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Ten years after cancer diagnosis, a few thoughts on survival

Playwright and writer Topher PayneWhen I was 21, I went to the doctor because there was a problem with my balls. Men do not go to the doctor; it’s not ingrained in us. But a man will go to the doctor if there’s an issue with his junk, because we’re very protective of that area.

I came back with a diagnosis of Stage Three Lymphoma. That means it started in one location, and was on the move. Stage Four means it’s everywhere. There is no Stage Five.

Science says we know more about cancer than we used to. We understand how cells metastasize, how to detect it earlier, how to fight it faster. This sounds reassuring, but as a slasher movie geek, I know that giving the killer a more elaborate backstory doesn’t change the motive. It kills because that’s what it was designed to do.

There’s no logical plan of attack. People with Stage Four go on to have healthy lives. People who catch it at Stage One will be inexplicably resistant to treatment, and dead in 90 days. You can’t predict it.

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Outspoken: Matthew Mitcham, Chaz Bono, David Mixner and more…

Lesbian wedding on Grey's Anatomy

“I want them to stay on the show, and you can’t have two amazing characters without throwing a little conflict in there. But right now they have reached a very happy place that I think we’ll hang onto for a while.”

—“Grey’s Anatomy” writer Stacy McKee, who wrote the recent episode where doctors Callie and Arizona tie the knot, on what the future holds for the female couple. (Eonline.com, May 4)

“Re-writing my fav Shania Twain song... Any man that tries Touching my behind He’s gonna be a beaten, bleedin’, heaving kind of guy.”

—Country star Blake Shelton on May 4 via Twitter, revising the Shania Twain lyrics, “Any man of mine better walk the line/ Better show me a teasin’ squeezin’ pleasin’ kinda time.” Shelton has apologized, saying “when it comes to gay/lesbian rights or just feelings… I love everybody.” (Detroit Free Press, May 6)

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Outspoken: Rapper Lil B, Pat Robertson, Rachel Maddow and more…

Rapper Lil B responds to controversy over his latest CD title

“I’m very gay, but I love women. I’m not attracted to men in any way. … But yes I am gay, I’m so happy. I’m a gay, heterosexual male. … I got major love for the gay and lesbian community, and I just want to push less separation.”

—Rapper Lil B on why he is titling his next album “I’m Gay,” despite negative reaction and even threats from fans. (MTV News, April 21)

“I’m sure other people in the business have considered reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing, but I do think that if you’re gay you have a responsibility to come out.”

—MSNBC news show host Rachel Maddow, on other television news anchors who are rumored to be gay but are not open about it. (The Guardian, April 25)

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King & Spalding controversy shows danger of basing our movement on marketing

Once upon a time, it was hard to get companies to support LGBT organizations. They worried they would lose their non-gay customers if they were open about wanting gay ones.

So we got smart: We showed how much discretionary income same-gender couples without kids had. Never mind that it was less than opposite-gender couple without kids, it was still a good argument.

Not only did it give the marketing teams cover, it had the added benefit of being true: We were a valuable target market. “The color of diversity,” we would say, “is green.”

As some of the big companies came out as supporters, their employees came out as LGBT. Then their friends and family members started coming out as LGBT-supportive. Visibility was shifting every landscape. Next thing you know, 20 years later, we not only have friends in high places, we have our own people there —running companies, winning election to Congress and hosting major TV news shows.

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The enemy of my enemy actually is my friend

Playwright and writer Topher PayneThe story was compelling: Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to protest the funeral of Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Rogers in my home state of Mississippi. Staff Sgt. Rogers was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan. The wackadoos from Westboro were demonstrating, as usual, because the death of American soldiers is the result of God’s persistent discontentment with the gays.

I don’t think their rationale gives God enough credit. I think if God was really so single-minded on an issue, He wouldn’t distract himself with churning up tsunamis, slaying soldiers, and bringing down the Twin Towers. Go back and read your Old Testament — if God gets the notion to punish you personally, he lets you know.

Anyhoo, an article detailing Westboro’s Mississippi protest plans ran in the Jackson paper, and folks back home were not pleased. They began making plans of their own.

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Outspoken: Jennifer Nettles, Dolly Parton and more…

Jennifer Nettles

“Well, obviously, I’m not allowed to speak about the legal battles, but I love lesbians.”

Jennifer Nettles of Atlanta superstar country group Sugarland, responding to this question: “Let’s talk about the legal battles that you had with ex-member Kristen Hall [who is gay], who sued you last year for profits she said she was owed. Did it leave a bad taste in your mouth for lesbians?” (South Florida Gay News, April 11)

“I wish that the success of ‘Queer as Folk’ and ‘L Word’ had spawned dozens and dozens of shows all across the TV landscape that had all kinds of gay characters.”

— NBC Entertainment President Robert Greenblatt, who was honored by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation at its Media Awards on April 10 in Los Angeles (Hollywood Reporter, April 11)

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Does choosing time apart mean you’re growing apart?

Playwright and writer Topher PaynePreppy had been out of town for about eight hours before I completely reverted to bachelorhood. I stayed up until three in the morning watching horror movies. I used every dish in the house and washed none of them. I sat on the porch smoking like a freight train and didn’t dump the ashtray until it actually caught on fire. I stopped shaving. I drank a lot. He was gone for a week. If he had been gone for two, I would have transformed into late-career Ernest Hemingway.

Preppy takes trips with his friends. They go to the beach, to the mountains, and various concerts performed by jam bands whose songs are each a half-hour long. I don’t begrudge these trips, because he works incredibly hard at a job that exists in normal society, where there are hours, and one is aware of when the work day is complete. I am a writer. I do not have hours, I have deadlines. I have no idea how long it will take to complete an assignment. That’s like asking someone how long their emotional breakdown is going to take. It’s just done when it’s done, man.

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Outspoken: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Elizabeth Taylor and more…

Actress Elizabeth Taylor passed away on March 23

“Why shouldn’t gay people be allowed to be able to marry? Those against gay marriages say marriage should only be between a man and a woman. God, I of all people know that doesn’t always work!”

— Actress Elizabeth Taylor in a speech accepting the 2000 Vanguard Award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Taylor, who was married eight times, was an early HIV advocate. She died March 23 at age 79. (E! Online, March 25)

“How completely thou have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance.”

Mahatma Gandhi in a letter to Jewish architect Hermann Kallenbach, in which he also pledged “not to look lustfully upon any woman” and “such love as... the world has not yet seen.” The letter from Gandhi to his apparent male lover is quoted in “Great Soul,” a new biography of the Indian leader. (Jerusalem Post, March 28)

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Outspoken: Adam Lambert, Ethan Hawke, Hugh Grant and more…

Actor Hugh Grant

“Mr. President, the time to end exclusion from marriage is now. We ask you to complete your journey and join us, and the majority of Americans, who support the freedom to marry.”

—Letter signed by gay celebrity couples, including Ellen and Portia DeGeneres, sent to President Obama on March 14. The letter, which was also signed by other LGBT rights supporters, was organized by Freedom to Marry’s “Say I Do” campaign. (Huffington Post, March 14)

“Our relationship is recognized by the government, but some of our friends don’t have the same opportunity. So please join us in fighting for marriage equality in New York.”

—Actor Ethan Hawke, appearing in an ad with his wife, Ryan, urging New York lawmakers to approve gay marriage. The spot was produced by the Human Rights Campaign. (On Top Magazine, March 14)

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Learning to wait for the command to move

Playwright and writer Topher PayneI never spend less than an hour in Pet Supermarket. We’ve had our dog for over a year now, and I’ve developed the ability to pick up a toy and envision exactly how Daisy would destroy it in less than five minutes. She’s a chainsaw with fur.

So I’m in the toy aisle, stress-testing the joints on a stuffed cow, when a guy enters with his dog. It’s a beagle, just like Daisy. But the breed is where the similarities end. This beagle is not on a leash. The fella says, “Sit,” and the dog actually sits, patient and content.

There are literally hundreds of distractions surrounding the animal, and he couldn’t be less interested. Daisy would have pulled down a display and eaten a cockatiel by now. I am green with envy. I want a Stepford Dog, and I need this man to make it happen.

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Don’t fear progress in HIV prevention

The paid advertisement in this issue of GA Voice correctly reminds us that “there is no magic pill” to prevent HIV infection. Unfortunately, the ad is part of a campaign to convince the FDA not to review, and Gilead Sciences not to submit, data to support approval of Truvada for HIV prevention. (Truvada is now available by prescription to treat HIV.)

It is based on fear and speculation at a time when we need reason and research to guide us through scientific and policy issues raised by this new HIV prevention tool.

In spite of 30 years of fighting HIV, there will be an estimated 2.7 million new HIV infections globally in 2011, with 56,000 of these in the US, a number that has remained stable across a decade. Gay and bisexual men, especially men of color, will bear a disproportionate burden of these infections, as will women of color.