted to, and express my feelings on certain topics. Blogging has opened so many doors in my life: from meeting experienced writers, interviewing musicians, talking to dancers, etc.”  Please expound.

     BUTLER:  Even though I’m not a professional blogger, blogging became freedom. I could say what I wanted and talk about what I wanted; and over time, blogging coincided with YouTube, where I could express myself on camera.

     EVANS:  James, what’s BBP’s purpose and mission?

     BUTLER:  Our purpose and mission are to become a brand that gives gay men of color—and particularly bears/big boys of color–a voice.  You don’t see bear/big boys of color discussing topics that relate to us.

     EVANS:  As founder, what are your duties and responsibilities?

     BUTLER:  I do the editing and graphics for all of the shows on The Big Boy Project YouTube channel, and I manage The Big Boy Project website.  And, before any ideas are executed, I make sure that everyone is on the same page.

     EVANS:  James, let’s give your staff and contributors shout-outs and some “luv!”  Tell us who they are and what they do.

     BUTLER:  They are:  Jose, Lynx, Tamon, Mark, Eddie, Adrian, JaWon, Cecil, Tony, Ali, and Elvis. As you can see, it’s a large cast of individuals that help with the content for The Big Boy Project brand. We don’t have positions or titles. We all work as a collective, but each person has specific skills and experiences that channel different perspectives to certain topics.  

     Jose has extreme knowledge of nerd culture and technology. Lynx is well- versed in coding, graphics and nerd culture.  Tamon is a writer and film director. Mark is a writer for some of the well-known blogs.  Eddie and Adrian reside in L.A., and bring different perspectives on gay culture and events.   JaWon is a writer and gamer.   Cecil is a therapist who brings his own expertise and perspective.  Tony is a music artist and an advocate for Bears of Color.  Ali knows the bear culture like no other, and is a huge comic book enthusiast.  And last but not least is Elvis, who is a YouTube brand film major.  So many different backgrounds and so many different opinions makes The Big Boy Project so great!

     EVANS:  Is there any difference or distinction between the terms “bears” and “big boys?”  Do they overlap?

     BUTLER:  It’s all depends on whom you ask.  So many people have different definitions for the terms “bear” and “big boy.”  The bear community is a welcoming and understanding group; however, some of the bear communities neglect to show other ethnicities and cultures in their events, ads, and other media– which makes bears of color feel unwanted. 

     That’s the main reason why the term “big boy” originated.  The big boy community was created to cater to thicker men of color.   In a lot of ways, bears and big boys do indeed overlap.  But their motivation started the same–to have acceptance.

      EVANS:  Great points, James.  Now then, let’s take the racial aspect even further.  A few years back, I wrote a multi-part, syndicated series on racism in the LGBTQ community entitled, “The Cancer That Slowly Consumes Our Very Souls: Racism.”  So, here’s my question:  is the white bear/bigger men community altogether welcoming to black bears and larger guys?

     BUTLER:  The bear community is dominantly white, and with any group there will be people that don’t want to fuse the races. However, there are many prominent bears of color who are changing the dynamic of what bears are.  The big boy community was created to counteract the lack of racial diversity.  

     EVANS:  Let’s talk about body image pressures on gay/SGL men, which is a huge and pervasive problem.  Research shows that on the whole, gay/SGL men don’t like their bodies very much.  This is because gay/SGL men spend a lot of time in places that ascribe a premium on physical appearance: bars, gyms, and sex clubs. 

     Sadly, we live in a sexualized subculture that places an emphasis on physical attractiveness.  What’s your take on this?  Do you believe that bear/bigger men organizations and clubs are a response to, as well as a safe haven for body image pressures?

     BUTLER:  A lot of gay men do not like their bodies because all we see are overly photo shopped men in the media. We try to live up to those standards, and it’s simply not possible. The bear/big men culture are more accepting when it comes to body image.  However, because sex sells, we sometimes use the same tactics and show certain body types over others.

     EVANS:  Your “Bear Talk” episodes on YouTube explore and dissect cutting-edge issues and feature guests who make a difference.  What was the impetus behind your creation of “Bear Talk?” 

     BUTLER:  I wanted to create the “Bear Talk” series to bring something different to YouTube, and to discuss topics and issues from a bear/big boy point of view.

     EVANS:  This is the perfect segue way for perspectives and points of view; so, let’s tackle some. First, are you an advocate of marriage equality?  Why or why not?

     BUTLER:  I’m a big advocate for marriage equality. We have the right to marry whom we love. We pay taxes, we have children and loved ones, and we are people. This nation says “the land of the free,” and it’s about time we live up to the name we so represent.

     EVANS:  Georgia is hard hit by HIV.  For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta has an HIV epidemic comparable to that of third-world African countries.  Therefore, would you date a HIV-poz guy if he were undetectable and healthy? 

     BUTLER:  Of course I would date someone with HIV.  That’s not an issue for me at all because I’ve done my research and know what HIV is. People still think HIV is a death sentence when it’s not. It’s disappointing to see and hear people bypass beautiful people because of one mistake or something out of their control.

     EVANS:  My sentiments precisely.  Now, what’s your take on both interracial and intergenerational dating?  Would any factors preclude you from dating outside your race and/or age bracket?

     BUTLER:  My answer is pretty simple: love is love. People are going to have their qualms about interracial or intergenerational dating. As long as you’re dating for the right reasons and the person is of legal age, I don’t see the issue. To answer your second question, the color of your skin doesn’t matter to me; and as long as you are of legal age, then we can see where the adventure goes.  (He’s smiling.)

     EVANS:  James, what drives you?

     BUTLER:  What drives me to do what I do is to make a change in how the world sees the bear/big boy community.   What also drives me is to spread awareness on gay culture as a whole, and to show that gay men are more than what the media presents us as. 

     EVANS:  Let’s talk achievement and winning.  What are the three most important “weapons” one must have in his/her “arsenal of success?” 

     BUTLER:  Motivation.  You have to know what you want to do with your brand, and how to stand out from the others.  Knowledge.  To be the best at anything in life, you have to study and research. That’s how you grow.
Humbleness.  When people reach a certain level of success, an ego can arise and make you forget your goals.  Staying humble keeps you grounded to your true purpose.

     EVANS:  Does The Big Boy Project educate the larger gay/SGL community about bears/bigger men?

    BUTLER:  Yes, I believe we educate men of the plus-size nature; however, we also want to educate gay men in general.  We educate by talking about certain topics from a bear/big boy perspective, as well as interview people who are from the bear/big boy community.  We always try to shed some light on the plus-size community.

     EVANS:  What’s on the horizon for The Big Boy Project? 

     BUTLER:  (Grinning.)  OMG! A lot of things.  New video segments for the channel.  We’re working on shirts and merchandise.  And hopefully in the future, we’ll create our own events. There’s a lot to look forward to!

     EVANS:  Outstanding!  So, how do we connect with and follow you?

     BUTLER:  Our website is www.thebigboyproject.com.  There, you can find something for almost everyone–from fashion and hygiene, to the latest bear news and updates…and much more.

     And, you can contact us three ways: on our YouTube channel www.youtube.com/c/thebigboyproject1 or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thebigboyproject.  And of course, our website.

     EVANS:  James, thanks for such an enlightening and informative interview. 

     BUTLER:  It was my pleasure, Wyatt.

Broken Bones, Broken Dreams—An Update

Cover photo by Don Gillard     

Towering over me and yelling at the top of his lungs, Antonio, my 6’4”, 280 pound muscled life partner, had me pinned against the wall–his huge, clammy left hand now grasping my neck!  I couldn’t move.                                          

    All the while, the following thoughts flashed in my head:   “This can’t be happening!  How can the man who’s repeatedly professed his undying love be doing this to me?  How can he hurt me this way? HOW???” 

    And then, Antonio…!    

    These are excerpts from my latest novel, Nothing Can Tear Us Apart–RAGE!”  The two protagonists are ‘Tonio and Wes, who are in a monogamous relationship 

     Tragically, ‘Tonio allows old demons and vicious manipulations to cause him to snap.  As a result, he batters Wes—committing the horrendous act of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A).    

     “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!”, the riveting and searing sequel, drops in October. “FRENZY!” continues the saga of Wes and ‘Tonio, delving even deeper inside the psyches of these two men.  You, the reader, will find out what buried traumas drive these men.  And, get ready for more masculine romance, rich psychological drama, intrigue, action, twists and turns—and provocative sexual situations. 

     Right after the release of “Nothing Can Tear Us Apart—FRENZY!,” I embark on a national book tour and IPV/A seminars/workshops.  Stay tuned right here at Wyattevans.com for news and details.

     Nearly two years ago, I interviewed Kyle, a victim of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse.  His was a raw and revealing story.

     Fortunately, he made his “Great Escape” from this life-threatening situation in just the nick of time.  I decided to follow up with this survivor, to find out how life has been treating him.

     Before sharing “life after,” I’m recounting his horrific experience with IPV/A.  But first, let’s understand exactly what this abusive behavior is…and its ramifications.  

So:  Just What Is “Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A)”? 

     In the LGBTQ community, domestic violence/abuse is generally referred to as Intimate Partner Violence/Abuse (IPV/A).  The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs defines IPV/A as “a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control, through fear and intimidation, over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship.” 

     Anyone—and I do mean anyone–can become a victim of domestic violence and abuse, regardless of size, strength, age, gender, or sexual orientation.  I’m an IPV/A survivor, and know of others who’ve experienced this dysfunctional and destructive behavior first hand. 

      Statistics show that this form of behavior occurs with similar frequency as in heterosexual relationships.    Additionally, new research suggests that a greater percentage of LGBTQ individuals are living in fear of an abusive partner than previously thought.  It is estimated that each year, between 50,000-100,000 lesbians (or more) and as many as 500,000 (or more) gay men are battered.   About one in four LGBTQ relationships/partnerships are abusive in some way—about the same as in heterosexual relationships. 

     However, IPV/A is often overlooked, excused, or denied.  And according to psychologists/authors Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith, the emotional abuse component is a larger problem than you believe.   They state, “Many men and women suffer from emotional abuse, which is no less destructive.  Unfortunately, emotional abuse is often minimized or overlooked, even by the person being abused.”  Examples include using offensive/derogatory names, racial epithets and homophobic language.

     As I stated in “It’s (Just) the Way That I Love You:  Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships,” the multi-part series I researched and wrote exclusively for Huffington Post Queer Voices, there are numerous signs of IPV/A.  The most telling is fear of your partner, that you feel you have to “walk on eggshells” around him/her.  Other prominent signs:  excusing frequent injuries as “accidents;” agreeing to everything your partner says/does; being forced into sexual activity; isolating you; threatening to “out” you; blaming you for his/her actions.    

     Now, here’s the “universal Q”:  Can abusers really control their behavior?    Yes!  Typically, according to Segal and Smith, they reserve their actions for those whom they profess to love.  Abusers carefully choose when and where to strike, and cease their destructive behavior when it’s advantageous for them.

     And then there’s the story of Kyle.  

Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse 8

 

Kyle’s Story

    Kyle, a twenty-eight-year-old Caucasian, is an IPV/A survivor.  He agreed to sit down with me on the condition that I refer to him by his middle name.  Kyle says that “Derrick,” his ex-partner, a thirty-year-old African-American, horrifically abused him for nearly two years.   

     EVANS:  Kyle, thanks for agreeing to share your important story.  When and how did you meet Derrick?

     KYLE:  (His eyes light up.) It was in mid-January 2011, at a Sprint store in Laurel (Maryland). Our eyes locked, and the chemistry was instantaneous! 

     KYLE:  He initiated a conversation, and we walked out of the store together.  He took my number, and said he’d call.  (Pause.)  I couldn’t wait!  I was so damned attracted. 

     EVANS:  Kyle, exactly what was the attraction?

     KYLE:  Wyatt, I was very needy.  Derrick was easy-going and self-assured, and seemed nurturing. And so handsome!  He was that “daddy” I was looking for. 

     EVANS:  When did he call?

     KYLE:  Late that night, and we talked for hours!  Derrick wanted to see me the next evening, at my apartment.   Since he was insistent, I agreed.  I was flattered.

    EVANS:  And that evening?

     KYLE:  Immediately, we ended up in bed.  And the sex was absolutely mind-blowing!  We became a couple right after that.

     EVANS:  So Kyle, how long did the “honeymoon” last?

     KYLE:  (He laughs nervously.)  Not very long.  Derrick became possessive—constantly calling to check up on me.  Wanting me with him practically 24/7.  Isolating me.   He was such an overwhelming presence.

     KYLE:  But being needy, I liked it–at first.  Thought it was love.  I kept saying to myself, “I’m so lucky to have him!”  

     KYLE:  And the sex was a drug. 

     EVANS:  Things became even more extreme, correct? 

     KYLE:  Absolutely!  The mind control began.  Derrick told me how to think, act, and dress.  And my biggest mistake was agreeing to let him move in with me. 

    KYLE:  (suddenly becoming solemn.)  The verbal—racial crap, etc.—started soon after. 

    EVANS:  And the physical?

    (Kyle takes a deep breath.) 

   KYLE:  A few weeks after moving in, he accuses me of cheating.  Totally ridiculous!  Derrick was all up in my face, shouting.  I was totally petrified!

   KYLE:  (Pause.)  Then, he decks me.  Hard!  I fall to the floor. 

   (Kyle begins to sob.  I ask him to take his time.)

   KYLE:  I was completely “out of it.”  Then, Derrick grabs me by the collar, screaming, “You nasty little white whore!  Wake tha f**k up!  We ain’t done yet!” 

   KYLE:  Next, he drags me to the bathroom.  To the toilet!  And then he…”

   EVANS:  And then he “what, Kyle?  (He’s sobbing heavily now, rocking back and forth.  He’s in “flashback mode.”) 

   KYLE:  He…he shoves my head into the toilet!  Over and over again! (Pause.)  Water’s all up my nose.  I’m gasping for air.  I felt like I’d pass out! 

   KYLE:  (Long pause.)  Actually, I just wanted to go to sleep…and not wake up.

    (Kyle states that the verbal and physical abuse worsened and escalated.   Fortunately, another gay couple helped him make his “Great Escape.”

    EVANS:  Kyle, why did you stay as long as you did?

    KYLE:  Out of fear, shame and the stigma.  (He gulps.)  And definitely a serious lack of self-worth.   

    Kyle’s moved out of the area, and is in counseling.  And, Derrick?  Well, he’s doing jail time.  

 

Fast Forward…To Now 

     EVANS:  Kyle, it’s been awhile since we last spoke.  How have you been getting along?

     KYLE:  Well Wyatt, I have to admit that in the beginning it was rough!  What Derrick put me through shook me to my very core.  (Pause.)  Actually, shattered me.

     EVANS:  And speaking of Derrick—is he still in prison?

     KYLE:  Yes.

     EVANS:   Do you know when his sentence ends?

     KYLE:  Actually, in the not too distant future.  I’m going to get confirmation on that soon. 

     EVANS:  How do you feel about his impending release?

     KYLE:  (Dread washes over his face.)  Not good!  Not good at all.

     EVANS:  You began therapy right after you relocated, correct?

     KYLE:  I did.

     EVANS:  Kyle, how did that work for you?

     KYLE:  Well, I had to go through two counselors before finding the right one for me.  She’s amazing!

     EVANS:  Are you still seeing her?

     KYLE:  Off and on now.  In the beginning, I saw her once a week—sometimes twice—for a little over a year.  It was a struggle, but well worth it.

     EVANS:  You know, I’m a strong advocate of psychological counseling.  At various points in my life, I’ve been “on the couch” for different issues—including IPV/A.  It was invaluable.

     KYLE:  Wyatt, my therapist saved my life!  She helped me deal with my issues, repair my self-worth and self-esteem.  Because of her, I’ve been able to put my life back together. 

     KYLE:  (Next, he smiles.)  Well, more or less.

     EVANS:  Kyle, I’m so happy for you!  Are you dating now? 

     KYLE:  Actually, I am!  One guy.  I’m taking things slow, however.

     EVANS:  Excellent!  Kyle, what words of encouragement and wisdom do you have for victims who are trapped in an abusive relationship?

     KYLE:  First and foremost:  no one deserves to be abused!  Second:  it is NOT your fault!  It never is.  Third:  you must tell as many people as possible, people whom you trust.  Somehow, you must make your “Great Escape,” the phrase you’ve coined.  But keep in mind:  you need a well thought-out plan and strategy before attempting to leave your abuser.  That’s critical. 

     KYLE:  I will never again allow myself to be in an abusive situation!  I’ll run like hell as soon as I see the warning signs.

     EVANS:  Thanks so much, Kyle.  Your story is an inspiration!  Continued good luck to you.

     KYLE:  And thank you, Wyatt. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, call: the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901).  And always remember:  it ain’t (just) the way that he/she loves you.

One Million Dollars in Prevention

     Last year, I wrote an article for Wyattevans.com entitled, “The Quiet Invader within Native Americans.”  In it, I reported the unfortunate and harsh reality that HIV testing, treatment and care are not reaching Native Americans the same way as they are other U. S. citizens. 

     Fortunately though, much-needed assistance is on the way.  According to The Associated Press, The Indian Health Service (IHS)–the federal Native-American health care organization—and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are awarding up to $1 million to Native-American tribes and organizations for HIV care and prevention.  The funding may also be allocated to organizations like Two-Spirit, a Native-American LGBTQ group.

     The grant comes at a time when HIV-positive Native Americans have poorer survival rates compared with other races and ethnicities.  The mission of IHS is three-pronged:  to decrease transmission of the virus, reduce the number of new infections, and increase education and discussion about HIV in the Native-American community.

     Rear admiral Sarah Linde, MD, the IHS acting chief medical officer, stated, “IHS data shows that as many as 26 percent of the American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) people living with HIV infection do not know it.” 

    And according to Lisa Neel–a program analyst at the HIV Program for IHS, there are an assortment of reasons why.  “Poverty, which limits access to doctors and can put health concerns on the back burner for those struggling to feed themselves, is an all too common problem for Native Americans.”

     Neel also states, “That compared with other racial and ethnic groups, American Indians and Alaska Natives have higher poverty rates, have completed fewer years of education, are younger, are less likely to be employed, and have lower rates of health insurance coverage.”

     Often, this results into individuals not getting tested; therefore, scores are oblivious that they are in fact HIV-positive.  Tragically, this results in some of those infected not getting needed treatment until their HIV advances to the point that they experience symptoms.

     Neel is concerned that “cultural stigma faced by some gay and bisexual Native American men could also be discouraging testing and treatment,” and cites the higher rates of alcohol and drug use among all American Indians and Alaska Natives.

     She concludes, “Although alcohol and substance abuse does not cause HIV infection, it is an associated risk factor because of its ability to reduce inhibitions and impair judgment.  Compared with other racial/ethnic groups, AI/AN tend to use alcohol and drugs at a younger age, use them more often, and in higher quantities, and experience more negative consequences from them.”

     The funding will be distributed over the course of five years, with up to $200,000 being granted per year.  To receive funding, tribes and nonprofits must apply by August 28

R.L. Norman

R. L. Norman: The Old School Romantic, Part Two

     Recently, I had the distinct pleasure to sit down with Mr. R. L. Norman, exclusively for the Huffington Post Queer VoicesArguably, Mr. Norman is that quintessential Renaissance man:  he’s an entrepreneur, videographer, performer, columnist, internet host, and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  

     His fifth and brand new installment in the series is, “Honey Hush; Don’t Ask And I Won’t Tell.” In Part Two of my series on Norman, he shares his heart-wrenching experience with Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, visibility of people of color in the media…and more!

     Visit:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/rl-norman-the-old-school-_1_b_11071600.html

You’re Just Not My “Cup of Tea”

     Several years ago, I penned an influential and award-winning series entitled “The Cancer That Slowly Consumes Our Very Souls: Racism.”  Syndicated in numerous print and on line media outlets, it explored racism and discrimination within the LGBTQ community.  You can find the majority of the series at:  bilerico/lgbtqnation.com/2009/03/racism_the_cancer_that_slowly_consumes_o.php.

     One of the issues I detailed was how race influences and plays into the formation of gay identities.  This has a deep, profound and telling impact on whom we choose to date, have sex and partner with—and who does the same regarding us.

      With the sharply escalating racial violence occurring in this country, I decided to revisit this particular issue.  Therefore, without further ado, I present:

 

      “They Don’t Want To Cruise Your Type”

 

     In Part Four of “The Cancer That Slowly Consumes Our Very Souls: Racism,” I referenced the paper, “They Don’t Want to Cruise Your Type: Gay Men of Color and the Racial Politics of Exclusion,” written by Chong-suk Han and  featured in the publication Social Identities. Exceptionally researched and written, as well as being theoretically sophisticated, Han’s treatise effectively and overwhelmingly demonstrates how white supremacy within the LGBTQ community marginalizes and negatively impacts its minority populations.  Dr. Han states, “In this paper, I examine the forms of racism that are found in gay communities and show how race is implicated in the construction of gay identities.  Particularly, I focus on subtle and blatant forms of racism that negate the existence of gay men of color and how racism affects the way we see gay men.”

     An associate professor of sociology at Vermont’s Middleburg College, Dr. Han also is a researcher, whose highly regarded work in particular points to how sexual and racial stereotyping and internalization combine to put gay Asian Pacific men at greater risk of HIV infection.  He has been widely published in theoretical social science journals and in health research/social work periodicals.

     Warning:  Dr. Han’s assertions, which are candid and not sugarcoated, might rankle and “get under the skin” of some of you.  Therefore, you may beg to differ.    

     However, throughout this article, I’m featuring images of loving interracial couples.  This gives us hope and inspiration.

     To retain the robust flavor of Dr. Han’s landmark, eye-opening “They Don’t Want to Cruise Your Type,” I’ll present excerpts, mostly word for word.

Interracial One Interracial Gay Dating

     In the introduction, Dr. Han states, “Despite the civil rights dialogue used by the gay
community, many ‘gay’ organizations and members of the ‘gay’ community continue to exclude men of color from leadership positions and ‘gay’ establishments, thus continuing to add to the notion that ‘gay’ equals ‘white’.  Likewise, gay men of color experience homophobia within their racial and ethnic communities.”

     Next, he speaks about a “forum on race” that he attended.  “As the audible levels of conversations begin to wane, organizers urge the audience of some 200 men, and a handful of women, to take their seats so we can all begin.  Within minutes, a representative of the host agency lays out ground rules of discussion—most noticeably that we will not, given the limited time, try to define racism while quickly offering that, ‘everyone is capable of racism’, a definition that many men of color in the audience would, if given the chance, vehemently dispute.

     “Perhaps it wouldn’t have been such an issue if members of the community who were invited to help plan the forum hadn’t spent weeks arguing for the need to discuss racism in the gay community, rather than focus solely on race.  Or perhaps it wouldn’t have been such a slight if they were asked to provide an alternative definition of racism, particularly who is able, within the larger social structure, to practice it rather than being left with only one definition of it.  In fact, the title ‘Race Forum’ was specifically chosen, against the suggestions offered by members of the community, so that the focus could be on ‘race’ rather than the trickier topic of ‘racism’.”

Interracial Two A Colorful Queers

     Dr. Han continues.  “’It’s like they didn’t hear a thing’, a member of the ‘community’ told me immediately after the announcement.  ‘Why did we go to meetings?  It’s like we weren’t even there.  We might as well be invisible’.  Though flabbergasted, he also told me that ‘It’s no surprise’.  It seems that for this member of the community, speaking up and being ignored has come to be a common occurrence.  After all, being a gay man of color is to experience the unnerving feeling of being invited to a potluck while being told not to bring anything since nobody would be interested in what you bring, and then not being offered any food since you didn’t bring anything anyway.”

     Next, the sociologist and researcher expands the discussion by asserting, “gay America has given a whole new meaning to the term ‘whitewash’.”  Dr. Han writes, “Whiteness in the gay community is everywhere, from what we see, what we experience, and more importantly, what we desire.  The power of whiteness, of course, derives from appearing to be nothing in particular.  That is, whiteness is powerful precisely because it is everywhere but nowhere in particular.  When we see whiteness, we process it as if it doesn’t exist or that its existence is simply natural.  We don’t see it precisely because we see it constantly.  It blends into the background and then becomes erased from scrutiny.”

     This whiteness is imposed from both outside and inside of the LGBTQ community.  And in the heterosexual mind, the community is overwhelmingly portrayed as being “white and well-to-do.”

Interracial Three Cute Gay Couples

     Explains Dr. Han, “While mass media will often use stereotypes to sell minority characters to majority audiences, the gay media are no less to blame for the promotion of the ‘gay equals white’ misconception.  Even the most perfunctory glance through gay publications exposes the paucity of non-white images.  It’s almost as if no gay men of color exist outside of fantasy cruises to Jamaica, Puerto Rico or the Orient.”

     He adds, “And even then, they exist only to fulfill the sexual fantasies of gay white men. ‘Exotic’ vacations to far-away places are marketed to rich white men, and poor colored bodies are only another consumable product easily purchased with western dollars.  As such, gay men of color, whether found within western borders or conveniently waiting for white arrival in the far corners of the globe, are nothing more than commodities for consumption.”

     (Rich) food for thought, eh?

R.L. Norman: The Old School Romantic, Part One

     I had the distinct pleasure to sit down with Mr. R. L. Norman, exclusively for the Huffington Post Queer VoicesArguably, Mr. Norman is that quintessential Renaissance man:  he’s an entrepreneur, videographer, performer, columnist, internet host, and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” 

     His fifth and brand new installment in the series is, “Honey Hush; Don’t Ask And I Won’t Tell.”  In Part One of my series on Norman, he dishes about his series, what drives him…and what makes him a diehard romantic.

     To get all the scrumptious “411,” visit:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/rl-norman-the-old-school-_b_10822892.html

Precum & Blood: Hand in Hand

     As result of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, poz men who have a fully-suppressed viral load (as determined by blood testing) also have an undetectable viral load in their precum (pre-ejaculatory fluid).  Researchers in the United States studied 60 sexually active males with HIV who were on a stable antiretroviral regimen for at least three months.  All participants provided precum, semen and blood samples. 

     Aidsmap.com reported that the researchers (who published these recent findings in AIDS, the official journal of the International AIDS Society) stated, “’Our study provides the first evidence that pre-ejaculatory sexual secretions in men on ART (antiretroviral treatment), unlike those from untreated men, do not contain detectable HIV’.”

     There is now overwhelming evidence that those who are on a stable ART regimen that suppresses HIV in their blood to undetectable levels are extremely unlikely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners.  However, persistent HIV replication has been detected in the semen of men on treatment that suppresses the blood’s viral load.

    The virus has been detected in the precum of infected men not on ART.  Pre-ejaculate is considered to be a possible source of HIV transmission. According to Aidsmap.com, the researchers “wanted to see if HIV-replication persists in pre-ejaculatory fluid in the context of treatment that suppresses viral load in blood and also to establish if there is a relationship between detectable viral load in semen and viral shedding in pre-ejaculate.”

     Of those 60 sexually active men participating in the study, eight had detectable viral loads in their blood (a range of 80-640,000 copies/ml); therefore, they were excluded from the principal analysis.

     The remaining participants all had blood viral loads below the limit of detection (40 copies/ml).  Their median age was 43, 96% reported sex with other men, and 44% stated that they had engaged in insertive unprotected anal sex within the past three months. 

     And of the 52 males with undetectable viral loads in their blood, ten (19%) had low level HIV replication in their semen (59 to 800 copies/ml). However, none of the men’s precum contained the virus.

     The conclusion:  “’Our study provides the first evidence that pre-ejaculatory sexual secretions in men on (ART), unlike those from untreated men, do not contain detectable HIV’,” stated the researchers.

Interview With An Escort:  An Update

     A little more than a year ago, I published “Interview With An Escort,” a raw and revealing interview I conducted with an exclusive and popular NYC gay male escort.  This is an update.

     I will never share his website and contact information because this article is not about advertising or promoting his services.  Instead, it’s to give you, the reader, insight into what tends to be a sexual choice/option for more than a few in the gay/SGL community.

 

     A few years ago, a Huffington Post article entitled, “Sex for Tuition:  Gay Male College Students Using ‘Sugar Daddies’ to Pay Off Loan Debt,” featured a New York University student who was desperately trying to manage his $50,000 tuition bill. 

     His solution?  Midway through college, Kirk started turning tricks in order to pay the bill.

     And even after graduation, the young man continued to escort.  According to that Huffington Post article, “He has continued selling his wares on what he describes as ‘virtual street corners’—websites where young gay men seek out the companionship of wealthy older suitors.”

     Kirk is far from the only man, be he young or not-so-young, who’s amongst the ranks of “the oldest profession.”  On one of my recent trips to Manhattan (NYC), I sat down with arguably one of that city’s most popular escorts.  To “get into his head,” I asked him a wide range of questions. 

     I’m not using his real name (or the “handle” he uses, for that matter) because it’s not my purpose to give him free promotion.   My purpose is to give you some insight into the life of an escort.    

     Actually, “Jase’s” (short for “Jason”) story mirrors Kirk’s.  He, too, got into the “bizness” to settle his college debts.  And like Kirk, even after he earned his degree in communications (rather apropos, don’tcha think?), the articulate, sophisticated and charming Jase continues to escort.  He’s been at it for nearly seven years now. 

     The uncommonly handsome, dominant and very self-assured Jase, 30, exudes raw sexuality.  And, let’s not even talk about swagger!

     At 6’2”, 228 pounds, this African-American is hugely and thickly muscled.  He sports a military haircut, ‘stache and goatee.  Being well-groomed is his hallmark.    

     Superbly masculine, he’s very accessible.  His dazzling white smile and smoldering eyes are disarming. 

     Although personable, Jase is all business.  You don’t mess with him, you don’t cheat him. 

     Ya see, he’s all about the money.

 

     WYATT:  Jase, thanks for this interview.

     JASE:  No problem, glad to do it.

     WYATT:  Let’s just jump right into it.  Why did you become an escort?  Did childhood experiences somehow coerce, force you into it?

     JASE:  Oh, hell no!  Although you hear that a lot about other folk, that wasn’t the case with me.  For me, it’s all about money:  after the economy imploded in 2007, there’s a “whole new world order.”  You’ve had to find different streams of income.  I was drowning in student debt, and I believed that escorting was the best way of quickly getting the most cash possible.  (The stud has one helluva deep, melodious voice.)

     WYATT:  And you continue to escort even after you paid down your debt, after you graduated and found a decent job?

     JASE:  As you know, graduates have tens of thousands of debt.  It’ll take almost forever to wipe it out.  That’s the new world order.  And even though I was lucky to get a good job, it still doesn’t pay what I would like.  So, I decided to continue “seeing” guys.  (Then, he flashes a wide grin.)  Besides, I enjoy it!

     WYATT:  Well, what appeals to you most about escorting?

     JASE:  I’m highly—and I do mean highly—sexual!  I like the thrill of being with multiple guys—of different ages, races, body types, personalities.  And man, look at me (hearty laugh)—people should pay me to sleep with ‘em!

     WYATT:  Jase, do you sleep with guys and not get paid for it?  Like, “recreational sex?”

     JASE:  Nope.  Not at all.

     WYATT:  Really?

     JASE: (Very seriously now.)  Really.

     WYATT:  I see.  Are you gay, or gay for pay?

     JASE:  Totally gay, totally into men.  Been there and done that with women!  A woman can’t do anything for me.

     WYATT:  Jase, describe your clientele.

     JASE:  Although I’m open to all races/ethnicities, my clientele is mostly white, professional, well-to-do, married.  The percentage breakdown is, like, 65 (white)/25 (black)/10 (Latino).

     WYATT:  You appear to be pretty exact!

     JASE:  Mos’ definitely!  I’m a professional, very methodical.  I treat “everythang” (everything) in life as a bizness.  You have to.

     WYATT:  Do you use drugs with your clients?

     JASE:  Hell no!  If a client wants to when he’s with me, that’s cool.  However, I refuse to indulge.  For my safety, I can’t afford to be mentally impaired.  (Pause.)  And where anal sex is concerned, it’s condoms all the way!  None of this bareback crap.

     WYATT:  I assume you’re top?

     JASE:  Oh, so totally. 

     WYATT:  Well Jase, exactly what do you do in bed with your clients?

     JASE:  I’m a top, both anally and oral.  Lots of body contact.  I like to deep kiss—as long as there are no breath issues.  Heavily into licking and sucking nips.  And, I just love tossing salad…before I give my client the main course, if you catch my drift!    Also, I get into role playing: daddy/son, prison guard/inmate, etc., etc.  

     WYATT:  What sexual act with a client do you most enjoy?

     JASE:  Hmmmm…getting my dick s**ked.  Hands down!  Bro, how I “LUV” the feel of a slick, wet, hot mouth up and down and all over my throbbing, rock hard, juicy “thang.”

     WYATT:  Jase, our readers and I wanna know:  just how BIG are you?

     JASE:  Nine and a half.  Wide and “phat” (fat).  Nice mushroom head.  Curves to the right.  (He chuckles:) Yo, he’s my Buddy!  My money maker.

     WYATT:  Whoa.

     JASE:  Lemme stop talking about this!  I can get hard at the drop of a hat. 

     WYATT:  On the average, how many clients do you see a week?

     JASE:  Three, sometimes four.  I have a good deal of regulars.  

     WYATT:  So, you get your clients via the internet?

     JASE:  Definitely.  That’s the safest, most efficacious way to go.  As you know, I have an elaborate website.

     WYATT:  You certainly do. Have you ever been busted by the cops?

     JASE:  Not once, knock on wood!  I’m very low key, if you will.  If you’re sane in this bizness, sure, you have concerns.  You’re must always be vigilant.  And, I put potential clients through a detailed, lengthy interview.  After that, I can tell if the guy is “on the level.” 

     Besides, my site specifically states “companionship”—and that’s what the client is paying for.  Companionship.   Now, being consenting adults, if after meeting we decide to have sex, well…

     WYATT:  Jase, have you ever found yourself in a dangerous situation with a client?

     JASE:  Fortunately, no.  My physical size and demeanor prevents that from happening.  However, I’ve had a couple of escort buddies who weren’t so lucky.

     WYATT:  What happened?

     JASE:  Well, one was set up by a cop.  Another was raped by a client and his friends.

     WYATT:  Have you ever been stiffed by a client?

     JASE:  Two times, and two times only!  The first happened the first year I began escorting.  A bounced check! (Jase’s ire is rising.) That’s why I NEVER accept checks from non-regulars; a regular is someone I’ve seen for at least a year. 

     The other time also occurred during my first year.  After the session, the client claimed he “left his wallet at home.”  I remained in his hotel room for hours, having my way with him—if you know what I mean!  (Jase’s expression is simultaneously funny–and scary.)  Lessons learned…   

     WYATT:  So Jase, how long do you plan to continue escorting?

     JASE:  Honestly Wyatt, I don’t know.  It depends on the economy.  However, if I lose my spark, my desire for it, I’ll be done.  I’ll vanish.

     WYATT:  Jase, thanks for giving my audience a window into what’cha do.

     JASE:  It’s all good, Wyatt.  Now, you’ve gotta become a ghost, ‘cause I’ve gotta “break in” a new client in 30 (minutes)! 

 

    A few months after that, Jase took down his escort “shingle,” and pretty much became that “ghost.”

   Just a few weeks ago, I decided to re-establish contact with Jase.  I wanted to find out if he were still out of the “biz.”  The following is the update: 

  

   WYATT:  Jase.  It’s good to speak with you again!  How have you been since our last talk?  Are you still on the, as we say, “straight and narrow?”

     JASE:  “Straight and narrow?”  (There’s his patented hearty laugh!)  A great way of putting it…

     WYATT:  Well?

     JASE:  Wyatt, I’ll be honest…

     WYATT:  I want you to be.  (Now, I’m laughing.)

     JASE:  I’m back in.

     WYATT:  Really?

     JASE:  Yes.

     WYATT:  Whoa!  What happened?

     JASE:  I was fired from my regular gig three months ago.  No severance, no nothing!

     WYATT:  Man, I’m really sorry to hear that. 

     JASE.  Thanks.  I saw it coming, and it was quite messy.

     WYATT:  Any prospects?

     JASE:  I’m interviewing like crazy!  Meanwhile, I got back into escorting.  I refuse to be financially compromised.  I gotta eat, if you know what I mean.

     WYATT:  I feel you.  Let me ask you:  when you find another position, will you continue to escort?

     JASE:  (Hesitating.)  To be honest, I couldn’t tell you for sure.  (Long pause.)  However, if you’d put a gun to my head, I’d have to say, “yes.”

     WYATT:  Really?

     JASE:  Yup.  And you know what?  I missed all the sex!

     WYATT:  Can you explain further?

     JASE:  Look:  as I said when we spoke last time, I crave sex…and with multiple guys!  And I have to admit that I “get off” on being desired…and being in control, sexually.  Point blank period.

     WYATT:  Well, that says it all.

     JASE:  It does.

     WYATT:  Jase, I hope you find a regular job soon, and one that really inspires you.  And, be careful out there.

     JASE:  No doubt, no doubt.

     WYATT:  Thanks for your time.

Sex In Prison, Part Two

Welcome back! In “Sex In Prison, Part One,” I presented the recent study entitled “Incarcerated Black Men Report Sex in Prison, Posing Challenges for HIV Prevention and Treatment” that gave this sobering conclusion: Black men, who are vastly over represented within our prison system, comprise a high percentage of HIV-positive inmates. And according to that study–conducted by the Columbia University School of Nursing–these males pose an infection risk not only to other inmates, but to members of their communities once they are released.

“While sex is prohibited in U.S. prisons, sexual encounters are commonplace and few inmates express concern about getting or spreading HIV,” stated one of the authors, Tawandra Rowell-Cunsolo, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Science at the Columbia University School of Nursing.

Now in “Sex In Prison, Part Two,” I’m spotlighting just how prevalent sexual activity (both consensual and forced) is behind bars—vis-à-vis the experiences of male prisoners.

Helping Me Helping You…So to Speak.

Daniel Genis spent ten years incarcerated. In his 2014 memoir, “A Gentleman’s Guide To Sex In Prison,” Genis shares his observations of consensual sex in lockdown:

“I can only speak for myself, but in my own time in the New York State system, I rarely saw or even heard about non-consensual sex between men. Perhaps I was just very lucky. Maybe I’d been incarcerated only in the ‘softer’ corners of the penal system. Rape does happen, and all over any prison there are signs with a number to call to anonymously report it, which I always thought was less a matter of sodomy than of legal liability.”

He continues.

“But more common, from what I could see, was an older prisoner taking a young and inexperienced kid under his wing. Most often, this kid has no money and likes to get high; there are many such people in prison, and they tend to burn their bridges early and totally. And so the older man, who has usually already served major time, feeds the kid, and gets him a little something to smoke or snort. Now the kid has become a ‘fish’. They start working out together, then showering together, then there is a massage, and finally, the kid is asked to ‘help’ the older guy out. He’s ‘no homo,’ but he has needs…”

Genis emphasizes:

“Consensual sex between incarcerated men happens all the time. There are rules against it, as it is considered an ‘unhygienic act’, and you can go to the Special Housing Unit (aka the Box) for it. Which is ironic, because then you will be locked in a room with another man for 24 hours a day, with barely any supervision. Solitary, at least in New York State, is not solitary at all, but a deux (for or involving two people)–as it is cheaper to house men this way. If ever there was a venue for either forcible or consensual sex between men, it is therein provided.”

The author adds,

“Openly gay men are not as oppressed as one might fear. The feminine ones are often desired, and there is quite a bit of prostitution going on. I once saw oral sex performed in exchange for two cigarettes and a honey bun…”

The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the United Kingdom (UK). Established in 1866, it is named after John Howard, one of the first prison reformers.

The organization’s recent report, “Sex In Prison: Experiences Of Former Prisoners,” also details consensual sex within the cellblock. According to the report:

“Gay and bisexual interviewees, and other interviewees who became aware of sexual activity in men’s prisons, stated that sexual partners were mostly other gay and bisexual prisoners. Sometimes, however, sexual partners were men who self-identified as heterosexual, some of whom were described as being, in their manner and topic of conversation, ‘macho’ and ‘anti-gay’. Some were known to be sustaining a relationship, through social visits, telephone calls, and letters, with a wife or girlfriend.

“These men would typically request oral sex, or would anally penetrate the gay prisoner. Gay interviewees reported that these partners—men they described as ‘prison gays’, ‘jail gays’, or ‘gay on the inside’, never acknowledged the homosexual nature of what had occurred between them, and would subsequently ignore them on the wing. They were neither surprised nor offended by straight sexual partners, as this interview excerpt illustrates:

Craig: ‘Oh my god, it was like I’d died and gone to heaven! As a gay man, prison was a fabulous sexual experience! I’ve never had so much sex. I was very popular, and I loved it!

‘He’d come in, not say a word, pull his cock out, I’d suck him off, and that was it; out the door again. Never said a word!’

Interviewer: ‘And how did you feel about that?’

Craig: ‘What do you mean?’

Interviewer: ‘Well, did you feel, for example, you had been used sexually?’

Craig: ‘No, not at all! We both got what we wanted’.”

Then there’s Sean, who stated to the interviewer: “’For men, sex is a physical need, a need for sexual release. An erect penis must be attended to. You can deal with it yourself, of course, but if there’s the chance of sex…so much the better’!”

Between a Rock (Actually, a Boulder) and a Hard Place.

PRISON 7

The Wyatt O’Brian Evans Show, my eponymous internet radio program, tackled the issue of sexual assault/rape of incarcerated LGBTQ individuals (with the focus on males) last year. (The Wyatt O’Brian Evans Show returns in a new format later this year. Look for it.) My special guest was the Reverend Jason M. Lydon, community minister for the Unitarian Universalist Church in Boston. A victim of sexual assault while imprisoned, he’s the founding director of Black and Pink, an organization that supports incarcerated LGBTQ persons.

But before I detail Rev. Lydon’s story–as well as the experiences of other imprisoned individuals–allow me to share some facts from Just Detention International (JDI), a health and human rights organization seeking to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention. JDI maintains the belief that “rape is not part of the penalty.”

According to JDI, “Sexual abuse behind bars is a systemic, nationwide human rights crisis. It is estimated that roughly 200,000 people were sexually abused in a single year. About half of the prisoners reporting abuse were victimized by staff—the very people whose job it is to keep them safe.”

And get this: “People who are LGBTQ face staggering levels of sexual assault in detention; LGBTQ prisoners were abused by other inmates at a rate more than ten times higher than straight prisoners. On average, each prisoner rape survivor is assaulted three to five times a year.”

And there’s more. “Prisoner rape survivors rarely get confidential rape crisis counseling, even though such counseling is known to reduce the effects of trauma. Incarcerated survivors who speak out are often mocked, ignored, or retaliated against by inmates or staff. Inmates who report abuse were as likely to be punished themselves as to get to talk to an investigator or see their abuser held accountable.”

Lastly, “With limited or no access to medical care and counseling, prisoner rape survivors often develop long-term health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and drug addiction. Moreover, the high rates of HIV and other STDs in detention facilities put survivors at risk for infection. Once released, many survivors turn to self-destructive behaviors that keep them trapped in a cycle of poverty, crime and re-incarceration.”

By providing survivor testimonies, JDI provides a window into the horrors of sexual assault and rape behind bars:

  • Andrew, from Florida. A corrections officer sexually abused him in a Florida prison. When Andrew reported the abuse, the officer retaliated, and the abuse grew worse.
  • Micah, from California. Micah was raped and tortured by law enforcement officers in a police lock-up. He faced many challenges trying to report the abuse, and was denied follow-up services, such as counseling and medical care. Micah has since been released from jail and is struggling to rebuild his life while facing the emotional scars of the abuse.
  • Rodney, from Louisiana. Rodney is an openly gay man who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by inmates in two Louisiana jails while serving time for check fraud. He was sold into sexual slavery from one prisoner to another, and was forced to abandon his male identity as his only way to survive.
  • Rodney, from Texas. At 17, Rodney committed suicide after being continuously raped and abused in Texas prisons.

Rev. Lydon is a survivor of prison sexual assault, who stated that he was strip searched a total of 24 times. During one of those strip searches, according to the reverend, a prison guard used verbal threats to force him to masturbate in front of him. “He then grabbed my testicles, squeezed them, and verbally abused me,” according to Rev. Lydon. “I was fortunate that there was not penetrative violence, etc.”

Did the reverend report the abuse to authorities? “Who would I tell? I didn’t know who to tell. Then, I was placed in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day.” He stated that anecdotal evidence shows that less than 50 percent of victims report sexual assault/rape.

So, just how did he cope? How did he heal? “I compartmentalized it all,” Rev. Lydon responded. Becoming involved with Just Detention International, building Black and Pink, and helping other survivors enabled him to heal.

During that interview with the reverend, I asked if there were a culture of prison sexual assault/rape. Unequivocally he responded, “Yes. Sexual violence is the key to the ongoing functioning of the prison system. Sexual violence is part of the tool box to maintain the control of the bodies of those locked up.”

Is There a “Great Escape?”

Interior views of traditional prison

Interior views of traditional prison

So, are inmates totally “between a rock (actually, a boulder) and a hard place? Are they totally without resources to keep them safe?

Maybe not. There is PREA, the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Unanimously passed by Congress in 2003, PREA is the nation’s first federal civil law that addresses sexual violence behind bars. JDI was instrumental in its passage.

This legislation’s signature achievement was the development of national standards to prevent and respond to rape of those incarcerated. And in 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice issued its PREA standards, which include: improved protections for LGBTQ individuals; quality crisis services for survivors; and prisoner education on the right to be safe behind bars.

JDI states that these are encouraging trends. But according to the organization, “we still have plenty of work to do before the standards will result in the dramatic culture shift needed to end prisoner rape. Sexual abuse remains rampant in prisons and jails nationwide. Too many people in detention have not yet seen PREA make a difference in their daily lives.”

However, JDI added, “But prisoners and jails that take the PREA standards seriously are beginning to see results, among prisoners and staff alike. As one prisoner—a former PREA peer educator in California—said of changes on the yard, ‘People used to joke about sexual abuse. They don’t do that anymore’.” JDI collaborates directly with prison officials, assisting them in adopting the PREA provisions.

Rev. Lydon had this advice for those facing sexual violence in prison: “Each individual must weigh which is the best choice or route for him, and then make a decision. Be it reaching out to a guard, reporting the abuse, reaching out to the outside world (Black and Pink, for instance), or fighting back/defending themselves against those sexually assaulting him.

“We all make individual choices to survive. Survival is the goal. Therefore, don’t be ashamed of what you do—and need to do—in order to survive.”

A Sublime Gem Across the Pond, Part Two

     Meet Dr. Martin Luther Patrick, an award-winning playwright and author who hails from London, England!  His storied literary career spans decades. 

     Dr. Patrick’s debut novel, “JJ’s Isolation,” is a helluva exhilarating ride, with rich detail and characterization!  And his brand new “Love Both Ways” promises to equal–or exceed that!  It drops this summer. 

     In Part Two of my exclusive Huffington Post Queer Voices interview with the prolific Patrick, he discusses the iconic Essex Hemphill; the visibility of LGBTQ people in the media; his “Love Both Ways”…and more.

     For the 411, visit:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/a-sublime-gem-across-the-_1_b_10257096.html

A Sublime Gem Across the Pond, Part One

     Meet Dr. Martin Luther Patrick, an award-winning playwright and author who hails from London, England!  His storied literary career spans decades. 

     Dr. Patrick’s debut novel, “JJ’s Isolation,” is one to-ta-lee exhilarating ride, with rich detail and characterization!  His second novel, “Love Both Ways,” drops this summer. 

     In Part One of my exclusive Huffington Post Queer Voices interview with the prolific Patrick, he discusses his fascinating literary journey; the differences between UK (United Kingdom) and American LGBTQ lit; how aspiring authors—particularly those who are LGBTQ—can be successful…and more.

     For the 411, visit:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/a-sublime-gem-across-the-_b_10122146.html

Sex In Prison, Part One

     It’s an unfortunate fact that Black men—vastly over represented within our prison system—make up a high percentage of HIV-positive inmates. And according to the study, “Incarcerated Black Men Report Sex in Prison, Posing Challenges for HIV Prevention and Treatment,” these males pose an infection risk not only to other inmates—but to members of their communities once they are released.  The study was conducted by the Columbia University School of Nursing.

     “While sex is prohibited in U.S. prisons, sexual encounters are commonplace and few inmates express concern about getting or spreading HIV,” stated one of the authors, Tawandra Rowell-Cunsolo, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Science at the Columbia University School of Nursing. 

     “The study asked open-ended questions about sexual behavior.  Many of the respondents said that deprivations of prison life promote same-sex encounters and that, although they have been exposed to prison rape, most of the sexual behavior within the institution is consensual.  Some also expressed negative attitudes toward men having sex with men.”

     Rowell-Cunsolo continued, “To prevent HIV in prisons and curb its spread once inmates are sent home, we need a better understanding of how Black men perceive sexuality while they’re imprisoned.”

Prison

     According to the study, the latest advances in HIV prevention and treatment haven’t penetrated the U.S. prison system, where inmates already at high risk for developing HIV frequently lack access to basic prevention—and don’t get tested for the virus.  “Previous research into the spread of HIV within the prison system has shown that inmates have much higher infection rates than the general population, but hasn’t provided a clear picture of what interventions might be most effective in this environment.”

     Rowell-Cunsolo added, “These are people who can benefit from education and outreach while they’re in prison, but there’s also a much larger public health issue at stake here.  These are people who are going to come out of prison, and preventing the spread of HIV in prison becomes a large community issue once these men return home.”

     Currently, nearly 1.7 million persons are in the federal prison system.  And at current incarceration rates, one in three Black men will be in prison at some point in their lives.  Rowell-Cunsolo surveyed 63 Black inmates at one of the largest maximum-security male prisons in the U.S., inquiring about their sexual behavior within that institution.  Two-thirds of that facility’s prisoners were Black; most of the study’s participants were married with at least one child.

     Over the past ten years, prison-based HIV research has found that only about half of American facilities offer HIV testing.  “There are some prison systems that distribute condoms or have a needle exchange program to prevent the spread of HIV, but for the most part this isn’t done because its seen as supporting behavior that’s explicitly against the rules in prison,” Rowell-Cunsolo stated. 

    The author continued, “That makes basic sex and HIV education really important.  Some of these men have been incarcerated since before the AIDS epidemic hit the scene and they literally don’t know how it spreads or how to protect themselves.”

     Each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in seven people with HIV passes through the prison system.  More than 1.1 million Americans are now living with HIV, and almost one in five don’t know they’re infected.

     COMING NEXT:  Former Prisoners Discuss Their Sexual Experiences In Prison.

HIV Crim: A Dangerous Global Phenom

     What does the word phenom mean?  Well, as the shortened form of phenomenon, it refers to “a person or thing of outstanding abilities or qualities.”

     However, when applied to HIV criminalization, it takes on an entirely different understanding or subtext, which is ominous…and dangerous.  You see, a new report by the HIV Justice Network and the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) has just concluded, “HIV criminalization is a growing, global phenomenon that is seldom given the attention it deserves considering its impact on both public health and human rights, undermining the HIV response.”

     Entitled “Advancing HIV Justice 2: Building Momentum in Global Advocacy Against HIV Criminalization,” the report covers the period between April 2013 and September 2015.

     But first:  just what is HIV criminalization? The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) states that it is “the application of the criminal law to people living with HIV based solely on their HIV status.  This happens through HIV-specific criminal statutes, or by applying general criminal laws that allow for prosecution of unintentional HIV transmission, potential or perceived exposure to HIV without transmission, and/or non-disclosure of known HIV-positive status.”

HIV CRIM 2016 3     According to the organization, criminal laws used against HIV-positive individuals impact entire communities. Additionally, these statutes perpetuate discrimination and stigma—not to mention fear, shame and anger directed at those living with the virus.

     “These laws and prosecutions do not only impact the people investigated, prosecuted, or incarcerated.  These laws undermine core sexual rights and public health principles,” states Julian Hows of GNP+.  “Their existence and application exacerbate racial and gender inequalities and jeopardize critical HIV prevention and service delivery efforts.” 

     The following are highlights of the report:

  • Seventy-two countries have adopted laws that specifically allow for HIV criminalization, either because the law is HIV-specific, or because it names the virus as one—or more—of the diseases covered by the law. When the HIV criminalization laws in 30 of the United States are counted individually, this total rises to 101 jurisdictions. 
  • Sixty-one countries now report prosecutions for HIV nondisclosure, potential or perceived exposure, and/or unintentional transmission.This number increases to 105 when individual states (in America) and Australian territories are counted separately.  And of the 61 countries, 26 applied HIV criminalization statutes, 32 applied general criminal or public health laws, and three—Australia, Denmark and U.S.—applied both HIV criminalization and general laws.
  • From April 2013 to October 2015, the highest number of prosecutions were reported in the following countries:Russia (at least 115); U.S. (at least 104); Belarus (at least 20); Canada (at least 17); France (at least 7); Italy, United Kingdom (at least 6 each); Australia, Germany (at least 5 each).   

     GNP+ adds, “Of particular concern is the fact that 30 sub-Saharan African countries have now enacted overly broad and/or vague HIV specific statues enabling legal repercussions against people living with HIV.” 

     And, the organization emphasizes, “The trend is in contrast with the latest science which shows that people with HIV who adhere to HIV treatment and have an undetectable viral load are not infectious.  In addition, this approach of the criminal law violates key legal and human rights principles.”

     However—and fortunately—there is a bright side, according to the report. “Important and promising developments in case law, law reform and policy have taken place in many jurisdictions, most of which came about as a direct result of advocacy from individuals and organizations working to end the inappropriate use of the criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV.”

Just How Many “Undetectables” Are There?

     Get a load of this encouraging new development:  recent research has indicated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may have overstated the size of the U.S. HIV population, while significantly underestimating the share that has a fully suppressed viral load (undetectable).  Researchers utilized HIV lab reporting to estimate prevalence of the disease in New York City and 19 other jurisdictions. 

     Next, they used previously published data to construct a revised HIV treatment cascade, or the HIV Care Continuum.  This cascade refers to the descending proportion of individuals living with HIV who have been diagnosed, are retained in medical care, have been prescribed antiretrovirals (ARVs), and are virally suppressed.

     Before going further, let’s fully understand what being undetectable is–and means.  First and most importantly, it does NOT signify that you are cured of the virus.  What it does mean, according to Melissa Dahl’s article entitled, “What Does It Mean to Have ‘Undetectable’ HIV,” is that “the anti-retroviral treatment is working, and that the amount of HIV in the blood is so low that even the best available tests don’t pick it up.  As it is usually defined now, to have an undetectable viral load means that there are fewer than 20 copies of the virus in one milliliter of blood.  Compare that to those who have just been diagnosed and not yet treated, whose tests show millions of copies in the same sample size.”

     Dahl adds, “The very latest research is showing that it is highly unlikely for people with an undetectable viral load to transmit the virus to a sexual partner—even without the use of a condom.”

     Now, back to the care continuum.  In 2011, the CDC estimated that 1.2 million Americans were living with HIV.  Poz.com states, “The U.S. care continuum estimate, which also refers to 2011, has long stated that 86 percent of the American HIV population has been diagnosed, 40 percent is engaged in care, 37 percent has been prescribed ARVs and 30 percent is virally suppressed.  These figures are frequently cited as troublesome barometers of the dismal job the U.S. health care system is doing taking care of HIV-positive individuals.”

UNDETECTABLE 1

     But as stated in the first paragraph, recent research has indicated that in fact, viral suppression rates have been steadily rising among HIV-infected Americans.  Poz.com continues, “Researchers used 2009-2013 data from the Medical Monitoring Project, covering 23,125 HIV-positive people, to estimate the proportion of those receiving HIV medical care who had a fully suppressed virus.”

     From 2009 to 2013, the portion of individuals who had a fully suppressed virus at their last viral load exam rose, from 72 to 80 percent.  The largest increases were seen among 18-to-29-year-olds, whose viral suppression rate rose from 56 to 68 percent; 30-to-39-year olds (62 to 75 percent); and blacks (64 to 76 percent).

     Poz.com adds, “The researchers in this new study estimated that, in fact, the CDC’s HIV prevalence estimate for 2011 was 25.6 percent too high, that the true number of Americans living with the virus was 819,200—or somewhere between 809,800 and 828,800.”

     Now, thanks to the improving surveillance of CD4 and viral load test results throughout the nation, the CDC can better make more accurate estimates of the number of those who are undetectable.  And, an official revision of the national HIV viral suppression rate should come later this year.

“The Comeback Kid”: How Your Abuser Wins You Back

     So finally, you’ve managed to make your “Great Escape” from your abuser.  (Great Escape is the term I’ve coined for my LGBTQ Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse workshops and seminars.)  And after he/she fully absorbs that you’ve indeed found or reclaimed your backbone and guts, the counteroffensive begins in earnest with “plastic” pleas that include, “I really didn’t mean it,” “I was just so stressed out,” and/or “I promise it will not happen again ‘cause I love you to death!”  (“Love you to death?”  Trust and believe:  that’s something you really don’t want.)      

       You see, he/she is trying to reel you back in, to slither right back into your life.  And if you let that happen—at the very least without him/her taking full responsibility for their actions and getting individual counseling–it can be disastrous to you emotionally, mentally, and physically.  And potentially life-threatening.

     Before I detail how the abuser stages a return to win you back, let’s understand exactly what Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, or IPV/A, is–and it’s cycle of abuse.  Simply put, this horrendous conduct is referred to as domestic violence and abuse within the LGBTQ community.  According to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, it is the “pattern of behavior used to establish power and control through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence, when one person believes that they are entitled to control another.”  The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs defines it as “a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship.”  

      Statistics show that this form of abuse occurs with similar frequency as in heterosexual relationships.    Additionally, new research suggests that a greater percentage of LGBTQ individuals are living in fear of an abusive partner than previously thought.  And each year, between 50,000-100,000 lesbians (or more) and as many as 500,000 (or more) gay men are battered, and about one in four LGBTQ relationships/partnerships are abusive in some way. 

      According to psychologists and authors Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith, “Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only:  to gain and maintain total control over you.  An abuser doesn’t ‘play fair.’  Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her ‘thumb.’  Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.”

     The Network/La Red, whom I’ve interviewed for the Huffington Post Queer Voices, weighs in.  Located in Boston, it is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in the LGBTQ community.  “Abuse is not about violence; it’s about control,” according to the organization.  “You can be just as controlling of someone if you are small—as if you’re large.  It’s about using violence or any other means of gaining and maintaining control.”

Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse 6

     Segal and Smith add, “The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult.  You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.”

     So, what is the complete cycle of IPV/A?  According to the psychologists, this behavior falls into a common pattern, which begins with abuse and ends with the set-up:

  • Abuse. Your abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior.  The abuse is a power play intended to “keep you in line, and show you who’s boss.”
  • Guilt. After abusing you, your partner feels guilt—but not over what he/she’s done.  The abuser is more concerned about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for the abusive behavior.
  • Excuses. Your abuser rationalizes what he/she has done, devising a string of excuses or blaming you for the abusive behavior—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
  • “Normal” Behavior. The abuser does everything to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship.  Your abuser may act as if nothing has occurred, or he/she may pour on the charm.  The abuser’s apologies and loving overtures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult for you to leave.  Your abuser may make you believe that you are the only person who can help, that things will be different, and that he/she truly loves you.  However, the dangers of staying are very real.
  • Fantasy and Planning. Your abuser starts to fantasize about abusing you again, spending a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how he/she’ll make you pay.  Next, the abuser devises a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.   (Here’s Part A of an example:  he/she tells you to go to the store, but doesn’t tell you that you have a certain amount of time to return.  When you’re a few minutes late because you were held up in traffic, for example, your abuser assaults you.)
  • Set-Up. Your abuser sets you up and puts his/her plan into motion, creating a situation where he/she can justify abusing you.   (Part B of the preceding example:  when you’re a few minutes late, your partner feels totally justified in attacking you because, according to him/her,  “you’re having an affair with the store clerk or manager.”)      

     Now, onto how the abuser attempts to slither, worm his/her way back into your life after you’ve made your glorious Great Escape.  The LaSalle Parish, Louisiana sheriff’s office lists these classic “Take Me Back Tactics:”

  • The Honeymoon Syndrome. Also referred to as “Hearts and Flowers,” this is any bribe to get you to return—and the sooner the better.  “The abuser will turn on the charm and promise to change.  He/she will promise to get therapy, promise not to hurt you again, and tell you how wonderful you are, saying things like, ‘I know I don’t deserve you, but if you’ll take me back’…”
  • The Revival Syndrome. “’I have been going to church since you left.  I have accepted religion into my life’.”  But, has the violence ended?  Well, don’t be duped and taken in.  “Just because he/she says he goes to church does not mean that the abuse and violence can’t be right around the corner.  Many ‘God-fearing’ people abuse, rape, beat and murder their partners!”
  • The Sobriety Syndrome. It’s a fact that abusers have a higher incidence of substance dependence.  Even when they deny it, abusers are aware that they have a problem or aware that YOU believe they have a problem.  “When faced with losing their partners, they suddenly ‘see the light’ and swear they will never touch it again.  You want to hear it and believe it and you will support his effort.  You should!  Encourage him/her to see a doctor, join a support group and seek therapy.  Don’t fall for the promise unless and until you see him/her actively participating in sobriety with OUTSIDE HELP.  Counseling can also address problems and issues to help the abuser substitute healthier behaviors for destructive coping mechanisms.”
  • Counseling Syndrome. Abusers utilize this tactic to (1) get you to stay, and (2) maintain control and intimidation. “Abusers cannot just stop their behaviors without assistance to overcome issues and replace destructive behaviors with healthy ones.  Appropriate counseling cannot be done WITH the victim present.  The victim is not free to say what they think without fear of repercussion.  Batters must take full responsibility for their actions, must understand and admit that THEY have the problem and must be dedicated to make positive long-term changes.  Couples counseling can come later, when the abuser begins to show positive changes in behavior.” 

       If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, call: the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233), Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901), or  The Network/La Red’s Hotline (1-617-742-4911).

     And always remember:  It ain’t (just) the way that he/she loves you.

Reginald A. Flemming:  Inventive and Compelling Filmmaker on the Rise, Part Two

     Meet Reginald A. Flemming!  He’s the emerging writer, director and producer of gay-themed short feature films.  His current and popular series, A First Time For Everything (AFTFE), is a provocative and thought-provoking work.

     I’ve had an extended sit-down with Mr. Flemming, exclusively for the Huffington Post Queer Voices.  In Part Two of this series, Reginald discusses what drives him, the continuing lack of visibility of LGBTQ individuals of color in the media…and much more. 

     For Part Two, visit:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/reginald-a-flemming-inven_1_b_9770992.html

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Essex Hemphill

Essex Hemphill:  The Force Remains With Us

     Today, April 16, is the birthday of Mr. Essex Hemphill–the groundbreaking and iconic openly gay African-American author, poet and performance artist.  He would’ve been 59.

     I was fortunate to call Essex a dear friend.  So, in celebration of his  extraordinary life and awesome talent, I’m re-running one of my tributes to him.

     Visit:  death-claims-a-phenom-way-too-soon-a-tribute-to-essex-hemphill

Reginald A. Flemming:  Inventive and Compelling Filmmaker on the Rise, Part One

     Meet Reginald A. Flemming, the emerging writer, director and producer of gay-themed short feature films.  His current and popular series, A First Time For Everything (AFTFE), is a provocative and thought-provoking work.

     Just recently, I interviewed Mr. Flemming exclusively for the Huffington Post Queer Voices.  In Part One, he describes his fascinating journey as a filmmaker, his creative process…and more. 

     For Part One, visit:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/reginald-a-flemming-inven_b_9647470.html

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The Myths of IPV/A

     As a journalist and public/motivational speaker, one of my signature issues is Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A)–the term used for domestic violence and abuse within the LGBTQ community.  Sadly and too often, this demoralizing, heinous and horrific behavior is “swept under the rug”–particularly when it involves gay/SGL (same-gender loving) men. 

     The misguided belief that “Oh, you know…boys will be boys!” continues to permeate, and disgustingly so.  Therefore, the crime of IPV/A tends to be grossly underreported.  

     And without a shadow of a doubt, it is a criminal offense.

     In this article, I’m focusing on the Ten Myths associated with Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse.  But before I do that, allow me to present my “IPV/A Primer.” 

     So, exactly what is this potentially life-threatening pattern of behavior?    What’s it all about?  What are its ramifications?

     IPV/A is, according to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, the “pattern of behavior used to establish power and control through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence, when one person believes that they are entitled to control another.”  Meanwhile, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs defines IPV/A as “a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship.”  

      Statistics show that this form of abuse occurs with similar frequency as in heterosexual relationships.    Additionally, new research suggests that a greater percentage of LGBTQ individuals are living in fear of an abusive partner than previously thought.  And each year, between 50,000-100,000 lesbians (or more) and as many as 500,000 (or more) gay men are battered, and about one in four LGBTQ relationships/partnerships are abusive in some way. 

     According to psychologists and authors Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith, “Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only:  to gain and maintain total control over you.  An abuser doesn’t ‘play fair.’  Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her ‘thumb.’  Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.”

     Segal and Smith add, “The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult.  You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.”

     Now, let’s explore those myths.  Courtesy of the Haven Women’s Center in Stanislaus County, California, you’ll see that they’re real humdingers and whoppers.  In no particular order, they are:

 

  • Domestic Violence is more common in straight relationships than it is in lesbian or gay relationships. But here’s the truth:  “Do not assume that gay men and lesbians are less violent than heterosexual men and women.  Best estimates of same-sex domestic violence according to research and statistics gathered from the lesbian and gay community is that domestic violence in gay and lesbian relationships is approximately 25-32 percent (basically the same percentage as in the heterosexual community).”
  • It isn’t really violence when a same-sex couple fights. It is just a “lover’s quarrel” between equals.  But here’s the truth:   “There is nothing equal or fair about domestic violence.  Being thrown against a wall or enduring endless criticism from an angry lover does not entail fairness.  Further, dismissing domestic violence as ‘just a lover’s quarrel’ trivializes the violence and gives tacit consent for it to continue.  Just because the two people are the same gender does not make it a fight between ‘equals.’  Many battered gays and lesbians fight back to defend themselves—it is a myth that same-sex battering is ‘mutual’.  There is almost always a primary aggressor.”
  • The batterer will always be butch, bigger, stronger. The victim will always be femme, smaller, weaker.  But here’s the truth:   “This is simply not true.  Size, weight, butch, femme, or any other physical attribute or role is not an indicator of whether or not a person will be a victim or a batterer.  A person who is 5’2”, prone to violence and very angry can do a lot of damage to someone who may be taller, heavier, stronger and non-violent.”
  • People who are abusive and under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not responsible for their actions. But here’s the truth:  “Violence is a choice, and there are better choices.  Every person is responsible for every action taken.  Drugs and alcohol are excuses for battering.  There is evidence to show that batterers who abuse drugs and alcohol are equally likely to batter while sober.  If a person who batters is on drugs or alcohol, that person has two serious and very separate problems.  Using drugs or alcohol does NOT relieve a person of responsibility for his/her own conduct.
  • The law does not and will not protect victims of lesbian and gay men’s domestic violence. But here’s the truth:  “It depends somewhat on where you live, but in the United States, heterosexuality is not a criterion for protection under the law.  LGBTQ victims can get restraining orders.  Domestic violence is against the law for LGBTQ people, too!”
  • Lesbian and gay domestic violence is sexual behavior—a version of S&M. The victims actually like it.  But here’s the truth:  “Domestic violence is not sexual behavior.  In S&M relationships, there is some contract or agreement about the limits or boundaries or the behavior, even when pain is involved.  Domestic violence entails no such contract. Domestic violence is abuse, manipulation and control that is unwanted by the victim.  Domestic violence cannot be dismissed as sexual behavior.  There is no similarity whatsoever.”
  • Domestic violence occurs primarily among gay men and lesbians who hang out at bars, are poor, or people of color.But here’s the truth:  “Domestic violence is a non-discriminatory phenomenon.  Batterers come from all walks of life, all racial/ethnic groups, all socioeconomic strata, and all educational levels.  The LGBTQ community includes members of every other minority and majority group (ethnic, religious, racial, socioeconomic, immigration status, etc.).  Domestic violence occurs proportionally across all groupings and categories of people.  No group is exempt.
  • Victims often provoke the violence done to them. They’re getting what they “deserve.”  But here’s the truth:  “That is absolutely untrue.  Violent behavior is solely the responsibility of the violent person.  Batters choose violence; victims do not ‘provoke’ it.  This myth is common among both batterers and victims of domestic violence, and is probably a strong force that keeps the victims in abusive relationships.
  • It is easier for lesbian or gay victims of domestic violence to leave abusive relationships than it is for heterosexual counterparts who are married. If it were really that bad, they would just leave.  But here’s the truth:  “Lesbian and gay couples are as intertwined and involved in each other’s lives as are heterosexual couples.  Due to the lack of societal support, many lesbians and gay men are more ‘protective’ of the relationship and less likely to leave despite the abuse. Leaving is often the hardest thing for a victim to accomplish—harder, for instance, than staying.  Batterers threaten their victims with more violence (including threats of murder) if they leave.  Threatening to leave may put the victim in more danger.  Leaving also requires strength, self-confidence, self-reliance, and a healthy self-esteem.  Those qualities have been eroded by the abuse.  Leaving a violent partner also means leaving one’s home, friends, children and community. A lesbian or gay man may be extremely isolated.”
  • Lesbian and gay domestic violence is the same as domestic violence between a man and a woman. But here’s the truth:  “The dynamics of same-gender relationships are not the same as in heterosexual relationships.  The stresses of being without full legal protections and the lack of societal support for their relationships are added stresses for the lesbian or gay relationship.  Therefore, lesbians and gay men will not respond to stress in their relationship the same way as heterosexual individuals do.  Lesbian relationships and gay men’s relationships will not look like nor respond to stress and abuse within the relationship the same way as heterosexual relationships.”

Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse 3    

     At times, when I conduct talks and seminars on Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, I have to dispel some or all of these myths.  You see, in order for us to help put a stop to this demoralizing, heinous and horrific behavior, we have to change our way of thinking.  Because, make no mistake:  lives are at risk

     And always remember:   It ain’t (just) the way that he/she loves you.

 

If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, call: the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901).

Khalid El-Bey: Educator, Activist…and the Wearer of the Crown

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come.  Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.”  Unknown 

     Needless to say, this credo, this maxim has much, much more than a ring of truth to it.  These words of wisdom and inspiration are espoused by Mr. Khalid El-Bey, the Leatherman of Color (LOC) 2016. 

     El-Bey also is full brother of ONYX Mid-Atlantic (MIDLANT) and the current regional assistant pledge master.  As well, he was last year’s secretary of ONYX MIDLANT. 

     A safer sex educator and activist, El-Bey has many accomplishments under his belt.  Notable ones include facilitating a workshop entitled, “Don’t Yuck My Yum” at the 4th Annual ManDate Health & Wellness Conference for Black Gay Men in November 2015 at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in Washington, DC.  The main focus of the workshop was Bondage, Discipline, and Sadomasochism (BDSM), and included terminology, relationships, safe wording, impact play, aftercare, and a discussion on how interested persons can become involved in local community events.  A “Service Sir,” El-Bey has volunteered at regional and national sex positive conferences over the last couple of years.

     During Labor Day Weekend 2015, El-Bey moderated a panel that explored the issues that people of color (POC) who practice BDSM are confronted with during a power exchange conference in Rockville, Maryland.  And last April, he co-facilitated a safer sex and kinky training for more than 20 volunteers at HIPS (Helping Individual People Survive).  Visit:www.hips.org.

     El-Bey has a Master’s degree in Health Services Administration and a Bachelor of Science Degree in International Business.  And, he’s a U.S. Navy vet.

     Recently, I sat down with the Leatherman of Color 2016 for an engaging and illuminating chat.  

 

     EVANS:  Khalid, welcome to WYATTEVANS.COMIt’s a “dee-light” to have ya! 

     EL-BEY:  It’s my pleasure, Wyatt.  (He flashes one helluva infectious smile.)   

     EVANS:  Congrats on being Leatherman of Color (LOC) 2016!  You hold the title until September 19, 2016.  What are your duties, responsibilities?

     EL-BEY:  Thanks, Wyatt.  Originally the LOC title was established by Mufasa Ali (Mr. World 2008) to address the lack of participation of Men of Color in the Leather title arena, specifically at the International Mr. Leather (IML) competition. Outside of competing in IML, I really don’t have official duties and responsibilities other than promoting the title, and representing it with the highest of honor and integrity.

     EVANS:   Khalid, a little later, I’m going to dig deeper into your role of Leatherman of Color 2016.  Now though, I want to talk about your participation in ONYX, which was established in Chicago in 1995.  It’s an organization formed and operated by Men of Color who enjoy the leather and fetish lifestyle.  So, what’s ONYX’s mission and vision? 

     EL-BEY:  ONYX’s mission is to be an informational and social organization that addresses issues specific to people of color who choose to project the positive aspects of the leather lifestyle, and support our community and economic initiatives. Our motto is: Educate, Explore, and Empower[MW1] .

     EVANS:  What about ONYX first attracted you?  When/why did it happen?

     EL-BEY:  Ironically, ONYX was founded the same year I graduated high school; but it would be many years after that I would be become a full brother. I’ve been kinky pretty much all my life, but ONYX first attracted me once I moved out of the Washington, DC region at the beginning of the recession in 2006. Years prior to that, as a college student, I’d been experimenting very heavily into my own kinks and fetishes by moonlighting as a masseur and bodyworker. Many of my client’s began to offer more money if I helped them live out their kinks or fetishes.

     It was after I’d left the DC region that I began to see promotions for events from the only ONYX Southeast and Midwest Chapters. Upon moving back to the DC regions some four years later, I made it a personal goal to become acquainted with the Men of ONYX now established in the Mid-Atlantic Region as of 2007.

     EVANS:  What qualities must one possess to be the right fit for ONYX?   What attributes or/and characteristics make for the ideal ONYX brother—if there is such?

     EL-BEY:  I feel that the most important attributes or characteristics that make for the ideal ONYX brother are understanding what brotherhood is about, a wiliness to further one’s leather journey, and a serviceable heart.

     EVANS:  Must one have a “burning desire” to be part of the brotherhood? 

     EL-BEY:  Yes, we’re an organization with not only national recognition but now international notoriety.

     EVANS:  Would you consider ONYX to be a lifestyle?  What makes you so committed to it?

     EL-BEY:  ONYX is more than just a lifestyle–it is a brotherhood.  I’m committed to ONYX because these men tend to not only look like me most of the time, but have very similar–if not the same experiences–within life and the leather/kink community. Many of us are professionals with military, college, and/or entrepreneurial backgrounds which lends itself to be just a plain good network of friends and family.

     EVANS:  What are the three levels of membership?

     EL-BEY:  The three levels of membership are: Full Brother, Associate, and Pledges.  All who are willing to support our causes, fellowship in brotherhood, and continue on their leather journey may have an opportunity to join ONYX.

     EVANS:  Describe the pledge process.

     EL-BEY:  The pledge process for the different chapters varies somewhat according to region.  For ONYX Mid-Atlantic, there is a “Meet and Greet.”  From that, we open the online application. From there, potential pledges are invited to an interview.  Interviews are conducted by Full Brothers. Once interviews are complete there is a vote. Actual pledge time frames vary from three to six months or more, according to the chapter.

     EVANS:  Explain the Leather Daddy/Sir and Leather Boy relationship

     EL-BEY:  A leather relationship is a celebration of inequality. Daddy/boy relationships have endless forms, and definitions are varied.

     EVANS:  Explain how one becomes either, and the responsibilities there of.

     EL-BEY:  It is a consensual exchange of power between a senior or dominant partner and a junior submissive partner.

     EVANS:  What does being a Leather Daddy/Sir mean to you?

     EL-BEY:  I’ve considered myself a Service Sir for quite some time; but now as I progress through my leather journey, I’m learning how to play as a Daddy. My understanding of being a Daddy is feeling like you are one in every sense. As a Daddy, I would be expected to be nurturing yet sadistic–and always a disciplinarian.  

     EVANS:  Over the years, how has ONYX evolved? 

     EL-BEY:  The first chapter, ONYX Midwest, centered in Chicago, IL. There are now five chapters (including ONYX Midwest). They are ONYX Northeast, ONYX Mid-Atlantic, ONYX Southeast, ONYX SoCal/Southwest with one other forming in Northern California.

     EVANS:  What have been/are some of ONYX’s significant accomplishments, milestones?

     EL-BEY:  ONYX has had a long standing reputation within the Leather Community with members nationwide and internationally. We are the longest- existing leather club for people of color (POC), and are known for our hospitality and infamous annual ONYX Leather Dance at International Mr. Leather Weekend in Chicago and our Cocktail Party at Mid Atlantic Leather in Washington, DC.

     ONYX has consistently contributed back to the Leather, GLBT and people of color communities, HIV prevention and care organizations and those that empower and aid youth.

     EVANS:  Khalid, let’s get back to you as the reigning Leatherman of Color.  Explain to us what that really means to you. 

     EL-BEY:  Being the Leatherman of Color allows me a once in a lifetime platform as to sharing who I am, educating others on the leather lifestyle, and just plain showing up, showing out and as a result having something to show for it. I’m more than humbled to have this title and the opportunity, and I take everything I do with it seriously.

     EVANS:  What’s your definition of the Premier, the Ultimate LOC?

     EL-BEY:  I hope I’m embodying just that!  In my title year, I have a few firsts and have a goal of making this title more visible than it has been before. I’m aiming to place very well at International Mr. Leather in Chicago.

     EVANS:  Share with us some of the highlights of your tenure.

     EL-BEY:  Thus far, it has been wonderful!  This year, I’ve hosted my LOC fundraiser bar night prior to Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend 2016, sponsored the 2nd Drummer North America Fetish Weekend 2016 in Las Vegas, NV, and been a part ofMr. DC Eagle 2016 Contest Weekend and Mr. Maryland Leather 2016/COMMAND MC Weekend.

     Some highlights from last year include the 2015 Us Helping Us “A Passion for Living “ annual fundraiser; the Whitman Walker Health 2015 Gala; and the 4th Annual ManDate Health & Wellness Conference for Black Gay Men.  Also, I co-emceed a fundraising event in Bethlehem, PA that raised nearly $4,000, which went to offsetting bills for a local leather woman in a later stage of cancer.

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     EVANS:  Amazing achievements!  (Pause.)  Now, let’s get personal—if you don’t mind.  (I’m smiling.)  Are you in a committed relationship?

     EL-BEY:  Not at this time.

     EVANS:  You’re a safer sex educator.  How do you define “safer sex?”

     EL-BEY:  My definition of safer sex is by way of becoming educated not only about the potential risks associated with the act(s), but also taking responsible roles within sexual functionality. For example, someone might seek out prophylaxis barriers with the intention of lessening the chances of transmitting a sexual transmitted infection. Another example might be a sexually active person who seeks out of Truvada as PrEP because they truthfully acknowledge their own levels of risks, and might not be as prone to use prophylaxis as their primary barrier as a tool of lessening exposure to the infection.  

    EVANS:  Let’s talk more about your activism.  What motivates you?  Is it your “food for the soul,” if you will?

     EL-BEY:  I’m motivated by what my (our) ancestors went through just to get us to this point in history in this country.  My grandparents instilled in me a sense of pride that goes beyond my title/title year. I love history (the good and the bad), sharing what I know, and helping others–even when it isn’t always convenient.

     EVANS:  Do you believe that POC feel that BDSM is “taboo?” 

     EL-BEY:  I find that people in general consider BDSM to be taboo. Fortunately (for not only black men, people of color, and etc.,) leather clubs and fraternities exist such as the Men of ONYX that not only dispel fact from fiction, but seek to help educate people on BDSM so that they feel empowered in order to explore BDSM.

     Some issues that people of color who practice BDSM are confronted with are at times not feeling welcome in spaces, whereas the majority of people in a play space might not look like them and/or be as welcoming of them and vice versa. Speaking as a man of color of African descent, I might not be as willing to want to relinquish my power to a Caucasian person because of the history of chattel slavery.

     On the opposite side of that coin, I might encounter a potential player who feels that I exist only to fulfill their darkest fantasy in the most dominant ways, when maybe I might want to be more submissive.  Lastly, there are always those homosexual POC with conservative religious views that do not align with their desires. 

     EVANS:  Khalid, as you’re aware, I extensively research/write about and speak on the issue of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A), what we refer to as domestic violence and abuse within the LGBTQ Community.  I find that some individuals confuse BDSM and IPV/A.  What’s your take?

     EL-BEY:  Simply put, BDSM is consensual power exchange, whereas abuse takes away from another person’s power and destroys trust. Both BDSM players are equal.  BDSM should encourage open communication that includes negotiation and engagement between the players instead of the opposite. BDSM players should never fear the other, and there should never be any cruelty and/or violence.  

     EVANS:  Well put.  Now, as Leatherman of Color 2016, what do you have on tap for the remainder of your tenure?

     EL-BEY:   Before I took the LOC title, I was a volunteer outreach/harm reduction, outreach/peer support counselor, and syringe exchanger. I plan to continue this. 

     In April, I’ll be attending events at the 2016 Los Angeles Leather Pride.   Also next month, I’ve been confirmed as a co-presenter at Cleveland (Ohio) Leather Awareness Weekend (CLAW2016), alongside my title grand dad, ONYX Mid-Atlantic pledge master and producer.   

    During this Memorial Day Weekend, I’ll be competing in the International Mr. Leather Contest 2016 in Chicago.   In June and July, I’ll be participating in Pride parades in cities including DC, NYC, and Chicago.  Also in July, I’ll be at the Up Your Alley Fair in San Francisco. 

    In August 2016, I’ll be the first LOC to take the sash internationally as ONYX Invades/Toronto Leather Pride.   And in the same month, I’ve been invited to present at the Southeast Leather Fest in Duluth, GA. 

    In September, I’ll be at San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair. And in October in DC, I’ll be participating in the LOC2017 Contest.

     EVANS:  Khalid, how can people connect with and follow you?

     EL-BEY:  Facebook: Khalid El-Bey.  Twitter: @SelfLawONYX.   Instagram: SelfLawONYX.  Email:khalidloc2016@gmail.com Website: www.loc2016.com .   (www.onyxma.com).

     EVANS:  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

     EL-BEY:  I’m only the eighth eligible LOC to compete in The International Mr. Leather Contest, www.imrl.com (May 2016). You can help ease the financial burden of my title year and by contributing to my travel fund at https://www.gofundme.com/loc2016fund, which can also be found on my web page at www.loc2016.com. Please do not hesitate to shoot me an email at: khalidloc2016@gmail.com.  I’m always eager for additional opportunities to present sex positive workshops, and educate people about D/s (dominance/submissive) relationships. 

     EVANS:  Khalid, thanks for spending time with me here at WYATTEVANS.COMIt’s much appreciated.

     EL-BEY:  Thanks for having me, Wyatt.

JAMAL HAILEY

Jamal Hailey:  Being a Frontline Soldier in the War on HIV is Personal, Part Three

     HIV expert and activist JAMAL HAILEY has his own personal stake in the war on HIV he’s helping to wage: he’s had family die from the disease.

     In Part Three of my exclusive Huffington Post Queer Voices interview with Jamal, he provides us with exceptional insight into exactly why he’s so dedicated and committed to the struggle against HIV.  It’s a poignant and compelling conversation!

     For Part Three, visit:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/jamal-hailey-being-a-fron_2_b_9488288.html

Jamal Hailey Stigma AIDS

Jamal Hailey:  Being a Frontline Soldier in the War on HIV is Personal, Part Two

     HIV expert JAMAL HAILEY has his own personal stake in the war on HIV he’s helping to wage: he’s had family die from the disease.

     In Part Two of my exclusive Huffington Post Queer Voices interview with Mr. Hailey, he discusses stigma, the intersection of HIV and IPV/A, HIV prevention and care from a radical social justice perspective, and the practice of counseling psychology.   It’s a rather substantive and telling conversation.

JAMAL HAILEY

    For Part Two, click on the following link:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/jamal-hailey-being-a-fron_1_b_9404788.html

JAMAL HAILEY

Jamal Hailey:  Being a Frontline Soldier in the War on HIV is Personal, Part One

     HIV expert JAMAL HAILEY has his own personal stake in the war on HIV he’s helping to wage: he’s had family die from the disease.

     I’ve conducted an exclusive Huffington Post Queer Voices interview with Mr. Hailey, who discusses his many years of work in the HIV/AIDS arena, and how the disease continues to disproportionately affect communities of color—particularly those in Baltimore, Maryland.

     For Part One, visit:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/jamal-hailey-being-a-fron_b_9336430.html

Wearing Raincoats on the Porn Set?

     Late last year, I wrote “AHF on the Attack” for Wyattevans.com, which centered on a ballot initiative that mandated the use of condoms in all porn productions throughout the entire state of California.  The part of the measure that  had the adult entertainment industry really up in arms—and panicky, to say the least—is the following:  that regular citizens could sue porn producers for creating condomless content, and receive financial incentive for doing so. 

     Well, that was then.  Now, the industry can let out a collective sigh of relief because just earlier this month, California workplace safety officials rejected that very initiative.  Julia Bernstein, spokeswoman for California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), stated that the division’s standards board killed the measure when only three members supported it.  Four “yes” votes from the seven-member board were required for passage. The vote was 3-2 in favor, with one board member absent and one position open.  Bernstein added that now, the board will start considering a new worker-safety measure for the porn industry.

     According to the Associated Press, “Board members appeared influenced by dozens of porn industry representatives who filed to the dais during a public hearing in Oakland, California, to argue forcefully but politely that adopting the condom measure would either destroy their multibillion-industry or force it underground.  Doing the latter, they said, could make it more dangerous to performers by eliminating safeguards such as the industry’s requirement that actors be tested every 14 days for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

     “’I know you guys work really hard and have our best interests at stake, but we need you to work with us to find a solution,’ said porn actress SiouxsieQ, who also reports on the industry for various publications.  ‘When you criminalize sex work in any way, you make it more dangerous’.”

     In 2012 however, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) was the driving force behind Measure B, a law passed in Los Angeles County that mandates the use of condoms in porn.   Although disappointed by the vote earlier this month, Ged Kenslea, foundation spokesman, said that his organization was “impressed that porn representatives said they recognize a need for some sort of regulation.”  He added that AHF would be interested in working with them to accomplish that objective.

     The Associated Press continued, “Under the 21-page proposal Cal/OSHA rejected, so-called engineering controls ‘such as condoms’ must be used by actors engaging in sex to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV and other diseases.  Movie producers would also be required to pay for medical visits, treatments and other health-care costs for their performers.

     “The problem, several speakers said, is that a large segment of their audience loses interest in a film when they see actors with condoms.”

     But on the flip side, AHF has asserted for years that the condom requirement was long overdue.  The foundation also contends that while it might not prevent transmission of all STDs, it would be far more effective than the porn industry’s 14-day testing requirement.

For The HIV-Poz, “In Moderation” Might Not Really Be Moderate

     Back in May 2013, I wrote an exclusive article for the Huffington Post Gay Voices entitled, “Kickin’ One Back May Be One Too Many.”  It stated that in a group of U.S. men who had sex with men (MSM), heavy drinking plus having more than one unprotected receptive anal intercourse partner in the past two years doubled the risk of acquiring the HIV virus.  Also in that particular study, it was determined that heavy drinking alone—in excess of 14 drinks weekly–increased the risk of HIV infection by a whopping 61 percent.

     Earlier this month, Yale University published a study that concluded that those living with the virus were more likely to die and experience physiological harm related to consuming alcohol than HIV-negative individuals.    And get this:  taking just one or two drinks a day was enough to increase the risk of injury among HIV-positive persons—even those who are undetectable (fully-suppressed virus).

     According to Ziba Kashef of the publication Yale News, the study is the first to reveal the increased harm among patients who have suppressed HIV with modern antiretroviral treatment (ART).

     “Research has shown that it takes fewer drinks for a person with HIV to feel the effects.  However, most prior studies were done on HIV-positive individuals who had detectable virus,”  Kashef reported.  “The Yale-led team set out to determine whether the risks associated with alcohol were higher among current patients who are more likely to have the infection under control with ART.”

     The researchers analyzed data on both HIV-positive and uninfected patients from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS), a large population of persons receiving care from the Veterans Health Administration between 2008 and 2012.  They examined the connection between alcohol consumption and mortality–as well as other signs of physical harm.

     “They found that HIV-positive individuals were more likely to die and experience physiological harm from alcohol consumption than uninfected individuals.  Even consumption of one to two drinks per day was associated with increased risk for people with HIV,” Kashef added.  “The finding was particularly notable because it held true for individuals with suppressed virus, said the researchers.”

     Amy Caroline Justice, professor of general medicine and of public health at Yale, weighed in.  “(The study) ‘demonstrates that even among people on ART with suppressed viral load, who are much less sick in general, there is still an added effect of alcohol among those individuals than people without HIV.  It suggests the threshold for safe alcohol consumption is likely different for people with HIV’.”