Sunday, November 6, 2016

Don’t Stop Dancing – A Reminder from Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance

The past usually tends to hold some mystery. In exploring what came before, our minds get a chance to dwell into the unknown of ‘what it would have been like.’ But what a shock historical reminiscing can be when we find that the past seems to be holding a mirror to the present. 

Dusting off a copy of Andrew Holleran’s 1978 novel Dancer from the Dance, the story unravels in an eerily familiar tale. Grant it, Holleran’s classic isn’t at all that old. Whether it can even already be called a classic may be debatable. Yet, few would argue that being gay in the 70s was anything like being gay today.        

Nevertheless, if you’re under 55, flipping the pages of this gay novel will feel like you’re taking a stroll down a sort memory lane that you didn’t experience, but know all too well. If you’re over 55, you perhaps lived it. No matter your age, what’s clear in reading Dancer from the Dance is that the ‘Dance’ is still going on.   

The novel is a direct window into the gay social scene of the 70s. Sure, the ambiance has changed a bit. Today we have Gaga and Guetta, Hugos and Aperols, skinny jeans and mixing with mainstream. But the dance, like the book’s plot line, rolls on. 

The story is focused around two main characters, an eccentric Andrew Sutherland and a disengaged Anthony Malone. The two make for an unlikely pair, hopping around New York’s underground gay scene, exploring the fleeting sensations of gay love and making their mark on Fire Island. But while decades have passed since their escapades were written, little has changed in the rituals they carried out. They may even have intensified. 

For sure, with a more accepting society, Sutherland’s eccentric personality and loose tongue are all the more prevalent. RuPaul’s Drag Race has even brought such hilarity and cattiness into our living rooms. And you could probably do a poll in any gay establishment in New York City today and find that there are a whole lot of good looking, broken-hearted saps searching for life’s meaning. While Malone reminds us that love is a common goal (all too often wrapped in a misleading combination of sex), he also warns that it cannot be our reason for being. Malones are still around, still dangerously beautiful, and still lost to themselves. 

Reading Dancer from the Dance makes today look like a redecorated and glorified version of the past. In a nod to ‘we are what we came from’ philosophy, the fictional book serves as a realistic glimpse at today’s gay culture. But, as the book is only the recent past, how long it continues to resemble the current gay scene remains to be seen.

The biggest difference between then and now isn’t the music playing in the background. It’s the connected technology in all of our pockets. And apps may slowly be killing the form of gay culture that not only defines this novel, but also defines us. 

Dancing the dance on Fire Island
While there are downsides (past and present) to our alternative ghettos, especially hedonism, materialism and drugs, there is also a huge positive – the fun, safe place. The reason Sutherland and Malone are flocking to Fire Island is because it is an uninhibited gay congregation zone. Key West, Sitges and Mykonos all hold similar promises. So do gay-labelled dance floors, bars and saunas. But what happens when that same promise – searching for fun, acceptance and belonging – rings in your pocket? Quite simply, places close down. 

That’s why Dancer from the Dance is a tale begging to be read (and reread) now. Malone and Sutherland are by far nowhere near what one would call role models. But if the gorgeous Malone ended up so discouraged in the real world, we can only imagine the loneliness of his counterparts online. 

Dancer from the Dance is a reminder of the dance that belongs to us. Let us not forget how to dance it.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

3 Products to Get You Fit and Fresh this Summer

According to non-scientific, yet blatantly obvious climatic evidence, when the temperature increases, the amount of clothing you put on your body decreases. This skin showing phenomenon is mostly referred to as summer. And in Switzerland it’s just around the corner (at least, given the weather patterns, fingers crossed that it will soon arrive). 
With the year’s most sizzling months ahead, those with bodies chiselled like the Matterhorn and ripped like the waves on Lake Geneva have a lot to look forward to. But what about the workaholics who haven’t made it much to the gym or the procrastinators who are still putting exercise and beauty on hold? No matter if you are lazy Susan, gym queen or something in between, here are a three products to help you feel fit and fresh this season and build on whatever you have (or haven’t) done. 

Effortless abs
Slang has cultural biases. The beloved six-pack in America could refer to a favorite brew or to well-perfected abdominals.  In the chocolate-loving French speaking part of the world, they call sculpted abs a “tablette de chocolate.” Clearly, consuming either isn’t going to help much in the midsection.

Somatoline however, may just be a modern day miracle in a bottle. Backed by little evidence or medical proof – the maker claims proven results in clinical trials on a whopping 25 men – this product may be a gamble. But when it comes to shaping those hard to transform abdominals, a bet on something is always better than nothing. Reassuring any doubts, the neon bluish cream in the sport version gives a warming tingle on application that lets you know something’s reacting. For extra effect, there’s also an intensive night version that can be used in parallel. And it’s definitely not just the same thing with different packaging. The night cream is putrid green and carries a retched smell much more unpleasant than its minty day counterpart.  Day or night, start rubbing these on and if you’re as lucky as the guys they tested you could see yourself get 29% more toned in just 4 weeks. Not bad for simply slapping on a cream.

Picture perfect
Online or in an album, looking back at a summer well spent is always satisfying. That is until you get to that series of photos where unsightly underarm sweat takes all the attention away from perfect smiles. It can happen to the best of guys, especially those daring to wear bright colors or earth tones, but with the right product, there’s a way to dry up the body’s unsightly cooling system. Sudaxyl, offered in three levels of intensity is more than just a deodorant. It’s a sweat stopper. Roll this on under your arms every day for a week then just once a week after that and you’ll be picture perfect and worry free all summer long. Just remember this antiperspirant is an addition to your deo. It stops sweat, not odor.   

Plant power is proven. The vitamins, fibers, antioxidants, minerals and other benefits you can get from greens are mostly well known and documented. But have you heard of chlorophyll? In plants it’s a booster for absorbing energy from the sun, and in you it’s a booster for your immune system. An even bigger benefit for looking your best, dosing up on chlorophyll gives your body a cleanse that will leave your skin fresh and blemish free. While you can certainly eat it in spinach and salads, to maximize its powerful detox qualities, try products like Tisama’s Super Green Chlorophyll. Just a teaspoon of this powder extract in the morning will work to purify your face to perfection. Drinking it may take some getting used to. It’s thick, bubbly and green when stirred in water and tastes (not surprisingly) a lot like liquid grass.  But if that sounds too hard to swallow, it also comes in a pill form at most pharmacies. Combined with the vitamin D you’ll get from the sun, this is summer skin therapy from the inside out.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The book that confirms it: Gay Men Don’t Get Fat

Spring may be dragging, but we know what’s coming. With destinations like Sitges, Mykonos and Gran Canaria ahead, Gay Men Don’t Get Fat seems the perfect title to help bring in the spirit of low-rise beachwear.

Indeed, Switzerland’s plethora of Cailler croissants, Swiss apéros and cheese fondues make not getting fat a yearly achievement. But, before you get too thrilled about learning a gay man’s secrets to keeping slim, know this book is no dieting guide. Thought it rightfully promises calorie burning laughter, the book rather states the obvious. Gorgeous gays work hard at, well, being gorgeous. And yes, that does mean not dipping into globs of anything that looks overly delicious.

Aside from the catchy title, Gay Men Don’t Get Fat is a rather annoying (yes, you read it correct, annoying) read from the world’s most famous window dresser, Simon Doonan. The only thing is, you catch yourself laughing at loud and are rather forced to continue through the annoyingness to get to the punches. 

Let’s remember, the book is a collection of anecdotes from its author. And Doonan comes off as the kind of gay guy you’d likely only be able to tolerate in small doses. Turning the pages, you can almost hear the whinny screech in his voice rolling through every word. Surely, he’s the type who opens his mouth and a purse falls out. He’s pretentious, over the top and riddled in stereotypes. But the reality is, behind all his rants there’s a lot of truth and history on the inner workings of gay culture. And yes, that often coincides with fashion and pop culture. Understandably, you probably wouldn’t want to sit down and share a chardonnay with Doonan, but if you’re a gay man, his book is worth a read.

What gets a bit muddy is that he also targets (yikes) certain straight women – the growing numbers across the planet whom are finding themselves desperately single and downright drabby. We all know one or two of those, now don’t we? But, as Doonan points out, we do love a tragic girl. All the better if they can learn from a few queerboys!

Obviously, gay today isn’t like gay yesterday. For younger gays, Doonan’s rants may just be a worthwhile history lesson, sometimes overwhelming in outdated references. Yet with shout-outs to Ke$ha, Adele and the likes, he nicely bridges to the things that modernly matter. Through it all, he consistently colors his text with catchy French phrases. And, bravo, there are enough of them to make any Swiss Romand proud!

Now, if you are one of those rare gays that don’t dare to be seen ‘on the scene.’ This may not be a good read for you. Try Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. It’s equally funny but opposingly oriented.   

Gay Men Don’t Get Fat promises a laugh. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about. Now, let’s believe we don’t get fat, and make it happen because we are queerboys!

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Symbol in Geneva Makes Pro-Gay Statement

Only when we start to acknowledge injustice can we really eradicate it. Reflecting a hate-crime committed 447 years ago, today the City of Geneva uses a cold moment in history to set a profound symbol for the future. The placement of an engraved plaque in the city’s center near Bel-Air - with the endorsement of the Geneva mayor Sandrine Salerno and the undertaking of NETWORK, an organization of gay leaders - is set to serve as a living memory of hope. Hope against hate.

The story taking place today is one that dates back to June 10, 1566. That’s when Bartholomé Tecia, a 15-year-old student, was sentenced to be drowned in the Rhone River after being convicted of homosexuality. By commemorating his wrongful death through a plaque in the City of Geneva, representatives of the group NETWORK say Geneva is making an international statement towards the universal understanding for human rights.   

“When someone passing by sees this plaque, it will signal the symbol behind Bartholomé Tecia. A message lives on. It is a witness to how history sets a vision for us, as we make sense of the upbringing, culture, society and lifestyles of that time,” said Dominique Rachex of NETWORK Geneva in a press release.

Likewise, it also makes one think of the number of LGBT people locally and across the world that still encounter prejudice and discrimination. The tragedy of Bartholomé is certainly not a unique case of hate. There are records of 31 others, who from 1444 to 1662, were also sentenced to death because of their homosexuality. And, in recent times, from anti-gay legislation in Uganda to the recent homophobic killing of 32-year-old Mark Carson in New York, the symbol of Bartholomé is more relevant than ever.

With June bringing celebrations of pride, the new plaque in Geneva is a strong presence in the right direction that all Swiss can be proud of.  

“We are very proud to have contributed to the creation of a place of remembrance and hope,” said Oliver Fritz, President of NETWORK Switzerland in a press release. “It’s a witness to the time we are living in and to the kind of discrimination we hope will soon be obsolete.” 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It’s Pride Time! Enjoy, But Don’t Be Comfortable!!

If anything, Switzerland is a discreet place. Proof in the many royals, celebrities and high-profile CEOs who find comfort in visiting paparazzi-free. Arms folded, eyes down is the nature of the Swiss, and even the more outgoing immigrants soon enough find themselves conforming. It may seem a cold way of life, but it’s a peaceful one.

Peace often equals happiness. But does it equal equality? In a world that is overall unwelcoming for gays, Switzerland is an easy place to get comfortable. But gays here legally don’t enjoy equal rights and do face discrimination. What was once a huge leap for the LGBT community in Switzerland, the registered partnership, now looks like outdated legislation. Switzerland must move ahead.

It’s pride time and it’s time to show that we aren’t comfortable. It’s time to demand more. And, with pride in Switzerland, options are aplenty! Hold your head high, have fun, and don’t be discreet at one of these upcoming events:

All Families Matter
Zurich Pride Festival, June 8 (parade and main event)

No surprise the biggest pride celebration in Switzerland is in the country’s largest city. The Zurich pride parade kicks off at 14:00 in Helvetia Square, and Swiss Germans don’t mess around when it comes to timing. 14:00 is clearly 14:00 and not a minute later. And, if you’re planning to walk along with the parade floats, make sure you wear good shoes. In Zurich the parade’s speed is more that of a light jog rather than a leisurely stroll.

The theme of the Zurich Pride Festival is “All Families Matter.” One of the aims is to make it clear that, while the Swiss registered partnership is a compromise, LGBT families matter as much as all others and deserve real equal rights. Indeed, “All Families Matter,” and do they ever! Just think of the shocking opposition to the French “marriage pour tous.” Discrimination and hate are strong, we must be stronger.

Following the parade it’s party time. The pride park at Turbinenplatz is nicely located just in front of the Ibis and Novotel (Zurich City West). For all the club rockers, the night lights up in burlesque style at the WonderWorld Party, official pride party.
Like Everyone
Pride 2013 Fribourg, June 22

While pride in Zurich may be Switzerland’s largest, it’s by no means the only place to make a statement. Pride Romande, organized by the Swiss-French is taking place in Fribourg, a charming town of 285,000. The location choice is worth taking note of. After all, is it not the conservative areas where the LGBT community needs to make its case the most? If there’s any part of you that has ever said, “I wish I could do more,” then here’s an easy and fun way to participate. 
The motto of this pride is “Like Everyone.” Quite simply, gays are different, like everyone is different. And in the end we are all more alike than we may think, especially in the human need for rights.
Things in Fribourg get going at 12:13 – why not 12:15, well again, this is Switzerland and it’s all about timing, isn’t it! The parade rolls out at 13:13 in front of the Théâtre Equilibre and a whole list of activities are in place for the day.

Not to miss is the divine Catherine D’oex (pronounced Day), who has an iconic, yet approachable status with Swiss Romands. And for the club rockers, the “Very Official Pride Party” opens at 23:13. For accommodation, try the nearby hotel NH Fribourg, only a 2 minute walk from the parade start point, Théâtre Equilibre.

In the Same Boat
Party in Basel, June 15

All aboard! Once a year the gay community meets in Basel on THE SHIP in the Rhine Harbor. Things get started at 19:00 when the party is officially opened by the executives of Network, who represent gay leadership. Various organizations present themselves as the sunsets and DJs move in by nightfall. The party goes until morning, but should you wish to retire before the cock crows, find accommodation nearby at The Best Western Basel.

Happy Pride!

Friday, April 19, 2013

All eyes on France – Strong opposition against an even stronger issue

There are many reasons why Switzerland might just be aliving paradise on earth. Equal gay rights, though the country fares better than many, aren’t yet one of them. With stability taking a spotlight, change often moves at a glacial pace in Switzerland. So there’s ample time to see what others are doing first. Right now, with the French legislation “Le marriage pourtous” (Marriage for Everyone) eyes are on neighboring France.

They say a bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a great blessing. With 573 kilometers of French-Swiss border, it’s not surprising that Switzerland (especially the French-speaking part), takes some influence from neighboring France. So hypothetically, advancement on gay marriage so close to home, could open more doors for Switzerland in the not so far future.

But what’s being seen around the debate in France isn’t pleasant.

Formal legislative debates literally turned into a fistfight and, in a hateful outburst, Philippe Cochet, an ultra-conservative with the UMPpolitical party, associated gay adoption with the killing of children. At the same time opposing demonstrations heated up causing more than 70 people to be stopped on account of violence.        

Yet, while providing a “shock” factor across mainstream media, what has taken place in France is truly more shameful for the country than it is impactful for the opposition.

In Switzerland’s case, perhaps it’s easier to love humanity than it is to love one’s neighbor. Society is already turning the page on gay rights and continues to move forward. While French diplomats may think they are debating a revolutionary issue, gay-globalization is taking place across the developed world. According to ILGA Europe statistics from January 2012, several European nations are already ahead of France on gay marriage and adoption. And although it’s unclear where Mr. Cochet gets his news, so far no children have been reportedly killed.     

Now for all this opposition. Varrying sources report between 3,000 and upto 45,000 in Paris. Sure the numbers are impressive, and seeing such hate is saddening, but is the protest really that big? With the same city holding a gay pride of 700,000, the opposition is out numbered. Even little Zurich saw a pride of 35,000.

The movement for gay rights will not give way to those who think fistfights in a parliament are acceptable. It will not give way to those who think throwing chairs through bar windows is acceptable. In fact, those who participate in such acts and deem them appropriate should probably be evaluated on their ability to raise children.

As the opposition makes a fool of itself, the movement to marriage only becomes stronger. Good luck to our friends in France. We are watching for the final vote.