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Reclaiming Advent: a queer perspective

Somber, hopeful, reflective pre-Christmas season keeps holiday excess in check

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Advent, gay news, Washington Blade

A church Advent wreath features five candles — one each on the periphery for the four Sundays before Christmas, then the center candle representing Jesus, is lit on Christmas Eve. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

It’s easy as an LGBT person to brush off the seasons and holy days of the Christian faith. So much church teaching over the years has been used to condemn gay expression in any form, it’s understandable that many of us choose to eschew religion altogether. 

But straight or queer, life will eventually bite you in the ass and it’s helpful to have some stuff in your took kit with which to work. As Janet said on “The Velvet Rope,” “you must learn to water your spiritual garden.” It’s so great that there are Christian denominations that don’t obsess over patriarchy and anti-LGBT scriptural interpretation. Sadly, they’re often the smaller, fledgling ones, but hey — they’re there!

I love all the seasons of the church year, but have found special meaning in the four Sundays of Advent. The dates vary based on how Christmas falls, but they’re always the four Sundays prior to Dec. 25. This year, it started Dec. 2. Advent two is this weekend — Dec. 9. Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday is Advent three and is Dec. 16. Advent four is Dec. 23. The official color is purple for altar coverings and clergy attire but rose (a combination of Advent purple and Christmas white) is permitted/encouraged on Advent three, a Sunday of brief respite from the more somber and preparatory nature of the season. 

Several gay organists I know jokingly call Gaudete Sunday (and its Lenten counterpart Laetare Sunday, also rose) “gay Sunday” since clergy typically don pink that day. It’s almost as if the legion of closet cases (especially in the Catholic Church) finally let their gay out a bit, just on that one Sunday. 

But there’s a lot of misunderstanding surrounding Advent. Some people think it’s just a big countdown to Christmas that gets a little more “Christmasy” the closer you get to the big day. That’s actually not the case at all and in many formal churches, Christmas carols are not sung at all until Christmas Eve since they don’t complement the Advent liturgies. 

It can be a little jarring if you’re not used to it. The rest of the world — especially retail — seems to put up Christmas stuff earlier and earlier each year while the church keeps everything Christmas related at bay ’til Christmas Eve. We’ve also kinda lost the concept of the traditional 12 days of Christmas. Many folks start taking down their lights and trees right after New Year’s, but the Christmas season doesn’t officially end until Jan. 5 (the day before Epiphany), but even that has elements of what we traditionally think of as the Christmas season with the story of the Magi representing the manifestation of Christ. 

Ever notice on the “I Love Lucy” Christmas episode, they’re putting up their tree on Christmas Eve after Little Ricky has gone to bed? This was a common practice as well in the ‘50s and prior — Santa supposedly brought the tree and it wasn’t seen until Christmas morn. But with fake trees being more and more common, people tend to put them up earlier and earlier and Christmas and Advent get blurred even more.

The most enduring symbol of Advent is the wreath with five candles — three purple, one rose and a center candle that’s white representing Christ. One is lit each Sunday of the season (the rose candle on Advent three) and the Christ candle is finally lit on Christmas Eve. 

Advent has also taken on a more warm-fuzzy feel in recent decades as well with some church leaders deciding — I’ve never been able to trace how/when this tomfoolery got started — we needed a theme for each of the four Sundays: one (hope), two (peace), three (joy) and four (love) and in some rites, even blue (heresy I say!) altar coverings and chasubles are worn to distinguish from the more somber Lenten (purple) season. 

Of the themes, three is the only one that has any semi-historical validity as the traditional entrance antiphon for that Sunday is “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Advent songs in hymnals from 100 years ago have titles like “Trembling Before Thine Awful Throne.” An old Episcopalian book I have from the ‘50s says, “In advent we remember the four last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell.” I really wish those were the four candles and the priest would be forced to say, “And now, here to light the death candle or the hell candle is the such-and-such family.” 

We’ve seen small blips of gay believers reclaiming church traditions. A few years ago, a gay-affirming church made the mark of the cross in glitter ashes on foreheads on Ash Wednesday. I say go for it if you feel an urge to partake in such festivities. Anything that sends the message that we LGBT believers have just as much right in the sacraments as anybody else — especially to anti-gay behemoths like the Roman Catholic Church — is probably a good thing. I just cringe a bit at the total middle finger to tradition an act like that evokes. 

I mean, yeah, we’re gay. We’ve been flipping off tradition since day one, whenever that was. I find it almost more subversive, however, to be out and proud while maintaining our use and place among the traditional elements and rubrics of the church. To me, that form of reclaiming says more. We’ve got just as much right to be here as you.

But aside from all that — for I don’t honestly think the historical Christ cared about such matters and could have even been queer himself, who knows — Advent feeds my soul because it’s anti-commercialism, it’s anti-Christmas creep, it’s anti-greed, it’s anti-holiday stress, it’s anti-hearing “Winter Wonderland” for the 9,000th time in every store you walk into, it’s all those things and more. Christmas will come —  but all in good time, my pretty. These things must be handled delicately. 

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Living

Trusting The Tech – Why technology is key for the LGBTQ community

The LGBTQ community is harnessing the power of technology in order to promote inclusion.

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After another Pride month, we reflect on how far we’ve come – and how much work is still left to do.  Changing perceptions and raising awareness is never easy but, in the modern world, the LGBTQ community is harnessing the power of technology in order to promote inclusion.  In this article, we’re going to look at the ways in which our tech is taking things to new levels:

Safety First

In 2021, we’re still seeing far too many headlines about attacks on members of the LGBTQ community, and its vital that individuals are vigilant about their safety – and that of others. Technology such as the GeoSure travel safety app can provide a valuable layer of protection.  Additionally, new features such as the functionality introduced by Tinder to prevent LGBTQ identification being shown in the profile of users who may be travelling through intolerant nations are incredibly important.  We’re all working toward a world without discrimination but, until that day comes, safety is of paramount importance.  Similarly, technology comes into play when it comes to venues such as salons in areas where safety may be an issue.  A lot of salons are now mindful of this and are using appointment booking software such as Booksy which allows them to manage appointments through an app to ensure that their environments are as safe and comfortable as possible. 

Inform And Educate

Technology can be an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to breaking down barriers between the LGBTQ community and other members of society.  The groundbreaking LGBTQ+ Experiment website has been created to do just that by allowing people to ask – and answer – questions in order to increase understanding.  More importantly, innovations like this one are incredibly useful in eliminating some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the LGBTQ community.

Uniting Communities

You may have read about a recent incident on Lake Moses, Washington, whereby a group of young boaters were recorded hurling abuse at fellow boaters who were displaying a Pride flag.  During the incident, the abusers ran into trouble when their boat burst into flames…….and were rescued by the boaters with the Pride flag.  

Following the incident, thousands of Washingtonians took to social media to praise the rescuers – with many describing the incident as ‘karma’.  As unpleasant as this event was, through the use of social media, it brought together members of all communities, thereby connecting and uniting people against this kind of mindless abuse.  

Putting LGBTQ In The Picture

Improving visual representation has always been important for different ethnic and gender groups; from the introduction of African American Barbie dolls to more inclusion in television and film.  Tech giant, Apple, has highlighted its commitment to visual inclusivity by introducing gender neutral and same sex couple emojis – a move which can only help to improve inclusivity.

Connecting Through Content

Historically, media channels tended to ‘play it safe’ when it came to the representation of minorities – something which resulted in a widespread sense of isolation and alienation.  The advent of the internet – and more significantly, social media – means that representation, and the publishing of content, is handed to the masses, rather than to a few media outlets who may or may not have their agenda.  For the LGBTQ community, the ability to create and publish content which highlights issues and promotes inclusion is a huge step toward better understanding and awareness. 

Technology is constantly evolving and can be an extremely valuable tool when it comes to connecting and uniting communities and improving understanding.  In a world where it seems that anything is possible, this technology is key to breaking down barriers and creating a world where inclusion is the norm.

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Real Estate

How to prepare yourself in this seller’s market

Millennials are putting down the avocado toast and picking up mortgages

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Just because it’s a seller’s market, doesn’t mean it’s not a good time to buy.

For the first time, Millennials are cutting back on spending money on multiple streaming subscriptions, $10 drinks, and avocado toast. They are dipping their feet into purchasing their first home. The current market conditions can be tough for some buyers though, so being prepared is more important now than ever. 

The first step in the home buying process is finding the right real estate agent. Your agent should be trustworthy and someone who is knowledgeable about the area, sales contract, and local programs that may be able to save you money. Once you find the perfect agent, ask them to refer you to their preferred local lenders. When talking with lenders, not only should you focus on interest rates, but also ask about their in-house processing and underwriting. This may be able to give you a competitive advantage against other offers. 

Once you’ve decided on your lender, they will need several documents to help them determine your eligible purchase price. Now is the perfect time to get your documents in order, including 30 days of pay stubs, two years of tax returns and/or W2s and 1099s, and two consecutive bank statements. Providing these documents in a timely manner can help expedite the pre-approval process and prevent delays once you’re under contract. The lender will also look at your median credit score from the three major credit bureaus. Since your credit score has a direct effect on your interest rate, it’s important to pay close attention to your score. If your credit score needs a little help, talk to your Realtor and lender to see if they have recommendations on how to boost your score or programs that may be able to help.

After you’ve been pre-approved, it’s time to look at properties. With these current market conditions, properties typically don’t stay on the market for very long. Depending on the type of property, some may only be on the market for a few days. Doing your due diligence at the beginning of your home search can help save you time and focus on the properties that really fit your criteria. Now is the time to make that wish list, visit neighborhoods, research schools, and get a really good idea of what you’re looking for. In this market, it’s very important to see a property as soon as it hits the market. By fully understanding your search criteria in advance and making sure you’re available to see properties after work or on a lunch break, you will be better prepared to make an offer when “the one” hits the market. 

The most common question I get now is, “should I wait?” In most cases, the cost of waiting can cost you. With historically low interest rates and housing prices continuing to increase, now is still a great time to purchase real estate. Being prepared, patient and having an informed Realtor and lender on your side will definitely help in this market.

Teddy Rojanadit is a licensed Realtor in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland with Bediz Group at Keller Williams Capital Properties. Follow him at @teddydcrealtor on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. He can be reached at [email protected] or 202-664-3736.

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Real Estate

The five-step downsizing plan

Set goals and a budget — then de-clutter

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Before you downsize, you’ll need to de-clutter your home.

Are you considering downsizing? For any number of reasons, this might be a decision that makes sense at this point in your life. 

Perhaps you have children that are now grown and have moved out, or you entertained large parties and those days have passed, now having more space than you can use. Maybe you simply want less home to take care of and fewer chores on your to-do list. Perhaps you’d like a smaller mortgage, so you can put the extra money toward other things. Or possibly, you’re willing to pay a slightly higher mortgage so that you can have a smaller home in an area where you’ve always wanted to live. Whatever your reasons, if you’re thinking of downsizing, having a plan can be extremely valuable. Those preparing to downsize may find that following this helpful five-step plan can make the process a smooth and successful experience:

Think through your goals: This may seem like an obvious step, but it is one that people often overlook. As you think about downsizing, take the time to sit down and come up with a detailed list of your goals. Ask yourself the necessary questions that will help you to narrow and focus your search. These are questions like: What’s important to you in life — being close to family and friends? Living in a place you love? Having easy access to medical care? Access to an international airport? Spend some time thinking through your priorities and desires. How much of a mortgage will you be able to pay, particularly if you are retiring or anticipating increased health care costs as you age? Maybe you’re able to live mortgage free with the sale of your larger home.

How much square footage would you feel comfortable caring for? How will you prepare for the move? Thinking carefully about your future by working through important questions like these can help you move closer toward a concrete vision of your ideal downsizing situation and provide peace of mind and confidence during the process. 

• Look for a location you love: Location is an important aspect of any real estate transaction, but this can be especially true when downsizing. What are your reasons for downsizing? Thinking this through may help you to choose a location that is ideal for your needs. Are you downsizing because you are getting older and health issues are a concern? If so, choosing a location close to a city center where you can easily access medical care might be important. Are you downsizing because you’re tired of living in a large home in a suburban area and want easier access to amenities that a more urban environment may offer? If so, looking for more walkable neighborhoods closer to a larger metropolitan area might be important for you. Are you retiring and downsizing because you want to live in that gay-friendly city that you’ve always loved? Focus your home search there. 

• Be sure to budget: After you’ve thought through your goals and decided on a desirable location, you’ll want to spend time closely looking at your financial situation and coming up with a realistic budget to achieve your goals. Meeting with a financial professional to review your assets and debts, what you might make from the sale of your current home, and what the total costs of downsizing might be can be tremendously helpful, and can ensure that you make your move with financial confidence and security.

Don’t forget to declutter: Certainly, downsizing means you’ll have less space – and this means less room for extra stuff. Before your move, take advantage of the downsizing process as an opportunity to let go of items you no longer truly need or use and to make space for new things and experiences. It is important to get started on this process early. Often, when people are downsizing, they still overestimate the amount of room they will have for extra items. Don’t make this mistake. Taking the time to sit down and think about what will fit within your new space removes the stress of later having to dispose of those belongings after you move.

Find the right agent: The importance of this step in your downsizing plan should not be overlooked. Whether you are staying relatively close to home or moving across the country, you will need an agent who knows the community you’re interested in and can help direct you to neighborhoods and homes that will best fit your needs. This can particularly be true when you are an LGBTQ home buyer or seller and you want to ensure that you find not only a house that you love, but also a community where you can feel truly at home. Working with the right agent can reduce your stress, save time, and greatly increase your overall satisfaction with your real estate experience. Wondering how to find exactly the right agent for your needs? At GayRealEstate.com, that’s where we come in.

Whatever your real estate needs – whether you are looking to buy, sell, upgrade, or downsize, at www.GayRealEstate.com, we are here for you. We are passionate about connecting LGBTQ home buyers and sellers across the country with agents who are talented, experienced, and committed to helping their clients achieve their real estate dreams. In any real estate experience, having an agent who knows and loves their community and who values each client, and understands that client’s unique needs can be invaluable. We are dedicated to delivering that experience every time. You deserve nothing less. We look forward to helping you soon.

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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