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Lil Nas X receives “Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award”

Through his bold music Lil Nas X continues to fight for mainstream queer representation and elevate important issues around mental health

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Screenshot via Lil Nas X MONTERO Call Me By Your Name Official Video

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people, honored Grammy Award-winning artist Lil Nas X this week with its inaugural Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award.

Lil Nas X has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to supporting The Trevor Project’s mission to end suicide among LGBTQ young people with his openness about struggling with his sexuality and suicidal ideation, his continued advocacy around mental health issues, and his unapologetic celebration of his queer identity.

The Trevor Project’s inaugural Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award marks the start of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and the crucial work that needs to be done to end suicide among LGBTQ youth.

According to The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. Due to higher rates of discrimination, rejection, and social isolation, LGBTQ young people are at increased risk for negative mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, seriously considering suicide, and more.

In accepting the award, Lil Nas X said: “Thank you so much to The Trevor Project for this award and for all they do for the LGBTQ community. Discrimination around sexuality and gender identity is still very real, and our community deserves to feel supported and totally free to be themselves. I often get messages from fans telling me about their struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, and it made me realize that this was something bigger than myself. If using my voice and expressing myself in my music can help even one kid out there who feels alone, then it was all worth it.”

Amidst a record-breaking year for anti-LGBTQ legislation and violence against the LGBTQ community, The Trevor Project is highlighting the importance of queer representation in the media, and the powerful message of visibility and hope it sends to LGBTQ young people.

“The Trevor Project is thrilled to honor Lil Nas X with the Suicide Prevention Advocate of the Year Award,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director at The Trevor Project.

“His vulnerability in his journey to self acceptance and expression has created space for candid conversations around mental health and sexual identity, signaling to LGBTQ youth that they are not alone. The Trevor Project’s research shows that over 80% of LGBTQ youth say that LGBTQ celebrities positively influence how they feel about being LGBTQ, further affirming the cultural impact of Lil Nas X being proud of who he is and an ideal recipient of this inaugural award.”

Following his chart-topping, genre-defying debut “Old Town Road” in 2019, Lil Nas X quickly became a global LGBTQ icon recognized for his fearless effort in changing the status quo around what it means to be queer and Black in the mainstream music industry. Throughout his career, he has been an outspoken and unapologetic advocate for the LGBTQ community, using his platform to shed light on mental health issues many LGBTQ young people face.

In February, Lil Nas X shared a series of intimate TikTok videos documenting his life story, including his silent battle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation during his rise to fame. The following month, he penned a heartfelt letter to his 14-year-old self about coming out publicly to mark the release of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).”

In the letter he states, “I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist.” In May, he released the music video for his single “SUN GOES DOWN,” which depicts Lil Nas X uplifting a younger version of himself in high school when he was contemplating suicide and struggling to come to terms with his sexuality.

Through his bold music videos, poignant song lyrics, and candor on social media, Lil Nas X continues to fight for mainstream queer representation and elevate important issues around mental health, igniting change and spotlighting the experiences of LGBTQ young people around the world. 

In news related to National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the California State Senate passed the LGBTQ Violent Death Data Collection Pilot Program (AB 1094) this week. The bill now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.

The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) and co-sponsored by Senator Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), would equip coroners and medical examiners in six participating counties across California with the training necessary to identify and collect data on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) in cases of violent death, including homicide, suicide and the use of deadly force by police.

The number of LGBTQ youth who actually die by suicide (or other violent deaths) remains unknown due to the lack of SOGI data collected on a broad scale in the U.S. However, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10–24 nationwide — and according to the CDC, LGBTQ youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight/cisgender peers.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. 

“The first of its kind in the nation, this bill marks an important milestone in the movement to protect and save LGBTQ lives,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director for The Trevor Project. “There is a critical need to track cases of suicide, homicide, and police brutality among the LGBTQ community, allowing us to better understand these crises, respond more effectively with solutions, and help prevent future tragedies. We thank all the sponsors and advocates for championing this historic bill in California and hope that decision-makers across the country take note of this pilot program to model it in their respective communities.”

“I believe AB 1094 is an important and humane step in ultimately preventing these deaths. Data may sound like a scientific subject, but, at its core, it leads us to better help and serve all our communities with compassion and empathy,” said Assemblymember Arambula. “We must have better data to understand the scope of what’s happening in our LGBTQ community – especially among the youth – when it comes to violent deaths, including homicide and suicide. This information will be a crucial guidepost to prevention efforts and saving lives.”

AB 1094 would establish a three-year pilot program with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) where coroners and medical examiners would be trained in cultural competency and best practices on how to properly identify a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity before being required to do so. The bill explicitly requires respect for confidentiality — all personally identifiable information, including names, addresses, and dates of birth would be removed before being reported.

“Recognizing LGBTQ identity matters — in life and in death,” said Carrie Davis (she/her pronouns), Chief Community Officer for The Trevor Project. “Particular members of our LGBTQ community, such as transgender women and queer young people of color, face disproportionate rates of violence and suicide. Better data around the occurrence of these preventable deaths can help us create life-saving programs to protect our most marginalized community members.”

“AB 1094 will begin the work to bring dignity and visibility to those in the LGBTQ community who have been taken from us too soon,” said Senator Eggman. “I’m grateful for the broad support in the Senate today because this will allow us to craft better informed solutions to prevent this violence and save lives.”

This bill comes at a time with public support for the tracking of this type of data. According to polling conducted by The Trevor Project and Morning Consult, more than four in five adults (84%) feel it is important to include sexual orientation and gender identity when evaluating suicide and other violent death statistics, including 91% of Democrats, 80% of independents and 77% of Republicans.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat www.TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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Theater

‘Hadestown’ comes to the Kennedy Center

Levi Kreis discusses return to live theater

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Levi Kreis is an out actor who plays Hermes in the national tour of ‘Hadestown’ soon opening at the Kennedy Center. (Photo courtesy of Levi Kreis)

Hadestown
Through Oct. 31
The Kennedy Center
$45.00 – $175.00
Kennedy-center.org
For Covid-19 safety regulations go to Kennedy-center.org/visit/covid-safety/

Early in September at New York’s Walter Kerr Theatre, out singer/actor Levi Kreis was in the audience for the long-awaited Broadway reopening of “Hadestown,” Anaïs Mitchell’s rousing musical reimagining of the Orpheus myth in which the legendary Greek hero descends into the underworld to rescue his lover Eurydice. 

After almost 18 months of pandemic-induced closure, the Tony Award-winning folk opera was back and the house was full. In a recent phone interview, Kreis describes the evening as “love-filled, and electrifying and emotional after such a difficult time.” Now, Kreis is onstage in the national tour of “Hadestown,” currently launching at the Kennedy Center. As Hermes, the shape-shifting god of oratory, Kreis is both narrator and chaperone to the story’s young lovers. 

A Tennessee native, Kreis, 39, has triumphantly survived turbulent times including a harrowingly prolonged coming out experience that included six years of conversion therapy, education disruptions, and music contract losses. He officially came out through his acclaimed album “One of the Ones” (2006), which features a collection of piano vocals about past boyfriends. And four years later, he splendidly won a Tony Award for originating the role of rock and roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis in the rockabilly musical “Million Dollar Quartet.” 

Throughout much of the pandemic, Kreis leaned into his own music and found ways to reconnect with his largely gay fan base. But he’s happy to now be touring, noting that all the “Hadestown” cast have been hungering to perform before a real live audience.

When not on the road, he’s based in New York City with his husband, classical-crossover recording artist Jason Antone. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Hermes is the same role for which André De Shields—the brilliant African American actor, also gay, and some decades your elder won a Tony and has resumed playing on Broadway, right?

LEVI KREIS: That’s right. It’s really a testament to the creative team. Rather than laying us over what Broadway created. They’re creating a tour that’s uniquely different; still true to the beauty of the story but with a different flavor. 

BLADE: What attracted you to the part?

KREIS: First, I fell in love with the show. My own musical sensibilities understand the origins of where this music comes from. It’s very bluesy and gospel. Southern and rootsy. And that’s everything I’ve created in my career as a singer/songwriter.

BLADE: With your life experience, do you feel called to mentor?

KREIS: The biggest effort I’ve given to this narrative is being a pioneer of the out-music movement starting in 2005 which was a moment when gay artists were not signed to major labels. I want through eight major labels—when they found out I was gay things always went south. 

It’s been amazing to be a voice in LGBTQ media when no one was speaking about these things. It’s popular now, but back when it mattered it was a lot harder to start my career as an openly gay artist and speak about these issues rather than keep quiet, cash in, and only then come out. 

BLADE: Where did that nerve come from?

KREIS: Less about nerve and more about being beaten down. How many things have to happen before you give up and decide to be honest?  

BLADE: For many theatergoers, “Hadestown” will be their return to live theater. Other than it being visionary and remarkably entertaining, why would you recommend it? 

KREIS: We need encouragement right now. But we also need art that facilitates a lot of important conversation about what’s happening in the world. This has both elements.  

“Hadestown” is not a piece of art that you easily forget. You’re going to walk out of the theater with a story that sticks with you. You’ll realized that your own voice matters. There’s a part in the show, Orpheus’ song, when the gods encourage him to get the balance of the world back again by telling him that his voice matters. 

BLADE: Is it timely?

KREIS: Art is here to change the world. And this piece of art hits the nail right on the head. I’m a purist when it comes to art and song. There’s a reason why we do it. people are listening now in a way they haven’t listened before. To miss that is to miss the role of society, I think. 

BLADE: And going forward? 

KREIS: It’s going to be interesting. We could double down on super commercialized theater or we may decide to really go the other direction and reclaim innovation. That remains to be seen. 

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Books

Book details fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Clinton-era policy was horrific for LGB servicemembers

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‘Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By C. Dixon Osburn
c.2021, self-published $35 hardcover, paperback $25, Kindle $12.99 / 450 pages

When Senior Airman Brandi Grijalva was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, she talked with a chaplain’s assistant about some problems she had at home. The chaplain’s assistant said what she told him would be confidential. But when she revealed that she was a lesbian, the chaplain’s assistant no longer kept her conversation with him confidential. Grijalva, after being investigated was discharged.

Craig Haack was a corporal in the Marines serving in Okinawa, Japan. Haack, who had made it through boot camp, felt confident. Until investigators barged into his barracks. Looking for evidence “of homosexual conduct,” they ransacked everything from his computers to his platform shoes. Haack was too stunned to respond when asked if he was gay.

In 1996, Lt. Col. Steve Loomis’ house was burned down by an Army private. The Army discharged the private who torched Loomis’ house. You’d think the Army would have supported Loomis. But you’d be wrong. The army discharged Loomis for conduct unbecoming an officer because a fire marshal found a homemade sex tape in the ashes.

These are just a few of the enraging, poignant, at times absurd (platform shoes?), all-too-true stories told in “Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by C. Dixon Osburn.

As a rule, I don’t review self-published books. But “Mission Possible” is the stunning exception that proves that rules, on occasion, are made to be broken.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official U.S. policy on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the military. Former President Bill Clinton announced the policy on July 19, 1993. It took effect on Feb. 28, 1994.

Sexual orientation was covered by DADT. Gender identity was covered by separate Department of Defense regulations.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December 2010 (the House on Dec. 15, 2010, and the Senate on Dec. 18, 2010). On Dec. 22, 2010, Former President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law. 

DADT banned gay, lesbian and bisexual people who were out from serving in the U.S. military. Under DADT, it was not permitted to ask if servicemembers were LGB. But, LGB servicemembers couldn’t be out. They couldn’t talk about their partners, carry photos of their girlfriends or boyfriends or list their same-sex partner as their emergency contract.

It took nearly a year for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to go into effect. On Sept. 20, 2011, Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “certified to Congress that implementing repeal of the policy {DADT} would have no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion or recruiting and retention,” Osburn writes.

Before DADT, out LGBT people weren’t permitted to serve in the military. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was intended to be a compromise—a policy that would be less onerous on LGB people, but that would pass muster with people who believed that gay servicemembers would destroy military readiness, morale and unit cohesion.

Like many in the queer community, I knew that DADT was a horror-show from the get-go. Over the 17 years that DADT was in effect, an estimated 14,000 LGB servicemembers were discharged because of their sexual orientation, according to the Veterans Administration.

But, I had no idea how horrific “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was until I read “Mission Possible.”              

In “Mission Possible,” Osburn, who with Michelle Benecke, co-founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), pulls off a nearly impossible hat trick.

In a clear, vivid, often spellbinding narrative, Osburn tells the complex history of the DADT-repeal effort as well as the stories of servicemembers who were pelted with gay slurs, assaulted and murdered under DADT.

Hats off to SLDN, now known as the Modern Military Association of America, for its heroic work to repeal DADT! (Other LGBTQ+ organizations worked on the repeal effort, but SLDN did the lion’s share of the work.)

You wouldn’t think a 450-pager about repealing a policy would keep you up all night reading. But, “Mission Possible” will keep you wide-awake. You won’t need the espresso.

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Arts & Entertainment

NSYNC star Lance Bass & husband Michael Turchin welcome twins

Singer, husband, and popular West Hollywood nightclub owner, now adds the job of ‘Dad’ to his resume

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Lance Bass and Michael Turchin via Instagram

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Former boy-band NSYNC star and co-owner of the popular LGBTQ+ nightspot Rocco’s, Lance Bass, announced that he and husband Michael Turchin are the proud parents of twins, Violet Betty and Alexander James.

In his announcement on Instagram, Bass wrote; ‘The baby dragons have arrived!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I can not express how much love I feel right now. Thank you for all the kind wishes. It meant a lot. Now, how do you change a diaper??! Ahhhhhhhh!”

The babies were carried via surrogate, the singer noted saying that Alexander, born one minute before his sister on Wednesday, weighed 4 lbs., 14 oz. Violet weighed 4 lbs., 11 oz. Bass said in his Instagram post.

His husband also announced the news on his Instagram account. “Introducing the newest members of the Turchin-Bass household: Violet Betty and Alexander James!!!! They’re pure perfection and yes that includes the dozens of poops we’ve already dealt with. Our hearts our full!!! Thank you everyone for the well wishes 🥰🥰🥰”

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