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Hunky queer historian quenches thirst for knowledge on Instagram

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Dr. Eric Cervini (image via YouTube)

A hunky historian whose popular video series brought him Instagram fame and his own YouTube Channel has now written a book about an important chapter in the story of LGBTQ rights.

Dr. Eric Cervini, an “award-winning historian of LGBTQ+ politics and culture,” first garnered attention when he started an account on Instagram to feature “Magic Closet,” a series of one-minute videos about queer-centric topics from history, including the sexuality of figures like Alexander Hamilton and Michelangelo, the intersex goddess Ishtar, and even the question, “Who Invented Homosexuality?”

The Harvard-and-Cambridge-educated PhD and Gates Scholar soon found himself with over 13,600 followers, and decided to take things further. He began producing longer videos and posting them on his YouTube channel, where they continue to gain him new followers and fans. He’s also expanded his audience with a podcast, “The Deviant’s World,” which has dropped two episodes to date.

As if he weren’t busy enough, he’s also written a book about Dr. Frank Kameny, the WWII veteran who was “radicalized” after being fired and blacklisted by the army for being gay and went on to become the co-founder of the Washington Mattachine Society. Titled “The Deviant’s War,” it’s set for release this summer.

One reason that Cervini draws a large audience of LGBTQ+ viewers – aside from his influencer good looks – is that he identifies as part of the community himself.

“I grew up in Central Texas, and was closeted until I was 18,” the historian told LGBTQ Nation.

He went on to explain, “I didn’t have any knowledge of gay history until my 20s. In retrospect, I wish I had had access to a fun, accessible, and easily digestible resource that gave me a sense of the LGBTQ+ community’s long and rich history.”

“[T]hat’s what I’m trying to create with my Instagram page,” he went on. “People can start at the beginning – Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt – and move forward through time with my short posts or 1-minute videos. I try to highlight individual stories that give a sense of their times: what does a Roman emperor’s love affair with another man tell us about sexuality in ancient times?”

As for his upcoming book, he said, “A lot of people think that the gay rights movement began with Stonewall. And while Stonewall was incredibly important, my book focuses on activism that began a generation before the riots: how a small group of activists — led by Frank Kameny — fought the federal government’s gay purges in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Cervini said that he regrets never having met Kameny, who died in 2011.

“I wish I could thank him for everything he sacrificed for our community,” he said. “He died in poverty, and now, we can only thank him by remembering his name and telling his story.”

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Theater

‘Rose: You Are Who You Eat’ an irreverent romp at Woolly Mammoth

Solo performance by John Jarboe offers much to consume

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John Jarboe in ‘Rose: You Are Who You Eat’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. (Photo by Teresa Castracane)

‘Rose: You Are Who You Eat’
Though June 23
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
641 D St., N.W.
$60-$82
Woollymammoth.net

With “Rose: You Are Who You Eat,” a solo performance by John Jarboe (she/her), now at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, there’s a lot to uncover and consume.  

For much of the show, you might think the appealing Jarboe is playing dress up in a pair of tighty-whities and sparkly go-go boots, but it’s something else and she’s ready to go there. 

Jarboe is a cannibal. Not in the usual sense. She learned from a well-meaning aunt that while still in the womb, she ate her twin, and that’s what made Jarboe the way she is (a reference to gender queerness).

Despite the aunt’s awkward delivery of family dish, the prenatal news struck a chord with Jarboe: the vanishing twin who would have been named Rose, became increasingly connected to her own identity. Along with the inevitable jokes about eating her sister’s spaghetti thin hair and tasty eyeballs, there’s meaty matter unfolding onstage. 

Not entirely unexpected, Jarboe also harbors mommy issues. Mom, here referred to as “Mother” for the sake of anonymity, is a buttoned-down tax accountant who the more perturbed she becomes the wider her forced smile grows. And while Jarboe needs to have that long overdue talk with Mother, something always seems to get in the way; invariably it’s tax season.

Assisted by some primary source props (a baby book, notes, a string of pearls filched from Mother’s jewelry box), Jarboe further digs into gender expression and identity. Her performance career began in her child bedroom closet with a flashlight and makeshift costume, an obsession to which her parents initially subscribed, later not as much. 

Among the 75-minute-long show’s highlights are five or so songs, rock numbers and redolent ballads composed by Jarboe, Emily Bate, Daniel de Jesús, Pax Ressler and Be Steadwell. 

It’s definitely a solo show conceived and delightfully performed by Jarboe; however, she’s supported by a terrific four-person band (costumed in what appeared from Row D to be rosebush inspired jumpsuits) including Mel Regn, Yifan Huang, Daniel de Jesús, and music director Emily Bate. Bate is a singer, composer and performer who runs a queer and trans community chorus in Philadelphia called Trust Your Moves, an experiment in collective singing designed around liberation and co-creation.

As Jarboe moves into her 30s, she celebrates and incorporates her lost twin as part of herself with a new intensity. She writes letters, yearning for even the most tepid reply. Her obsession with Mother remains a thing too.

Dressed in a sylphlike rosy red gown (by costume designer Rebecca Kanach) Jarboe uses call-and-response (with the audience standing in for Mother) in search of some resolution. It’s beautifully done. 

With various kinds of backing coming from CulturalDC, the Washington Blade, Capital Pride, the Bearded Ladies Cabaret and other New York-based groups, there’s nothing itinerant cabaret looking about “Rose.” Directed by MK Tuomanen, it’s an elevated, visually engaging production. 

For instance, set and video designer Christopher Ash’s projections shown on both a serviceable scrim and later a wondrously huge toile curtain, beautifully feature photos from an ostensibly idyllic Midwestern childhood. We see a young Jarboe not only enjoying hockey, fishing, and hunting, but also pulling off a strikingly girly, cheesecake pose.  

At the top of the show, there’s live video of Jarboe’s outsized mouth devouring wings fished from a bucket of fried chicken. Hints of cannibalism? 

“Rose: You Are Who You Eat” is an irreverent romp, deeply personal yet relatable. It’s an evening of poignantly performed moments, off the cuff laughs, and some awkward/sexy audience interaction. 

As a performer, Jarboe lays herself bare, exposing strengths (rich melodious voice, presence, ingenuity) and weaknesses (garrulity and more than a few un-landed jokes) in equal turns. 

Hers is a world that invites audiences to just let go and go with it. Jarboe’s intrepid journey melds the familiar and the startling. In short, it’s a trip worth taking. 

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Photos

PHOTOS: Capital Pride Festival and Concert

Keke Palmer, Billy Porter among entertainers

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Billy Porter performs at the 2024 Capital Pride Festival on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 2024 Capital Pride Festival and Concert was held along Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest D.C. on Sunday, June 9. Performers included Sapphira Cristál, Keke Palmer, Ava Max, Billy Porter and Exposé.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key and Emily Hanna)

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Out & About

Get ready for Baltimore Pride

Events scheduled throughout weekend

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Baltimore Pride Parade (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Baltimore Pride begins this weekend on Friday, June 14 in the heart of the city.

There will be a variety of events, the main ones being Mt. Vernon Pride on June 14 at 2 p.m. on the 200 Block of W. Read St., the Parade and Block Party on Saturday, June 15 at 3 p.m. on N. Charles St., and Pride in the Park on Sunday, June 15 at 3 p.m. at Druid Hill Park.

For more event details, visit Baltimore Pride’s website

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