“Elegance on the Bay” is The Great Oak Manor, a historic 1938 Georgian-style building with all the modern touches on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.
We’re on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, just eight miles away from Chestertown MD. The Manor house and our beautiful grounds are perfect for a relaxing escape from the stresses and demands of your life back home.
The Great Oak Manor has twelve guest rooms, each with a private bathroom and king-sized bed. If you’re looking for a little privacy, our Carriage House offers a special retreat for two couples or a family looking for some peace and quiet.
Great Oak Manor also has our own small but private beach with a canoe, kayaks and stand-up paddle boats – take these out on the bay for a beautiful spring or summer day. We also have bicycles you can use tp cruise around our neighborhood.
The Manor and its property has a long history, dating back to the sixteen hundreds when Lord Baltimore deeded the land to Josias Fendall, a rebel against the crown. Fendall spent time in prison and lost his lands, so the property was transfered to Marmaduke Tylden. The Manor House itself was built by Russell D’Oench, heir to the W.R. Grace shipping firm. He hired a well-known Baltimore architect who won the state’s highest honor in architecture in 1940 for the amazing Georgian details incorporated in the house.
See the Great Oak Manor Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here
The last year saw more brutal police murders of African Americans, the emergence of Black Lives Matter as a force for change, and huge turnouts among Black voters ensuring the defeat of the openly white supremacist president and two GOP Senators from Georgia, swinging control of Congress and the White House to the Democratic Party.
Let’s take a moment on this special day to honor not just Martin Luther King Jr. but the Black queer writers who are changing American literature, fiction, and non-, for the better and whose visions of justice and equality give us hope for the future.
These critical favorites, all published in 2020, are worth savoring this year as head into a new era of a Democratic majority.
1. “Storms in Africa: A Year in the Motherland” by Jeremy Helligar
Queerty contributor Jeremy Helligar is known for his ability to combine travel writing with cultural and political analysis. After discussing his adventures in love & lust across the globe “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?,” Helligar takes on racism directly in”Storms in Africa: A Year in the Motherland.” Helligar has lived all over the world–New York City, Melbourne, Bangkok and Cape Town–and never have his ex-pat musings been better than his latest work.
2. “The Prophets” by Robert Jones, Jr.
This is the incredibly powerful story of Isaiah and Samuel, two enslaved young men on the Halifax plantation, who fall in love and bring a little bit of solace to the horror of slavery before complications arise over the openness of their same-sex desire. Jones spent more than a decade laboring over the words in this book, and you can see the results in the face of the writing, and the multiple perspectives it brings to life. The book is heralded by critics, and The New York Times describes it this way: “Through these characters and their stories, ‘The Prophets’ calls, across time, on queer warriors, woman kings, root women and boys in love to paint a long queer Black history, a history of rising against, of ever making one’s way back to freedom.”
3. “Real Life” by Brandon Taylor
This is the 2020 debut novel of Brandon Taylor who has written extensively in personal essays about growing up Black and gay in the south. Based on his own experience, the novel tells the story of gay, Black doctoral student named Wallace in a white, PhD program where he believes his work sabotaged by bigots. Wallace experiences the racist indignities of mistaken for a drug dealer, being asked at the door of a campus party whether he is lost, and the inevitable comments that that black people should be more grateful for the experiences granted to them rather than earned. Wallace enjoys a sexy affair with a man who insists on his straightness even after the relationship has been consummated.
4. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
In a series of personal essays, George M. Johnson explores growing up and going to college in New Jersey and Virginia. Topics range from getting bullied to his love for his grandmother, who exposed him to the joys of flea marketing. The book has been heralded as a kind of how-to-come-out memoir for young adults, but it is so much more than that alone. “I look at it often to remind myself of why I am writing these stories and the importance of centering black stories from the black perspective,” Johnson tells NPR. “I didn’t have stories like these growing up and honestly I don’t have many now so I knew I needed to do my part to make sure the next generation of black queer children had something they could relate to and connect with. There are days I look at TV and film and still don’t see myself represented. So, my ultimate goal was providing the story I didn’t have but always needed and to be the vessel so that so many can feel seen and heard.”
5. Alicia Garza: The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart
Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza sums up the learnings of the year of white supremacy and street protests. Long before she helped create the movement that changed the world, Oakland, CA, resident Garza, who is married to a trans man, was a prolific and inspired community organizer who understands that change comes from the hard work of bringing people together across divides, even in more progressive parts of the country. As the horrors of white supremacy have come to light during the Trump years, Garcia’s book will help keep us vigilant even as we enter a new Democratic administration that owes its existence to the savvy and determination of Garcia, Stacey Abrams, and many others.
GayCities encourages you to stay safe during the Covid 19 pandemic. If you choose to travel, we recommend that you follow all CDC Travel Guidelines and adhere closely to all local regulations regarding face coverings, social distancing and other safety measures.
Looking for a socially distanced break? Utah’s ski and snowboard resorts are open, including Salt Lake’s four world-class resorts—Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude—and ready to welcome experts and beginners alike. On and off the slopes, Salt Lake (a.k.a. Ski City) has everything winter revelers would want to enjoy a weekend or weeklong getaway.
Salt Lake’s expansive resorts allow for ample social distancing while Salt Lake’s 20,000+ hotel rooms, thousands of restaurants, and hundreds of bars and nightlife options accommodate those wanting a more intimate apres-ski scene where you can easily stay within the safety of your own pod.
And Visit Salt Lake’s “Salt Lake Bound = FREEdom Found” promotion makes it even easier, and more affordable, to book the ultimate winter vacation featuring some of the best and most accessible skiing and riding in North America, if not the world.
Simply book two nights or more at any number of participating lodging properties and choose the perk that best meets your wants and needs: two (2) free 1-day Super Passes, a free $200 Delta eGift Card, or $100 in Sinclair gas cards.
Salt Lake’s Cottonwood Canyons are home to four of the world’s most iconic resorts, and true “bucket list” resorts for many skiers and snowboarders, each just 45 minutes from Utah’s capital city and even closer for staying at the mouth of either canyon. For those wanting the convenience of ski-in/ski-out lodging, Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude each have their own unique offerings, again with all budgets in mind. Combined, they also boast a few thousand acres for snowboarding and both alpine and cross country skiing for all abilities as well as a number of restaurants and nightlife options from which to choose.
Spelled out, here are five reasons why Salt Lake is the perfect winter getaway right now.
1. The Snow
Utah is home to “The Greatest Snow on Earth ®,” the most critical ingredient to the ultimate winter vacation for skiers and snowboarders alike. And each Cottonwood Canyon resort boasts 500 feet of Utah’s famed powder each and every year, more than just about every other resort in North America.
The stunning peaks of the Wasatch Mountains, where the Cottonwood Canyons and Salt Lake’s iconic resorts are located, offer incredible year-round vistas, made even more spectacular when coated with Mother Nature’s winter bounty.
2. The skiing and snowboarding
Featuring more than 40 feet of snow each year, Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude’s combined 2,000+ acres and 400+ trails are more than enough to satiate every level of skier and snowboarder. There are also miles of Nordic skiing and snowshoeing trails in both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon.
And with each major airline combining for more than 700 daily flights in and out of the new, $4 billion Salt Lake City International Airport (just 45 minutes from the four Cottonwood Resorts) many featuring non-stop morning arrival flights from major gateway cities, it’s easy to ski or ride the day you arrive and depart, something truly unique to many winter destinations.
3. The après ski scene
After a day riding and playing in Utah’s famed snow, there are plenty of après–ski options, both at the resorts as well as back in Salt Lake City. In Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta offers a few iconic ski bars, such as the Alta Peruvian, Goldminer’s Daughter and the Sitzmark, while The Cliff Spa at Snowbird presents spectacular sunset views. Or take a dip with a friend or loved one in the outdoor hot tub at Snowpine Lodge at Alta (pictured above).
For an upscale experience at one of Salt Lake’s resorts, multiple fine dining restaurants offer excellent wine lists along with beautiful vistas, and casual pubs are a great place to kick back with friends and enjoy local craft beer. Check out the lists of options at Alta, Brighton (click “services” for list of food and drink spots), Snowbird, and Solitude. For those looking for an urban winter experience, every neighborhood throughout the Salt Lake valley, particularly downtown Salt Lake City, offers seemingly endless dining and drinking options that can be enjoyed via takeout or outdoors.
Regardless of the experience you’re after, please don’t forget your mask in these days of COVID. The State of Utah mandates face-coverings when indoors, except when eating or drinking. Now that the end of the pandemic is in sight, it’s more important than ever to maintain your social distance and use your face coverings.
4. SLC LGBTQ Businesses
Salt Lake City defies conservative stereotypes of the state with a vibrant, bohemian vibe that is a veritable haven for the local LGBTQ local community and visitors. Salt Lake City’s former mayor, Jackie Biskupski, was Utah’s first openly gay elected official, while three members of SLC’s current seven-member city council are gay/queer.
Surprising to many first-time visitors, this liberating energy creates a beautiful and welcoming place to explore microbreweries and the restaurants popular with both locals and the crowds that come to Salt Lake to enjoy its world-class resorts.
Salt Lake also features numerous LGBTQ owned and operated businesses. Gay and gay-friendly bars are located throughout the metropolitan area, but please contact them directly to check on their individual pandemic hours and restrictions during the pandemic.
Try-Angles is a perfect place for newcomers to the Salt Lake scene or anyone exploring the place solo. (If you’re on a tight budget, Try-Angles has $5 beer steins.)
Sun Trapp serves beer in mason jars, and the outdoor patio is as big as the interior, offering plenty of open-air, socially-distanced seating. In the winter, the patio has a heated tent with its own bar inside.
If you want to enjoy some vittles before hitting the town or the comfort of your lodging pillow, Laziz Kitchen menu comes straight from the openly-gay proprietor Moudi Sbeity’s traditional family Lebanese kitchen—adding still more diversity to Salt Lake’s flourishing culinary scene. Based in the Granary district, the eatery is offering takeout and delivery menus during the pandemic.
5. The deals
Again, Visit Salt Lake’s “Salt Lake Bound = FREEdom Found” travel campaign and promotion serves up some incredible offers, where visitors can book two or more nights at either resort hotels or accommodations throughout the Salt Lake valley and get valuable perks such as free lift tickets, gas cards, Delta flight vouchers, and other travel deals. One of the best deals is the Ski City Super Pass, one of the industry’s most flexible and value-laden list passes available and valid at all four of Salt lake’s famed resorts: Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude.
Book at least two nights at a resort hotel or Salt Lake valley accommodation and get two 1-day Super Passes for free.
A self-assured, gender ambiguous child gets a visit from Great Grandma Bubbie—and teaches her a few things about pronouns and gender in a sequel to a 2019 picture book about gender creative play.
Jamie and Bubbie: A Book About People’s Pronouns, written by Afsaneh Moradian and illustrated by Maria Bogade (Free Spirit Publishing) is a sequel to the duo’s Jamie Is Jamie: A Book About Being Yourself and Playing Your Way(my review here), but either can be read independently of the other. Both books star Jamie, a child whose gender is never specified. In the latest book, Bubbie comes for a visit (making this, as far as I’m aware, the first LGBTQ-inclusive picture book with a great grandparent in it). As she and Jamie do things together in the neighborhood, Bubbie mistakenly misgenders several of the people they meet—a woman as a man, a man as a woman, and a transgender girl whom Bubbie had previously met when the girl was still using her male birth name. Jamie knows everyone’s correct genders and pronouns, though, and gently informs Bubbie. Bubbie admits she’s been “putting my foot in my mouth all day.”
Jamie reassures her that you can’t always know what pronouns someone uses, and that if they don’t tell you, you can always use their name or “they.” Jamie’s mother offers the example, “We can say that the mail carrier is taking mail out of their mail bag and putting it in the mailbox.” Then Jamie mentions a friend who uses “they.” Grown-ups may need to clarify here that some people choose to use “they” on an ongoing basis; it’s not just for when you don’t know someone’s pronouns. (At the end of the book, some “Tips for Teachers, Parents, and Caregivers” do help explain this.)
Jamie’s mother then tells Bubbie that people sometimes change their names and/or pronouns, and that it’s important to call them by the name and pronouns they want to use, which is good advice. Bubbie says that’s a lot to remember, but she’ll try.
The mother and Jamie’s explanations to Bubbie border on pedantic but are simple and supportive, and may be useful to those first encountering the idea of chosen pronouns or singular “they.” Jamie’s own gender and pronouns remain unknown. On one level, this book could have been a good time to introduce them—if they’re not what Bubbie would have expected from Jamie’s gender assigned at birth, perhaps she should be clued in as part of her whole education about the subject. On another level, though, perhaps more children will relate if they can imagine that Jamie’s gender is whatever they want it to be. As in the first book, Jamie is just Jamie. Jamie’s gender ambiguity also offers a place for discussion about asking someone what pronouns they use.
A few lines of dialogue could have benefited from indications of who is speaking; adult readers should be able to guess from context, but a little extra clarity might help the younger ones. And a neighbor’s sudden reference to Bubbie as “Mrs. Green,” when there was no previous indication of her last name, may confuse young readers at first (especially because a passing pedestrian on the page is wearing a green jacket).
As with the first book in the series, I like that Jamie, not an adult, is doing most of the instructing (though the mother does chime in a bit). Jamie knows the people in the neighborhood and understands the importance of referring to them the way they want. We can always use more role models of confident kids who move through the world with respect for themselves and others—and aren’t afraid to teach adults a thing or two.
Adults should appreciate the thoughtful tips at the end on talking with children about pronouns. I will note that Moradian here uses the term “gender nonconforming,” which PFLAG said in 2019 was outdated and Gender Spectrum (which Moradian includes as a resource) does not include in its list of gender-related language. I recognize, however, that these terms shift and evolve, perhaps faster than publishing cycles; I just hope this gets updated in a future edition. Mostly, Moradian’s brief explanations and suggestions seem clear and useful. Those who want more ideas for using the book as a jumping-off point for talking about gender and family can also check out the Teacher’s Guide, available under “Free Downloads” at the book’s Web page. Despite a few minor places for improvement, Jamie and Bubbie is a positive addition to the growing number of picture books about gender identity and expression.
(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Last Friday, I clicked open one of my favorite Zoom invites to find a stunningly gorgeous group of humans, each in various stages of applying their bold lip of choice or replenishing their beverage of choice. After the requisite period of catching up, which for us mostly means talking about food, we started playing Dungeons & Dragons.
On this occasion, that meant reminding my friends that their ragtag crew was standing in an enchanted wood with a gnome druid, a man who looked like a cow, his boyfriend, and some talking mushrooms. They told me what they wanted to do (it was to ask for the meet-cute between the cow-man and his boyfriend), and just like that we were off. Conversation may have veered to vibrators, bisexual lighting, Cosmo quizzes and what Muppet each of us is (I’m Rolf with Scooter rising, if you’re curious), but the ostensible reason for the Zoom was to do fantasy roleplay with an astonishingly sex-positive, queer-centric, intense chemistry-having group of people.
When this group got started in early May, each of us was meeting at least one person for the very first time. Now, we group-text with what Anna Drezen helpfully termed “the unsustainably horny rush of making a new friend.” We would probably love each other no matter what, but the reason we play D&D and not Jackbox, the reason we are so deeply into one another’s deals right now, is that together we’ve created a magical story in a magical world that doesn’t exist without us. In these messy Zoom nights, we’re a goth teenager with healing spells, a socially inept wizard whose hair is fire, a try-hard folk hero who just really wants to do a good job, a bear-worshipping half-orc tank, a cagey forger with some demon blood, and the gay mythical creatures they meet along the way. I love them with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.
Most of the rest of the time, I’m a bisexual mom who is married to a man and does regular adult things like work at a job, make out with my husband and read my daughter bedtime stories. I love all of these things fiercely, but having an established straight-presenting home life means it takes a little extra effort to be, essentially, out. Running this game gives me the opportunity to let my bi side play consistently, openly, and in community, and D&D’s roleplaying and worldbuilding aspects offer unlimited ways to lean into my queer identity. Not only has queer D&D been valuable and healing for me, other DMs and players have similar experiences!
Backing things up slightly, let’s quickly define some terms. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is one of the first table-top role playing games (TTRPGs) ever, and was first developed by Gary Gygax in 1974. In the years since then, it’s enjoyed a spot in popular culture as a thing nerds and weirdos like to do, being featured in episodes of Community, Buffy, The Simpsons, and most recently and especially, Stranger Things. In D&D, players create characters based on a variety of races (think everyone in the Lord of the Rings) and classes (wizard, fighter, ranger, etc.), and then play out an adventure (commonly known as a campaign) as those characters. This can take anywhere from a single night to literal years, and usually consists of the players fighting monsters, getting treasure, solving puzzles, catching bad guys, and getting progressively more fond and protective of each other. The adventure is laid out by a Dungeon Master (DM), a person who narrates the story for the players and fills in as every non-playing character (NPC) and monster they meet. At its best, D&D gameplay is tender, stressful, silly, triumphant, and very fun. Also there are dice, and dice are very beautiful and satisfying to roll.
Photo credit Meg Jones Wall
I started playing D&D about six years ago at the invitation of a board gaming friend, who asked my husband and I to join a campaign using the game’s then-new Fifth Edition. With him as DM, we’d be adventuring in a party with two other board gaming buddies, both also dudes. At the time, my total understanding of the game was that there would be elves and fighting, and that I desperately did not want to look like a noob in front of my friends.
To remedy this, I chose to enter the campaign as a Dragonborn Barbarian. Dragonborns are literal dragon-people with weaponized breath and tough skin who are not really known for emoting. Barbarians are usually kind of dumb, very strong, and they don’t do a lot of magic (which has more in-game rules). I loved my gruff, beefy dragon guy—still do, actually—but despite my efforts to come into the game as well-armored as possible, roleplay still felt extremely vulnerable. The first time I tried to speak in character and my scary barbarian used my speaking voice, I wanted to crawl right under that rickety kitchen table. Pretty much the whole time, I remained mildly terrified of what I was revealing about myself, because there were a lot of things about myself that I was scared to see. I did have a whole bunch of fun swinging my greataxe, though.
It probably doesn’t need saying, but at the time of this early D&D experience I was not out as bisexual, even to myself. Finding my queerness came later, thanks to lots of gay fantasy books, the “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror, and realizing that noncommittally muttering “I probably would’ve been bi” just means “internalized homophobia made me to scared to process my feelings for years, and while I’ve worked that stuff out now I’m also happily monogamous with a man so I guess case closed?” In the short time since I’ve enrolled in the Bisexual Academy*, I’ve learned that this experience is extremely common for bi folks.
The lesson in bi identity that I keep having to relearn is that it’s not who you’re with, but who you are. Coming out at the age of 33, I had already defined myself in all kinds of other ways, and done so through actions such as “work at a job, “get married,” “have a child.” While it felt truly wonderful to publicly identify as bi, it also meant that my opportunities to lovingly walk the bisexual walk** would forever be fewer. I had no interest in trying to get involved with someone of the same gender or finding out how this would affect my marriage, which I happen to like a great deal. I just was bi now, and the relief of living that truth would have to be enough.
So I can hardly describe what a revelation it’s been to show up on D&D nights and pretend to be a lesbian half-elf messenger and a pansexual cat-person sex worker, and have both of them flirt with my players. And then a couple sessions later, to be both halves of a gay couple who go on adventures together, and one of them looks kind of like a cow, and everyone is thoroughly smitten by them. Not only smitten, but also fully overcome with curiosity about which one of them is the bottom, to the point where one of them asked if she could roll a “bottom check” to learn the answer (she rolled very well, and the answer is that it’s a little complicated). It’s a fucking blast, is the best I can describe this.
As it turns out, using roleplay as a vehicle for queer exploration is not a rare or brand-new thing. Earlier this year, Linda H. Codega wrote a beautiful article for Tor.com titled, “The Power of Queer Play in Dungeons & Dragons.” They described D&D’s transformative powers from their own experiences:
I began experimenting in earnest with my own gender expression through roleplaying games; first by playing as a boy, then a girl, and then playing as a nonbinary character. The way that I found myself becoming more comfortable with blurring these binary lines of identity was because I had space to experiment in a consequence free container, where I could take on and take off genders in order to find the one that fit me […] When I allowed myself a space to play with the rules of my identity, I was able to come out with confidence, knowing that I had been able to “come out” through playing Dungeons & Dragons.
I also reached out to the members of a LGBTQIA+ D&D Facebook group (which exists!) about their favorite parts of playing queer-centered D&D, and found that a lot of us find pleasure in similar things.
“It’s really comforting to play in an LGBT group,” says Maddy, a bisexual woman who’s been playing D&D for a year and has just started DMing. “I never really got to be super open about my sexuality in my teen years and while I was more open about it in college, I was definitely still closeted in certain parts of my life. Now I’m definitely the most out I’ve been and really getting to goof/play around with my sexuality more in game.”
Holly is a bisexual player whose DM husband roleplays as women love interests for her in-game. She got so invested in the characters’ relationship that she started making art of the two of them together. “Being so inspired to draw, and wanting to post and talk about my art, lead me to coming out as bi to my family,” Holly said. “It’s such a relief to not be hiding anymore, and a big part is my D&D characters.”
Holly’s tiefling Elian and the NPC Reya Mantlemorn from Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. @tarotvixen on Instagram
Getting to periodically exist in a world that welcomes you just as you are is a pretty special thing. In particular, being a queer DM is hugely gratifying, because I get to shape every inch of that world, giving it a culture where being queer is so supremely regular it’s boring. The moment I realized one of my NPCs could be married to a woman and having a fling with a man and that everyone was chill about this arrangement BECAUSE I DECIDED IT was honestly mind blowing. Who owns that tavern? Two gay half-dwarves. Who’s the most powerful person in this town? A polyamorous lesbian dwarf. Who’s the captain of the guard? An enby ace half dwarf (this campaign setting happens to have a lot of dwarves). Who gets to roleplay as all of them? Me. I do. I get to. And the best part is, I don’t feel mortified about what I might be revealing each time I step into a new skin, because I’m comfortable with all of it.
Another of my esteemed Facebook colleagues, who identifies as queer/ace/aro, enjoys the chance to live in a space that leaves romance out of the equation completely. “It’s nice because [the campaign is] more story focused than romance and that kinda drama focused which I really like. That being said our characters are often pretty close friends […] Basically sexuality is just no big deal which is really nice.”
For others, worldbuilding has become an opportunity for friends who aren’t queer to broaden their own horizons. Longtime DM, writer and player Stephanie is bi and trans, and her D&D group consists of mostly cis het guys. “My favorite part,” she says, “is through me and [my friend] these cishet white boys are starting to include more gay, more trans, more queer NPCs in the games they run and in their PCs as well! … I love watching them grow.”
When we’re open to it, giving ourselves honest space to roleplay can be pretty powerful stuff. And also, I cannot stress enough how fun it is to pretend-attack something with a greataxe.
*The Bisexual Academy is real. It is. Ask any bisexual. **The bisexual walk is also real, I believe. Accounts differ.
Hi there! Welcome to the second annual IT’S GREAT TO BE GAY DAY, an international holiday we here at Autostraddle invented three years ago, just because… well, because we can. And also because EVERY SINGLE EFFING DAY!! is A GREAT DAY TO BE GAY!
So a few things about this very silly and made-up holiday that we delight in with the utmost seriousness! A lot of LGBT holidays are about raising awareness regarding the various struggles we face and overcome, but this one (!!!) is about quite simply about making ourselves feel good about ourselves despite aforementioned struggles. Today we celebrate all the reasons it legitimately kicks ass to be gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, non-binary, trans, any part of out LGBTQ+ family. That’s it! Happiness! Those are the rules!
The first annual It’s Great To Be Gay Day was actually held in November, and now we are holding it in August because dates are fake and straight, but we are very real and very queer. Also we are celebrating today specifically because… drumroll please!!!… YOU HELPED US MAKE OUR $118K FUNDRAISER GOAL!! AND YOU HELPED US MAKE IT A FULL FIVE DAYS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE!!!!
We are still not over it!! We may never be over it!!! We love you all so much, and on behalf of our entire team, thank you for loving on us in return. It’s such a special gift.
Speaking of gifts, we’re gonna kick off today’s celebration by telling you why we think it’s GREAT to be whatever we are. Lesbian! Bisexual! Queer! Trans! Non-binary! The gang’s all here. And we are so glad to have you with us. ❤️
Take over the comment thread and tell us why you think it is GREAT TO BE GAY (tell us about however you identify, of course, we just liked the rhyming! Thanks again, we love you!)
I’m an Olde Gaye — I started coming out when I was 13, and I’ve been some flavor of queer ever since.
In my sublime queer life, I get to date people who smell nice. I get to sidestep the heteronormative pressures of marriage, family and property ownership. I get to wear comfortable shoes for every occasion and grow gloriously long armpit hair without consequence. I get to blame every single one of my quirks on being queer, and straight people have to respect them or else they’ll look homophobic. I get to say things like, “Jessica has such Taurus top energy” and the people around me know exactly what I mean. I get tits on tits and Bound and weird haircuts. I couldn’t live any other way.
I love being a lesbian and a dyke, and I love the way both words feel in my mouth, and I love my girlfriend’s mouth on my mouth and her spit in my mouth. I LOVE GAY SEX. I love gay books and gay art and gay food (oysters). I think I say “I’m gay” at minimum once a day now, and fuck it, because for so long I never dared speak those words, so now I can say them on a loop for however long I want because those are the rules! I also love being constantly surrounded by queer friends, mentors, chosen family. I have a close group of friends who I’ve known for nearly a decade, and we all met on tumblr dot com before any of us knew we were queer and then one by one all came out like a gay ass set of dominoes toppling each other. We somehow magically found each other before we even knew ourselves. QUEER MAGIC.
I love being a lesbian so much, its all I ever want to talk about and think about. Being a dyke is such a huge part of my life. Having come out when I was a scared little twelve year old, I’ve learned so much about family and what it means to build one from the ground up, one that is accepting and loving and sees my full self. I love that there is so much that lesbians are open to that the straights would find taboo or gross. I think about how often cis men complain about periods and body hair and I’m so happy I don’t have to listen to that bullshit ever. I love being in the company of women, but especially other lesbians and queer women. I love talking about sex and thinking about it and HAVING GAY SEX and getting to kiss a woman everywhere omg. I love love love lesbian poets and poetry and getting to experience the way women write about loving each other, its so liberating and breathtaking. I could go on and on but I’ll end with this: being a woman that loves other women has helped me deepen and strengthen my relationships with women, romantic or platonic, in ways I don’t think I could if I were… straight. I prioritize my love for women above others and it feels so fucking good.
One of my favorite comic people, Carta Monir, often says “being trans is a gift.” I can’t really articulate how much my understanding of the world has been opened by discovering that I’m trans.
Existing as a trans woman of color in America, in the world, actually almost killed me, but surviving that has also added another, just, beautifully nuanced and complex and difficult and dynamic layer to existence that I can’t imagine living without. I have a rare and significant understanding of gender, of sexuality, of politics, of relationship — it’s all colored by my experience of being queer, of being trans.
I feel like transitioning is one of the most radical things that anyone can do and it really opens up our ideas of the boundaries of human existence, like — if I can do this, I can do anything, you know? Human beings are such boundless creatures, just so adaptable, changeable, transformational. It really makes me feel like anything is possible, and that’s a pretty powerful feeling.
It’s so dope that I get to kiss all up on people’s daughters. There are deeper things that I could say but that’s my favorite part. Also — HeteroVille is the most ghetto place on Earth, I only spent a short time there but I want my money back.
I’m so glad to be a big ol’ queer. Being queer means never being stuck in someone else’s boring narrative. I’ve gone into chrysalis and emerged some shiny new form of myself many times and I know I have many more metamorphosis to look forward to. From chaotic bi teen to militantly queer college dyke to hard femme mommi to actual queer mama to realizing I can hold all of those forms of myself in my heart simultaneously, every version of me has been deeply queer. Every decision I make is made with intentionality because being queer means being written out of the dominant narrative. And that means getting the write your own story, evolving your own way, setting your own ideas about success and beauty, and that’s a beautiful fucking thing.
I never saw myself falling into the house-plus-spouse with a child-on-the-way story. In first grade, I consistently volunteered to play the family dog when we played house. I didn’t dream about weddings or husbands. I convinced my college boyfriend that marriage was a tool of the patriarchy. Up until the moment I decided I wanted to, I was firm in my conviction that I wouldn’t be a parent. But making a queer life with my queer spouse in our queer house with this incredible kid who I carried inside my queer body… nothing about that is boring. I am constantly wonderstruck by the beauty and resiliency of my queerness and the way that being queer invites happiness and perpetual evolution into my life.
I love being gay. I love being trans. I love waking up each morning and deciding whether I want to be a dyke or a faggot and usually choosing both. I love meeting other queer and trans people. I love the immediate connection that’s formed even if I decide that specific person sucks. I love all the times they don’t suck. I love my queer and trans friends. I love my queer and trans friends who met me when they didn’t know they were queer or trans and I love my queer and trans friends who knew exactly who they were. I love my queer and trans friends who thought they knew who they were but now are realizing maybe there’s more, or less, or other. I love how we get to do that — constantly reexamine and reconfigure and redeclare our selves to ourselves and to each other.
I love making straight people uncomfortable by just existing. I love that even when they hurt me I always know that my relationship to myself and my community has expanded my experience of the world in ways they’ll never even begin to understand. I love mocking them and knowing it’s not really about them, but simply the glee I feel in spending so many years trying to be them and thinking I was broken and realizing I’m not. I love knowing I’m actually this other thing with all these other people and my brain isn’t damaged, I’m just gay. I love not being normal.
I love gay movies. I love gay movies about old lesbians and I love gay movies about confused teens. I love seeing our stories on screen and knowing it’s an extension of the internal questioning that makes us queer. I love how many stories there are to tell on screen and off. I love how different we all are from each other. I love those of us who center that difference and embrace it. I love knowing that who you are doesn’t have to be who I am and who I am doesn’t have to be who you are but if we’re both queer what a fucking gift. What a fucking gift that we get to be queer. God I fucking love that.
I can’t believe I spent so much of my life being scared to say “I’m gay” out loud, to utter the word “lesbian,” or even think about the word “dyke.” I love the word “dyke” now; I just absolutely love it. When I say it or hear another dyke say it, it’s that satisfying feeling of swinging down a hammer and hitting a nail just right. The ringing thud that just drives the point deeper. I love queer women. I love the intimate friendships we have with each other, I love the connections we have based on shared experiences that we unearth when we stay up talking all night on the day we meet, I love that we always skip the small talk, I love our pop culture and literary frames of reference, I love our hard conversations about the things that make us better people, and I love our Dungeons & Dragons games. (My D&D game is not all women, and I love my queer, nonbinary friends with such fervor too.) I love my wife. I love that I get to spend every day and every night with my best friend, forever! That was the whole entire dream of my youth; I just didn’t understand why! I love that my sex and my politics excludes the pleasure or needs of men completely. Being a lesbian is my favorite thing about myself and every day when I wake up, I’m grateful that’s who I am. It is such a lucky thing to be gay.
I feel like I spent so much of my life fighting against my bisexual and queer identity, believing that it wasn’t something that I was allowed to own, let alone celebrate — so having it now be such a powerful part of who I am, letting it shape my communities and friendships and work and play, feels like an actual miracle. I love being around my queer family, love the ways that we support and uplift each other, the ways that we call each other out and push each other to grow. I breathe easier with my people around; get to be the fullest, most powerful, most magical version of myself without restraint or shame or apology. Being queer is such a gift, and it’s one I’m grateful for every single day.
I love being queer and bisexual and genderqueer and non-binary and trans. I ache with care and nostalgia and tenderness when I think about the journeys I have taken to each word. These identities evolve and flex with me, and who knows where they will take me in the future. Our elders forged these words, these understandings, these communities, and these ways out of suffocating heteronormativity and into embodiment and liberation. Friends, partners, and storytellers gave me permission to become a whole person, even when it felt like a lexical disaster. I am grateful every day to all of them.
The last It’s Great To Be Gay day in 2017, I had a different name and hadn’t yet embraced my transness. I had boobs, if you can fucking believe that! I used to worry that I wasn’t valid because of, idk, some TERF shit I saw on Twitter. I used to compartmentalize myself in search of legibility, acceptance and safety. I thought it was too many words. I internalized the fear that I was too much. Being in queer community helped me trust that my too-muchness is radical and good. I love you <3
Sometimes I lose sight of how much of my life and personality are shaped by queerness, because I’m blessed enough to be surrounded by queer and trans folks in my personal life, my work life, my home, even my family. There are still plenty of reminders, though, of how deeply and inextricably my relationship to the world around me is linked to being gay, and every time they happen I’m so fucking relieved to be here. I’m so glad I don’t view other women as competition or threats and am excited to learn from and be in community with them; I’m so happy I get to view my relationships with friends, chosen family, exes, people who move between those statuses, and more as at least as important as my romantic relationships or bio family; I’m so happy I get to think of having a longterm partnership or marriage or kids as one of many potential options and not the only worthwhile thing I can do with my life! I feel so lucky that however I feel hottest or most powerful or most myself, it’s always brought me closer to queer community and made my relationships stronger. It’s fucking great how whenever I forget a hair tie during sex, my date usually has one! I love how even when our community doesn’t 110% love or even really like each other, we still try to show up for each other, because we’re what we’ve got. To be honest we’re queer and trans folks are always the smartest, funniest, realest people in the room, and even (especially!) the difficult and challenging parts of being in this community have given me so much more than I could ever put into words, and more important, have turned me into someone who wants to try to keep giving that back always.
Being queer and hard femme and non-binary has given me a language to love myself and others that I never would have found otherwise. I love queer people. I love queer sex. I love queer relationships, and the ways that we are constantly creating new ways to relate to each other and new ideas of what “family” means. I love that I can approach everything in my life in a way that is distinctly queer and embodied and full of boundless possibility.
Being gay is the best, it just is. As I get older I have more appreciation for the parts of queer community that are sometimes considered cliche — that we can name exactly how we want to be loved and have sex, and our people will do it; that there is room for our identites to change and grow into infinity; that we really only know how to be SOOOOO ourselves for every occasion, and that makes us so fucking hot.
I also love being an angry dyke. I love rolling my eyes during bad readings by self-important white writers. I love making amab men uncomfortable by staring into their faces and not laughing at their bad jokes. I love being exasperated by the line at the grocery store and having another exasperated angry dyke open a check-stand for me. I love walking hard down the street with my hair looking sharp, and when someone with a clipboard wants to know if I have time to stop and talk about buying a cow for a family, I can just look at them, and they stop talking and we don’t even have to exchange words.
Gosh, being queer is just the best. My timeline of coming out as gay and coming into my own queerness is so intrinsically aligned with coming out as a nerd and saying goodbye to the term “guilty pleasure” and loving the things I love with my whole heart. Maybe it WAS linked. Maybe I was hiding the nerdiest parts of me because I was afraid if people saw that part of me they’d see the gay parts too, but either way, as I shed those insecurities about being passionate, about being ME, I finally got out of my own way and was able to learn who I really was and embrace the things that bring me joy. And then I finally, finally, found friends that love the same things I do, the same way I do. I also like to see it as like a built-in people filter. Assholes and fake allies reveal themselves real quick when you’re talking about being queer all the time, which I am, or talk about your favorite shows/D&D non-stop, which I do. Not all my closest friends are queer, but all my closest friends are in my life because I am. Because I’m living my loudest, proudest, gayest, nerdiest life and refusing to apologize for it.
I love being queer. I love being non-binary, to be everything and nothing at the same time. I love that some days I feel like a dyke and others I feel like a fag and then there are days that I feel like a little robot. I love how expansive the word “queer” feels. I love that I’ve been surprised by my own identity over the years and how it’s changed and evolved. I love that I’m in my late 30s and I’m still learning new things about myself and I hope that process of discovery never ends. I love queer people and queer community and all the intersections therein. I love how complicated and confusing and messy it can all be. We are magic and infinite and I would honestly be really bummed to be anyone other than exactly who I am.
It’s the sex for me.
Being a lesbian means never having to truly be a part of hetero culture. I am always going to be surrounded by the most interesting, vibrant and amazing people throughout my whole life, and there’s something so comforting about knowing that. Also Laneia’s right — it’s the sex.
Gay people are just very much the most empathetic, community-minded, generous weirdos I have ever had the pleasure of sharing large crowded spaces and virtual hubs with. It’s unsurprising that it’s queer women and trans folks at the forefront of so many of our most important civil rights movements, demanding accountability, pushing for change, putting in your time and adding your voice. You make personal sacrifices for the greater good like it’s NBD, like straight people are in line at Mendocino Farms for a Sophisticated Chicken and Prosciutto Salad and you’re selling kd lang and en vogue cassettes from the ’90s for 33 cents each on your lawn to make a $10 donation to your local mutual aid fund. We are also very self-deprecating. Another nice thing about being gay is that you’re legally allowed to continue wearing sneakers with formal pants, hoodies as coats and/or dressing like a teenage boy well into your twilight years. Also a lot of us (not me) are very handy around the house.
The thing about being queer, which no one told me before, is that it is absolutely magic. It’s the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. It’s Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and we all have the golden ticket. I remember once being so scared to come out — I never knew that it would allow me to come into myself. I’m more comfortable in my skin now as a queer woman than I ever did when I was pretending to be straight. And thank goodness! It turned out that everything that I thought was wrong with me was actually so right. Usually when people ask me, I say I love being queer because “queerness is freedom” but more than that — it’s a RELIEF. It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s going home. Because it is being at home in yourself.
I’ve always said that I’ve been grateful to be queer — and this is predicated on me realizing my gayness when I was eleven or twelve — because the environment around me at the time was all very fire and brimstone when it came to being in any way not straight. And knowing, without a doubt, that I was queer in that world where it was not acceptable to be the way I was (before I was even old enough to even consider dating anyone meaningfully) was important to my development as a critical human. By questioning one thing, “Am I really going to Hell for all these witchcraft and homosexuality things?” — I was suddenly invited to question EVERYTHING. And that questioning has led me on such an incredible journey. When I think about queerness and how I am also queer, I’m overwhelmed that I can be a part of a community that isn’t afraid to ask questions, to dismantle structures that are harming us, to dream of better and fundamentally different futures — and then who go out and FUCKING make it happen. Also I get to love astrology with abandon and look at that paragraph and be like: all this makes sense as an aqua/sag/sag. There is really very little water in my chart.
I love queer sex and I love gay love and gay not-love because-fuck-you-it’s-not-all “love is love.” I love queer friendship and the way gay people lift each other up and more often genuinely want the best for each other. I love my weird, queer home with my partner where we’re at once infinitely young and ridiculous — and at the same time “two old biddies” according to my mom. When I open my eyes in the morning and Sadie’s there and then I go water the vegetables and herbs and watch our sweet aged dog get up to mischief and I brew coffee and make toast and bring her breakfast on a tray because that’s our routine every morning — breakfast in bed together before I start work — it’s really great to be gay.
Here is the thing about being gay: it slaps. I didn’t come out until I was twenty six, and while it wasn’t like my life before was particularly bad, it was kind of dull. Now? Well, look, sometimes I am still a cranky bitch, but baby, that’s just the kind of gay I am! Queerness is big enough to hold every facet of my personality: cynical and loyal and funny, often kind of faggy and always blasting a Broadway Cast Recording. You know what also slaps? The sex. Sometimes literally!!!! [crowd boos] I am right and I am brave to say it!
Here are just a few things I love about being gay, in no particular order: I love sweaty gay dance parties, I love making out with my gay friends, I love being a dyke writer and reading other dyke writers, I love knowing there are a million and seven ways to live a big gay life and all of them rule, I love queer community, I love our gay history, I love our gay elders, I love the gay youth, I love being a fat dyke with body hair, I love gay astrology, I love gay memes, I love gay art, I love gay competence, I love gay brilliance, I love gay sex.
Being gay — being queer — being a dyke — is the best thing that ever happened to me. What more is there to say?
We were able to spend a long weekend discovering all the best things to do in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both Meg and I have been chasing summer for the better part of two years. So when Experience Grand Rapids invited us for a long weekend in the fall we were ecstatic. We’ve had a mutual obsession with hot beverages so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on all the cider, coffee and tea.
Let’s be honest, many of us have no clue what to do in Grand Rapids. It is time for that to change. There are so many cool Grand Rapids activities and attractions. I always like to set up a list of the best things to do before we touch down in a city. Of course, making time to add in as many suggestions as we can get along the way. I can’t tell you how many great travel tips we’ve received from various Uber drivers. I took the original list, mixed in what we found along the way to give you 15 Best Things to Do in Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids Fun Facts: Aside from being the beautiful city that it is, Grand Rapids is the second-largest city in all of Michigan, it has a population of almost 200,000 (1+ million in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area). It may surprise you to learn that the “River City” is a haven for the arts and culture community. Plus, as its name and the nickname would suggest, next to the city you will find the Grand River.
Everything about Robinette’s AppleHaus and Winery is storybook fall. The pumpkin patch, corn mazes, and hayrides were everything we’d hoped for when we took an Uber ride just a bit outside the city. While we loved the fall vibes it’s a cool place to visit year-round especially because of the winery. If you have the opportunity to try the donuts, do it! The day was cool, the donuts were warm. Meg and I sat on a hay bail away from the crowds laughing and enjoying more than our fair share.
Fulton Street Farmers Market
Make sure you are in Grand Rapids on a Saturday because that means you can head down to the Fulton Street Farmers Market. This market has been running for close to 100 years and features over 200 vendors every week. Most are local farmers and artisans. We’re suckers for a good market, any country selling anything well probably want to check it out. As a bonus, this market is tented so you will be covered, no matter the weather.
Grand Rapids Public Museum
You need to visit the Grand Rapids Public Museum. This museum is over 150 years old and has shown no signs of slowing down since the day it opened. With over 25,000 pieces in the museum, you can wander for hours. Expect to be amazed at just how much amazing Michigan history there is. Everything from antique cars, to fossils and more. Plus, the collections and exhibits change regularly so you can always find something new if you’ve already visited
If you are planning your Grand Rapids trip, you might consider heading over in the months of September or October. Lucky for us that was exactly when our trip took place and Project 1 by ArtPrize was in full swing. ArtPrize is a biannual art contest that transforms the city into an open-air art gallery for 19 days every year two years but the same folks who put on the contest have blessed Grand Rapids with art you can experience year-round.
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
Another must-visit art activity in Grand Rapids is the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. This park is well known for featuring some of the best and most unique cultural pieces throughout the entire Midwest. With over 150 acres you will find such beautiful natural art as a rock garden, indigenous plants, and a waterfall, plus over 300 sculptures from local and world-famous artists alike. Regretfully the day we planned to go it poured so the pictures didn’t turn out.
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Pencil drawings, paintings, print work, sculptures and more fill the approximately 20 thousand square feet of The Grand Rapids Art Museum that is dedicated to exhibits. With all of this space and countless types of art, there is something for everyone. They even have pieces that date all the way back to the Renaissance period!
Located between the children’s museum and the public library you’ll find a strip of road painted rainbow. We’ve been traveling in search of rainbows for a few years now and this is one of the best. If you’re looking for Instagram spots in Grand Rapids make time to stop here. The address we used to find it is 11 Sheldon Ave. Check out the photo I got and hear a bit of my coming out story here.
Gerald R. Ford Museum
Grand Rapids, Michigan was the birthplace of U.S. President Gerald Ford. The Gerald R. Ford Museum is a place to celebrate the life and achievements of the President and Mrs. Ford. The main exhibit is an interactive video and holographic presentation of President Ford’s life and experiences and allows those watching to feel as though they are traveling around the world with the president.
Grand Rapids Downtown Market
It’s a well-documented fact that I love to eat like really love to eat. So there was no chance I was skipping the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. Downtown Market is located south of Heartside Park and features over 20 vendors, two full-scale restaurants and more. It was super hard to narrow down what we were going to eat with each stall offering fun options. My favorite part was the three-part coffee tasting we did with MadCap Coffee. Obviously it was fun to drink but I also really enjoyed learning about the beans. We sat at the bar, enjoyed a couple of cookies and quizzed each other on random facts from our lives. Ten out of ten would recommend as a go-to Grand Rapids date spot.
John Ball Zoo
The John Ball Zoo is arguably one of the best zoos in the country. It is home to over 1,000 animals and has received awards for its habitats which are created to mimic the animals’ natural habitats. There are other activities within the zoo as well such as camel riding, zip-lining and more.
The Pump House
If you love the nostalgia of an old fashioned soda shop, you need to head to the Pump House during your visit. Porch swings, wooden benches, sorbet, artisanal yogurt, gelato and over a hundred toppings to choose from? Yes, please! The Pump House makes this a visit worth making.
Rumors is an LGBTQ nightclub that’s a huge part of the Grand Rapids gay scene. We had a bunch of people reach out encouraging us to visit while we were in town. It’s the perfect spot to dance, support the drag queens or just meet local queers. The community found in smaller city gay bars is always special.
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is an absolute must-visit for families that are visiting. The museum is designed for children ages 2 through 12, and many of the exhibits and displays are interactive. Some of the favorite exhibits include a replica farm, a children’s theater, and an awesome treehouse.
Additionally, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is housed inside one of Grand Rapids’ most beautiful buildings. The entire front of the building is made completely of glass so passers-by can watch all of the interactive exhibits from outside.
There is a reason that one of Grand Rapids’ nicknames is “Beer City.” There are so many great breweries and options for you to enjoy and Brewery Vivant is one of the best. Brewery Vivant is popular because of its extensive beer list and its unique history. We heard the building was home to daycare and then a funeral home before it became a brewery. The food is also absolutely delicious with a Belgian and French-inspired menu.
Meyer May House
If you are an architecture enthusiast, or if you simply love Frank Llyod Wright, you need to head on over to the Meyer May House. This house was designed for local businessman Meyer May in the early 1900s by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This house is built in a Prairies style and has been restored through the years back to its original glory. It is open to the public and features original furniture and other collections of antiques that are original to the home.
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
Another Grand Rapids must-visit location for art lovers is the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids. Truthfully we stumbled in here as a way to dip out of the rain and fell in love. The exhibits were interesting and thought-provoking plus the space is absolutely beautiful. The entryway with all the signs was stunning.
This post is sponsored by Experience Grand Rapids. As always all opinions are our own.