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Gay Ga. mega-church pastor reflects on year of coming out

Bishop Jim Swilley a year after coming out

Last year, Bishop Jim Swilley spoke from his heart to his congregation at Church in the Now in Conyers, Ga. He came out as a gay man, shocking many of his mega-church congregants and making national headlines.

The Oct. 13, 2010, sermon sparked a mass exodus from the church. Attendance dropped from approximately 2,500 on any given Sunday to only about 500. The church was forced into foreclosure on its massive property and is now renting one of the buildings back from the bank for worship.

The Georgia Voice spoke with Swilley last year about his coming out, and recently went back to follow up on how he, his family and his church are doing a year later. Despite the changes to his Conyers congregation, Swilley remains confident in his journey as a gay Christian and hopeful for his new project, Church in the Now Midtown.

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Memoir takes humorous look at women’s sexual fluidity

Elena Azzoni is a lesbian who finds herself sexually attracted to men

It’s hard to believe that such a funny book would stir up any controversy, but author Elena Azzoni has managed it with her new memoir, “A Year Straight: Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Lesbian Beauty Queen.”

Penned by a “Miss Lez” pageant winner who then got the hots for her male yoga teacher, the book is full of humor, observations about dating both genders, poetic moments and a conclusion that any reader will know isn’t really going to be the end of the story. The Georgia Voice spoke with Azzoni about her book, the controversy and sexual fluidity.

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‘Wicked’ author says goodbye to Oz

Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked

Gregory Maguire didn’t plan on falling in love with a woman — much less a green-skinned, allegedly wicked, witch from another world. But after almost two decades he has penned his goodbye to the girl in the black hat.

“I’ve had a wonderful 16-year relationship with the Wicked Witch of the West and I don’t think I’ll ever have a relationship like that with a woman again,” Maguire says with a chuckle.

“Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” published in 1995, was Maguire’s first novel revising L. Frank Baum’s classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” from the perspective of the Wicked Witch; it also became the hit musical “Wicked.”

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Podcast: ‘We are the 99%, too’

GA Voice editor Laura Douglas-Brown was featured on AM 1690 | The Voice of the Arts this week in a bi-weekly segment highlighting upcoming arts and entertainment events and LGBT community news featured in our upcoming issue.

In this week's segment, Laura discusses our cover story, "We are the 99%, too" highlighting LGBT involvement in the Occupy Atlanta movement, our interviews with actress Meredith Baxter and author Gregory Maguire, and upcoming LGBT-specific Halloween events.

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Herman Cain: ‘Homosexuality is a choice’

herman cain

GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight last night talking up his presidential run. In an already up-and-down primary season, Cain has made his way into the top tier of GOP candidates in recent weeks, according to recent national polls.

Host Morgan asked Cain his stance on LGBT issues among a wide array of topics:

“I happen to think that it is a choice,” Cain stated. “You show me evidence, other than opinion, and you might cause me to reconsider that.”

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Amy Ray on new Indigo Girls album, activism and her celebrity crush

Indigo Girls

Daughters of Atlanta, pioneers in music and activists on a variety of social issues, the Indigo Girls have done their city proud. With the upcoming release of “Beauty Queen Sister,” the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers is about to hit the road, including a benefit show in Atlanta for Party at Ponce on Oct. 1 and a tour stop at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga., on Oct. 6.

The first single from the new album, “Making Promises,” is already winning praise as a download and an official lyric video on YouTube. We caught up with Amy Ray to talk about the music, the activism and their hometown.

Shannon Hames: Your fans really respond to your acoustic shows and recordings. Why do the fans feel so strongly about your live performances?

Amy Ray: I don’t know. I hope it’s not because we haven’t captured what we do live on our records. When you do a lot of harmonies, there’s something about the way that happens live – you’re just riveted. A live harmony has a certain effect on people. People like to sing along. Folk music lends itself a lot to a live setting.

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Podcast: Atlanta Pride preview

GA Voice editor Laura Douglas-Brown was featured on AM 1690 | The Voice of the Arts this week in a bi-weekly segment highlighting upcoming arts and entertainment events and LGBT community news.

In this week's segment, Laura discusses gay Atlanta's largest annual event, the Atlanta Pride festival. Laura also discusses Out on Film, which kicks off this week.

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Amber Taylor: ‘I’m the sexual side effect’

Amber Taylor from The Sexual Side Effects

As lead singer/guitarist and current business manager for the Atlanta band The Sexual Side Effects, Amber Taylor, 33, is busy. She’s booking clubs for her band to play, she’s writing songs, she’s posting flyers around the city promoting upcoming gigs. She also holds down a day job working as a web designer and computer programmer.

The Sexual Side Effects headline the annual East Atlanta Strut on Saturday, Sept. 17. SSE plays My Sister’s Room on Oct. 1 with local artists, and plays Atlanta Pride this year, taking the Bud Light Stage on Oct. 8.

Taylor is also involved in a TV project about transgender artists and musicians being shopped around by a producer.

The Sexual Side Effects includes “Spikey” Mike Sidner on bass, Matt Foster on guitar and drummer Clay McClure. The band is working with producer John Briglevich (Drivin’ N Cryin’, Edwin McCain) on a debut EP.

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Melvin Arundelli: why ‘anyone can be a gay bird’

Melvin ArundelliMelvin Arundelli, 34, was born in Italy but has lived in Atlanta since he was just over a year old. Four years ago this month, he crashed his motorcycle into a telephone pole, and suffered severe traumatic brain injury. He was hospitalized at Grady for five months and in a coma for most of that time.

Arundelli now uses a wheelchair, has limited movement in his left arm, is legally blind and can’t smell or taste. But he’s alive, he says, and his sense of humor remains firmly intact.

“Meet Boosheka,” he says, inviting friends to sit on the comfy cushion on his wheelchair.

“She’s my girlfriend. The best thing I got when I left Grady,” he adds with a laugh.

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Podcast: ‘Positive About HIV’ preview

GA Voice editor Laura Douglas-Brown was featured on AM 1690 | The Voice of the Arts this week in a bi-weekly segment highlighting upcoming arts and entertainment events and LGBT community news.

In this week's segment, Laura discusses our cover story, "Positive About HIV," previews Atlanta's Black Gay Pride celebration and highlights an interview with folk singer Janis Ian.