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'Empire' Actor Jussie Smollett Declines to Comment on His Sexuality After Co-Star Outs Him as Gay

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Empire actor Malik Yoba revealed in a recent interview with Black Film that lead co-star Jussie Smollett is gay. Smollett's character Jamal Lyon came out publicly via song in a recent episode of the show and Smollett himself is an advocate of gay rights such as the NOH8 Campaign. Yoba frankly confirmed Smollett’s orientation in the interview, citing that the two actors share a close relationship.

YobaSaid Yoba: 

"I think that our show represents a huge opportunity to stay in the culture beyond entertainment value and there’s an intrinsic nature of you have the gay factor, right? So, obviously, Lee is gay. That was an important storyline for him. I think it’s important for people to see themselves. Even within the Black community. But if you aren’t really, really taking it off of screen and making it live you aren’t really, really taking it off of screen and making it live in the community in a significant way…like I know Jussie, he is gay, and he’s very committed to issues around the LGBT community.He and I have a very close relationship."

However, in a recent appearance on Sway In The Morning, Smollett was asked on-air if he is gay and he neither denied nor confirmed it, saying he chooses not to talk regarding his personal life.

Said Smollett: 

"I am not willing to confirm or deny anything, I live my life…if anyone is looking to put me in a box, then that’s not going to happen. But if you really want to know about me, just watch, because I don’t hide anything. I just don’t choose to talk about my personal life."

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 3.30.05 PMSmollett expressed irritation with magazines hailing the show as a "black gay" show. "This is not a gay black show, this is a show about human experiences," Smollett said, calling the single-category view of the show "silly," and "unfair."

The internet rumor mill believes that Smollett is currently seeing The Read guest co-host, actor and YouTube personality Dustin Ross after a post on Ross’ Instagram of the two together. The two actors played love interests in the movie The Skinny. You can watch Smollett address the gay rumors and how the smash hit Empire is more than just a "black gay show," with Sway In The Morning, AFTER THE JUMP

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HRC Awards ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Star Samira Wiley With Visibility Award: VIDEO

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The Human Rights Campaign awarded openly gay Orange is the New Black actress Samira Wiley with its Visibility Award last weekend during HRC’s 2015 North Carolina Gala. Known for her role as inmate Poussey Washington, Wiley reflected on her public image and coming out experience at the gala.

Said Wiley:

"I believe that our self worth and how we are taught to think about ourselves and the world around us almost always begins at home. I have two parents that not only tolerated who I am, but accepted me and embraced me. They embraced me before I came out, and they embraced me after. They told me everyday that I am enough. I am enough just of being who I am and that that alone makes me whole. 

"It’s interesting to me that tonight I am here receiving the visibility award…Over the past few years since my own public image has increased tenfold, I have been overwhelmed to witness the profound ways that I am able to make a difference simply by living my life openly and with love."

Wiley is a Juilliard School graduate and played the role of Maria in Love’s Labour’s Lost by The Public Theater in 2011. The actress is currently in a relationship with Orange is the New Black writer Lauren Morelli. You can watch the rest of Wiley’s gala speech, AFTER THE JUMP

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WATCH: Trailer For Malcolm Ingram’s New LGBT Sports Documentary ‘Out To Win’

Out to win

The teaser trailer for acclaimed film Director Malcolm Ingram’s new LGBT documentary Out to Win, which provides insight into the lives of LGBT athletes, is now available on the web reports Out. The documentary examines the lives and careers of professional and aspiring LGBT athletes from around the world including interviews with Martina Navratilova, Charline Labonté, Conner Mertens, Billie Jean King, Jason Collins, Wade Davis, David Kopay, John Amaechi and Brittney Griner.

Ingram is known for several LGBT documentaries he directed including Continental and Small Town Gay Bar, which was a huge hit with critics at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006.

Out in Film debuts at SXSW in Austin, Texas next month. Watch the trailer, which features brief but enlightening clips from interviews with various LGBT athletes, AFTER THE JUMP

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Lionsgate Picks-Up LGBT Rights Drama ‘Freeheld’ Starring Ellen Page, Julianne Moore

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Freeheld, an LGBT drama starring Ellen Page and Julianne Moore, was picked up by Lionsgate after the company and several other high-profile companies including Sony Pictures and Netflix bid on the feature reports SheWired. Execs only saw 12 minutes from the film and went through a night-long bidding war that resulted in Lionsgate acquiring the film.

FreeheldThe film tells the true story of Laurel Hester (played by Moore), a lesbian police officer with terminal cancer who fights government officials for equal rights so her partner Stacie Andree (played by Page) can have access to Hester’s pension benefits. Moore and Page’s co-stars include Steve Carell, Luke Grimes and Michael Shannon. Ron Nyswayner wrote the script for the film and the feature is directed by Peter Sollet. Page is also a producer on the film and considers it her passion project. Moore is a strong contender for this year’s Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Still Alice, and Carell is nominated for his work in Foxcatcher. The film is currently in post-production.

A documentary on the couple, also called Freeheld, was released in 2007. The feature film adaptation is currently in post-production. You can watch the heart wrenching trailer for the 2007 documentary, AFTER THE JUMP

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Gay Hustler and Transwoman Embark on Emotional Journey in Short Film 'Tonight It's Me' - VIDEO

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A short film called Tonight It’s Me, part of the short film collection Boys on Film 12: Confession, features a gay hustler, CJ, who spends the night with a trans woman, Ash, and in the process the two unveil hidden, but common secrets about each other. Big Gay Picture Show reviewed the film and praised the concept behind it.

Said BGPS:

"It’s an oddly sweet, well-made film that looks at disconnected souls coming together and finding common ground, even if their experience of life is very different. It’s well worth watching, making you consider the different marks that our encounters with other people leave on us."

An IndieGoGo campaign for the film’s sequel, Tonight It’s Me: Part II, recently concluded with the campaign reaching its goal of $3,000. The sequel debuts April 1, exclusively on YouTube.

If you haven’t already, you can watch the compelling, and beautifully shot, full short of Tonight It’s Me: Part I, AFTER THE JUMP…(warning: NSFW)

Continue reading "Gay Hustler and Transwoman Embark on Emotional Journey in Short Film 'Tonight It's Me' - VIDEO" »


LGBT News Sites Publish Unsubstantiated Allegations About Gay Man's Funeral In Arkansas

Jay

On Monday, a Dallas LGBT newspaper published a post online alleging that churches and ministers in Arkansas had refused to conduct a funeral service for a gay Texas man who died last month.

The Dallas Voice's post also alleged that a local volunteer fire department had refused to allow the family of 32-year-old suicide victim James Stone (above left) to hold a meal at the station after the service, which the department traditionally has done for other families. 

As you might expect, the post quickly went viral on social media, and it was even picked up by Raw Story and The Bilerico Project. But as it turns out, the story isn't accurate.  

The story was based on allegations from Jay Hoskins (above right), Stone's widower. Haskins retracted his allegations about the fire department when it became clear that a family member, not the department, had canceled the meal following the service. Now, pastors at two churches deny Hoskins' claims that he called them to see if they would conduct Stone's funeral. 

The local Gannett-owned newspaper, The Baxter Bulletin, reports:

The circumstances surrounding Stone's funeral on Saturday in Clarkridge have created a hailstorm of controversy, with Hoskins claiming bigotry and hatred on the part of many in the northern Baxter County community, including church and volunteer fire department officials.

Church officials say they never were asked to perform a service for Stone, as Hoskins claims. Fire officials say Stone's relatives canceled a reservation for use of the VFD's building for a fellowship gathering following the funeral. ...

A post on dallasvoice.com began the controversial debate, opening with the headline: "Churches in Mountain Home, Ark. refuse funeral for gay man."

Some things, though, have become clear. Only two churches were involved, and neither are in Mountain Home. Stone's father, Wallace, didn't "build" the fire station in Clarkridge, and Stone didn't die of Sjogren's Syndrome. All are assertions made in the post.

Church1Representatives from both Clarkridge Baptist Church and Clarkridge Church of Christ denied ever being contacted by Hoskins. The pastor at Clarkridge Baptist Church told the Bulletin that if he had been contacted, he would have conducted the funeral. The pastor at Clarkridge Church of Christ, however, said if he had been contacted, he would not have conducted the funeral. 

The only aspect of the story that appears to be true is that two citizens who attended Stone's funeral handed packets containing sympathy cards to Hoskins and others that also contained literature against same-sex marriage:  

The packets also contained more than a dozen pages of religious teachings and biblical verses. In one place, an article entitled "Foundational truths regarding marriage" asserts any marriage other than one between a man and woman is wrong. The article questions if some sexual deviants may petition for human-animal marriages. ... 

Vicki Oels confirmed attending the graveside service with her husband, plus delivering the packets.

Oels said a great deal of thought went into what information was included, and that the reason they were delivered was "to teach them the truth about God's word."

"I don't know if it was the right time and location to do it. It was the only time I figured I would have," she said. "My husband and I discussed it, and we thought this is the only opportunity we're going to have to reach those people."

As a journalist covering LGBT issues in Texas, I personally began looking into this story Sunday, when I had a long conversation with Hoskins. However, after quickly determining that his allegations about the fire department were false, I backed off. Not only did it call into question Hoskins' entire account, but to me it would have been the real news, since the fire department is publicly funded. As awful as it may be, churches and ministers have a right to decline to conduct funerals, even though in this case they claim they didn't. At that point, I requested the anti-gay literature Hoskins said he received at the funeral, which he never provided to me. 

Notably, it's not the first time in recent memory that the Dallas Voice has published a story that went viral but turned out to be inaccurate. Last year, the newspaper accused the Tulsa Police Department of failing to investigate the death of a gay man. Tulsa's Channel 9 reported in August: 

The Tulsa Police says a story posted by the Dallas Voice on August 5, 2014 about the death of a gay man in Tulsa contains "false information."

The Dallas Voice calls itself "The Premier Media Source for LGBT Texas." On Tuesday, in a post attributed to Dallas activist C.D. Kirven, it accused the Tulsa Police Department of failing to investigate the death of Benny Longoria, 40. ... 

The Tulsa Police Department released a statement about the case, saying the Dallas Voice never contacted anyone with the department, including Sergeant Dave Walker who was mentioned in the story. 


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