One Stop, Amazing Shop

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In my early years after coming out, I remember going to the LGBTQ bookstores often. No, no not the adult shops cruising’ for a tryst. I mean an actual bookstore. Some of you kids may not fully remember them, but they were places you could go an buy books on all topics of LGBTQ culture. Need Pride jewelry? They had it. Need a new t-shirt with a bit of attitude for the bar this weekend, you betcha. How about some cool new decor for your fab pad, right over here on the counter, if you please. It was a one-stop shop of all things Queer. Sadly, over the years, these community centers have all but disappeared. At least I thought so until I had been out exploring with my friends.

I persuaded them to go to W29th and Detroit because it had been the epicenter of LGBTQ culture in Cleveland since the late 70s and I wanted to feel immersed. Granted, I used to go to that area when I spent some time here visiting. I remember going to A Man’s World, when it was still here, and the neighborhood was sketch to say the least. Since 2008, this neighborhood has become a hub of change. More businesses have moved to this area, new homes are being added, and remodeling what is there has become the new thing. I had heard that The Dean Rufus House of Fun was here and once we parked we decided to venture inside and take a look.

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As soon as I stepped through the door it was as if history itself had surrounded me. So many memories flooded back and it was almost like going home. Dean welcomed us in very energetically and offered help. A very engaging soul who treated his store like his home and us, as guests coming to visit. Being a southern boy, this was an immediate connection for me. Dean is amazing and full of history, he has been in that location for 13 years, and he has seen the neighborhood change. Want to know about the beginning of that area, he has that information. I learned so much about LGBTQ history from him in the 45 minutes we were there. He walked with us outside and showed us around the neighborhood, what was new and what had endured. Sharing with us how the building his store currently resides in was once the site of the first LGBTQ center of Cleveland. This man is a wealth of knowledge.

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Much like I remember from my past, this store carried everything you might need. Various tchotchkes abound, Pride flags and jewelry, clothing and even a local line of Men’s underwear called Bayne Wear. Yes kiddies, they also carry adult novelties as well, making it safe spot to buy your needs without facing the judging stares you may get from other places. They also carry a large selection of vintage vinyl and CDs; dedicated to all the songs and artists we grew up loving and singing. Books that still cater to our culture and even from local authors such as Ken Schneck’s book LGBTQ Cleveland.

You really need to get over there and check him out. I LOVE this place and you will too.  Be vocal and shop local. Keep your community strong and support their business.

 

#KiltedBros

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Nestled in the 5th Street Arcade is Cleveland, Ohio’s very own kilt store, Kilted Bros. However, this kilt store isn’t like any other kilt store out there. These two guys started their business in October of 2014, as they say over the course of one evening. Jefferson and Nick had been wearing kilts for about 15 years before they decided to open Kilted Bros. Today they are located in the 5th Street Arcade and planning to move to a bigger location across the hall.

“We believe in comfort and marching to your own drummer. If that’s you, drop your pants, and get into a Kilted Bros kilt”, says Kilted Bros. This isn’t your traditional kilt store, they believe that kilts are for everyone, for any occasion, and any heritage. So come in, drop your pants and put on a kilt.

They offer traditional 5 and 8 yard Tartan style kilts and the more modern Cargo kilts, which include pockets and snaps. Their Hybrid kilts combine Cargo kilts with the ability to include inserts of any tartan designs or colors. One of their newer styles of kilts involve using a sublimation printing process, using heat to transfer ink to fabric to create various designs. At present they offer a Puppy Bone Leather Flag and Bear Flag Paw option, that are also cargo styled kilts.  All of their kilts are hand sewn, so they can accommodate any special orders you may have. Build time can vary; depending on the order, but usually takes about 6 weeks. They also offer a wide range of accessories to go along with your kilt; sporrans, belts, kilt pins, fly plaids, Ghillie shoes, tartan vests, kilt hose, and much more. Cant find it in the store, no worries you can order it from there website.

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Jefferson and Nick do travel the year, going to various Pride, Bear, and Leather events, selling their brand. They fully embrace an inclusive mentality and believe that all men should live a pant free lifestyle. Women are welcome, as well. They have built kilts especially for them, so if you need specific measurements they can set you up. Want to outfit your wedding, they got that covered. Just stop by and talk to them.

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Visiting their shop is amazing; their staff is welcoming and helpful. Never wore a kilt? No problem, they are there to walk you through your first purchase. They help with providing measurements, showing you options, and even walking you through ordering online, if they do not have what you are looking for. They truly treat you as a member of their family and the reason why I keep going back. This is my favorite place in all of Cleveland and I love these guys.

Yes they are LGBTQ friendly, they even have a Bear Pride kilt which is on the national Tartan registry and can be view here. That is one of two designs that Nick has registered, the other is the Pride of Cleveland tartan. These are just two of their many designs they carry. Truly something for every flavor.

They have made me a believer and I am in a kilt as often as I can be. When people ask me about my kilts I always tell them that once you try one on, there is no going back. They are quite possibly the most comfortable garments I have ever worn. Then I always flash them the Kilted Bros logo. If you are a person of your own style and confidence, then these guys are for you. Check them out and drop your pants.

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Kilted Bros.

530 Euclid Ave. #16 Cleveland, OH 44111

Shock and Awe

This title recalls the Bush era of going to war in the Middle East where he said he would give them Shock and Awe. Its seems this current president has gone to war with the LGBTQ people of this country with his own brand of shock and awe.  Daily we see how our rights are changing and the horizon looks more dark that hues of rainbows. The Goose stepping Government Goons are determined to hit us as much as they can. One right, as of yet, they can’t seem to refuse is that of LGBTQ rights to marry. Because of this, he and his anti-LGBTQ cabinet are targeting everything they can.

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In the two plus short years he has been in office he has overturned or put into place so many hate filled vitriol pieces of legislation. He has enacted a ban on Transgender People from being allowed in the military. He has judicial nominees that are fully against any further LGBTQ legislation set to be pulled into their positions or already have been. These officials are poised to remove any protections LGBTQ workers may have. He has rescinded a right of all K-12 students that are Transgender their basic civil liberties and are now forcing teachers and doctors to tell their parents, if they do not already know. He has rescinded another memo from the Obama era granting protection to Trans workers from being fired. He is allowing and siding with business after business the right to discriminate based solely on being LGBTQ, whether it is workers or patrons. He even argues that anti-gay discrimination is perfectly legal, as the Federal Civil Rights act doesn’t include LGBTQ people. He has allowed The Department of Health and Human Services to enact new regulationsand created an agency, the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, that will purportedly work to ensure health care providers’ religious liberties aren’t violated, which essentially gives protection to health care provider the ability to deny giving care to LGBTQ patients. He also fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS without an explanation; this came before recent news that shows he is allowing the Ryan White Fund to be drained to support his Child internment camps. He refuses to recognize June as LGBTQ pride month, a month that holds historical significance for our community in its fights for rights. And as of yesterday, the House of Representative passed a bill that will allow adoption agency to deny, legally, any LGBTQ couple from adopting children and provides no recourse if the Federal government chooses to step in and impose fine to those state agencies denying those couples a chance to adopt.

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Photo by Toa Heftiba u015einca on Pexels.com

This, my friends, is the same person who stood up and held a Pride Flag claiming that he was a friend to the LGBTQ community and that he would fight for our civil liberties. And many people bought into this line that he tried selling us, like so many others. Here we are on the precipice of change, yet again. This time we are witnessing 50 years of struggle being washed away and many times without the public even realizing that it is happening until it is done.

Recently, long time activist Larry Kramer was quoted saying “For Gays, the worst is yet to come. Again.” The article he wrote for the New York Times states how we do not have the activists and leaders our cause once had. It almost seems we laxed into a time of complacency because of the progress we thought we were making. I feel we were to easily riding the wave of feeling good. I remember in 1999 when my lover asked me to marry him and he was making plans for us to fly to Hawaii to get married, since at the time it was legal. I never thought it would last. I doubted we would ever get some of the rights that we did in the last 20 years. When it happened I was in awe about it and thinking we are on our way to finally being treated as an equal.

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On this day, as I look forward and backward, I grimly see that we were only on a step stool that has quickly been pulled from us like a childish prank. The generation of LGBTQs that grew up with it being legal to get married, adopt and safe from losing your home and job for being who you are now have woken up to realize that this dream is fading. It is to them we must look for our next leaders and activists. We must be there to offer them strength.  Strength because they didn’t witness what happened to us in the recent past. Pride month may be over and our rights may be diminishing, but we must remain strong in the pride of who we are. We must Unite and Fight to take back that progress and push it to new heights. We must show the oppressors that we will not settle for going back to the shadows and closets we have already burst forth from. We will fight every inch for what is ours, we will fight with our very lives if it is necessary. #RiseandResist

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

Review of LGBTQ Cleveland

Recently, while out doing some photography on W 29th, I visited The Dean Rufus House of Fun  – review forthcoming- I picked up a book that I had been wanting to get for a hot minute. LGBTQ Cleveland is a book written by local author Ken Schneck. The book chronicles the LGBTQ history in Cleveland. Being a fairly new resident of the Cleveland area, I had been looking for a way to learn more about the LGBTQ history in Cleveland. Random searches turned up some information that had been in archives at CSU. This was all a good start but didn’t give me a picture of how things started and moved through time. Just before Pride I had seen a couple things popping up on my feed about this book and decided I wanted it.

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Ken wrote this book much like I, too, was thinking,  A way to find out about the community here in Cleveland. He had read an article in the Advocate that Cleveland’s LGBTQ community seemed as divided as the city itself. There are those who love it or those who would love to leave it. Not believing this about the city he moved to, he decided to ask his circle of friends their opinion and received much the same response. This was the spark for this book and one got which I am thankful. I moved to Cleveland from a very small rural town in southwestern Virginia and It has been hard for me to move from that small town mindset and out into this community. This book shows me that there is in fact a rich history here and it starts to instill pride in me about this city.

Each chapter is an inclusive “We…” showing how “We” as a community have come together to share in our victories and rally when we have setbacks. In the Chapter “We Connect,” we get to the all the groups that have provided needed information and solidarity. The backbones of our community that keeps us strong and focused on the changes that we need to make. Groups like Gay People’s Chronicle that gave us news about our community that other papers wouldn’t print, The Gay 90’s offering a beacon on the air waves as a means of speaking out, Cleveland Feminist Chorus that creates connections to people who otherwise may feel lost, and to the most recent Le Femme Mystique Burlesque that gives inclusion regardless of gender, orientation, size or gender expression. These are the very foundations of what makes a community strong.

Not long ago, bars and bathhouses were out community cornerstones. You may turn your nose up to it, but times were not as open as they are now. These were places we could go and be ourselves, freely. Even Cleveland had those places, places that shouldn’t be forgot. As they were our moments of fleeting freedom, the instilled in us the need for more and to fight for what rights we deserved. LGBTQ Cleveland shows those places, as well. Paying homage to places like the Leather Stallion Saloon (leatherstallion.com) being the oldest gay bar in Cleveland which opened in the 1970s. This bar has grown with the times and honors lesbians as well as gay men. Many of the bars this town once had, have gone by the wayside over the years. There are also mentions of places like Berkshire House, a place that was a gathering spot for the Lesbian community. These “safe places” were our refuge, our sanctity, and our church, even before churches started opening to us.

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Ken also gives us the beginnings of Activism and Pride celebrations in Cleveland. The book doesn’t sugar coat this history either. We can read about citizens of Cleveland that used their own resources in showing their hatred and bigotry. In a time when hate crime laws didn’t exist and definitely didn’t include LGBTQs, this was left unchallenged, except by our community. But rally we did. Many of these events are what prompted the first Gay Pride Celebration in 1974. However, it wasn’t until 1989 that it started gaining notice in the city. This event was held a W 29th and Detroit at the site of where the LGBTQ community center first stood. That block has remained a center for the gay community in Cleveland and is the site of a present day historical marker.

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This book has been an eye opener for me and has filled me with a renewed sense of pride for the city I now call home. This book has given me more cause to want to be included in this community and stand up for the change that the LGBTQ community, here, has fought so hard for. If you haven’t picked this book up yet, you need to do so. Visit places like The Dean Rufus House of Fun on W 29th and buy it local. You can get it from Ken Schneck’s website  just click his name. It is also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Make sure you pick it up, knowing your history is important.

 

I kilt it!!!

KILTS!!! I love them, what more can I say. They are an amazing piece of fashion. Why more men don’t wear them, I can’t seem to understand. At present I have 9 and it will be growing from there, thanks to Kilted Bros in downtown Cleveland. While there may be some Irish and Scottish in my lineage, my love for them is because of how they look and feel. After putting on my first one, I was hooked. I have always been fascinated with them but seemed to lack the courage and accessibility to wear one. At least until I moved to Cleveland almost two years ago. My best friend, Tammy Mellert, had mentioned that a local kilt vendor was at Pagan Pride and they had a shop downtown. I promptly replied that we needed to go. My heart was racing with excitement and fear. I laid awake thinking about the possibilities. Her husband had worn one before and said he liked it. I figured if he could, so could I. My mind was filled with the possibilities. I poured over their site studying all they had to offer. My mind reeling with options and getting ideas as to what I wanted. I tried not to get my hopes up on any particular style, for fear of them not having it. I studied the videos on how to measure and what would work. Finally, the day arrived and we went to their shop. One of the representatives Eric was working that day. We advised him that I had never worn a kilt, but I did know my size. I looked over their stock and immediately fell in love with a tartan that was mostly purple. Tammy said that should be the one I tried on, she knew that purple was one of my favorite colors. The other being black, which was also in the tartan. It is called the Pride of Scotland. So, finding my size, I absconded to the dressing room to ditch my pants. I knew that tradition stipulates to wear them regimental, so I dropped my undies and began to strap into my kilt. Once I had it on, I knew that I was in love with it. However; I hadn’t stepped out of the dressing room yet. My nerves kicked in and immediately was afraid of how I would look to others. I knew I had to come out or get dressed. I swallowed my fear and opened the curtain and stepped out. Both my best friend and Eric said that the colors worked very well on me. I stepped in front of the mirror and saw myself for the first time. I knew I liked it, but still had the fear in the back of my mind that “men don’t wear skirts.” Tammy assured me I looked good in it and I knew I wanted to, so they only thing to do was buck up and buy it. I did and haven’t looked back. I wore it out of the shop that day and her husband had also worn his in solidarity. We went to a few places before heading home, to get the feel of wearing it in public. It was freeing to wear something so comfortable. I loved it so much that in two weeks I went back for a second one. Slowly, my kilt wardrobe began to grow and I wanted to take it to the next level and start wearing them more. The next step was to wear them to work. At the time I was working in retail as a manager of a Sunglass Hut, since fashion is part of what drives their culture and the uniqueness of fashion is their mainstay, I thought I would give it a try and ask them. They wanted to see pictures to make sure it wasn’t gimmicky. I assured them that it wasn’t costume quality; in fact my kilts cost easily $150. After showing a picture they conceded to allow me to wear it. So, I donned my favorite kilt, The Pride of Scotland Tartan, and went to work There was that initial fear when I got out of the car and crossed the parking lot. The tassels on my sporran beating in time to my racing heart. Then I heard it; someone recognized I was in a kilt. “Awesome Kilt” was yelled at me across the parking lot. Immediately my confidence and ego shot through the roof and I strutted the rest of the way to work. I wore them almost every day and people would see me through the door and stop in to see me. This in turn always resulted in a sale. It was awesome. I wear them every chance I can get. When someone asks me why my response is always “try one on and feel how comfortable it is, you will never go back.” My thanks goes out to my best friend Tammy Mellert for dragging me to get my first one and to Kilted Bros (www.kiltedbros.com) for being a local small business in Cleveland. Without them I wouldn’t have this addiction. I will be reviewing their store soon, so stay tuned.

You have the right to what, exactly?!?

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LGBTQ rights are always a slippery slope. Since the first fights at Stonewall Inn in 1969 till this very day, we have fought and clawed to have the views of us changed from degenerates with mental illness to being treated as real people. We always get one small step forward while being pushed back two steps. We considered it a major win during the Obama administration when first, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed and then when DOMA was defeated. I still pause and wonder if we should have made the focus about the right to get married. That, however, is a subject for another post.

Today, while flipping through Facebook, I was treated by an article touting that the Trump Administration is in support of employers being able to fire people due to being gay. Granted, living in Ohio that was something that was still legal for the state to do. This is purely outrageous A case, currently under investigation, involving Donald Zarda says he was fired from him job for being gay. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) was on his side and quickly they found out that the DOJ (Department of Justice) was arguing that his employer, Altitude Express was within their rights to fire him based on Title VII

Are you familiar with Title VII, maybe not? Even as someone who has been a manager in retail for a long time, it wasn’t a Title I knew. Title VII says employers under Title VII are permitted to consider employees ‘out of work sexual conduct in regards to their employment. In this case, DOJ lawyer, Hashim Mooppan stats that “there is a common sense, intuitive difference between sex and sexual orientation.” Basically meaning, it’s ok to be gay as long as you aren’t having sex with your same sex partner. Essentially coming down to the fact of applying different roles based on gender. This can also affect Transgender People, since gender is the focus here. More about this can be found here Department of Justice says rights law doesn’t support LGBTQ

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This is majorly important since this statement came days after Trump’s tweet that stated Transgender People will be banned from serving in the military. This basically starts undermining LGBTQ rights we have won from previous administrations. As the administration has moved along in the President’s term, he has worked to rewrite language of legislation to omit LGBTQ from it and first of it being with healthcare. Being a child of the 80s, I fully remember the stigma and fear surrounding AIDS patients and LGBT health. Doctors refusing to assist patients for fear of catching AIDS. Not treating LGBT members just out of fear, in general.

Roger Severino, an appointee of the Trump administration for health department civil rights official has said “Same-sex marriage was merely the start, not end, of the left’s LGBT agenda, the radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.” This is the mindset of people who are currently making decisions in this government. We are allowing it due to our own complacency. This is why your right to vote is so important, if you aren’t voting you are assisting.

Fighting for our rights is essential. If we acquiesce to this now, other minorities will start to feel it as well. You can already see the seeds of it in the Trump America. Racial hostility is on the rise. Families torn apart when they only come to seek asylum from their tyrannical governments, only to end up in this one. Enter Rise and Resist, the modern incarnation of what ACT UP was for the 80s. Using Civil Disobedience to fight back. Rise and Resist is “a direct action group made up of both new and experienced activists committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties. We work collaboratively, creatively, respectfully, and with all the joy we can muster for the health of the people and the planet.”

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Not everyone feel comfortable joining this type of group, but there are still things you can do. Contact your elected officials about any law you feel strongly about. Let them know you have a voice and opinion about how you are treated let them know your support. Don’t just do it once, do it often. Make an impression and be heard. If you aren’t registered to vote, change that by going to Register to Vote and then get out there and vote. Vote in every election, about every bill that means something to you. Know the ballot, who stands for what, what bill effects you and how. Get educated and get empowered to make a change. Let your family know your feelings and get them to vote with you.

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