Lego is kicking off LGBTQ Pride month, which is celebrated every June, a little early this year. The toy company announced it’s releasing a special set, called “Everyone is Awesome,” that celebrates the diversity of its fans.
This is the first time in Lego’s 72-year history that it is releasing an official LGBTQ Pride set.
“I wanted to create a model that symbolizes inclusivity and celebrates everyone, no matter how they identify or who they love,” Matthew Ashton, Lego’s vice president of design, said in a press release.
“Everyone is unique, and with a little more love, acceptance and understanding in the world, we can all feel more free to be our true awesome selves!,” Ashton added. “This model shows that we care, and that we truly believe ‘Everyone is awesome!’”
According to the company, the buildable model is inspired by the Pride flag and features 11 monochrome mini-figures, each with its own fabulous flare, unique hairstyle and rainbow color.
The colors include the classic rainbow seen on the Pride flag designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978. In addition, the “Everyone Is Awesome” set also includes the transgender pride flag colors of pink, baby blue and white, as well as black and brown stripes that were added to the Pride flag flown in Philadelphia back in 2017.
The model includes 346 pieces and goes on sale June 1 to mark the start of LGBTQ Pride month. It retails for $34.99.
Nearly two decades after Bruce Bozzi Jr. lost his first love to AIDS, he revisited their love story in a social media post shared with tens of thousands of strangers.
“On a super hot day in July, we decided to meet on the corner of 14th Street and 5th Avenue,” Bozzi, 54, a restaurateur, wrote in the caption, paired with photos of a striking man in his 20s. “Tommy stood there with his jet black hair, his eyes brilliant with shades of green and blue and that smile you can see in this photograph. Being gay back then was hard, exciting and complicated.”
“Tommy, I think of you every time I stand on 14th & 5th no matter what season it is in New York and much more than that. I guess it’s not the amount of time but the quality that is so important,” Bozzi’s message said. “No matter, we were robbed of you too early! Tommy Grella, January 18, 1963 to June 24, 1992. You never forget your first loves, now do you?”https://www.instagram.com/p/B9nII1-ptNY/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=1116&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com&rp=%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Femotional-instagram-memorial-aids-victims-stories-reach-new-generation-n1249436#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A881%2C%22ls%22%3A858%2C%22le%22%3A878%7D
Bozzi is among thousands of people who have shared memories of loved ones on The AIDS Memorial Instagram account. While remembering those lost to AIDS is often relegated to World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, this social memorial honors them year-round. Every post on the Instagram page tells a heartfelt — and often heartbreaking — story of someone who was taken too soon as a result of the disease, which has claimed more than 32 million lives since the start of the epidemic.
Preserving a hidden history
The AIDS Memorial — created by Stuart, who is based in Scotland and asked that his full name not be published to protect his privacy — has shared more than 7,000 stories and amassed over 150,000 followers since it debuted in April 2017. The posts use images of those who have been lost instead of quilt squares or statistics to put faces to the epidemic.
Stuart said he gets submissions from around the world, although the majority (75 percent to 80 percent) are from the United States. He speculated that Americans are “more open, more forthcoming” about sharing personal stories. Regular submissions also come from England, Australia, Canada and Brazil.
Ron Sese, a volunteer for The AIDS Memorial, said preserving history was among the memorial’s inspirations.
“If the history books won’t write about us, how do we tell our stories? How do we share our stories? How does the next generation learn about the generation that came before them?” he asked.
As the account’s submissions and followers grew, Sese said, “we started to see a community build.”
“We started to see someone submitting a post about a sick father, a dear friend, and people who knew that person would then reach out in the comment section,” he said. “There would be a reunion of sorts, and that value is hard to come by — especially in a social media age.”
Sese said part of the beauty of The AIDS Memorial is that it’s bringing a rich and important history to younger people exactly where they are: social media.
“There is an entire group of people who don’t know life before the internet — they’ve never known a life without a timeline,” he said. “If this is where people are sourcing information and this is where people are learning day to day … then this is where we need to meet them and present them that information.”
‘The saddest I ever felt’
Most of those who submit images and share stories, like Bozzi, are loved ones of those lost to AIDS. Some share paragraphs, while others post just a few words.
On Nov. 21, which was Transgender Day of Remembrance, Marie Jose shared the story of her Uncle Boris, who died in 1996 at age 30. Jose was just 7 when Boris, an Ecuadorian immigrant who lived in Queens, New York, died of AIDS-related complications.
“This is my uncle Boris who was the best dressed, most fun and irreverent person I knew growing up. I wish I’d gotten more time with [her],” Jose wrote in the caption, along with a slideshow of images showing Boris donning attire spanning the gender spectrum. “Boris had a magic to [her] that continues to cast spells.”https://www.instagram.com/p/CH3mvSrj62O/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=1116&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com&rp=%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Femotional-instagram-memorial-aids-victims-stories-reach-new-generation-n1249436#%7B%22ci%22%3A1%2C%22os%22%3A883%2C%22ls%22%3A858%2C%22le%22%3A878%7D
“Boris had the best, loudest laugh that sounded like a Times Square 90s bruja,” Jose said, using a Spanish word for “witch.” “Boris also went by Exotica, [her] performer name and [she] used to wear nipple tassels and the most snatched outfits. She dressed for the gawds.” (While Jose used male pronouns to refer to her uncle in the post and noted that her uncle used male pronouns while he was alive, she requested that female pronouns be used in this article.)
At the end of the caption, Jose recalled the day of Boris’ funeral and how it “rained a monsoon.”
“I still remember [her] queer childhood friends from the block, 3 of them, holding hands around [her] tombstone, crying. They were the last ones to leave,” she wrote. “I remember feeling the saddest I ever felt in my whole little life, watching them thro the car window, they were standing through the storming rain and saying goodbye to no doubt, another chosen family member lost to AIDS.”
‘Lying there in my “deathbed”‘
While most of the AIDS Memorial posts are about loss, some are about survival and perseverance. Texas native Aaron Holloway’s post, shared on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, is one such example.
“I was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. The nephrologist proclaimed that my kidneys were ‘gone’ and I would never urinate again,” Holloway wrote, adding that he was just a college senior at the time. “Afterwards, I was simultaneously diagnosed with AIDS by another physician in the presence of my mom and thereby outed. I will never forget what the physician said to me, ‘Wake up! It’s AIDS. Are you surprised?'”https://www.instagram.com/p/CGNxwEyDhh8/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=1116&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com&rp=%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Femotional-instagram-memorial-aids-victims-stories-reach-new-generation-n1249436#%7B%22ci%22%3A2%2C%22os%22%3A885%2C%22ls%22%3A858%2C%22le%22%3A878%7D
“I never told my mom I was gay and she did not know,” Holloway said. “Lying there in my ‘deathbed,’ I believed my mom would abandon me. She did not.”
Holloway said that after he was given just a month to live in March 2008, his kidneys “miraculously” regained function. Not only did Holloway finish his bachelor’s degree — cum laude, no less — but he also went on to get a master’s degree.
‘Afraid to be forgotten’
Most of the stories shared on The AIDS Memorial are those of LGBTQ people, as men who have sex with men and transgender women are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. That having been said, the memorial includes many stories about non-LGBTQ people, too.
“It reminds you that this isn’t something that just impacts gay men,” Sese said.
One such person is Debbie, a West Virginia woman whose daughter, Renee Taylor, shared a memorial post on Aug. 5, the 17th anniversary of Debbie’s death.https://www.instagram.com/p/CDhZvbEjJTv/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=1116&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com&rp=%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Femotional-instagram-memorial-aids-victims-stories-reach-new-generation-n1249436#%7B%22ci%22%3A3%2C%22os%22%3A1268%2C%22ls%22%3A858%2C%22le%22%3A878%7D
National Coming Out Day has been observed annually on Oct. 11 for more than three decades. The first such celebration was held in 1988 on the one-year anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights, which reportedly drew 200,000 protesters to the nation’s capital.
In honor of National Coming Out Day 2020, here are just some of the many notable LGBTQ coming-out stories so far this year.
Comedian and actor Niecy Nash broke the internet this past summer when she not only came out, but she also introduced her new wife to the world.
The “Claws” and “Reno 911” star announced her marriage to musician Jessica Betts in August, sharing a joyful photo of herself and Betts walking down the aisle after just saying, ”I do.”
But Nash, who had previously been married to men before, revealed that while she may have shocked fans with her announcement, she did not perceive it as coming out per se.
“I don’t feel like my marriage is my coming out of anywhere, but rather a going into myself and being honest about who I love,” Nash told People shortly after tying the knot. “And I’m not limiting myself on what that love is supposed to look like.”
Aaron Schock, a former Republican congressman known for supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation, came out as gay in an Instagram post in March.
“The fact that I am gay is just one of those things in life in need of explicit affirmation, to remove any doubt and to finally validate who I am as a person,” Schock, who had dodged rumors about his sexuality while in Congress, wrote. “In many ways, I regret the time wasted in not having done so sooner.”
“Although I’ve never announced it publicly before, I am a proud bisexual woman,” the actor wrote in an Instagram Story paired with a flyer for an LGBTQ+ for Black Lives Matter protest taking place in West Hollywood, California.
Andrew Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, came out as bisexual in September during an interview with talk show host Tamron Hall.
“You put it out there whether or not I identify as gay, and the answer is I don’t identify as gay, but I do identify as bisexual,” Gillum said.
It was the first time the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor in Florida had spoken publicly about his sexuality.
Best known for playing Dr. Callie Torres on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Sara Ramirez came out in August as gender nonbinary. In a post shared on Instagram, the Tony Award-winner said, “In me is the capacity to be” everything from a “girlish boy” to a “boyish girl.”
Ramirez added the hashtag #nonbinary to the caption of their post and updated their bio on social media accounts to read “non-binary human.” Their bio also states that they use both she/her and they/them pronouns.
French-Canadian actor François Arnaud, best known for his role on Showtime’s period drama “The Borgias” and his appearance in the award-winning series “Schitt’s Creek,” came out as bisexual in an Instagram story shared just before Bi Visibility Day, which is celebrated on Sept. 23.
Arnaud said he wanted to share his story to help fight “assumptions of straightness” and bisexual erasure.
“Last week, I was chatting with work friends, and as I brought up a trip I’d taken with an ex-girlfriend, I asked myself — for the ten-thousandth time — how to tell such a story without making it seem like that was the whole story of me,” he wrote. “I’m sure many bisexual guys feel the same and end up doing as I did: letting other people’s assumptions of straightness stand uncorrected.”
Actor and activist Jameela Jamil came out in February following criticism about her being cast in a new HBO Max voguing competition series, which some social media users said “belongs to queer people.” Following the backlash, “The Good Place” star came out as queer in a lengthy statement posted on her Twitter account.
“This is why I never officially came out as queer,” she wrote. “I kept it low because I was scared of the pain of being accused of performative bandwagon jumping, over something that caused me a lot of confusion, fear and turmoil when I was a kid.”
Born to a Pakistani mother and Indian father, Jamil said she struggled for many years to “officially” come out because of fear that she wouldn’t be accepted in the South Asian community.
“It’s also scary as an actor to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you’re already a brown female in your thirties,” she wrote. “This is absolutely not how I wanted it to come out.”
Nikkie de Jager
Popular YouTube creator and makeup artist Nikkie de Jager, who is also known as Nikkie Tutorials, revealed in January that she is a transgender woman to her more than 12 million YouTube followers, saying the move was prompted by attempted blackmail.
While she lamented the opportunity to reveal her journey on her own terms, de Jager said she was coming out publicly to “tak[e] back my own power.”
“I can’t believe I am saying this today to all of you, for the entire world to see, but damn it feels good to finally do it. It’s time to let go and be truly free,” de Jager said in the video. “When I was younger I was born in the wrong body, which means that I am transgender.”
Rosario Dawson officially came out during a wide-ranging interview in February, where she clarified that a 2018 Instagram post about Pride, in which she stated that she was “sending love” to her “fellow LGBTQ+ homies,” was misinterpreted.
During LGBTQ Pride Month in June, “Orange Is the New Black” star Taylor Schilling confirmed to fans that she was in a relationship with a woman.
The actor re-shared a photo to her Instagram story that musician and artist Emily Ritz had previously posted of them together with the heart-emoji-filled message, “I couldn’t be more proud to be by your side @tayjschilling “Happy Pride!”
In a 2017 interview with Evening Standard Magazine, Schilling said, “I’ve had very serious relationships with lots of people, and I’m a very expansive human. There’s no part of me that can be put under a label. I really don’t fit into a box — that’s too reductive.”
“Hi, it’s Nikki Blonsky from the movie I’m Gay! #pride #imcomingout #hairspray,” the Golden Globe nominee captioned the clip.
In an Instagram post shared in June amid nationwide protests against racial injustice, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” actor Justice Smith came out as queer and revealed he was dating a man.
“Nicholas Ashe and I protested today in New Orleans,” Smith wrote. “We chanted ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ ‘Black Queer Lives Matter,’ ‘All Black Lives Matter.’ As a Black queer man myself, I was disappointed to see certain people eager to say Black Lives Matter, but hold their tongue when Trans/Queer was added.”
After his initial post, Smith addressed the reaction from his fans and followers, tweeting, “yo tf i didn’t come out, y’all came in.
“justice— you have been the author of all my recent smiles. you make me feel safe. seen. heard. inspired. admired. returning the favor has been my favorite adventure,” Ashe wrote in August. “it’s difficult to fully encapsulate my gratitude, but here’s an Instagram post to help me try. happy birthday, beautiful man. i love you most of all. thank you for all this good.
Soccer star Quinn, who represented Canada at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, publicly came out as transgender with a post on Instagram in September. In it, Quinn — who uses they/them pronouns and now goes by just their last name — discussed the difficulty of coming out publicly, adding important tips for the cisgender community on how to be a better ally to the transgender community.
“Coming out is HARD (and kinda bs),” Quinn, who plays for Washington state’s OL Reign team in the National Women’s Soccer League, wrote. “I know for me it’s something I’ll be doing over again for the rest of my life. As I’ve lived as an openly trans person with the people I love most for many years, I did always wonder when I’d come out publicly.
Rapper Da Brat came out publicly in March, confirming her relationship with Kaleidoscope Hair Products CEO Jesseca Dupart in a tearful Instagram post celebrating an early birthday gift.
“I’ve always been a kind of private person until I met my heart’s match who handles some things differently than I do,” she wrote. “I have never experienced this feeling. It’s so overwhelming that often I find myself in a daze hoping to never get pinched to see if it’s real so I can live in this dream forever.”https://www.instagram.com/p/B-MpOdjnD59/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=1116&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com&rp=%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Fnational-coming-out-day-20-people-who-came-out-2020-n1242833#%7B%22ci%22%3A3%2C%22os%22%3A1450%2C%22ls%22%3A1002%2C%22le%22%3A1029%7D
J. August Richards
Actor J. August Richards, best known for his role on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” publicly came out as gay in April when discussing his role on the NBC series “Council of Dads,” where he portrayed Dr. Oliver Post, a married gay black man and father.
“If I think about why I even got involved in this industry, it was really to combat oppression,” he told his castmate Sarah Wayne Callies during an Instagram Live interview. “I knew how I was affected by the people of color I saw on television, or that I didn’t see on television.”
“Honestly, it required me to show up fully in a way that I don’t always when I’m working,” he said of his role on “Council of Dads.” “I knew that I could not portray this gay man honestly without letting you all know that I was a gay man myself … I’ve never done that with the people that I’ve worked with.
“To me, the word ‘queer’ feels really nice,” the “Friday’ singer said. “I have dated a lot of different types of people, and I just don’t really know what the future holds. Some days, I feel a little more on the ‘gay’ side than others.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/YbNrPY-il0E
Avery Wilson, an alum of NBC’s “The Voice,” took to social media in July to share a personal message with his fans and followers: “I’m bisexual. Ok bye,” he wrote on Twitter, adding in a subsequent tweet, “From the mouth of the horse is the ultimate understanding.N
On Instagram, the singer — who competed on season 3 of the singing competition show — elaborated on his sexuality in a since-deleted post.
“In my eyes, life isn’t about being perfect. It’s about growth, evolving, setting & smashing goals and most importantly happiness and LOVE,” he wrote. “I’m all about perfecting my love of self while not being afraid to love whoever I want, however I want.”
When lip-syncing along to Eminem’s song “Those Kinda Nights,” Cravalho recited the lyrics, “’No, I’m bi.” And when one Twitter user asked the actor, “Do u like girls?” she reportedly responded, “If I may escort you to my TikTok…”
“Outer Banks” star Madison Bailey came out as pansexual in a TikTok video shared in May, later revealing she is dating Mariah Linney, a women’s basketball star at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight during LGBTQ Pride Month, Bailey said being pansexual is “basically just loving people for people, regardless of gender or any type of sexuality or any type of anything.”
Ben Rimalower, 44, has been vacationing on New York’s Fire Island since 2005. The island’s Pines section, a popular beach destination for gay men dating back to the 1920s, has been a reliably safe and sunshine-filled locale for Rimalower and his friends, primarily other gay men, to spend the summer.
“I first fell in love with Fire Island from afar while in college in California during the early ‘90s,” he told NBC News. “It seemed like Shangri-La to me.”
Rimalower said even on the “queerest blocks” of New York City, where he lives, he’s “uncomfortable kissing or holding hands” with another man, “but on Fire Island, I’m free.”
This year, however, his annual trip to Fire Island Pines is shrouded in uncertainty.
“If we can go at all, it will be with lots of changes,” he lamented. “I hope we can be safe on the beach, because that’s my favorite part.”
“This is all so new and complicated,” he said, adding there’s still a chance he and his friends will cancel their trip. “We haven’t even broached the topic of house rules yet, but I imagine at least at first we won’t be having any hookups or friends over.”
With the typically busy summer season kicking off, LGBTQ beach destinations in the Northeast — a region particularly hard-hit by the global coronavirus pandemic — are bracing for a new normal, and some of their loyal patrons are apprehensive.
New York’s Fire Island
Fire Island is a narrow, car-free, barrier island just south of Long Island and not far from the ritzy beaches of the Hamptons. While Fire Island boasts 15 communities, two of them have long been popular with LGBTQ beachgoers, with the Pines historically catering to gay men and Cherry Grove to lesbians.
The Pines only has one hotel, which is currently closed, so nearly all visitors rent houses during their stay. According to a community newsletter published May 14, brokers shared that vacation renters “have generally made their last payments and are planning to come to the Pines this summer, even if bars and restaurants are not open.”
P.J. McAteer, a co-owner of the Outpost Pines, which make up the majority of the Fire Island Pines’ commercial businesses, opened two of his restaurants May 15 for to-go service, and he plans to continue opening additional venues and expanding services as Suffolk County and Gov. Andrew Cuomo allow.
At his businesses, there will now be temperature and hand sanitizing stations at the entrances, a 50 percent capacity maximum and a mandate that employees wear masks and other personal protective equipment.
McAteer, who typically employs about 40 people during the summer months — from event photographers to drag queens — said his employees are eager to get to work.
“All of my staff and entertainers are chomping at the bit to come back,” he said. “They all cannot wait to be back here and bring back the life that is Fire Island Pines.”
“The gay community is very creative and inventive, especially in a crisis … We survived the HIV epidemic and made a comeback. I think the same thing about this. Those same creative energies will be out this summer.”
JAY PAGANO, FIRE ISLAND PINES PROPERTY OWNERS’ ASSOCIATION
And when beachgoers return to the island for the summer, they won’t be alone. Jay Pagano, president of the Fire Island Pines Property Owners’ Association, said occupancy has been higher than usual over the past few months, because many homeowners opted to quarantine on the island starting in mid-March.
“A large number of residents chose to spend the pandemic in the Pines,” he said in early May. “They thought it would be a safer or nicer venue to be locked down in. I’m guessing that’s probably 200 to 250 homes are occupied full-time right now, and that’s unusual this early.”
And while there hasn’t been much to do over the past two months, there’s always the beach.
“The beaches are open, and they will remain open,” Pagano explained. “We have a wonderfully wide beach this summer. We are going to encourage the residents to use it, but the requirements for social distancing and masks will be implemented on the beach as in the community, and the police will be enforcing those requirements.”
In neighboring Cherry Grove, the beach is also open to sunbathers, swimmers and strollers.
“It’s as safe here as it is anywhere,” Diane Romano,president of the Cherry Grove Community Association, said, adding that “the people in Cherry Grove have been really great at implementing social distancing.”
And for those thinking about heading to Fire Island’s Cherry Grove section, Romano said, “We want to make sure you’re someone that will follow guidelines and work with the community to make sure you protect yourself and others.”
In order to ensure everyone’s safety, Romano said local law enforcement, starting in mid-June, will patrol the beach to make sure everyone is following proper social distancing guidelines, which include limiting large groups from congregating.
Fire Island regulars, such as Rimalower and Zach James, who reserved a house for a week in July, are preparing for a different Fire Island experience than they’re used to, which typically includes large beach dances, drag shows and house parties.
“It’s going to be an isolated house trip without the fuss, which will be just fine,” James said. “We will change what we do out there to be in line with the world we live in.”
Arguably the most popular event in the Pines — the annual Pines Party dance and fundraiser, which is typically held the last weekend in July and draws an estimated 3,000 attendees — will not go on as planned this year. However, Guy Smith, the event’s creative director, said his group is “hard at planning” an alternative “to bring together our community and continue the Pines Party magic.” He said this year’s event will include live performances streaming from the Fire Island Pines that will “broaden the reach of our event and raise much-needed funds for our 2020 beneficiary, Stonewall Community Foundation.”
As for ferry service — the only way in and out of Fire Island unless you own your own boat — the schedule is more limited than recent years due to a decline in ridership amid the pandemic. The boats will be running at a maximum of 50 percent capacity, and all passengers must wear face coverings.
“Fire Island has so much beauty, and there’s so many things out here to do,” McAteer said, looking ahead to the next few months. “Whatever the new normal is, it’s going to be OK; we’re going to figure it out.”
“Summer 2020 is not canceled in my book,” he added. “Summer 2020 is just going to be done differently.”
New Jersey’s Asbury Park
Asbury Park, a 1.6-square-mile city located along the Jersey Shore, has been attracting an increasing number of LGBTQ homeowners and beachgoers since the ‘50s, when New Yorkers started purchasing and restoring Victorian homes, leading to the city’s rejuvenation.
While the city’s beach and boardwalk had been closed due to the pandemic, they recently opened ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. In order to ensure everyone’s safety, officials have put a number of new measures in place.
“We know our residents are looking forward to summer, and Asbury Park has always welcomed visitors — we know how much they help our economy,” Mayor John Moor said in a statement. “That said, this is not a normal summer season. We are in the middle of a pandemic, and we need to be smart. We are going to have to limit numbers, practice social distancing, wear face coverings and masks, and make the experience as contactless as possible for the safety of beach visitors and our staff.”
The city’s measures, which can be found on its website, will include the limited sale of beach passes, which are required for beach entry; one-way travel in each direction on the boardwalk; and a face mask requirement except when sunbathing or swimming.
“The next few weekends are going to be our tests to figure out how to do this, because all of this is so new, and we are learning as we go,” Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn said. “If people do not respect these rules, we will make changes.”
Michael Cook, who has lived in Asbury Park since 2005, said he’s preparing for a “Jersey Shore summer with a twist.”
“We all will learn a slightly new way of living this summer,” he said.
As for the shops and restaurants that line the city’s downtown area — including the popular gay venue Paradise — they remain closed.
“Right now, the music isn’t playing, and the cocktails are not flowing, but this is simply a moment,” the last post on Paradise’s Instagram reads. “We will all dance together again.”
Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach
Rehoboth Beach along Delaware’s coast has for decades been a popular beach destination with LGBTQ travelers from Philadelphia down to Washington, D.C. The resort town boasts over 200 gay-owned businesses, according to GayCities, and its Poodle Beach section is particularly popular with queer beachgoers.
While Delaware has not been as hard hit by the coronavirus as New York and New Jersey, Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns said the town is taking precautions and heeding the governor’s guidance on reopening.
“About 80 percent of the homes in Rehoboth are owned by people from out of town. What we have seen is a lot of those second-home owners have come to Rehoboth in order to get away from where they were, but they have been very positively practicing social distancing,” Kuhns said earlier this month. “It has been very manageable, but as we get more crowds coming in, it will be a difficult situation.”
As of 5 p.m. Friday, beaches along the Delaware coast will be open for exercising, sunbathing and swimming. Guidelines, which can be found on the state’s website, require social distancing among those from different households and encourage face coverings. There is a catch, though: Those who reside out-of-state will have to maintain a 14-day quarantine upon entering Delaware in order to enjoy what its beaches have to offer.
Kuhns, however, said, “We will not have police at the entrances of Rehoboth checking your ID and making sure you live in town or not.”
As for the town’s shops and restaurants, many will be open with restrictions, with most offering only curbside pick-up.
As the artist’s colony in Provincetown began to thrive in the early 20th century, so did its gay community. By the 1970s, the bohemian village at the tip of Cape Cod became known for its cabaret and drag scenes. Today, Provincetown boasts around 300 businesses that are part of the Provincetown Business Guild, an organization that focuses on drawing LGBTQ visitors to the destination.
“We are spending a lot of time talking about what the P-Town experience is going to look like this summer and trying to reimagine the Provincetown experience, because we believe there will still be people that come here,” Bob Sanborn, executive director of the Provincetown Business Guild, said. “We have a lot of these large-scale events and theme weeks that won’t happen as they have historically happened. With that said, we aren’t expecting the up-swells and crowds that traditionally happen here week to week.”
During the typical summer peak season, Provincetown has a population of about 30,000 to 50,000, with peak holidays and events seeing nearly 100,000.
“Eighty percent of the homes are second homeowner owned, so those people will still come with their house guests,” Sanborn speculated. “And we still believe there will be some tourists. So it’s going to be a slower but steady summer.”
Both of the region’s most well-known beaches — historically gay beach Herring Cove and Race Point — are part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and have not been closed amid the pandemic, though their operations have been limited. The area’s smaller beaches, those around the harbor, have been closed, but will open on Memorial Day. Social distancing will be expected on all beaches: Household clusters will be allowed to gather, but larger groups, especially with 10 people or more, will be prohibited.
“This summer will still be uniquely Provincetown,” Sanborn explained. “It will be a special summer. Many people are saying this will be like Old Provincetown, before the big theme weeks became such a part of our culture. People used to flock here years ago for the sun and the fun and the joie de vivre and the simple, colorful life. We believe it will be a summer like that.”
And, just like in years past, Sanborn and other community leaders acknowledged the resiliency of the LGBTQ community when unforeseen threats arise.
“The gay community is very creative and inventive, especially in a crisis,” Pagano said. “We survived the HIV epidemic and made a comeback. I think the same thing about this. Those same creative energies will be out this summer.”
A family in Charleston, South Carolina, said their rainbow pride flag was torn down from the front of their house and burned in their driveway last weekend.
“We were taken aback and thought, ‘Wow, somebody must be really bothered by this to go to this end here to do this.’ But we called the police to let them know about it,” the homeowner, who lives with his wife and three young children, told NBC News.
“There’s people on our street that have South Carolina flags, United States flags, different college flags, garden flags … obviously the rainbow is what attracted them to ours,” the homeowner, who asked that his name not be printed to protect his family’s safety and privacy, added. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the people who did this didn’t even know who we were or who lived in the home, that it was just the fact that it was a rainbow flag, and they didn’t agree with that.”
After news of the incident spread, a local LGBTQ advocacy group, Alliance for Full Acceptance, started to offer free LGBTQ pride flags to any residents or businesses in the city seeking to “display a flag in solidarity with the affected family and LGBTQ community.”
“So far, we’ve had 200 requests for flags, and we have given so far somewhere between 80 or 90 out,” the group’s executive director, Chase Glenn, said. “It’s really incredible to see the community rally around these folks and the LGBTQ community as a whole.”
Charles Francis, a spokesperson with the Charleston Police Department, confirmed that the homeowners had filed a police report. Francis said the investigation is ongoing, and no suspects have yet been identified.
If investigators conclude the incident is a hate crime, any suspects could be charged under Charleston’s new hate crime ordinance, which was passed in November of last year.
“This is the first test of that,” Glenn said of the new ordinance. “We have a great relationship with the police and, thankfully, they are taking this seriously.”
Even though the homeowners are a heterosexual couple, Glenn stressed that the ordinance punishes those who have the intent to intimidate another person because of their “perceived” sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We want our community to feel safe, and incidents like this don’t help grow that sense of safety,” Glenn said.
As for the homeowner, he said he and his family “are definitely going to get another flag and put it back up there.”
“We hope that all the folks who have been very supportive, who have said kind things to us, we hope if they do feel that way that they do the same and show that support with action and fly a flag themselves,” he said. “I think that would send a strong message to whoever the haters are out there that those views are not shared here, and that those opinions are not those of the majority.”
After the LGBT community celebrated Doug Jones’ senate win last week in Alabama, beating homophobic and accused sexual predator Roy Moore, the queer community celebrated something else. Internet detectives discovered Jones had a gay son, Carson Jones, and a new Instagram hunk was born.
We had the opportunity to ask Carson Jones some questions about his father’s win, if he’s single or taken and what his DM box is looking like these days now that he has a whole lot more thirsty followers … including us.
Hornet: Since we first blogged about you, your Instagram following has grown by more than 15,000 followers. How does it feel to have such a strong following now and what are you going to do with your platform?
Carson Jones: It was honestly kind of overwhelming as the followers started to climb really quickly. But I have had so many really nice people reach out with words of encouragement and support. So many people have just simply said “Thank you” and all of that really means a lot. Moving forward, I probably will get a bit more vocal about issues. But honestly who knows what the future holds at this point.
What do you know now that you didn’t know at the start of your father’s campaign?
Alabama really can change. I was definitely very pessimistic before the victory and while I saw Alabama changing, it was very very slow. This victory was just so monumental that it really demonstrates that my home state can and will be a place that puts people first.
Do you ever see yourself becoming more involved with politics yourself, especially since there are so few LGBT out politicians in office?
I honestly have no idea what the cards will hold later on. I absolutely love what I do now as a zookeeper and really can’t ever imagine leaving the field. This has been my passion since I was about five years old and I’m finally getting to do some really amazing things with animals and to inspire conservation action. But all that being said, I’ve always been interested in politics, so nothing is getting ruled out for sure.
What has your personal experience been with dating apps like Hornet?
I mean like pretty much every gay guy my age, I have definitely had my fair share of positive and negative experiences with the “app culture” in the gay community. I kind of go through periods where I am using them constantly for a few weeks and then forget all about them for a while and then go back to them. It’s a cycle.
Are you single or taken?
(Laughs) I’m very much single.
What do you look for in a partner?
Just getting started dipping my toe in the dating pool which has been exciting but also terrifying. I mean, I’m looking for what I think most people are: someone handsome and charming but also someone genuine and real. Someone that is engaged with the world around them and supportive when I binge eat Chinese food at 3:00 a.m. after a night out on the town. (Laughs)
If you could sit in a room with some of the men and women who voted for your father, what’s the first thing you would say to them?
It would just be thank you, thank you, thank you. It was amazing to stand in the stage behind my dad on election night and see supporters in the audience bawling at how happy this victory was for them. It really makes you understand how important this election really was. This victory isn’t my dad’s victory, this is their victory and I would tell them that.
If you could say one thing to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
I think my 16-year-old self was way too tightly strung. I’m still an A-type personality, but 16-year-old Carson took that way too far. So I would simply say, “Chill out. Everything is going to work out.”
What’s the craziest DM you got from a new follower this week?
Honestly, everyone has been surprisingly tame. No dick pics or anything. Lots of marriage proposals but also a lot of really amazing supportive messages. I definitely get a lot of “ZADDY” comments. I honestly had no idea what that meant and had to look it up. And now my close friends are trolling my Instagram and commenting “ZADDY” everywhere. (Laughs)
So what’s next?
Finishing grad school is the top priority. I’ll be done in May and then I’ll see where that takes me. Hopefully a really amazing zoo wants to hire me on full-time and I can really get going with my career. But I also just want to take some time and travel and relax. It has been a crazy year to say the least, so if more naps could be in my future in 2018 … that would be perfect.