Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"We Were Always There..."

"A True Love Story..."

Captains Daniel Hall, left, and Vincent Franchino, who are Apache helicopter pilots,
leaving the Cadet Chapel at West Point.  CreditDanny Kim for The New York Times

For Love of Country, and Each Other

The New York Times
By Vincent M. Mallozzi
Jan. 19, 2018

Apache helicopters — the kind of aerial weaponry immortalized in Hollywood tough-guy films such as “Rambo” and “Black Hawk Down” — are among the Army’s most revered killing machines, and those who fly them across enemy skies “have an attack mentality,” said Capt. Daniel Hall, a 30-year-old Apache helicopter pilot based at Fort Bliss, in Texas.

“That attack mind-set is shared by the entire Apache community,” Captain Hall said. “It’s a real macho thing.”

As he spoke, Captain Hall was flanked by Capt. Vincent Franchino, a 26-year-old fellow Apache pilot who is also stationed at Fort Bliss, where they are both a part of another community: the group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender soldiers who serve there.

The couple first met when both were at West Point. Captain Franchino, left, was a plebe and Captain Hall a firstie.

“It’s been a bit of a bumpy road for us,” said Captain Franchino, who married Captain Hall on Jan. 13 in the Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where they are believed to be the first active-duty, same-sex couple to exchange vows at the legendary Army post.

The Rev. Dawn Sangrey, a Unitarian Universalist minister, performed the ceremony before 150 guests, many in Army service uniforms.

The couple, beaming in their own immaculately pressed blue mess uniforms, the most formal threads in the Army’s wardrobe, were celebrated by a saber-arch salute as they departed the chapel.

“We’ve experienced everything from people feeling awkward around us to being called faggots while holding hands and walking down the street, stuff like that,” said Captain Franchino, who was born and raised in Stony Point, N.Y., the youngest son of Holly Franchino, a retired pharmacist, and Robert Franchino, a retired sergeant with the Police Department in Clarkstown, N.Y.

The Rev. Dawn Sangrey, a Unitarian Universalist minister, performed the ceremony before 150 guests.  CreditDanny Kim for The New York Times

“But despite what we’ve been through,” Captain Franchino added, “nothing was worse than having served during the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ years.”

The emotions and romantic feelings felt by Captains Hall and Franchino, as well as scores of others from the L.G.B.T. military community, were hamstrung by “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy that went into effect in October 1993 under President Bill Clinton; it forbade any homosexual or bisexual member of the military from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages.

“Through mutual friends at West Point, we had each learned the other was gay, and though we were attracted to one another, we couldn’t say or do anything about it,” said Captain Hall, who grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., the only son of Kyle Hall, a middle school mathematics teacher, and Stephen Hall, the vice president for nylon polymer strategic development at Koch Industries in Wichita, Kan., where his parents now live.

“It’s really frustrating when two people have feelings for each other but are not allowed to act on them,” Captain Hall added. “We were serving under a policy that was telling all of us — perfectly capable soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — to lie about ourselves.”

The couple after the ceremony were applauded by their guests, including many in uniform.  CreditDanny Kim for The New York Times

Captain Franchino said that lying was much better than the alternative.

“We couldn’t tell the truth for fear of what would happen to us,” he said. “So we put it in our minds that we were never going to say we were gay, we were never going to get made fun of, and we were certainly never going to get kicked out of the Army.”

The first time they met was on a Friday afternoon at West Point in August 2009.

Captain Franchino was taking part in an annual tradition during Ring Weekend in which freshmen (known as plebes) get a chance to retaliate against their often overbearing senior cadets (known as firsties) by doing all they can to delay the departure of those seniors, who are trying to hurry home after the ceremony to spend a weekend with their families.

It took Captain Hall, swarmed by plebes, a full hour to cross the final 100 yards to his room. When he got there, he had no idea that four more plebes were waiting patiently to jump out of hiding spots in the room in an effort to scare him and further delay his weekend. After the first three plebes had departed, Captain Hall assumed he was alone, but as he prepared to leave, he was ambushed by Captain Franchino, who had been hiding under the bed.

“When I came out from under the bed, Dan was so startled, he jumped over his desk,” Captain Franchino said, laughing.

CreditDanny Kim for The New York Times

Captain Hall said he remembered thinking, “This guy has a lot of guts, and he’s kind of cute too.”

They went their separate ways, though neither veered too far from the other’s line of vision. In January 2010, they selected each other as a partner in a mentorship program that allowed seniors to offer instruction to freshmen who were following similar career paths.

By April of that year, it was clear to their fellow cadets that a spark had been ignited, but under the rules, there could be no flame.

“You could tell that there was this chemistry, this unspoken communication between them,” said Capt. Owen Waits, a close friend to both who was a senior cadet at that time and later married Captain Hall’s sister, Lauren.

“It was kind of strange because you knew that there was this whole aspect of their feelings and personalities that were being suppressed,” Captain Waits said. “But that’s just the way it was.”

But in September 2011, it was that way no longer. Congress repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and Captains Hall and Franchino were soon celebrating their new sense of freedom.

“Vinny came out with a big splash to everyone on Facebook, posting all of these pictures of himself and Dan kissing and hugging, and I thought it was so brave that he did that,” said Captain Franchino’s uncle, Charlie Franchino, of Brooklyn, who is also in a same-sex marriage and was often the shoulder that his nephew leaned on when struggling to keep his sexuality a secret.

Mr. Franchino said he also stepped in to “help ease the shock that was initially felt by Vinny’s parents.”

“My brother’s a cop, he’s a tough guy, and so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for him and his wife to handle this news,” Mr. Franchino said. “But whatever initial shock they had, they got over it quickly and immediately embraced Dan.”

A reception was held at Skylands Manor in Ringwood, N.J.  CreditDanny Kim for The New York Times

That evidence was on display during the couple’s reception at the elegant Skylands Manor in Ringwood, N.J., a 44-room Tudor revival mansion perched high in the heavily wooded Ramapo Mountains along a stretch of long and winding country roads snaking through Ringwood State Park.

“Speaking from my heart, I love Dan,” Holly Franchino said during the cocktail hour.

Her husband, Robert Franchino, added of their new son-in-law: “They are two peas in a pod.”

“You can see the chemistry between them,” he added. “Without a doubt, Vinny is absolutely a happier person today than he was before he met Dan.”

The relationship has not always been so accepted or in tune, including beginning with their first date in February 2012 in Washington.

The grooms and their mothers share a dance.  CreditDanny Kim for The New York Times

“That’s where some guy called us both faggots,” Captain Franchino said.

But they had a bigger problem to deal with, as Captain Hall, then in flight school at Fort Rucker, in Alabama, learned he was being deployed to South Korea, along with his Boeing AH-64 Apache, a four-blade, twin-turboshaft attack helicopter equipped with a 30-millimeter M230 chain gun, as well as Hellfire missiles and Hydra Rocket Pods.

Upon hearing the news, Captain Franchino was not feeling quite as macho as Captain Hall. Just five months removed from “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the young soldier was on edge.

“I was so worried about Dan, it was really nerve-racking,” Captain Franchino recalled. “At the time, there was just too much pressure involved, we were both very nervous about the long-distance thing, so we both thought it was best to just step away.”

They began dating other people but had a change of heart and got back together in November of that year.

The couple cutting the cake. They used Captain Hall’s officer saber, a West Point graduation gift from his maternal grandparents.  CreditDanny Kim for The New York Times

Three years later, their relationship was on more solid ground, so Captain Franchino was in a better place emotionally to hear the news that Captain Hall was being deployed to Kuwait.

A year after that, Captain Hall was flying his Apache above war-torn Iraq.

“We’ve just grown accustomed to being apart at times,” said Captain Franchino, who spent all of 2017 deployed in Germany and several countries in Eastern Europe. “It’s a part of who we are, a part of what we do, so we simply accept it.”

Captain Hall, who said he plans on “leaving the Army after spring,” also said that his military stint, especially the time he spent in the cockpits of Apache helicopters, “has brought a lot of excitement to my life, and so has Vinny.”

But when pressed, Captain Hall refused to say which of the two has brought him more excitement.

“Don’t ask,” he said with a wink and a smile. “I won’t tell.”

"The Artist's Corner..."

"Nick and Chris"
Acrylic on canvas
Katherine Meridith

Monday, January 22, 2018

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"Love Is The Water Of Life...  Live Fearlessly"

"We Were Always There..."

"The Things That Love Says..."

Our love is simply about us being together, hand in hand, for the small, daily joys in the world around us.

- Lindsay Detwiler

"The Whisper Of Truth..."

The Whisper app allows users in anonymity to share secrets.

"Fear Eats the Soul"

"Selfie Love..."

"Selfie Love" - those beautiful, grainy, out-of-focus self-pics that capture the truth of true love...

"The Truth About Who We Are..."

Wayne, Palawan, Philippines
by thegaymenproject
photos by Kevin Truong

Wayne, in his own words: "I came out at the age of 34 while living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Not the most obvious place to do so as it is still illegal there, punishable until recently by the death sentence, and even now by decades in prison.

I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa, but despite the fact that by the 1990’s South Africa was legislatively one of the most advanced countries in the world (being one of the first to legalise gay marriage), it was still deeply conservative, with deeply entrenched views on gender, sexuality and ethnicity.

I grew up therefore among homophobic sentiments, and had my own prejudices about what homosexuality meant. To be a gay man to me meant flapping your arms around, sashaying your hips and calling everyone ‘dahhhrling’. But I was a straight looking, straight acting guy who got the attention of girls, so HOW could I be gay?

I dated women all through my teens and early twenties, but the romance usually flickered quite quickly into friendship. I did look at men, but if I was attracted to them, I told myself that I just wanted to be like them, not that I actually wanted to be with them. I was, in retrospect, always gay: I just couldn’t accept it then.

At the age of 19 I had my first ‘relationship’ with a man, and not the sort you’d expect, but which lead me to believe even more so that being gay was not for me. I started receiving letters at home and work from an unknown older man confessing his undying love for me. I was flattered at first, but I told myself that it was because I was getting attention, not actually because I was turned on by a man being attracted to me. I also then started getting phone calls where nobody would speak, and in a later letter from this man I found out that it was him who was calling. It became incessant, and eventually, when receiving one of these silent calls, I told him to please leave me alone. The situation unfortunately then turned into a full blown obsession for this mystery man and I was forced to get the police involved and eventually, after some death threats, decided to leave South Africa for a while and spent the next year backpacking around Europe and the Middle East.

I always try to look at the positive side of things, so I will be eternally grateful that this situation lead me to my passion for travel, but I also believe that it was a main reason I didn’t come out earlier and for a long time associated being gay to this negative experience.

In my late twenties, I started experimenting with drugs, and the inhibition which comes with it allowed me to experiment for the first time with men. It often felt good at the time, but afterwards I was filled with confusion and shame: What had I done? Was this really who I was?

By my early thirties, I found myself really depressed, drinking more and binge spending to fill what was missing, and to hide what I then knew: that I was gay. I was haunted by what my friends and family would say; if they’d be repulsed by me; reject me; if they’d still see me for who I was; if they’d still love me.

I decided to take a drastic life change: to move away from South Africa again and to start a ‘new life’. I began work in Tanzania in 2010, and I loved it immediately: the ocean, the people and the animals, of course, but even the power cuts, the contradictions and the complexities. I felt happier than I had been in a very long time.

It was here that I met a couple of guys via Gaydar who finally revealed my ignorance on what it meant to be gay, and showed me that being gay wasn’t only for the camp and the extravagant (who I love and admire for their honesty and openness, by the way). Most of my online chats never led to sex, but to talk honestly with like-minded people was life changing. One of the friends I met through Gaydar fast tracked my journey, for he was good looking and straight acting; furthermore he lived in a remote village in Tanzania training rats to search for landmines!!! WTF! If he could be gay and proud then why the hell couldn’t I?

It was a year until the Rat Trainer and I actually met face to face, and nothing happened between us that night, but it was an evening filled with fun, tequila, dancing, silliness and great conversation. For the first time in my life, I felt absolutely happy and 100% myself: I will never to forget that night.

The next day I took action, flew to see my mum, and over a glass of wine, blurted out that I was gay. She was a little taken aback but assured me that she wished me to be happy above all things, and that she loved me unconditionally. She was AMAZING. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to tell her; but getting her unconditional support made my next steps easy.

Over the next year, I began having dinners with my friends and family, and telling them one by one. I was unbelievably lucky for I didn’t receive a single negative comment or reaction. Hearing other people’s coming out stories, I realize how unusual this is, and it’s made me doubly appreciative of all the wonderful people I have in my life.

The thing I probably struggled with the most after coming out was heartbreak. I was now in a position to openly feel something towards someone else and at the age of 34 I fell head over heels in love for the first time which then led to the my heart being completely shattered for the first time. Going through what most people experience in their late teens and early twenties at the age of 34 was not easy for me and took me a while to recover from. But I did, and met another wonderful man who taught me a lot about love and passion, but due to long distance and a fairly significant age difference it was also not meant to be, but I am happy to still call him my friend.

3 years on, after multiple dates, romances and heartbreaks, I have learned that being gay is just like any other ‘normal’ relationship. It’s about feeling a connection to another human being and wanting to share everything you have with them.

So, where am I now? About a year ago I met an amazing Spanish man who I’ve travelled the world with and who has shown me what a really loving relationship is like: nothing is hidden between us. Everything is - as it should be - completely in the open.

With the love of friends and family and a boyfriend I adore, I can’t wait to see what the future holds. For sure, everything got better when I finally kicked down that closet."

"Adam and Andy..."

I love James Asal's "Adam and Andy" strip
our lives really are like this.

"The GIFt Of Love..."

Love is happiness...

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 2938"

"The Look Of Love..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"The Artist's Corner..."

"Man Reaching Down"
Oil on Masonite board
Michael Leonard

Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"Love Makes The World Beautiful...  Live Fearlessly"

"The GIFt Of Love..."

The first kiss in young love's blossom...

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 2937"

"Love Is Love..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"Selfie Love..."

"Selfie Love" - those beautiful, grainy, out-of-focus self-pics that capture the truth of true love...

"The Whisper Of Truth..."

The Whisper app allows users in anonymity to share secrets.

"Fear Eats the Soul"

"Fan Art Is Fantastic..."

"The Truth About Love..."

If you want to fall in love, you can't hold everything in. You have to open up, take that risk. You'll be hurt sometimes, but if you don't, you'll never be happy. The one you find may not be the kind of person you expected to fall in love with, but it wont matter, you'll love them for exactly who they are.

- Jean M. Auel

"We Were Always There..."

"The Artist's Corner..."

"Room With A View"
Oil on canvas
Hero Tolsma

Saturday, January 20, 2018

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"Love Protects...  Live Fearlessly"

"The Things That Love Says..."

Should I draw you the picture of my heart, it would be what I hope you still would love, though it contained nothing new. The early possession you obtained there, and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it, leave not the smallest space unoccupied.

- Abigal Adams, letter to John Adams, December 23, 1782

"We Were Always There..."

"Fan Art Is Fantastic..."

"A Little Sane Advice..."

8 Secrets Of Gay Power Couples
Power couples understand “to whom much is given much is expected.”

John Schneider and David Auten
January 2018

Neil & David, Ellen & Portia, that gay couple in town who’s goes everywhere and does everything, we want their careers, their success, their freedoms and their influence. So, how did they become the power couples they are today? What can we learn from them to become our best selves?

Adopt these eight behaviors to make 2018 the year you make that happen...

1. They don’t accept limitations

Most of us adopt limiting beliefs as we grow up. Many of us had negative experiences in our youth because we were different. However, these power couples know that they do a disservice to themselves if they become their own worst enemy and carry negative experiences from childhood into their adulthood.

Consequently, they overcome their limiting beliefs to receive all the success they dream. Like Dorothy and her return home, they know they have the power within themselves to go where they want and be what they want.

2. They never stop learning

To stay at their peak-level and keep up with their queer peers, gay power couples constantly learn; they read, they listen, and they watch informational, educational and inspirational books, podcasts, videos, webinars and blogs.

They soak up information like a sponge and learn how to use it to their mutual benefit.

3. They take risks and fail forward

Power people take risks. They don’t like to fail, but they’re not afraid to fail because when they’re not winning they’re learning. They know that comfort is the enemy of progress.

They step out of the closet and then step up to become leaders. Many become entrepreneurs or work to become leaders of industry. They know that the more power they have the more power they give our queer community, and that power can be used for more good.

4. Same-sex power couples spend less money than they earn

The Ellens and Portias of the world know where each dollar comes from and where each dollar goes. They’re crystal clear on how, when and where they spend their money. They know the law of financial independence is that they can’t spend more than they earn.

They have budgets and use tools to stick with their budget like Kerri Strug sticks landings. They understand what Soren Kierkegaard meant when he said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom,” and that budgets aren’t restrictive but liberating.

5. They invest in themselves, each other and our community

These savvy duos work hard for what they earn and then make their money work hard for them. They invest in the stock market, they invest in real estate, they invest in growing their personal brands. That’s why in addition to acting, Zachary Quinto has his Before the Door Pictures production company and Martine Rothblatt, who has United Therapeutics, GeoStar and Sirius Satellite Radio.

They, then, use this money to take care of themselves and us. Power couples understand “to whom much is given much is expected.” They know the causes and initiatives that are important to them, and they donate their time and money accordingly.

Like Oprah said, “And [giving is] not just about writing a check. It’s being able to touch somebody’s life.” The better they do the better they give.

6. They spend their time with like-minded people

Successful people know as Jim Rohn said, “You’re the average of the five people with whom you spend most of your time.”

They don’t exclude themselves from everyone else. Like Bob Proctor says, they spend time with their other friends, just not as long and not as frequently. Rather, they seek out people who push them to do more and be more. They find their people, others who think bigger, grow more, and who give in abundance.

7. Play is work and work is play

These successful couples know that time is money and money is time. Like all of us, they like their time off but blend play time with work time. Whether it’s dinner, travel or adventuring, they connect with their network, their network’s network to build business relationships and friendships.

They understand that they can have their cake and eat it, too, with synergies, mutually beneficial relationships and A Whole New Mind-level of thinking.

8. They recharge right

Although it may appear to the contrary, they aren’t superhuman. They know when and how to recharge without wrecking secret number four, which is key to their success.

Taking a break doesn’t mean breaking the bank. Unwinding physically or mentally doesn’t mean overdoing it with sex, drugs or alcohol. They know that overdoing it with any vice means dire consequences for their goals and objectives. That said, they know there’s a healthy balance and don’t deny themselves occasional fun.

Make 2018 the year you stop hoping and start acting! Use these eight tips to become the power couple you want to be.

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