+
upworthy

lgbtqia

Image pulled from YouTube video.

Magic shines on "The Ellen Show."

NBA legend and entrepreneur Magic Johnson has so much love for his son E.J., who came out in 2013.

In a 2017 appearance on "The Ellen Show", Johnson talked about the moment E.J. (a rising star in his own right) came out to to him and his wife, Cookie. They had what can only be described as the ideal reaction: They supported their son from the get-go.

"When my son came out, I was so happy for him and happy for us as parents," Johnson said. "And we love him. And E.J. is amazing."


Ellen asked what advice Johnson would give other parents who find themselves in the same situation. His advice was spot-on.

"I think it's all about you not trying to decide what your daughter or son should be, or what you want them to become," he answered. "It's all about loving them no matter who they are [or] what they decide to do."

Family acceptance and support is important to all kids, but it's vital for the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth.

"You gotta support your child," Johnson wants parents to know. "It's so many people who try to discriminate against them, so they need you to support them. 'Cause if you don't support 'em, who's gonna support 'em and love 'em?"

family, gender rights, community, social norms

Magic talks about his son E.J. on "The Ellen Show."

Image pulled from YouTube video.


There's enough bigotry and discrimination in the world. No child deserves to hear it at home.

The data doesn't lie: "LGBT young people whose parents and caregivers reject them or try to change them are at high risk for depression, substance abuse, suicide and HIV infection," said Caitlin Ryan, faculty member at San Francisco State University and director of the Family Acceptance Project. "LGBT young people whose parents support them and stand up for them show much higher levels of self-esteem and greater well-being, with lower rates of health and mental health problems."

If you're a parent or family member supporting someone who just came out, you don't have to go it alone.

Check out PFLAG for more information, including local meet-ups for parents and resources to build and foster safe communities. Groups like Parents for Transgender Equality, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and Believe Out Loud are also great places to start.

Need more inspiration? See more of Magic Johnson's appearance on "Ellen."

This article originally appeared on 04.19.17


More

A church put women and LGBTQ people first. Attendance surged.

This church is redefining the relationship between the Black church and queer people.

On a rainy day in Harlem, Rev. Kyndra Frazier, 36, works at her desk at in a quiet office. She’s visibly relaxed, self-aware, and youthful.

Yet her journey to becoming a leader of one of the largest, most historic African American churches in New York City and exuding such confidence wasn’t easy.        


Rev. Frazier was raised in North Carolina. Her family were leaders in the Church of God, so from a young age she found solace and enjoyment in her faith. But her teenage years were conflicted.  

Rev. Frazier is queer — a life the church was starkly against.  

She struggled to reconcile her sexuality and faith, fasting and praying, to no avail. Her parents found out about her queerness while listening in on a phone call between Frazier and her secret girlfriend.

“I recall being ashamed and embarrassed by what they’d heard, Rev. Frazier says. “They let me know that they couldn’t trust me anymore.”    

It took about eight years for her immediate family to accept her. It took even longer for Frazier to realize she could love who she chooses and be a faith-driven person.  

This duality drew Rev. Frazier to First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) and its executive pastor, Rev. Michael A. Walrond, Jr.

Rev. Walrond enjoys preaching in jeans. Photo courtesy of FCBC.

Rev. Waldron, 46, leans into the common themes of Black church identity in his teachings: faith, community, and a dedication to justice.    

Unlike many Baptist clergy, though, Rev. Walrond has extended his message of tolerance and inclusion to a group typically excluded from ministry: the LGBTQ community.

“We as people of color have so many things that we battle with,” Rev. Frazier says. “For many of us, not only are we Black, ... we're also queer. Churches have to do the work that centers those folks and remind them that they’re valid and loved in such challenging times.”  

Rev. Waldron’s progressive nature breathes through every part of the church. Since joining as the executive pastor in 2004, he's surrounded himself with women leaders, a rarity in most churches. His preaching style is casual; he wears jeans — unusual against his suit-and-tie counterparts in Baptist churches around the nation. (He once told The New York Times, “I like being loose when I go out to preach.”)        

But his mannerisms and unique style of preaching connect congregants to the deeper acceptance of each churchgoer in the room. At FCBC, you’re at home, you’re welcome, and nothing — from clothing to sexual orientation — gets in the way of that.

All three of FCBC's Sunday morning services are typically filled to capacity. Photo courtesy of FCBC.

The inclusive efforts have been largely beneficial. FCBC's membership has grown from 350 to 10,000+ people.

Lines of people wrap around the street on Sunday mornings. During the service, gospel music echoes through the white ceilings lined with purple and gold. Churchgoers are each immersed in their own spiritual experiences inside this space that exudes warmth and solidarity.      

It was on a similar Sunday in 2016 that Rev. Frazier came out to the congregation, something nearly unheard of in most religious spaces. For the FCBC’s queer membership, it was especially incredible.

“To see her pronounce who she was openly gay in the pulpit was a huge thing for me to see,” said Olando Charles, a queer member of the church. “If she can make it, so can I.”          

Olando Charles is an active member of FCBC and the HOPE Center. Photo by the author.

Rev. Frazier's visibility in the pulpit likely couldn't have happened without Rev. Walrond constantly striving to bring people of all backgrounds to the church.

While Rev. Walrond's actions aren't surprising to many of his congregants, his outreach — and style of operating a church — are unusual in American church culture: Catholic churches have fired openly gay priests, several churches have removed queer musicians, priests have been fired for vocally supporting LGBTQ rights, and women overall still struggle to be viewed as viable leaders in churches all over the country.

The pastors of FCBC are needed now more than ever.

To reach the most marginalized in the FCBC and Harlem communities, Rev. Waldron opened the HOPE (Healing On Purpose and Evolving) Center to provide free mental health and therapy services.

The HOPE Center is just a few blocks away from FCBC. Photo by the author.

He tapped Rev. Frazier in 2016 to spearhead the organization. The two first met in 2012, and their professional admiration and relationship grew from there.

Before accepting the position, though, Rev. Frazier knew she needed to come out to Rev. Walrond. “He made it clear that it wasn’t an issue,” she says, explaining that Waldron embraced her and saw her sexuality as a gift instead of a problem. He believed she would be able to advocate for the Black, queer people of Harlem who felt unseen in their churches.    

Rev. Frazier continues, “For him to believe in me and trust me to have autonomy to create mental health space was huge and empowering.”  

The center works with those who have experienced or are experiencing religious trauma, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and/or chronic spiritual abuse.

“I remember going to the church and people telling me I didn’t belong,” Tanzania Stone, a queer FCBC member recalls. “It was heartbreaking. I loved God, but they made it out to seem like God didn’t love me because of who I love.”

Stone went through several periods of time when she wasn’t engaged with the church.

“To be a woman of color and to constantly know that you’re being oppressed in society, you want to find refuge in a church,” she explains. “And to go to this place that you’re being told is a refuge, but when they find out who you choose to love, you find out you’re an outcast or an abomination? That hurts.”

Tanzania Stone often participates in FCBC outreach. Photo by the author.

Stone eventually found her place in FCBC and HOPE. “To finally be in a place where I’m being told, no, you are a child of God, you’re worthy of God’s love, it was so liberating,” she told me.

Rev. Frazier says her own experiences with dissenting family members and frustrations in the church motivate her work.  

“My goal here is to create a space for people of color,” she explains. “The stigma has been so great for Black and Brown folks seeking mental health services; this space is truly designated for us.”  

And she says this is just the beginning. A ministry for LGBTQ people — just like there are for men, women, married couples in the faith — is an essential next step to affirming the group.  

Frazier hopes that FCBC will be an example for other churches across the nation because, historically, churches have failed to provide a safe space for queer communities.

Rev. Frazier knows role likely couldn’t have happened 60 years ago (much less 10), given the fraught history of queer people in Black history.

Bayard Rustin — one of the most brilliant and strategic minds of the civil rights movement — was virtually erased from history books about the era because he was gay. Though his influence was often kept behind closed doors, it’s documented that Rustin was one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most trusted confidants.

Even outside of the church, the work of queer Black leaders and thinkers such as Audre Lorde and James Baldwin were somewhat ignored and not brought to light in mainstream history until recent years due to pervasive, deep-rooted homophobia.                      

Churches like FCBC are working to change that.

With roughly 79% of Black Americans identifying as Christians — the largest group of Christians in the country — it’s a crucial time for religious organizations in Black communities to support their most vulnerable.      

“We take the teachings of Jesus seriously,” said Rev. Frazier. “Black churches have historically been involved in politically challenging times, and we must continue to do so. We can do that by clothing and feeding others and giving them the support they need to move forward.”

Charles and Rev. Frazier often work together at the church. Photo by the author.

As FCBC continues to grow and find ways to not only be more inclusive, but also more affirming, it’s clear that the pastors aren’t afraid to try ways to include people who’ve previously been left out of communities of faith.      

Rev. Frazier puts it this way: “Understand that working towards inclusion is a matter of who’s growing, not who’s right and who’s wrong. That’s how you move forward.”  

Rev. Frazier is currently fundraising for a documentary called A Love Supreme: Black, Queer and Christian in The South.” You can watch the trailer here and learn how to support the project here.

Tan France wasn't supposed to be a TV star.

But as of publication, the fashion designer has over 183,000 Instagram followers and a number of giddy, straight husbands asking to take his photo to show their wives at his local grocery store in Utah. "I can't walk the street without somebody stopping me," he explains earnestly, still surprised that complete strangers would recognize him. (Maybe it's the hair?)‌‌‌‌

‌Photo by Paige Soviet.‌


France, who'd never held a job in the entertainment world before, says he was reluctant to audition for "Queer Eye," a Netflix reboot based off the original Bravo series, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," that's become an overnight cultural phenomenon since premiering in early February.

But France went to the audition anyway. And now he's a member of the show's Fab Five — the stylish, sincere queer guys who bombard their "heroes'" homes and make over their closets, diets, and, really, entire existences in just a few days.

‌Photo courtesy of Netflix.‌

The reason France ended up taking the offer, he says, had nothing to do with fame or fortune. It was the series' shooting location, of all things, that sealed the deal.

Unlike the original, the new "Queer Eye" found its heroes to "make better" in deep red, rural Georgia. For France — a British-Muslim immigrant to the U.S. with Pakistani roots — the opportunity to build bridges and befriend straight, southern Republicans was an opportunity he simply couldn't pass up.

I sat down with France to chat about the first season of "Queer Eye," what it's like representing gay Muslims on the world stage, and which member of the Fab Five he secretly loves best.

I'm so happy to talk to you. I went through season one of "Queer Eye" so quickly.‌‌‌‌

The response has been out of this world!‌‌‌‌

How so? ‌‌‌‌

I don't know if you know, but I'm the only one who hasn't ever worked in the entertainment industry before. I never had any desire to do so. I had to be convinced to go audition for this show. So for me, it's been really shocking. I receive, on average, a thousand DMs a day.

Oh my gosh.

Yeah. It's insane. It's lovely, lovely, and I'm very grateful, but it's insane. And then not really being able to go out of the house as much anymore, unless I'm either really dressed up or have a hat and shades on — that's been a major adjustment.

That's wild. And for many Americans, you're either the first or one of the first gay Muslims they've ever seen on TV. What's that been like for you?

I just am unapologetically myself, so it wasn't something I was really cognizant of until people really started asking about it the past few weeks. And so I've been like, oh shit, maybe I should be paying more attention to that [laughs]. People all over the world have been reaching out and saying, "I've never seen a version of myself on TV." And that's really powerful.

How comfortable are you taking on that role?

I don't feel uncomfortable because I am who I am, and I don't make any apologies for it. That's the case for all of [the Fab Five].

But I've never seen myself as any kind of role model or trailblazer, and I still don't. I don't like that kind of responsibility because I don't expect that people should live their lives a certain way because someone else lives their life a certain way. However, I do love giving exposure to a community that really hasn't had the representation it needs.

As a Muslim, how did it feel helping Cory in episode three? He was a big Trump supporter. Was helping guys like him something you considered before heading to Georgia to shoot?

It was something I thought about a lot before accepting the offer. And actually, it was the reason I took the show.

If the show had been filmed in New York or L.A., I don't think it would have been as enticing for me. [The original "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"] was wonderful for its time. It moved the gay community forward and it gave us exposure we never had before. However, I didn't want just the original version back. I wanted it to be more [representative] of how we've progressed as a community.

So having the opportunity to work with a bunch of Republican people [in the South] was the most enticing part of this job for me. It wasn't about making them "pretty" — that's secondary. My job on the show is making sure I'm having very open, blunt conversations with people without hiding who I am.

Unfortunately, some of the conversations didn't make it [into the episodes]. Like, Cory and I had a very lengthy conversation in the car about Trump and the fact he doesn't love gays or immigrants, and I represent both of those things. [Trump's] made some derogatory comments about the Middle East, and again, I represent that.

Photo by Paige Soviet.

I read that Tom had at one point suggested you were a "terrorist"? But then he ended up giving you a yellow rose?

He sure did. You've seen the full [first] episode ... right?

Yes.

So I had a driving scene in the car with Tom that didn't make it [into the final cut], where we're shooting the shit — just talking about everything while I was driving — and then it came up in conversation that I am Middle Eastern. He hadn't realized I was Middle Eastern. So his first question was, "You're not a terrorist, are you?"

Wow.

Yeah. That was really important for me to be able to address that in a certain way where he didn't feel like he couldn't ask that question — and I told him he can't ask that question again.

There's a way of asking questions to find out what you're wanting to find out without being so offensive. There's a certain level of tact that's required [pauses, laughs] ...

Sorry, what was the rest of your question?

I asked about the yellow rose.

Oh, right, yes! Sorry, sometimes I go off on a tangent and I don't remember where I was going! So we had a really open conversation and he actually asked that question [about being a "terrorist"].

We ended up becoming really close. I love Tom. By the end of the week before I left, when the cameras weren't around, he came over and said, "I got a rose for you, which is yellow — the color of friendship. And I want you to know that I wasn't trying to be offensive by the question I asked. Now I understand you."

He said, "I want to have these conversations with other people. I love knowing that now I have a Middle Eastern friend, an immigrant friend, a liberal friend, that I never thought I would have had."

Oh my gosh.

I know!

Tom was definitely one of my favorites. I also loved A.J. too.

I loved A.J. I mean, it helped that he was really attractive [laughs]. But he was such a sweetheart.

That's awesome. Well, those scenes with Tom sound so powerful. I wish I'd gotten to see them.

You know, here's the thing: We're not trying to make a political show. I guess we make political statements by the nature of who we are. But I think [the yellow rose scene with Tom] would have been way too heavy. Baby steps.

Sometimes, subtlety can make the show accessible for a lot of people who may not have tuned in otherwise.

Exactly. And they can make their own assumptions. We don't necessarily have to ram anything down their throats.

Photo by Paige Soviet.

So how about some fun questions?

Yeah!

I know the Fab Five are all close with one another. But who do you get along with the best?

OK, I will actually be honest with you. I love them all. When we're together, we have the best time. I don't know if you follow my Instagram or if you don't —

I do.

I mentioned in a post that people seem to have really responded well to in my Instagram story: Antoni sat on my lap, and I [said], "It doesn't matter how many chairs there are in a room, my lap is always Antoni's seat." And that's true. It doesn't matter what's going on, if there are a lot of people around us, we are always so affectionate. We love each other very much.

There are differences between some of [the Fab Five] because, for example, some of the boys like to go experience the night life and go to bars and clubs. And me and Antoni, neither of us drink alcohol. So it made it so much more organic for us to build a bond quickly, because when those guys are out going to bars and clubs, Antoni and I were cooking in each other's apartments and watching "The Great British Baking Show."

I now go on vacations with his family. We basically married the same person [laughs], so they get along really well. We're all very, very close, but me and Antoni formed a bond like no other.

That's amazing. Can we talk about Antoni for a second?

Everyone wants to talk to me about Antoni! You love him, I know. [laughs]

I do! But he seems to be the most controversial Fab Five member. Is he just the talentless eye candy on the show, like some people have said?

OK, wait, Robbie, let me tell you this. Because you are now the third person in the last couple days who've asked me this.

All I get all day is DMs from people saying, "Oh my gosh, Antoni won't reply to my DMs; can you tell him that I love him?" I'm like, "OK, get a grip, everybody. He's not just a piece of meat [laughs]!"

Maybe I am jaded because we're so close, but I see him as the heart of the show. Truly. He's got a way of connecting with our heroes — that's what we call the clients we help — he has a way of connecting with heroes like none of us can. He's so truly genuine.

And look, people can have their own opinions with what he does with food. But in the first episode where he made Tom guacamole, he actually made a full meal. But we've only got time to show one thing! He's actually an amazing chef. He cooked for me almost every night because our apartments [when we were shooting on location] were right next door to each other.

For the record, I'm pro-Antoni.

Good! Honestly, no joke, he's probably the best person I've met in my entire life. Like, he's an angel sent down from heaven.

Photo by Paige Soviet.

So, I'm already craving season two. Any news?

OK, here's the thing. Netflix doesn't tell us anything [laughs]. All we can say is, we hope it's doing well. Instagram's fucking blown up, so I assume that's a good indication of how the show's doing.

It seems like it's doing great, but I don't know if I'm just being trapped in my own gay bubble.

[laughs] You know what's funny though? In Utah [where France lives], they have a very high Mormon population. And when I'm out in the grocery store, one of my favorite things in the world to do is go to the grocery store. For a British person, coming to America and seeing the ridiculous abundance in a grocery store is fascinating.

And every time I'm there now — at least three or four times — I'll get stopped by a man who I assume is straight and wants to take a picture with me to show his wife and kids. It's always straight men! It's always straight men.

That's so funny!

I know, I love it.

That about covers my questions, Tan. Is there anything you want to add?

I'd love to go back to the relationship thing with the other boys, because you're the only one who's asked who I am closest with.

Of course.

I am the closest with Antoni, but I never expected that my colleagues and I would become my best friends. Of course, every now and then there's going to [be a fight]. Actually, I like that we argue every now and then, because it's usually about the hero and what we want to do that episode — we have those kinds of arguments. And that makes for a better show.

But on the whole, [the show creators] chose five people who could be, and thankfully are, the closest of friends. And I think that's why the show works so well.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.