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Step out of your closet this Vancouver Pride

Step out of your closet this Vancouver PrideGay pride events in Canada are very different than other pride events around the world. This is because Canada has been a world-leader in equality rights for decades. In Canada, pride celebrates equality, rights, freedoms, and diversity. Regardless of where you celebrate, gay pride is an important part of gay culture, giving individuals the confidence, dignity, and satisfaction to come together, publicly acknowledging their own sexuality.

Pride events are a positive stance against discrimination and violence against the LGBT community, through public visibility, bringing greater awareness to LGBT rights movements around the world. The energy generated from these events makes it easier and more comfortable for individuals to come out, and to be open about their sexuality.

With Vancouver Pride just around the corner, here are five tips to help individuals take some much needed weight off their shoulders and proudly step out of the closet, allowing them to celebrate their own sexuality, in a safe, confident, and open environment:

Be sure of your sexuality: While you may or may not have had sexual experiences with the sexuality you identify with, it is important to know and understand your feelings.

  1. Confide in someone you trust: You are under no obligation to come out ot the entire world at once; however, coming out to someone you trust, like a best friend, will make it easier. They will be there to guide and support you, for you are, regardless of your sexuality.
  2. Choose the right time: If you are living at home and don’t feel your parents will be supportive, you may consider waiting to tell them when you’re in a situation where you have a safe place to stay. When coming out at work, talk to your manager or HR department to understand company policies. Today, most employers, like Sparkling Hills Resort, have codes of conduct that ensure all employees are protected.
  3. Just say it. Don’t beat around the bush and get into long and confusing stories. Just come right out and say it. You’ll feel a huge sense of relief, like a weight being lifted off your shoulders.
  4. Be ready to answer questions. The person you are sharing your news with will likely have a lot of questions, like when did you first realize your sexuality, how you know, and if you have a partner. Be ready to answer these questions truthfully, and honestly. The person you are telling may not have a lot of knowledge or experience in LGBT topics, so you may have to educate them when coming out.

Everyone has their own, unique, coming out story. Most people who have come out have had a good experience, with little or no issues. It’s very freeing and people often comment later that they wish they had come out earlier. Today, coming out is easier, thanks to pride events and celebrations, media attention, and generally people being accepting of all sexualities.


This Vancouver Pride, if you’re bursting to come out of the closet, do it with pride! And if your closet is bursting at the seams, call Alluster Storage, a valet storage service, ready to help you make more room in your closet. Alluster Storage service delivers storage boxes to your home that you can pack and inventory the belongings that are cluttering up your space, including seasonal clothing, sports gear, books, and mementoes. You can even store your bike, skis, and snowboard. With Alluster Storage, you’ll have room in your condo to entertain and celebrate Vancouver Pride.

*Some restrictions may apply. Call Alluster Storage for complete offer details.

HIV positive guys are safer than you think

HIV Blood Test

Low viral load, not an undetectable one, reduces HIV transmission: confused?

Much has been made over the last couple of years that it’s perfectly safe to have sex with a guy with an undetectable viral load. The risk of transmission of HIV from an HIV positive guy with an undetectable viral load to an HIV-negative guy is reduced by 96%! Great news, yes? Actually, there are two things wrong with that statement and it needs to be broken down. That’s because the news is actually even better than that.

Firstly, keep in mind that scientists always work using statistics and statistics recognize that nothing is certain. Instead they usually provide a range – a confidence interval. They are 95% confident that the reduction in risk is somewhere between X and Y. And being overly cautious when it comes to public health, they choose the lower number. So really the headline should read: “risk of transmission is reduced by at least 96% and possibly closer to 100%.” The actual number could be 100% or as close to that as is possible since again, nothing is certain (just like it’s not certain this author won’t be hit by lightning right…. now!). Over time, with more and more data, that range of 96-100% will become more narrow. What’s important to note is that not a single HIV-negative person got HIV from their HIV-positive partner who had an undetectable viral load.

Secondly, the news is even better than that. And that’s because the very word undetectable is problematic. The word undetectable has less to do with the person and more to do with lab equipment. Just as different size telescopes can see more stars in outer space, different lab equipment can see, or detect, more virus in a person’s blood or other fluids. Some equipment can only detect the virus if there are more than 40 copies of it per millilitre, others if there are more than 75 copies. For the PARTNERS study, the line drawn at which they deemed someone undetectable was 200 copies of the virus per millilitre. So really, the headline should be: “having 200 copies of the virus or less reduces the risk of transmission by at least 96% and possibly closer to 100%!”

Because really, it’s about viral load. Undetectability is determined by lab equipment and the lab equipment does not determine the risk of transmission, the guy’s viral load does. When most guys these days say they are undetectable, they mean they have less than 40 copies of the virus per millilitre of blood. But the risk is still extremely low if they guy has a viral load that is higher than that. It’s better to think of risk as a spectrum, not an abrupt cut off line. The risk of transmission from a guy with a viral load of one million is higher than a guy with a load of 44,000, which is higher than a guy with a load of 850, which is higher than a guy with a load of 42, which is just slightly above undetectable. 

This of course is a difficult message because it’s easier to mass communicate a message with short phrases. So it’s understandable why public health officials have kept the messages simple. But it may soon be time that we start educating the masses with the details to further reduce stigma against guys with viral loads above undetectable. In the end, each person has to decide what risk they’re comfortable with, if they’re even bothered about getting HIV in the first place, and what further tools they feel they need to employ if they want to reduce that risk further (e.g. pre-exposure prophylaxis, condoms, etc.).

It’s 2015, not 1985. You can love positive guys emotionally and physically and it’s far safer than getting in a car. And in the off chance there is an accident, you will still likely live a long and healthy life.


Communication is the key to a relationship

Communication is the key to a relationshipThere is no doubt, relationships take a lot of work. Having a partner you like and care about, it shouldn’t be a lot work to pay attention to what he has to say. When it is work to be around your partner, then there is a problem. It’s time to talk openly about your feelings and listen to what each other have to say.

The part of communication that is often missed is learning how to listen. Listening to what your partner has to say and understanding their feelings is really important. People think that they are listening, but most people are really not good at it. People hear what they want to hear, or what they expect to hear. Listening takes skills and much more attention than talking.

When your partner is talking, you need to act like they are the most important person in the world, and that everything they have to say is important. When you both feel heard and understood, it brings couples closer together.

When listening, you need to clear your own thoughts and focus on what your partner is telling you. Don’t think about what you are going to say next. Think about the message behind the words. To make sure you are understanding what your partner is telling you, paraphrase back to them what you believe they are saying.

It’s also important to respond to what you are hearing by relating back and giving your own feedback. It is acceptable to respond with:

  • This sounds important to you.
  • It bugs you when I…
  • You would like to do…

The attempt to show you understand what is being told to you will result in further explanation; so you can both clearly know what the situation is, and how to come to a resolution.

If what your partner is telling you is not important to you, then it could be a signal that your relationship is in trouble.

Another part of communication is delivering the full message. If you suggest to your partner to go away for the weekend, it’s better to give them all your thoughts and feeling around the trip, the purpose, why it’s important to you, and what you hope to get out of it as a result. When you explain the whole message, your partner can have a better understanding of your expectations and why you are suggesting the trip.

It’s not uncommon for people to get right to the point and to leave out how they have reached their own conclusion. The thought process is important to share with your partner. You should assume that your partner likes you, wants to understand you as much as possible, and that they want a deeper understanding of your main message.

Communication is simple. Remember to not interrupt when the other person is speaking, and stop what you are doing so you can pay full attention.

Growing and developing a relationship shouldn’t be difficult. Always be honest. Don’t lie or protect them from information you feel that your partner may not want to know. When couples keep secrets from each other, it adds a barrier and a separation. Dealing with difficult subjects should be a priority; not ignoring them, hoping they will go away.

3 luggage nightmares and how to avoid them

3 luggage nightmares and how to avoid them

The biggest mistake people make when travelling is that they try to take too much with them. They pack everything including the kitchen sink. The truth is, most travellers won’t need or use the majority of items they pack, which is quickly realized when they return from their trip. While there are plenty of other travel woes to worry about, here are three luggage nightmares and how you can avoid them:

  1. Overweight baggage: Frequent fliers invest in quality luggage, especially when flying, because weight is always a big consideration. There’s nothing worse than showing up at the airport and finding out your bag is overweight and you have to reorganize your checked and carry-on luggage. Older luggage is really heavy. Today’s luggage is lightweight and durable. When buying new luggage, invest in an upright bag and a carry-on roller bag. The smaller carry-on roller bag will fit easily inside the upright bag, taking up less space when not in use.
  2. Think travel size: When it comes to travel, packing light and efficient is key. You don’t need to bring Costco size toiletries with you when you are travelling. Travel size toiletries, under 3 oz, take up less space and weight, and allow you to take them in your carry-on. Also, only bring the absolute basics such as your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair product, shaving cream and a razor. That’s all you really need, especially if you’re only going away for a few days.
  3. Check the weather: Before you even start to pack, check the weather forecast for your destination. Even if you’re headed to a hot, sunny destination, the weatherman might be calling for wet, cold, and inclement weather, and if you only packed shorts and tank tops, it could result in an expensive trip of last-minute shopping for warmer clothing. But if you’re off to somewhere you think is cold, you might end up over-packing jackets and long sleeve shirts, only to find out it’s the warmest year on record.

While packing for a trip is never fun, it also doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Taking a few minutes to think about what you’re packing and what is essential can save you a lot of headaches.

Exfoliating 101

Exfoliating 101Taking care of your skin is important. A few minutes each day can make your skin look and feel amazing. Washing your face each day removes dirt and oils, which can clog pours. To get silky smooth skin, that looks and feels younger, exfoliating is key.

Exfoliating encourages the skin cells to move every 28 days. This movement is gives a more youthful appearance. Exfoliating can also get rid of acne, redness, and other skin irritation.

Exfoliating 101 in four easy steps:

  1. Start off by rising your face with warm water.
  2. Gently rub exfoliate on to your cheeks, forehead, nose, and neck. You can gently massage your skin for up to a minute, being careful not to aggravate your skin.
  3. Use a clean, warm wet cloth to wipe away the exfoliate.
  4. Pat your face dry with a fresh, clean, soft towel.

It’s important to use an exfoliate that does not contain fillers, or granules that could scratch or damage your skin, like cheap drugstore apricot formulas. Choose a product that is made with high quality ingredients.

Exfoliating once a week will give your skin new life. It should be part of your weekly skin maintenance routine. Talk to your skin care professional about other at-home treatments including clay masks and peels. These home treatments should be combined with monthly treatments by a qualified skin care professional, which will bring out the best of your skin. For deep treatment, try microdermabrasion.

Blackberry Crush

Blackberry Crush

  • 1 ½ oz Stoli Razberi
  • 3 Fresh Blackberries
  • 6 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • ½ oz Simple Syrup
  • ½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Muddle blackberries, mint and simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker. Add Stoli Razberi vodka, lemon juice and ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled glass.

Meet the gay communities newest music diva, The Artist Novel

The Artist Novel performing at LA Pride 2015

She is gorgeous. She is fierce. She is amazing! This summer The Artist Novel has made a huge splash in the gay community by slaying Pride and circuit party stages across North America as she brings her poppy / 90’s house vibe to the masses.

So far this year, The Artist Novel has performed at major events including the world’s largest circuit party, White Party Palm Springs, the start-studded LA Pride, and one of the world’s largest pride events, New York Pride.

The Artist Novel performing at LA Pride 2015

HomoCulture had an opportunity to sit down with The Artist Novel in an exclusive interview this summer.

“I used to go to Toronto for vocal training and there was a huge parade,” said The Artist Novel, explaining how she fell in love with the gay community. “As we got closer and closer we realized it was a gay pride parade. I’m from a super small town and we are not used to that kind of stuff. Something inside me made me start vibrating and I thought it was amazing! It was everything from the costumes to the dancers.”

The Artist Novel performing at LA Pride 2015

If you haven’t heard her music yet, it’s fun, upbeat, makes you want to dance, but also appreciate how today’s generation is different.

“Gay guys are just a really amazing audience for me. I’m just really supportive of changing the world and our generation,” continued The Artist Novel. “I wrote a song called Free, and it’s based on the new generation of acceptance, to just be you, to be free, that this is our moment.

Like most songwriters, The Artist Novel draws on her own personal life experiences as the inspiration for her music.

The Artist Novel performing at LA Pride 2015

“My inspiration is boys!” giggled The Artist Novel. “Boys, being sexy and being you. Just being loved. One night stands. Just being life. The heartbreak.”

After being in an incredibly toxic relationship, The Artist Novel wrote two songs which has deep, personal meanings, that her fans can really relate to; those songs are Heartbreak and Apology.

“When I wrote the song Apology, it was like an apology to myself,” explains The Artist Novel. “When people hear it, it will really touch a lot of people. People write about heartbreaks, but no one has really written about ‘I’m sorry’, for letting someone treat me like that. I’m really excited for everyone to hear that.”

The Artist Novel performing at LA Pride 2015

At White Party Palm Springs, The Artist Novel filmed and released a live music video. While not the official song video, which is currently in production, it was a glimpse of some behind the scenes and has set the stage for what’s about to come.

“My album is coming out and I want to do a tour,” said The Artist Novel. “I want to travel with my music so people can get to know me. My shows are really high energy and I make sure my dancer boys are really cute. Plus I like to get the crowd involved.”

The Artist Novel hopes to release her debut album late this summer. Her song Spark has already reached #16 on the Billboard Dance Charts and had been heard on Sirius XM.

Porn stars like Theo Ford believe in PrEP, why don’t you?

Porn stars like Theo Ford believe in PrEP, why don’t you? Conversations about safer sex are not new to the gay community. For decades the gay men have feared HIV. We’ve been told that condoms and abstinence are the best methods to protect yourself from the virus. But what people are struggling with are other methods of safer sex practices that can reduce the risk of contracting HIV or other STI’s. Yes, condoms do a wonderful job, but there are plenty of other methods.

Knowing your HIV status is the most important tool that people should be aware of. Getting tested regularly should be part of your quarterly health routine. If you have sex with multiple partners or frequently, it’s good to talk to your health professional about a testing schedule that is appropriate for you.

“If you have HIV positive or negative, you need to get tested,” said gay porn actor, Theo Ford. “It’s fear. You need to get over it. It’s your life, and your partner’s life.”

Adult entertainers are at higher risk because they have multiple sex partners, who also have multiple sex partners. Their risk is exponentially amplified compared to the average person. Most porn actors are extremely responsible about their sexual health, and Theo Ford is a great example.

“When I shot a handful of condomless scenes I did not realize that people weren’t getting tested as frequently as I thought,” Theo Ford explained. “I should have been more careful. I don’t regret it. Models need to be aware of their status. Some studios don’t even check the test results or ask for them. They haven’t checked anything. If they didn’t check my results, then they probably weren’t checking others. It was at that point I realized I would never do any more bareback scenes.”

When working in adult entertainment, it’s ultimately the models decision to what they will or will not do, and also their responsibility to ensure their testing is up-to-date. The same should be applied to the average person; you need to be in control and responsible for your own sexual health and actions.

“When you work with people and you have their health in your hands you have to make sure everything is as safe and secure as possible,” said Theo Ford. “Some people are very verbal about PrEP, and it’s obviously something I would strongly recommend.”

PrEP does not replace the use of condoms. It’s an added layer of protection to reduce your risk of HIV. Truvada as PrEP should be used as part of a complete safer sex toolkit. To find out if PrEP is right for you, talk to your health care provider.

Theo Ford, like many others in the adult entertainment and sexual health industries, believe that anything you can do to reduce your risk of HIV is a step in the right direction.

“There’s not small step against HIV prevention,” said Theo Ford. “Safer sex is something we should all do. Get informed.”

For more information about Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP, read these articles:

Pride: End the exclusions

2015 LA Pride Parade

Cities are now in the midst of Pride season and, as always, controversy is erupting. In the small city of Kingston, Ontario, the tiny Pride parade’s organizing group has come under fire for stating that participants in the parade should not have a political agenda and that they didn’t want angry messages, ignoring the fact that Pride started as and will always be political.

Across an ocean, London’s Pride organizers have come under fire from both sides after they wouldn’t let in a contingent from the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, ostensibly because they are worried about the safety of participants but in reality because they don’t want a right-wing party in the parade. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Pride Society has stated that all participants must sign the Trans Equality Now Pledge.

These decisions are wrong and need to end.

First, it’s important to get an important principle laid down. Pride festivals and parades were grass roots events that grew out of what is a very diverse LGBT community. Various non-profits were formed as a legal requirement to make contracts with suppliers, provide legal protection to organizers, and to have agreements with local governments. However, these non-profits do not own Pride. The LGBT community owns Pride. Yes, the community should be grateful that so many people put their time and energy into volunteering and making these events a success. But that does not entitle them to ownership over Pride.

Secondly, the community that owns Pride is made up of ALL LGBT people. That includes the now-defunct Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and LGBTQ in UKIP (members of a xenophobic party that opposed marriage equality). And let’s not forget, it’s not only right wingers that oppose gay marriage, many radical queers oppose it because they oppose the very institution of marriage – if marriage equality was a litmus test, both groups would be excluded.

The LGBT community includes all races, creeds, religions, and political parties. Queer Palestinians are both queer and Palestinian and should not have to separate their multiple identifies any more than a queer lawyer marching with his law firm should have to – and that Palestinian identify nearly always requires a statement on the subjugation of their homeland. Simultaneously, some gays oppose same-sex marriage. Sometimes it’s because they believe in a radical sexuality, sometimes it’s because of their religion but they are nonetheless gay. The reasons for a belief are varied and sometimes they are far more progressive and advanced than the current litmus test provides for.

Sometimes we are going to oppose one another on different issues. Yes, this means putting up with intolerable views. There are lesbian racists, trans Israelis, gay communists, and bi bankers – and if you hate them, boo when they pass by or organize a counter group. Pride organizers do not have the right to create litmus tests for its own community as it’s the community’s event, and that community has many warts. Besides the LGBTQ+ component, the community is a microcosm of society.

Of course this only applies to the community itself. If an organization is not predominantly represented by members of the community, or a politician is not a member of the community, a litmus test is perfectly reasonable. They have no claim to ownership over Pride and can merely stand as an ally with the community’s permission, and this is where Pride organizers can help in determining who can participate. So if a straight politician doesn’t support a pledge for trans equality or a corporation doesn’t provide equal benefits, exclusion should be a must.

Pride festivals and parades are for all members of the LGBT community and that community makes for uncomfortable bedfellows at times. In the end, nobody has the right to exclude the community’s own members, no matter how unsavoury they are.

250 gay men get personal about their privates in new book on penises

Penis PrideFrom porn stars to average guys, a group of 250 gay men were surveyed by gay author, Brock Wilder, about their gentleman parts. The result is a seven chapter, 100 page book, where guys discuss everything from the best part of their penis, how they’d describe the perfect penis, their favourite things to do with their own manhood, and of course, the most sought after celebrity and porn actor penises.

“I was tired of hearing guys complain about their penis,” said author Brock Wilder. “I wanted to create a book that celebrates mine, yours, and everybody’s penis.”

The book, Penis Pride: 250 Gay Men Get Private About Their Privates, is available now on Amazon.

Le Diner en Blanc returns to Vancouver

Diner en Blanc Vancouver2014

For the fourth year, Vancouver will be hosting the annual Le Diner en Blanc, and unforgettable evening of elegance, beauty, magic, and formalities. This year, over 4,500 people are expected to attend the Tuesday, August 25 event, at a secret location that promises to be another unforgettable evening.

Last year, Vancouver’s Le Diner en Blanc was hosted in Yaletown’s David Lam Park. The secret picnic event is hosted in over 60 cities in more than 25 counties around the world.

The signature event is known for having large groups of guests, dressed completely in white, meeting at gathering spots all around the city, and then converging on the secret location all at once.

Guests must bring their own table, chairs, table settings, and of course their meal. Everything must be completely white. Throughout the evening there is music, entertainment, dancing, and celebration moments including “the waiting of the napkins” to mark the beginning of dinner, and the lighting of the sparklers to let guests know they can get up and mingle.

At the end of the evening a trumpet sounds and all the guests pack up their belongings and head into the night, leaving behind no sign of the elegant event.

Registration for the Vancouver Le Diner en Blanc event is open until Monday August 3. The event happens, rain or shine.

Are straight girls taking advantage of gay men at gay pride events?

Straight girls wanna crash the Pride party? Great! But you gotta know this.

Pride events and festival celebrate and raise awareness of rights and equality for the LGBT community. These events are intended to involve the entire community, including allies, corporate organizations, families, and stakeholders. We love our straight allies; they are fucking awesome! However, there’s a certain segment that is infiltrating gay pride events and making it their own personal party crowd. The guilty party? Straight girls.

No, we’re not talking about your typical fruit fly or fag hag. We’re talking about the 20-something girls decked out in rainbows and drunker than half the gay men at pride.

Ok, yes, you can party with us, and we want you to, but you need to remember, these are gay pride events, where gay men get to be their real, true, authentic selves. Gay pride wasn’t created as an excuse for straight girls to crash parties.

Every gay man has been to a gay bar or nightclub when drunk Natasha comes waltzing in with a half-dozen of her girlfriends, wearing a tiara, condom sash, and penis scepter, slurring her speech and shouting out, “gays are awesome!!!”.

It’s easy to see why straight girls love coming to gay events. They are safe places, the guys are hot, and the music is amazing. Face it, the gays know how to put on some of the hottest mega parties!

At the end of the gay day, we’re not your fucking toys!

Yes, we know that you have one gay friend who you think is hot and super cool, but that doesn’t give you the excuse to ride the coattails of his pride. Yes, it’s fun, and we welcome and encourage you to come to the parades and public festivals to show your support, but you have no business at the parties and events; those are designated for gay men to be gay men. Gay men fought hard for the right to party. Let us have our space.

More importantly, don’t just throw up your “straight ally” flag on the day of gay pride in your community just so you can score some drinks and drugs. Being nice to the token gay you know doesn’t count as being an ally either. If you really care, you’ll talk openly and support the entire LGBT community 365 days a year, including sharing HomoCulture content, volunteering in the community, and supporting LGBT businesses.



Bramble, a sweet summer gin cocktail

  • 2 oz Gin
  • ½ oz Simple Syrup
  • ¾ oz Crème de Mur
  • ¾ oz Lime Juice

Fill a cocktail shaker half full of ice and add all ingredients. Stir gently and then strain into a martini glass.

New York Pride 2015 in a New York minute

2015 New York Pride Parade

Wow, what an incredible way to end Pride month! New York Pride 2015 weekend kicked off with a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was determined to be unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriages. This ruling paves the way for lawmakers to pass legislation granting same-sex marriage rights in all jurisdictions in the United States. The announcement came just hours before the official New York Pride festivities kicked-off, creating a buzz of excitement and emotion.

Adam Lambert performing at New York Pride Voss Events Marquee 2015

Before the weekend kicked off, Voss Events held the Marquee Pride Opener party on the Thursday night, where award-winning singer / songwriter, Adam Lambert headlined. It was an over-the-top event with outrageous costumes, wild performances, and bold personalities, with the likes of Amanda Lepore making an appearance.

Friday night New York Pride kicked-off with The Rally, held on Pier 28 on the Hudson River. The event featured a special performance by Ashanti.

Matinee Jungle 2015 New York Pride

Friday night also saw Matinee Pride Jungle, a late-night circuit party. Fur, camouflage, feathers, and face paint were the basis of many peoples elaborate costumes. The highlight of the night was a performance by a tribe of sexy jungle men, followed by a fire and flame show.

Matinee Circuit 2015 New York Pride

Saturday daytime saw two competing rooftop party events, the official New York Pride rooftop party and the Matinee Pride event just a couple of blocks away. Both were well attended, however, the rain definitely put a damper on the spirits of many until the libations started to flow, then the parties really got started.

Saturday night there were choices of the WE Party and the Voss Events Bathhouse parties. The WE Party was the first-pick for most partygoers, however, the Bathhouse event by Voss Events was well attended, primarily because of the third-floor clothing-optional area, for those who were bold and wanted to shed a few layers.

Some decided to keep the party, heading to the Matinee Action Pride party, held from 5am-11am, which featured DJ Billy Lace alongside DJ Hannah.

2015 New York Pride Parade

About the time the Matinee Pride event was ending, hundreds of thousands of people were lining up along the New York Pride March route. Despite the threat of rain, the annual pride march was in high spirits, as people continued to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Rainbow flags were proudly waived high in the air. Colourful costumes, creative floats, marching bands, community organizations, drag queens, and every other spectrum of the LGBT community were all out in full force for the parade which lasted over four hours!

Sunday was furry of events, hence New York Pride celebrations were all happening in a New York Minute. From the Dance on the Pier in lower Manhattan, the local bars and clubs with their own festivities, to the Voss Events Night of 1000 Queens, there were plenty of events to choose from.

Matinee Pride Yacht Cruise 2015 New York Pride

The Sunday night highlight was the Matinee New York yacht cruise, which featured performances by Grammy-Winner Ray Dalton of Macklemore as well as C+C Music Factory legendary diva Deborah Cooper performing a medley of her hits, including Pride, A Deeper Love and Live You All Over! The yacht cruise went on a spectacular tour down the Hudson River, around the Statue of Liberty, and back up the Manhattan skyline.

Freedom Tower lit up in rainbow colours for New York Pride 2015

Sunday night wrapped up with a giant fireworks show, which could be seen throughout much of Manhattan.

Empire State Building lit up in rainbow colours for New York Pride 2015

Throughout the weekend, both the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower were both lit up in a rainbow of colours high atop their respective towers.

Matinee Pride 2015 New York Pride

New York Pride is one of the most fun, rushed, and exciting Pride events to attend. If you are going to attend, plan on spending only a period of time at each event, ideally for the main performance, because there’s a lot of pack in for one weekend. Jumping from event-to-event will get you to all the biggest and hottest parties. It’s a city that never sleeps, especially during Pride!

Matinee Pride Yacht cruise 2015 New York Pride

It’s time we change HIV non-disclosure laws

HIV non-disclosure laws

The United States and Canada have the first and second highest number of arrests and prosecutions for HIV non-disclosure. That is when an HIV positive person who knows their status has sexual relations with an HIV negative person and doesn’t disclose their positive status beforehand. Whereas some countries now have laws that only criminalize cases of intentional transmission, Canada states that it is a crime not to disclose your status before engaging in a sexual act that poses a “realistic possibility” of HIV transmission. While in Canada what that means for oral or anal sex is undefined, for vaginal sex it means you must disclose unless you have an undetectable viral load AND use a condom. It is a crime if you don’t disclose and: 1) have a detectable viral load and use a condom; or, 2) if you are undetectable and don’t use a condom. And here are ten reasons why this law is draconian, contrary to the public interest, and just plain wrong.

1. Blackmail. There have now been cases where sexual partners are blackmailing HIV positive individuals. If the positive person doesn’t give into whatever demands those are (e.g. money, staying in an abusive relationship, etc.), the blackmailer will go to the police and tell them that the positive partner didn’t disclose their status, even if they had disclosed. Unfortunately, due to stigma and homophobia, particularly if you have elected judges or discriminatory juries, there’s a strong possibility that they’ll believe that nobody would ever knowingly sleep with a positive person.

2. Harm. Not everybody is in a safe situation to disclose. It could be a sex trade worker worried about their pimp. Someone frightened of their abusive partner. Or someone in a small isolated community where discrimination is rampant. It’s not always safe to disclose and could open that person up to violence or even death. And yet we criminalize the person who is afraid for their life.

3. Perpetuity. If someone doesn’t disclose with someone the first time they have sexual relations, they may not disclose in future encounters with that person or with a different person in that social network. After all, they’d be admitting to having committed a criminal offence the first time. Ironically, the law in this situation is actually increasing the risk of transmission by promoting no future disclosure if the person is afraid that charges will be brought against them.

4. Outing. Once a positive person discloses to one person, they automatically lose control of disclosure. They are putting trust in that person not to disclose their status to others. This can be particularly scary in smaller communities, including the gay community. If a positive person meets someone they like, and discloses prior to sex, the negative person might not only reject them, they may then tell other people. Which leads to the next issue….

5. Stigma and discrimination. There’s still a lot of discrimination against positive people. A lot. If knowledge of their status gets out, they can lose friends, family, their job or home (you have to prove that’s why you were fired for it to be a human rights violation).

6. Further marginalization. Many sex trade workers and/or drug addicts are positive due to the inherent risks in their lives. Many of them are already pushed to the margins of society with little support and lead chaotic, difficult lives. How does criminalizing non-disclosure even work as a deterrent to them and does society really need to destroy their lives even further?

7. Alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs can be inextricably tied to the sex lives of some people. A positive person may have the full intention of always disclosing. But if they get drunk or high and forget to tell, the law doesn’t take away their responsibility to disclose. Positive people are just like anyone else – they can get drunk and make a mistake, is it really fair that they can go to prison for that? Who hasn’t gotten really drunk and accidentally had sex with someone?

8. Science. The legal situation in Canada and the United States is based on outdated science. It’s not treated positive people spreading the virus – it’s people who think they’re negative or those who can’t get access to medication. It is nearly impossible for someone with an undetectable viral load to transmit the virus to someone else. Only in the case of HIV does the law make it a crime to do something where a negative consequence is almost impossible to occur.

9. Death. Or lack thereof. HIV is still treated like it is a death sentence by the courts. The laws are so strict because they still treat transmission as if it will kill someone. HIV doesn’t kill, not if it’s treated. If anything, we should be charging parents with assault for giving their children too much sugar because diabetes is a far worse condition to get.

10. Testing. Non-disclosure laws actually lead to a greater number of infections. Since it’s not the treated positive people transmitting the virus, it’s the people who want to think they’re negative. If testing positive means discrimination, stigma, and criminalization of future sexual behaviour, why wouldn’t some people just choose to be ignorant of their status. If they don’t get tested, they don’t get treated, and they continue to pass the virus to others. Non-disclosure laws help fuel the epidemic while doing nothing to stop it.

Let’s stand up for our positive brothers and sisters. Let’s put an end to these outdated laws that victimize, stigmatize, and add fuel to the epidemic.

Discover the new Evolve Winery in the Okanagan Valley

Evolve Winery in the Okanagan Valley

Summer is big business in the Okanagan Valley. Each year thousands of people make the trek to the resort valley in central southern British Columbia. They come to enjoy the plethora of recreation activities including fishing, boating, waterskiing, golfing, hiking, scenic chairlift rides, farm fresh fruits and vegetables, and luxury resorts. But on above all that, they come for something that has made the region famous around the world; wine!

Evolve Winery in the Okanagan Valley

One of the newest wineries to open in 2015 is Evolve Winery in Summerland. Less than two minutes off Highway 97, down a quiet farm road, the winery is perched overlooking Okanagan Lake and Okanagan Mountain Park (which made headlines in 2003 when thousands of hectares of park and forest lands burned in one of the worst natural fire disasters in Canadian history).

Evolve Winery in the Okanagan Valley

Evolve Winery was founded by Christa-Lee McWaters-Bond. Christa-Lee is no stranger to the wine industry. Her father, Harry McWaters was a key member in developing the Okanagan wine region and has build many successful wineries throughout his career. Christa-Lee, like her father, has an entrepreneurial spirit, having started and worked on numerous wine brands and even opened her own restaurant, Local Lounge, just down the road from Evolve Winery.

Christa-Lee’s vision for Evolve Winery was to create approachable wines at a reasonable price point. All the wines are under $20 and are incredible value. The beautiful thing about British Columbia wines, is that you don’t have to spend a lot to get an amazing bottle of wine. This is exactly what Evolve Wines are all about.

From Gewürztraminer to Pinot Gris, Shiraz to Pinot Noir, there is already a full line-up of nine different wines available, and it’s only their first year in business. This was possible because of the other vineyards that are within the McWaters portfolio in the southern Okanagan.

Evolve Winery in the Okanagan Valley

There’s no need to be intimidated by these wines, or think that you need to know fancy wine terminology to describe them to your friends. Nope. These wines are made for drinking and enjoying, without pretentiousness. It’s as easy as chilling the whites in a bucket of ice water or in the fridge, and then opening the bottle and pouring. No fancy wine glasses, aerators, or decanters.

Keeping things simple is key. Open the bottle, pour into a glass, and sit back and enjoy the company of a close friend, catch up with family, or just enjoy the summer sunshine on the patio in solitude. It’s that easy! Heck, if you want to get fancy, grab some crackers, cheese, dried and fresh fruit, and you’ve got an afternoon or evening snack.

Evolve Winery in the Okanagan Valley

The tasting room at Evolve Winery is open daily. This summer a restaurant will be open on site, serving up simple comfort foods featuring fresh, local ingredients. Watch for other upcoming activities like yoga in the vineyard, coming this summer.

Next year, Christa-Lee is anxious to release a line-up of bubbles. An even better excuse to make a second trip back next year!

Rev up your game with the 2015 Lincoln MKC

2015 Lincoln MKC

Step into a new league of luxury and rev up your game with the new 2015 Lincoln MKC.

The Lincoln MKC is the ultimate in driver comfort and safely. Short of driving itself, the onboard systems help reduce the risk of accidents and ensure safe operation of the vehicle.

2015 Lincoln MKC

While there are all the standard gauges on the dashboard instrument panel, there’s a fantastic detail in the speedometer area, where the speed limit road sign instantly appears. Synced with the onboard map system, this feature will help ensure you don’t go getting speeding tickets! You’re already saving money just by knowing what the speed limit is on the road you’re travelling.

2015 Lincoln MKC

When driving down the highway, the dashboard automatically displays a graphic of the vehicle along with the left and right road lines. When they are green, you are safely within the centre of your lane. If you start to veer towards or over the line, automatic sensors in the vehicle will turn the line from green to yellow.

2015 Lincoln MKC

These same sensors also have physical alters sent to the driver at the same time. The steering wheel will give a light sensation to the driver, cautioning them that they are about to cross the line. It’s a preventative indicator to help reduce the potential risk of hitting a vehicle in the lane next to you or going off the side of the road inadvertently. This indicator only happens when the turning signal is not used to cross the road line.

2015 Lincoln MKC

What’s more, is if you are driving for an extended period of time and you are frequently crossing the road lines, the dashboard will light-up with a warning, suggesting driver fatigue, encouraging the driver to pull over for a short rest break.

As if all those weren’t enough safety features, the side mirrors, which automatically fold in when the vehicle is parked and turned off, have an amber light that automatically comes on warning that it’s not safe to change lanes.

OK, so there is a lot of driver safety in the 2015 Lincoln MKC, however, it’s also a ton of fun to drive!

2015 Lincoln MKC

On the open road, especially mountain passes, most vehicles struggle; but the 2015 Lincoln MKC and it’s giant engine powers up the hills with horsepower to spare! With a touch of the gas pedal, the SUV glides up the hill, almost effortlessly.

For drivers who appreciate more control, the semi-automatic transmission can be put into manual mode and the driver can use the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters to gear up and gear down, just like with a standard transmission, but without the use of a clutch.

2015 Lincoln MKC

Driver comfort is taken to new heights with leather seats, featuring heat for the winter and air conditioning for summer. Yes, the seats are air-conditioned! While there is the standard on-board in-dash entertainment console, complete with rear-view back-up camera, navigation, and Bluetooth connectivity to your smart phone, it has a top-of-the-line THX sound system, to pump out crystal-clear beats.

2015 Lincoln MKC

The ride is fun from the front or rear seats and feels spacious and comfortable. The majority of the roof it glass, front to back, and a portion can be opened allowing in fresh air and natural sunlight. It makes riding in the rear seat more enjoyable.

2015 Lincoln MKC

On top of the fun and safe driving experience, the exterior just screams class. Low-profile tires on aluminum sport rims, high-shine metallic paint, soft and sophisticated lines, and black and silver trim all make the 2015 Lincoln MKC stand out.

If you’re ready to rev up your game and step-up into a new class of luxury, take a 2015 Lincoln MKC for a test drive. You’ll fall in love, instantly!

2015 Lincoln MKC

Take a step back in time, at the Algonquin Hotel, just steps from the best in Manhattan

Algonquin Hotel in New York City's Manhattan

There are a lot of hotel choices, especially in places like New York City. Sure, you could go for cookie-cutter, or turn to a budget-friendly hotel, but if you want an exceptional experience, sometimes you have to look for options that are a unique, fun, and different. Just steps from the top sites in Manhattan is the historic Algonquin Hotel.

Algonquin Hotel in New York City's Manhattan

Algonquin Hotel in New York City's ManhattanPart of the autograph collection from Marriott, this hotel is rich in history and character. One of the older hotels in Manhattan, the Algonquin Hotel has been constantly innovating. They were the first hotel in Manhattan to allow single women to stay overnight, alone, the first to have an electric lift, and the first to have electronic keycard guest room door locks.

The property has been well maintained throughout the years. Much of the original detail can still be seen throughout the hotel, from the brass and iron railings and fixtures, to the wood and plaster mouldings and other wall decorations.

Upon arriving at the hotel, the friendly bellmen are ready to open the door with a giant smile. The front-desk staff, which there are always two on duty, are quick and efficient to get you checked in so you can get on with enjoying your stay.

The rooms are incredibly large for downtown New York City. This is because this is a historic hotel, when hotel rooms were quite large. From standard rooms to suites, there are a variety of room choices to choose from. Each room is tastefully decorated with modern furniture, but very respectful of its historic charm.

Algonquin Hotel in New York City's Manhattan

There are many modern considerations, including extra outlets near the bed for tech-friendly travellers, alarm clocks for iPhone 5 users, complimentary in-room Wi-Fi, two complimentary bottles of water each day, and fresh apples.

Algonquin Hotel in New York City's Manhattan

Recent renovations have had the guest room washrooms upgraded with beautiful tile and glass showers, pedestal sinks, and water-efficient toilets. There are premium bathroom linens and toiletries from L’Occitaine En Provence.

The hotel also offers a host of other amenities for travellers including a fitness centre, hot tub, and giant lobby perfect for relaxing and getting to know the other hotel guests.

The Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel

The hotel also has the legendary Blue Bar, a traditional handcraft cocktail bar located just off the lobby. It gets its name from the giant blue bar top, which is illuminated with blue lights, and the blue lighting throughout the gentleman’s club style bar. Classic cocktails are their specialty, from Old Fashions to Gin Fizz’s. What’s more, is each cocktail is made to order, but made exactly as you like it. If it’s not perfect, they’re happy to tweak it to make it right. They use fresh, premium ingredients, ensuring a perfect cocktail every time. Each guest can also enjoy premium spiced popcorn with real butter.

The Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel

On your next trip to New York, give the Algonquin Hotel a try. Not only is it rich in history, but it’s also located just steps from Times Square, Rockefeller Centre, the Empire State Building, and Central Park. If you are looking for more ideas of what to do in New York City or want to get a CityPass, visit NYC Go, New York City’s official visitor centre.

LA Pride entertainment extravaganza

2015 LA Pride Parade

Each year there are Pride celebrations, marches, festivals, and events in towns and cities around the world. In North America, Pride is big business. Not just because of the decades long rights movement following the Stonewall Riots in New York, but also how it’s become a central gathering time to bring communities together. While many Pride organizations put in tremendous efforts, LA Pride is, by far, one of the best Pride events to attend if you’re looking for an incredible line-up of talent and entertainment.

2015 LA Pride Parade

Over and above the annual Pride parade, which LA Pride was the first to hold a gay rights march following the Stonewall Riots, they have grown the event into a weekend long festival, LA Pride Festival.

2015 LA Pride Festival

In 2015, the LA Pride Festival had a long list of performers and artists. The festival has a number of distinct areas including the main stage, Latino stage, VIP area with a roller skating rink, an exhibitors area, food trucks, and an adult zone.

Kesha performing at the 2015 LA Pride Festival

Headlining the weekends entertainment line-up was Kesha, who performed Saturday night. She put on a fantastic show for thousands of adoring fans.

Luciana slays the stage at LA Pride 2015

Also on the main stage was electro-pop queen, Lucciana, who belted out a number of her new and well-known hits as she bopped across the stage with her signature moves and facial expressions. Her performance was over-the-top thanks to the stunning custom made red sequin dress adorned with colourful butterflies.

Ty Herndon performing on the main stage at LA Pride 2015

Ty Herndon also became the first country music singer to grace the main stage at LA Pride. From die-hard country music fans, to those who just appreciated good music, the crowed enjoyed his performance.

Wilson Phillips performing at the 2015 LA Pride Festival

Wilson Phillips hit the stage on Saturday afternoon. They were easily a crowd favourite as they belted out almost a dozen of their classic songs from the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s, reminiscing along the way of family tales.

The Artist Novel performing at Here Lounge during LA Pride 2015

While there were easily over two dozen acts throughout the weekend, including Tosh Music, outside of the festival there were also other incredible opportunities to see and hear some brilliant artists up-close. Jessica Sutta performed at Blow Friday’s, The Artist Novel put on an explosive show at Here Lounge, and Grammy winner, Ray Dalton of Macklemore closed out the weekend at the Sunset Tea Dance at 1OAK.

Gay boys enjoying the music at the 2015 LA Pride Festival

While LA Pride continues to keep gay rights and equality at the forefront of their mission, the LA Pride Festival along with the rest of the community has come together to come up with the most exciting entertainment extravaganza weekend! Put LA Pride on your 2016 Pride celebration calendar; you will love it!

Southern Driver

Southern Driver whiskey cocktail

  • 2 oz Whiskey
  • 1 Sugar Cube
  • 1 tsp Water
  • 1 Dash Bitters
  • Splash Orange Juice

To make a Southern Driver, combine sugar cube, 1-teaspoon water and bitters in an old-fashioned glass. Add whiskey, flavored whiskey and orange juice. Stir. Top with ice.

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