What would I say to the ones who were brave enough to divert the raging river of injustice? Our world today is indebted to the fearless rejectionists who so eagerly stood, loud and proud. Also to those who sat down in quiet defiance, hellbent on changing our society’s corruption, despotism, and prejudices.
Life can be so hectic, sometimes it takes some pretty heavy subjects to slow us down to evaluate where we are, what we’re doing and where we’ve been. While my husband and I have been in a committed relationship since 2006, we weren't legally married until the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015. Little did we know on our wedding day that only a few short months later we would be adopting our first daughter. A year and a half later our second daughter came into our lives.
One thing that I'm coming to learn is that life speeds by in the blink of an eye. Busy days fade into hectic evening routines. Some nights are easy, while others involve temper-tantrums and meltdowns. Sometimes, it can be so intense that I just want to kiss them goodnight and close the door. Just as I start to envision myself relaxing on the sofa with a wine glass in my hand I hear, "Papa, please tell me about Disney World." A quick aside--our bedtime routine consists of two books, then prayers, then we tuck her in, then she asks us to tell her about Disney World. Anyway, as much as I want her to go to sleep I know that one day she will stop asking to hear stories about Disney World. So just like all the nights before, I tell her all things I love about Disney World. Her eyes brighten up, and she smiles as I rub my fingers through her hair.
This life we lead is so beautiful. Stressful at times? Yes. But as a gay family, we are doing something we have always dreamed of doing. We are living the American Dream. For so long, that dream was reserved for the stereotypical straight family. Then, someone came along and helped reshape history.
I am 37 years old. As such, I wasn’t around when the Stonewall Riots took place in New York City. I have heard about them and I’ve seen documentaries, but I will never know what it was like to be a gay person in those times. All I can do is imagine. I visualize what it must have felt like as a woman to be arrested and taken to jail just for wearing blue jeans (aka "men's clothing"). Or for two men to be arrested for walking down the street holding hands. Imagine the horror these people must have felt when their names and addresses were published in the newspaper for all the hateful bigots to see, simply for being "caught" being who they truly were and loving who they truly loved. Day after day of humiliation, fading into night after night of persecution. Being fired from their jobs and shunned by their peers.
The oppression and abuse from the forces of law had to end. Something had to give, and one day it finally did. Like a brittle branch on a malnourished tree, a strong gust from a changing wind blew by and it snapped and crashed down to the pavement. These people were victims of a highly unjust legal system, but they did not lay down and submit to it. Rather, they came together and summoned all their courage and took on an audacious effort that would end up changing the course of time. With linked arms, they marched forward against all odds. It took persistence, perseverance and determination. When one rose up, they all did. And then came pride.
That was New York’s story. I live in New Orleans. Being from the South, I am able to see firsthand that it often takes a little longer for things to change here. 1969 faded into the summer of 1973. While the gay community here is very much familiar with what happened next, unfortunately, much of society outside
New Orleans is not.
Paying our respects
Photo credit: bsaphotography.com
There was a gay bar called The UpStairs Lounge on the second floor of a three story building on Chartres Street in the French Quarter near downtown New Orleans. On June 24th, 1973, the first-floor entrance was intentionally set on fire, trapping the patrons inside on the second floor. As the fire spread, metal security bars on the windows prevented patrons from escaping while flames from the fire blocked the exits. 32 people lost their lives. Until 2016, this event was the largest mass murder of gay people in U.S. history.
However, not one statement was made by the Mayor of New Orleans, the Archbishop of New Orleans or the Governor of Louisiana. It was like this heinous act didn’t exist. The crowds below spewed hateful slurs as the firefighters removed the bodies, and some of the families didn’t even claim their dead. In New York City, law enforcement tried to stop the homosexual lifestyle. In New Orleans, the city and state officials were embarrassed and pretended we didn’t exist.
Some say The UpStairs Lounge fire was the day that New Orleans’ gay pride movement started, then came to fruition 4 years later in 1977. Anita Bryant, a former beauty queen turned pop singer and outspoken opponent of the gay rights movement, came to New Orleans for a concert performance. This sparked outrage among the local gay community. A protest was organized in Jackson Square in the French Quater. Over 2,000 people spilled out of Jackson Square that day--an unheard of size for a gay rights protest in New Orleans at that time. The speakers motivated the crowd and encouraged them to rise up and to not be ignored anymore. There are reports of a particularly boisterous lesbian woman from New York City taking the microphone. With her thick Brooklyn accent she began to say...”for years, gays have been teachers, marriage counselors, social workers, policemen, firemen, military members, cooks, janitors, and business people. And that gays were aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, and, most of all, we are their children! And the closet is no place to keep your kid!" Her speech ignited everyone's emotions and the crowd went wild, marching through the French Quarter to the site of her concert. That was the day New Orleans had its Stonewall. It is such a shame that such tragedy and bigotry had to spark the outrage. But, something had to, right?
Our wedding in Jackson Square
Photo credit: bsaphtography.com
Jackson Square has long been a popular wedding venue. As it would happen, 38 years after the protest my husband and I became the first gay couple to be legally married in Jackson Square--the very same place where this insurgent protest happened. Stonewall started the revolution and that rainbow wave finally reached the south 8 years later.
So, at the end of a long, hard day, you can bet your ass I am going to tell my baby about Disney World. In spite of how intense the day or evening may have been. I will tell her. I will tell her for all the ones that died hiding in the closet with their own secret dreams... I will tell her for all the ones that were killed before they had the chance to. I will tell her about Disney World for all the trailblazers that would do anything to be in my place at this exact moment. Of all the places to tell her about, I find it so appropriate to describe the place where dreams come true every single day. It’s where happiness is commonplace and magic is an ordinary miracle.
We are eternally grateful that our lives are a little more like Disney World than we once thought and we owe it to each and every LGBTQ+ pioneer that played such an integral role in writing a new chapter for all of us. God bless you all.
You can always count on January to be full of New Year's resolution clichés that make you want to just slam your face in a door. Well, I hate to add to the torture, but you know I have to chime right on in!
This January marked my 10th year of kicking the nasty habit of smoking cigarettes. It was the second hardest thing I have ever done. Last year I wrote about my personal coming of age story about the wild and crazy life I led when I worked in the nightlife on Bourbon Street. It definitely wasn’t for the faint of heart. Check it out if you haven’t already. Ultimately, I would leave that life behind. Unfortunately, my love of cigarettes survived. To allow you to really understand where I am coming from, I will just pick up where the last piece left off.
I was shellshocked when I first left my partying lifestyle. It was 2007 and Douglas and I were only in our first year together. We both had a lot of growing to do. Not only did I smoke cigarettes, but I also smoked pot. Not to justify my reasoning or excuse my actions, but to put it "bluntly," it helped with getting over my brother’s death. He died in 2005 and, obviously, that experience lands the top spot for the hardest things I have ever had to do or get over.
I was seeing a therapist at the time and she told me to start working out. She said it helps tremendously with depression. So, I took her advice to heart and went out and bought a really cute bike. The next day I started biking to the gym... right after I watched The Price is Right. Hey, don’t laugh. That’s my program! Everyone has their morning routine and mine is espresso and The Price is Right. Those of you that know me personally are nodding your heads right now.
After the Price is Right, I would hop on my bike and start the ride. On the way I would listen to the Forest Gump soundtrack station. Hey! Don’t hate! It really is such relaxing and peaceful music. Check it out.
I would bike under all the century-old live oaks in Uptown. The smells of the flowers, freshly cut grass, the views, the peace, the thoughts. I would get lost in my music and meditate. I would ponder life. I would think about where Douglas and I were at in our relationship. I would think about the future and where we were going. Where we’d be in 10 years. Would we make it? Would we ever get married? Would we own the house with a white picket fence? Would we have babies one day? I would lay out my dreams as I peddled my bike and try to connect the stars to make them align. How could we make our dreams happen? What could I do to be a better person? Then, I would get to the gym and have the most hardcore, adrenaline rushed workout ever (fyi I change the radio station at the gym, Forest Gump is only on the bike).
The first year of my new workout routine was incredible! I was not only seeing results in my body, but I also stopped having nightmares about my brother. Things just started to feel right. However, I would run on the treadmill and have to stop and cough because of the smoking. My boss at the time was very outspoken about my smoking habit. He would tell me how gross it was and that I should quit. Hearing that from him and other people in the context of having to stop for coughing breaks during my workout prompted me to finally quit. It took about a year of my new morning routine to really help prepare me for this new chapter. On New Year’s Eve of 2008 at 11:58 pm, I had my very last cigarette. Honestly, I wish I could say that the gym was my only guiding light to quitting but I would be lying. Pot also helped. Yes, yes, I know. I was replacing one habit with another. But that worked for me. Sure, there are people that judged me. There were people that looked down on me. One year led to another and before long I was 5 years stronger without cigarettes and my body and self-confidence had completely transformed into something I had never had before.
By now it was 2012 and my fitness routine had become second nature. But I started noticing that when we would travel to see family across the country I would go through full on pot withdrawal. I mean, I wouldn't dare bring weed to the airport, right? So I would do without it for the duration of our trip. To put it mildly, it was torture. I’ve heard many people say that you don’t go through withdrawals from marijuana. That is absurd. You absolutely go through withdrawals. I would literally break out into sweats at the sight or smell of food and I would randomly barf throughout the trip. It was a nightmare, and it happened every time I had to leave town without weed. So to make things better, I chose not to leave again! What an excellent idea, right? (palm to face)
From 2012 to 2014 I never went further than a car ride from New Orleans. I truly thought that was the remedy to make things better. Then, Douglas asked me to go to Europe. He planned a European vacation that sounded amazing! We were to fly into Ireland, then on to Paris, Switzerland, Venice, and Rome. I was elated but also terrified. How could I travel having pot!? Well, I knew there was no way in hell that I was going to spend 3 weeks in Europe feeling sick to my stomach. I knew that I would have to either stay home and be a prisoner of my bad habits or break the chains and become free to do what and when I wanted!
On March 4, 2014, I stopped smoking pot. That is the 3rd hardest thing I have ever done. This upcoming March 4th will be my 5th year clean. It literally felt like I broke the shackles off of my hands and feet and gained complete control of my life. I learned that the herb Valerian Root helps tremendously. To this day, I still take it every night.
Europe was breathtaking. Paris has always been my most favorite city in the world, and finally I was able to see why. Saying goodbye to cigarettes and pot was the best things I have ever done. Sure, there are times that I miss them both... but the moments pass and I am okay again.
Today I am thankful. So, so thankful. I had no idea what was waiting on us around the corner in 2015. That year really took us by surprise. We had the opportunity to become first time home owners! For that to happen, we’d move about 30 minutes away. That meant my morning routine would end. My daily bike ride to the gym unfortunately came to a close. Many people may say, so what! Buy the house! Well, we did.
I learned to adapt. I did’t bother to bike nor look for a gym. I did the next best thing. I went to Costco and bought a treadmill. Just like the Flock of Seagulls song, I ran. This routine wasn’t the same, but I made it work. About 2 months after we moved into our new house, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage!
So we jumped in the car and went downtown to get our marriage license! On August 1st, on our 9th anniversary together, we were married in Jackson Square in the French Quarter.
photo credit: BSA photography
Our honeymoon was in Disney World and it was perfect! I couldn’t believe this was my life. And then, literally like 3 months later, we got the call that shook us to our bones. We were going to be dads. We were in shock. We were told our wait would be 5 years for a baby- and that time shrank into being 3 and 1/2 weeks! Our baby girl was a preemie, so she needed to get stronger in the NICU. And on December 4th of 2015 we brought our itty bitty baby girl home.
The year 2015 was the year all the stars aligned for us. It still feels surreal to think about. Then in 2017 our second daughter was born. By then, I was lucky if I could get 30 minutes of running in. It took a while to learn my rhythm. One waist size grew into another and before long I felt like I was the Pillsbury Doughboy. However, something happened on Ella’s first birthday. We found out that we were going to move back Uptown. Not only Uptown, but blocks from where we used to live! We were overjoyed. Douglas would be 4 minutes from the hospital where he works, and only 8 minutes away from the girls' nursery school. The house was a dream, the location was perfect but for me the highlight was being able to get on my bike, put on my headphones... and yes- listen to the Forest Gump station while riding my same exact route to the gym I had gone for so many years before. I felt like I was channeling my inner Maxine Waters. I was “reclaiming my time.”
This time, the ride was different. It was like I was transported back to 2008. Each familiar song that would play as I passed by the same houses on the same streets under the same trees-- it was like I could hear my thoughts from years ago still echoing in the live oaks. What would our lives be like in 10 years? Where will we be living? Would we have more babies? I had goosebumps. My life had came full circle. And it all started on this bike route. Wow, the universe is amazing. Some people ask, “when is it my turn? What about my life?” Everyone’s path is revealed for different reasons at different times. For me, it was when I put my own selfish desires away and focused on what was truly important. That is when my life began. That is when all my stars aligned.
Follow my family’s journey!
With everything going on in our country, I think saying that it has been a crazy year is an understatement. It has been emotionally difficult and draining at times for many. This year brought so many new changes that it is hard to wrap our minds around some of them. The daunting feeling of uncertainty looms over our heads as we march deeper into this unfamiliar territory led by someone that is so disconnected and embarrassing.
We can take solace in knowing that a new change is on the horizon and the midterm election a couple of weeks ago proved it. We are sick of being led by a tyrant. We want a leader to be proud of. We want a role model for our children, and I have all the faith in the world that we will find that perfect statesman. When we do, all of our hearts will know it. In the meantime, let us focus our positive energy on our beautiful and diverse families all across this amazing country. Change is hard. Change is brutal. But a lot of times, change is beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes longer than we had hoped.
With that said, one thing will not change- the holidays. For most families, this time of year brings cheer, joy, hope, and optimism for the new year to come.
I have always had one golden rule when it comes to decorating our home for the holidays: the current holiday must pass before decorating for another.
Last year, our 3 year old developed an appreciation for all that Christmas brings. Now, her year and a half old little sister has now started to love it too. The way they both light up and get excited when they see Christmas decorations made me
re-evaluate for the first time in my life, what if I changed things up this year? Decorating earlier will also help attenuate the political frustration that this year brought. That coupled with the amazement that our little girls have for Christmas makes a strong case for decorating for Christmas early. Sure, there are diehard Thanksgiving fans that grumble at the thought of Christmas coming early and I am sure they will give this a healthy eye roll and, if so, that’s ok.
We are not replacing Thanksgiving. I like to think that we are just enhancing it.
We will most definitely continue to teach our children the meaning of Thanksgiving and to enjoy the symbolic feast that comes along with it. The white pumpkins I usually put out for Thanksgiving really made a statement when I mixed them with the Christmas attire. I was quite surprised and impressed by the final outcome.
These days, one of my primary goals in life is to create an environment for my family that is happy, healthy, and nurturing. I want them to get excited about Christmas, both the true meaning and the atmosphere that it brings. When my children walk into the house, I want them to be transported into a bright, cheerful place that they will always remember. Perhaps it will even inspire the way they celebrate the holidays with their families (and our future grandchildren) in the future. The world can be a harsh, cold and scary place, especially more lately it seems. I would be lying if I said I didn’t do this for myself too. I am. For the first time in my life, I am worried for the future of our country. I am terrified of the direction we as Americans have taken and it is setting a precedent on what the future will be like for my family. For example, mass shootings that seem to happen monthly now met with the lack of response followed by a series of excuses by our leaders along with the bigotry and racism masked by patriotism that plague our society. I know I am speaking of sore subjects, but all of these reasons give me the motivation for welcoming the Christmas season earlier.
I do have faith that in time, competent leaders will emerge and will steer us in a direction that will help fade our fear into the bold and lionhearted society that we are. Voices were heard a couple of weeks ago. This was the most diverse group of elected officials on record! There is a fire that has been ignited within us and time will allow it to spread. That fire is coming in the form of what we all have hoped for- Change.
We as LGBTQ families need to comfort one another. Lets extend our hands to each other. Let this holiday season not be about the “correct” time in which we decorate for Christmas, moreover lets make it about coming together as a community that lifts each other up. Lets protect each other. Lets embrace each other for all the we are, all that we bring and all that we stand for. Let us not be silenced- and pushed into a corner but let us lead by example- while showing our children who their parents are by being respectful, tolerant and warmhearted as we welcome this Christmas season.
May you and your family have the most beautiful and happiest of holidays, regardless of when you choose to welcome Christmas. I pray that 2019 will bring each of you happiness, patience, resilience and with time, we will get there, together!
💪🏼🏳️🌈Coming out was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Being from south Mississippi made it even more difficult.
Years ago, after seeing so many kids take their lives because of bullying & being ridiculed for their differences, I felt like I needed to share what has helped me through my tough times.
This video is my heart put onto index cards. It is my prayer that one troubled kid may see it & realize that it REALLY does get better-
So much better!
When I recorded this video, I would have never believed I was embarking on my own fairytale life with a lawful, and loving husband and a dad to 2 beautiful daughters-
living the American dream I so desperately wished for so many years ago.
Your dreams are so important & attainable. Each one is waiting for you.
Just don’t give up.
Surround yourself with people that will lift you up & not tear you down. Look for friends that will catch you when you fall and when friends and family cannot be there, find your passions that make you smile- that make you thrive. Find your hobbies that shape you into a stronger, sharper, and better person. We all have them. The trick is tapping into that passion that burns inside of you- that then transforms you into that confident and powerful person who is able to rise from the ashes to become who you truly are-
so you can live how you feel on the inside,
while outside for all to see.
And then, when you have found your place in this crazy world, remember to pay it forward.
👉🏼Please, pay it forward. 👈🏼
One person can change the world...
and it all begins with a smile.
Remember, it gets SO MUCH BETTER, y’all! ❤️
You can watch my video by clicking the link below!👇🏼
Our crazy house is in full fledge toddler mode. To make it even more hectic, Alli Mae’s little sister is now right on her heels as well. Little Ella is almost a year and a half and Alli Mae will be 3 in November. This is a rambunctious house to say the least. We have recently started the “Potty Chronicles” and that alone is a beast to be reckoned with. Adding to it, the pickiness of what they want to eat to the equation can make anyone go crosseyed.
For this reason alone, I have decided to have a few experiments to find what my oldest will eat in her lunchbox. Since school is back in session, I figured this was the perfect time to have them.
It’s all fun and games until she gets something at lunch or dinner time that she doesn’t like. And it is crazy! Sometimes, she likes something she ate 2 weeks ago, and now she turns her nose up at it. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s annoying. But, I just have keep my wheels turning to try to make it fresh and fun.
To hopefully help, I do have a couple of tips that may make this easier to achieve.
Rotate the selections:
I found that she would get tired of eating the same old food everyday. And who could blame her? I know I would too! My solution was to rotate the items bi-weekly in her lunchbox *usually* keeps her eager to eat the contents.
When I first started out packing the lunches, I found that hotdogs were a winner! So, why change it, right? That is what she had- week in and week out. Then I started reading about how bad hotdogs were. They are freaking gross! So, I wanted to send her to school with a tasty lunch while keeping a clear conscience.
Replicate dishes into a healthier option:
We absolutely love Costco, especially when it comes to buying healthier food. Their personal brand lable ‘Kirkland Signature’ provides exceptional quality ingredients while remaining affordable. Their products make it much easier for me to pack lunches when I have good and healthy options to choose from.
Now... lets get started!
For this experiment you will need:
1 spaghetti squash cut in half and sprinkled with olive oil
1/2 cup of red gravy
1/4 cup of mozzarella
After being scared away from the unhealthiness of some of the things I was packing in her lunchbox, I decided to flip the script! Why don’t I make it healthy? Alli Mae loves spaghetti. So instead of packing Chef Boyardee products, I thought I would recreate it by adding a spin of healthy ingredients to the dish.
So, I came up with “Spaghetti Squared”.
I baked a spaghetti squash inside facing down on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 30 minuets or until soft. I then scooped out the inside. Then, I topped it with a homemade red tomato gravy and sprinkled it with some parmesan cheese. I thought it was really good! I felt like she’d really enjoy this new option. I was so excited to send her to school with it!
I was eagerly anticipating the results when she got home from school. As I peaked inside her lunchbox, I quickly saw the verdict was in...
Dang! She barely even touched it! Ugh. 🤦🏼♂️ Well, Next time, I will forgo the squash and add regular spaghetti noodles. Surely that will do the trick.
Okay, after the first failure, I needed to win her over on the next attempt. She loves pizza. So, why don’t I try to recreate a healthier option. Using the same red tomato gravy I had already made, I was able to use it again for my next experiment.
I toasted the top and bottoms of an English muffin with a small amount of butter. Then, spred a small amount of warm tomato gravy ontop and then sprinkled with mozzarella cheese and broiled it for about a minute and a half- or until the cheese gets bubbly.
For this experiment you will need:
1 English muffin split in half with small amount of butter
1 tablespoon of tomato gravy
2 tablespoons of mozzarella
Originally, when I came up with the idea, it was just 2 small pizzas, but she put the 2 together and made a sandwich. Her eyes brightened up and she got the biggest smile! She loved it!
When preparing them, I have found that the best way to keep the sandwich crispy is by making them the morning of school, then packing them in a plastic container after they’ve cooled. If you have time restraints and are unable to make them the morning of, you can premake them the night before and keep them in the refrigerator. Just have their teacher microwave them until they are warm- they just may not be as crispy.
* I have found that freezing them is NOT a good solution when packing for school. They tend to get soggy when microwaved and are not at all what they tasted like before. However, if the kids are home, you can prepare them in an oven when they’re frozen and the sandwiches are perfect!
For this meal, you will need:
a cup of white long grained rice
Carrots, and English peas
1 can of high quality chicken breast
(preferably Kirkland’s Signature)
Once the rice is made, season with a small amount of butter, salt and pepper. Add carrots, peas and chicken. Stir all ingredients until they are all incorporated well. Let cool.
In a plastic container fill it with 1/3 cup of chicken and rice. There are not many foods both my girls will eat and they absolutely love this!
You can also change it up by using organic Mac and cheese in lieu of rice! They will love it!
There are so many options you can choose to put in your kid’s lunchbox. Some they will love, and some they will hate- even when you want them to love what you made so badly. And when they spit it out, just dust your shoulders off and come up with a better idea. You got it! And maybe these can help.
If they do, or if they don’t- let me know about it! I would love to hear your feedback.
What do you pack in your kid’s lunches? What are their favorites?
Be on the lookout for the next edition of my
Follow our family’s journey!
I am sure that, at some point, everyone has looked back at their past and wished they could change a few things that they are not proud of. From time to time I feel like that, too. As I have written before, I moved to New Orleans when I was a kid- just out of high school. Owning this newfound life was incredibly liberating, but it did not come without consequences.
I was definitely not popular in my south Mississippi high school. I was in the school choir. And I loved (and I mean LOVED) *NSYNC. I thought it was so cool that one of *NSYNC's members, Lance Bass, was from south Mississippi. We even shared the same last name, as my surname before I married Douglas was Bass. Imagine my jubilation when my father told me that we were related to them! That just fueled my love and admiration for Lance and the music group. This might sound ridiculous, but something clicked and I wanted to be just like them. Around the same time, I fell in love with a show called Real World- New Orleans and with Danny Roberts, one of its stars. Honestly, I have to give Danny Roberts all the credit for helping me find myself and having the courage to become who I wanted to be.
I wanted to leave the small-minded Mississippi town behind and start my own journey to stardom. So, I did what any other closeted, starry eyed boy with big dreams would do--I moved away. Some dreamers move to L.A. and some to New York. I moved to New Orleans. Sure, it’s not really the scene for pop music. HOWEVER, the gay scene is ON POINT. *lip smack*
I remember the anxiety I had walking down Bourbon Street when I first arrived from Mississippi. I also remember how the apprehension melted away as I walked into Oz, New Orleans' premiere gay nightclub, for the first time. This was my opportunity to recreate my own identity! My new self. So when I walked inside Oz, the shy and intimidated Erik faded away, and Maxx was born.
Me & Tommy Elias, Oz's former owner and general manager.
As time went on, my confidence grew. I had never had so many friends! And they were all so interesting! For the first time, I felt popular and accepted for who I truly was. About 6 months after moving to New Orleans, I landed a job at Oz as a daiquiri bartender. I quickly took to one of the club's owners, Tommy Elias. Tommy was also from south Mississippi--just a few minutes from where I was from. He had been in a band for decades and loved to perform. His voice was electric and and his smile lit up the room. I immediately respected him and wanted to learn everything I could about the music business. Over the years, he and I become close friends. I called him my ‘gay dad’ because I didn’t have a relationship with my own dad. A couple of years later, Tommy gave me my own weekly Tuesday night show- a dance and variety show called
"The Maxx Doubt Experiment," my quest to find New Orleans’ best hip-hop dancer. This was my first taste of fame. Well, small town fame, but fame nonetheless.
On Monday nights there was a talent contest called ‘The Gong Show’ hosted by none other than Bianca Del Rio. It was huge! The dance floor was transformed into a sea of candle lit tables complete with linens that were all reserved for the who’s who of gay nightlife.
Bianca and I co-hosting The Ozzie Awards,
an Academy Award Party.
I only did drag a handful of times, but I was lucky enough to have Bianca make me over each time. Unlike her onstage persona, she was so sweet and compassionate offstage. And she ALWAYS had the best advice. I was a kid, facing problems of my own and she always had the right words to say.
“Grin and bear it,” she’d say, “until you can’t.“
She had such a star quality to her back then too. When she walked in the room, everyone knew it. You could tell she was nearby by the scent of Dolce & Gabbana perfume whisking through the air. She had a way of making offensive jokes funny but not hurtful. Well, usually not too hurtful... sometimes tourists would get mouthy and that would just add fuel to her fire. God, it was hilarious. She had nicknames for the regulars that would come to watch her shows... a sweet middle aged lady named "Honey Bee," a pretentious ogre looking man called "Quasimodo," and then there was me, "Maxxi." To this day, some people still call me that. As I look back, I am so thankful that she allowed me to come into her world and get a glimpse of what her life was like. Now she’s a superstar and I am so honored to know her and call her my friend.
Taking a quick selfie recently when I was the general manager of a gay owned and operated restaurant called, Eat New Orleans
She may be hateful on stage, but trust me- she is the sweetest person in the world you’ll ever meet. Love you, Roy!
The longer I submerged myself in the nightly gay scene, the further I distanced myself from my morals. You see, people go to the French Quarter to party and act out. As such, the majority of my social exposure was comprised of people who were actively partying 24/7. As time sped by, alcohol and drugs began to take control of my life, and I slowly turned into a person I did not want to be. I became cocky, entitled, and reckless.
I was due for a fall from grace, and this particular fall would be one of the hardest and most important lessons that I have ever learned. I found out who my true friends were. I also had to learn to be at peace with letting the fake and spiteful ones go. People make mistakes in life, especially when you’re just a ‘punk kid’. Tommy would call me that when I wore my hat backwards.
True friends allow you the leeway to learn and grow without judgement. Fake ones will watch you fall and talk about you as you do. In the end, I became more judicious regarding who I allowed in my inner circle.
So I left Oz and got a new job across the street at another gay club called The Bourbon Pub. I was able to shake a good bit of the social toxicity from my life and gain control of what was important. At the time, I was still brokenhearted from my little brother’s untimely death. It was a rainy day and I felt depressed, alone, and hopeless. I was approached by my friend Aunt Vickie Vines who saw my sadness. "What’s wrong with you Maxxie?” he asked. I told him I was lonely and I didn’t want to be sad anymore. To which he replied, “I can fix that. Just give me some of your hair.” So, he snipped off a lock of my hair, folded it up in a bandanna, and put it into his pocket. Then he said, "In two weeks, you will meet the love of your life. And when you do, you will know it from your head to your feet." But then came a warning, "But you must be a good person and do the right thing or you will be cursed 3x over." I asked what he was doing with my hair. "Just some New Orleans voodoo, baby." He winked and walked away.
It was almost two weeks to the day when I was working my night shift at the Bourbon Pub. I stepped into the back to grab a clip board and that’s when our eyes met. He sat at a desk filling out a new hire work form. It was like time stopped. It was like the beating of the bass from the music on the dance floor silenced, and all I could hear was my own heartbeat. I still remember what the room smelled like, I even remember what we were wearing. I couldn’t look away, as if I was frozen. I knew I was in the very moment I had prayed for. This was him. I knew it, and felt it, from my head to my feet. Aunt Vicky Vines said I would, and indeed I did. My knight had come on the night that I needed him. This was Douglas, my future husband.
One of the first pictures of Douglas and I back in 2006
Douglas and I became inseparable. He had just moved to town from Arizona and was staying at a local hostel. All I could think of was the horror movie ‘Hostel.” He had to get out of there! And that’s exactly what he did (he came to stay with me!). As much as I hate to admit, I began partying just as much if not more than I did when I worked at Oz. The only difference is I had a boyfriend. Spending so many nights in the club meant we also saw so many sunrises. Once the sun came up, we would dart out of the bar and cover ourselves like an Ann Rice character from ‘Interview with the Vampire.' We would run to his old Volvo wagon and quickly drive out of the French Quarter.
He was so spontaneous and I loved that. Some mornings we’d walk to Audubon Park and climb trees. My favorite mornings were spent on the levee of the Mississippi river flying kites. Afterwards, he’d take me down to the railroad tracks by the riverbend and smash coins under the train wheels. After the train would pass he would pull out ‘The Little Prince’, one his personal favorite books. Douglas read, “There may be millions of roses in the world, but your my only one, unique rose.” As he continued, all I could do was melt into the grass. As he looked down reading, I couldn’t help but cry a little. I knew even more in this moment that this was the boy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
I wish it ended there with a happy ending, but we still had some major growing pains to endure. To say that the partying intensified was an understatement. Aunt Vicky told me if I didn’t do the right thing, the spell would curse me 3 times over. As wild as this sounds, she was right. Both of us acted so irresponsibly. I was so careless and it all finally caught up with me. I didn’t drink and drive, but that didn’t excuse the other things I did. As a result, I was arrested 3 times in a 3 week period by getting pulled over. The last arrest was the day before Good Friday and I was in jail for close to 4 nights.
Once I got out, I made sure to clean up my act. I knew that Aunt Vicky Vines meant business, so my turnaround was pretty easy. I was okay, and now it was Douglas' turn. With a newly cleared head, I was able to see the danger he was in. Ultimately, Douglas got clean, too. And not only did he get clean, but he also decided that he wanted to pursue a career that would allow him to help people who have a history of substance abuse. He went to college and also started a fundraiser to bring scientific instruments to local classrooms across New Orleans by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. At first, all of the local universities rejected his application. The community college accepted him, but pressured him to enroll in an air-conditioner repair program, saying that medical school was too loft of a goal for someone like him. He pushed forward anyway, and ended up getting a full scholarship to Loyola University, afterwhich he graduated from LSU New Orleans School of Medicine. He asked me to marry him and on August 1st we will celebrate our 12th year together and our 3rd wedding anniversary. We now have two beautiful girls that own our hearts. He is now a doctor and is starting a 4 year residency program in psychiatry which will allow him to practice a mind-and-body approach to substance abuse.
I write all of this to say that--in spite of your past--if you dream it, you can be it. Your past does not dictate your future. If there is something you want in life, go for it! If you are anything like me and have the desire and ambition to become a father, you can. And you can do this no matter what people say, no matter if you aren’t completely proud of your past, no matter what your sexual orientation.
Just always remember to be a good person, to be honest, and to do the right thing. If you do these things, you will undoubtedly see wonderful opportunities coming your way. And just remember what an old friend used to tell me... “Just grin and bear it...“
This piece is dedicated to my ‘gay-dad’,
You were a light of hope to so many people.
You are and always will be an inspiration to me.
I love you, and you’ll be forever in my dreams.
Rest in Peace
I would love for you to follow our journey!
Since Father’s Day is right around the corner and Pride month has just officially kicked off, I thought it would be appropriate to write about how my personal pride evolved since I became a father.
I came out soon after graduating from high school. I would frequently travel back and forth between my home in Mississippi and New Orleans, allowing myself to finally experience what it was like to be able to be my true self. At the same time, I was horrified at the possibility of someone from my hometown seeing me partying in the gay clubs on Bourbon Street. After being submerged in religion and scrambling to keep up appearances my whole life, I feared that I would be alienated by my friends and cut off from my family if they found out. I saw that New Orleans had a gay pride parade but I made sure to stay so far away from it. In a way, I had no pride at all at that point in my life. I knew the life that I wanted to live, but I also knew the life that I had always lived and how it was in jeopardy of being taken away from me.
How could I be proud of that?
I have to admit, I built up resentment to the celebration of gay pride. I grew angry at the people taking part in the festivities. Looking back on my feelings today, I wasn’t angry at the people in general, I was angry in the way I saw a lot of them acting.
I saw straight families with children, grandparents, and people that had never even seen anything that had to do with gay culture and all of a sudden they were thrusted into being a spectator at a gay pride parade witnessing men dressed only in leather chaps riding down the street acting anything but respectful. Sure, glitter, boas and drag describe a lot of our community, but I felt conflicted because I had difficulty relating to it myself. I always felt like I existed in the interdimensional space between gay culture and mainstream society. And even the parts that I did want to take part in I would usually avoid because I was afraid someone from back home would see me and my cover would be blown. And indeed, it was. Someone saw me and word spread quickly. Being outed against one's will can be a painful experience. My relationship with my family became severely strained. I lost several friends, and many of the ones who stuck by me seemed to treat me differently.
One of our first pictures together back in 2006
Over the years, I did become stronger. I developed a mentality that if a person didn't accept me for who I was, then they weren't a true friend. Living in New Orleans helped my thinking evolve. I no longer had to dwell on the judgmental views of my hometown. I needed to live for today and make it everything that I wanted.
After living in New Orleans for about 5 years, I met the love of my life. This August, Douglas and I will celebrate our 12th anniversary. The details in between then and now will be a whole new upcoming blog piece for our anniversary, so I won’t get into specifics. I will say, we have grown so much in 12 years. I know I have become the person I have always wanted to be, and I know that it absolutely would not have happened without meeting Douglas.
With the exception of being Douglas’ husband, being a dad completes my life. The pure overload of joy that my girls give me on a daily basis fills my heart with love, patience and PRIDE. Today, I have an overwhelming desire to climb the gayest mountain I can find and scream as loud as I possibly can at the top of my lungs that “ I AM A GAY DAD! WE ARE GAY PARENTS! AND OUR KIDS LOVE US!” In fact, I have so much pride that we have decided to march in this year’s NOLA Gay Pride Parade! Now, I can do what I wanted to do 20 years ago. I can march with my husband and two daughters and show everyone watching that we are just like them, except we are two dads. Two husbands. Two best friends that love each other unconditionally especially our children.
Today I understand that Gay Pride means something different to everyone. That's one of the things that makes gay culture so interesting and exciting. We are such an enormously diverse, creative, and determined subset of society. I may not be wearing drag or glitter to Pride this year, but I'll definitely have two things in common with all the other participants: pride in who I am, and a desire to be loved and accepted for who I am.
I would love for you to follow my family’s journey!
My mom with both of our daughters
Ya know, as life marches forward and the older I get, the more I understand and appreciate the dedication and resilience of my own mother. As long as I can remember, Mother’s Day has been special in our home. The unwavering commitment and tireless devotion that lady has shown for her family is selfless and humbling. The hardships she has seen in her life have helped shape her character and transform her into an even more compassionate and benevolent person.
It's a given that each Mother’s Day warrants that sweet card or special dinner to show how much we are thankful for her. However, my appreciation for her was made even more evident after our children were born. This magnified the diligence and perseverance of my mother, as well as other traits that it takes to be a good and loving parent. My gratitude grows and my admiration swells with each passing day. My mother was the glue that kept our family together. I have learned so much from her, and I apply this knowledge in my everyday life. It is difficult to articulate all of my feelings.
Mama, just know that I love you more every single day.
My husband (left), my mom & me at Jazz Fest
On such a day as Mother’s Day, it’s not just my mom that I am grateful for. My appreciation and respect goes out to ALL of the mothers. The BIRTHmothers, the SURROGATE mothers, the FOSTER mothers, the STEP-mothers, the EXPECTANT mothers, the HOPEFUL mothers, the SINGLE mothers, and the MARRIED mothers. You all are the dream makers and hope givers. The life changers and the tribe builders. You are the selfless heroines that bring the sparkle of new life to families everywhere. You are the beacons of hope that illuminates the darkness with light shining brighter than a million candles. On a more personal note, as a gay father I am able to have my family because of you. Our two beautiful and energetic girls have brought new life and happiness into our hearts, home and lives.
Ella and papa
To the birthmothers of our daughters as well as all birthmothers, we can only begin to imagine the difficult thought process behind making that incredibly hard decision. Adoption is the most altruistic and selfless choice any woman could make. We are grateful to you every day of our lives, and although you do not see them often please know, we see your faces as we look into our daughters eyes. And as they get older, we can see it even more in their smiles. The independent and strong willed nature of both our girls is an undeniable attribute that was obviously passed down from you.
We want you to know that we strive to be better daddies every single day. We love these girls more with every minute that passes. We are eternally grateful to you for the rest of our lives. Thank you for choosing us. And thank you for allowing us to be the fathers we have always prayed to be.
With all our love on this Mothers Day,
Erik & Douglas Alexander
Douglas, Erik, Alli Mae & Ella on a family boat trip
I would love for you to follow my family’s journey!
It’s hard to believe that we are already embarking on the appropriate time to have the “talks” with our oldest child, Alli Mae. It seems like yesterday that I was writing about our tiny little preemie. That itty bitty, 3.5 lb baby has quickly blossomed into a beautiful little girl. I am sure every household has a different opinion of when the “talks” should happen. In a heterosexual home, the “talk” usually means the birds and the bees, and takes place much later in life. However, for homosexual parents there are multiple talks. Sure, the birds and the bees are one of them and quite frankly probably the easiest of them all to have. The “talks” I am referring to are about adoption and having two dads.
It’s not like I have been dreading these conversations, it’s more like... finding the right words to have these conversations. I want to be able to answer her questions. I want her to be able to understand, but most importantly, I want her to be happy to feel secure in our love for her. I want her to be proud of her home and of her daddies.
I am a fear based person. I always have been. The glass is half empty and I am always braced for the worst. And, if by chance I am wrong and the glass turns out to be half full, then that makes my day! Douglas, however, just glides along gently like a balloon on a string. He lets things just roll off his shoulders like a bead of water on a windshield. It’s not that he is fearless, he's just not concentrating on it. And when things do happen, he hits it head on and then turns the corner. Me? I face it head on, and the face it for the next 2 miles because that’s all I can think about.
I am always the one to overthink things. I replay events in my head that haven’t even happened yet and a lot of times, I freak my own self out! What if she resents us? What if she wants a mommy? It’s almost humorous how deeply I go into things until my husband snaps me out of it. I know we are great parents! I know that we are resilient and we can navigate through anything that comes our way. In a lot of ways Douglas helps me become a better person. Sometimes he doesn’t even know it. I watch him, and try to apply his confidence into my own life.
The “talk” conversation came about last week when Alli Mae was talking about a mommy at school. Douglas asked her if she had a mommy. She smiled and laughed and said, "No daddy. I have a daddy and a papa." Can I just say how adorable that is?!? She is 2! Actually, she’s 2 and a half. We figured if she can say that, then maybe it is time to break the ice and talk to her about how all families are different. Some families have a mommy and a daddy. Some families have 2 mommies and others have 2 daddies. Some families just have one mommy or one daddy. Our family has one daddy and one papa. There may be lots of different kinds of families but they still love their babies all the same.
We feel like the ‘talks’ should happen multiple times as she grows rather than just one time. We want her to feel natural about it and understand as she gradually gets older instead of her turning 6 and dropping a huge bombshell of information on her. Also, 'talks' don't have to be formal sit-downs where we make a big deal about it, rather, they can be as simple as reading a bedtime story. In fact, the books we read to her really help to open the door to these deep discussions. We were given the book And Tango Makes Three by some dear friends that also happen to be a gay family.
We have found that this book is unique because it really helps to initiate the conversation of having same sex parents while also tackling the subject of adoption as experienced by a penguin family. We literally cried the first time we read this book. It is also a true story!
A few more books that we have found to be helpful in triggering conversations about adoption are:
This book is nice because rather than using actual families as examples, this story uses flowers and seeds to convey a beautiful message. This book is the most abstract out of the ones we have.
Written by Jamie Lee Curtis, this book is very cute, however it is geared around a mom and a dad adopting a baby. Some same sex parents may feel uneasy reading this because of the family being about a mother and father. With that said, we feel like in our home that censoring this would be doing an injustice to the growth of our children. Sure, at first it seems a bit awkward as we read stories about the traditional mom and dad, but over time, it helps create dialogue and introduce opportunities to have deep conversations with our little ones that may help them understand a little more about the differences that make each and every family. As its title implies, this book directly addresses the concept of adoption.
Alli Mae with daddy and papa
Even though the number of ‘talks’ we will have with our children might be more than some, the love we have for each other and all the support we have from our incredible families will enlighten our children and help them to become more accepting and well rounded adults. Instead of being fearful of these conversations, I am actually excited to have them now because I know that we have the compassion, patience, and love to help them understand that no matter what kind of family we have- they are loved with our whole hearts.
I would love for you to follow our family’s journey!
Everyone has their own story. Every single sentence of each and every paragraph creates our life chapters that collectively make us who we are. All the good, the bad, and the ugly events in our lives shape our character and mold us into who we are. As we learn from our mistakes and grow into our ever-evolving true selves, each story from our life sits there on the edge of our mind reminding us of how we got here.
The earliest memories I have are pivotal moments that pushed me into a certain trajectory. Most of these early childhood experiences involved my father. As much as I wished to forget him, sometimes random memories float up like air bubbles in a soda can and sit there in my head just waiting to be revisited.
Distinctive sounds and noises can trigger memories and quickly warp me back in time. For example, when I hear the sound of a vintage telephone fall to the ground I'm suddenly a 3 year old boy holding a wooden pirate sword in my living room watching my mom and dad argue in the hall. The fighting escalates and things get violent. It quickly turns into more than an argument when he grabs her by her neck and slams her head into the wall. On that wall hung a vintage telephone. Ill never, EVER forget the sound the telephone made when my moms head slammed beside it. The years of physical abuse toward my mom lasted another 4 years until thier divorce, but the psychological damages will last us a lifetime.
Coming from a tiny country town in south Mississippi, one quickly sees that some things don’t usually change. Progressive movements in our country’s society don’t really adapt in tiny southern towns. When they finally seem like they have, it has taken decades and it’s doesn’t completely change. There are a couple of stigmata that have not seemed to disappear will and hopefully one day evolve. One of them being homophobia. Many families disown their children because of their extreme views, and it breaks my heart.
I had always heard about my father’s older brother, Thomas, but unfortunately I don’t remember him. Today, I look up to him for multiple reasons. The way he could just leave this small minded town behind and become who he truly was will always be inspirational to me. My mom told me that she took me to visit him a few times before he moved to Los Angeles. All I remember is my dad calling him a "faggot" and a "queer." He refused to let my uncle Thomas see me. When I was 8, my father said he needed to go see his brother in California because he's dying of "cancer." In fact, my uncle was dying of AIDS-related complications during the pandemic in 1989. My father was always so hateful to him throughout his life, but he was there when my uncle Thomas took his last breath. Sadly, his purpose for being there wasn’t because of his death. It was because he didn’t want my uncle’s lover to have any of his belongings. After he died, my father loaded up Uncle Thomas’ life and stole it away from his lover.
Even though my precious uncle left this life like he did, I hope and pray that he looks down on me and knows how much I love him. I hope he sees my happiness and the family I have been able to create. I wish with all of my heart he was here to play with my little girls. He is, and always will be, my role model.
My Uncle Thomas back in 1986.
The other stigma that still plagues small rural communities is racism. It exists in large urban areas too, of course, but I was raised in the country so that's all I can speak on. In fact, Biloxi, MS, officially recognized Martin Luther King Day for the first time this year. I left rural Mississippi many years ago, and I pray that strides have been made to improve race relations there. That being said, I will never be able to forget the words my father told me and my brother when we were 8 and 3 years old. It was a hot summer day and we were about to go swimming in a creek when we drove up to a small house at the end of the dirt road. The little house was owned by a very sweet African American family that were supposedly friends of his. Before my father got out of the truck, he talked about what good people they were. He then went on to explain that they were good because they shared our last name. “We owned them during the slave times," he said. "Whenever you meet a black man with the same last name as you, always remember, we owned them.“ He was so matter of fact about it. Words like that never leave you.
As we grew older my father and I became more distant. My brother on the other hand admired him and wanted to be just like him. It got to the point where I didn’t want to visit him anymore. My father would call me "sissy" and "mama’s boy" for not coming, and I have to admit- it hurt. A lot. I may have been a “mama’s boy” but I remember thinking,”I'm not a sissy.”
My brother, however, kept going. I believe that my father’s influence messed up my brother. Shane would lash out, get into trouble, and be disrespectful towards family. When my mom would discipline him, Shane would just go to my father to get what he wanted. It got to the point that all the work my mom was doing raising him was getting undone by my father on the weekends. As Shane got into his teenage years he began drinking and smoking cigarettes and pot. At 15, he started getting into trouble with the police. At 16 he started taking pills. I have a vivid memory of driving down the road with him in my backseat. I was looking at him in the rearview mirror and talking to him about his alcohol and drug use. He was a small kid, 95 lbs soaking wet. I told him to leave the pills alone because he was too small to handle them, especially when he drank.
He told me he would, and we left it at that.
Shane died of an overdose of liquid methadone on July 29, 2004. He was 17 years old. The story I was told by my father's family and the police was that Shane had found my father's "medicine" in the back of my father's truck and stole it. The last memory I have of my father is of him in a psychiatric hospital a couple of days after my brother passed. I could see him through the window as I walked down the hallway to visit him. He was crying and his hands were covering his face. He was wearing a white jumpsuit and sitting in a chair quickly rocking back and forth. I had never seen him like that. I sat down in a chair beside him but he barely seemed to notice me.. He kept rocking back and forth and repeatedly saying, “I put it in his hands. I put it in his hands. I put it in his hands.” I didn’t know what to say or do. I was frozen in shock. How could he have given his own teenage son a lethal dose of narcotics? My heart was beating out of my chest as I silently got up and left. That was the last time I ever saw my father.
My little brother, Shane and I back in 1987
I know this piece has been heavy. My hope for anyone reading this is to have faith in what tomorrow may bring. Take any hardships you may have been dealt and learn from them, as difficult as they may be. Remember them. And apply them. Let them motivate you to grow, both mentally and spiritually. It may be too hard to do today, and it may still be tomorrow, but when enough time has passed, hold your head up and dust yourself off. Rise up and become the person you were meant to be. You are worth it. And when you find that you are okay again, pay it forward.
Many things happen throughout one’s life that changes their whole course. My father would be the first person to say that gays shouldn’t be able to raise kids. The same man that said and did the most unspeakable things can so easily condemn and ridicule my way of life. It is so important for me to be able to look beyond that. Watching and listening to my father’s ignorance and anger helped me learn about so many aspects of life. I learned how to appreciate and respect different races and ethnicities. It helped me accept and even realize my own homosexuality. To this day, each and every HIV+ person I meet reminds me of my uncle Thomas and his own fight. My love flows from him and pours onto anyone I meet that has to fight that battle.
I can’t think of a positive thing my father did for me except blindly grow me into the man I am today. My collective experiences with my father have made me a smarter, more compassionate and empathetic person. Unbeknownst to him, my father helped create the opposite of who he is: the loving husband and grateful father I am today.
This piece is dedicated to my little brother, Shane who’s 32nd birthday will be on April 2nd.
Shane and I back in the mid 80’s
I would love for you to follow my family’s journey!
Photo credit: www.bsaphotography.com