Odyssey Storytelling

img_8566Odyssey Storytelling brings together people of all aspects of life to connect through sharing stories. This community showcases monthly events, where several storytellers share their experiences to an audience through story. Each show has a theme, and is held in downtown Tucson at The Sea Of Glass Center for the Arts. I got to participate in the January show as one of the storytellers!

We got to write our own bios, which were all posted online and included in the programs: “Gina Finio is 27 years old and originally from the Philadelphia, PA area. She graduated from a PA university that you’ve probably never heard of and has worked in Human Resources ever since. img_8569She turned her love for cactus into a cross-country move this summer, relocating from Allentown, PA to Tucson. Her dog Ducky is the most important thing in her life and is also her longest lasting relationship. Her hobbies include binge watching or auditioning for reality television, finishing jigsaw puzzles with her girlfriend and then putting it back in the box like a savage, and spending way too much money on crop tops that she will never stop wearing no matter how old she gets. Follow her weird life on social media @ginafinio or read her blog if you feel like it at www.ginafinio.com.” If you’re interested in reading the bios of my fellow storytellers, the picture to the left should show everyone from the show.

The theme of the night was Hindsight: “Stories from the shoulda – coulda – woulda club. They say hindsight is 20/20. If you knew then what you know now . . . how would your life be different? Would you make the same choices or would you take a different path? Are our lives predetermined by fate or do we exercise free will? Or, is it some odd combination of the two?”

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The story that I told was basically my coming out story, which honestly is one that I’m not a big fan of. I didn’t have a bad experience or anything, but if I could go back and do things differently, I certainly would. It’s not about the act of actually coming out, but more the way that I did it. Hindsight has allowed me to recognize this now, which is basically what my story was about. It was also something that I was holding onto in a way that I didn’t like, and by being able to joke about it, I was able to find some closure.

The energy that I felt coming off of the stage was like nothing I’ve ever experienced! It was a lot of highs, and I was truly really proud of myself. People kept coming up to me after the show, saying that they could relate in someway – which was incredible! Whether it was through myself or a family member type of figure – it was crazy to see people feel so connected to my experience. The crowd was amazing, extremely open, diverse, and accepting.

I hope to be able to do another story sometime soon, but I want to make sure it’s something I hold just as close to my heart is this one. I don’t want to tell a story just for the sake of telling it; I want it to be really meaningful. But I DEFINITELY would like to do it again.odyssey

You can listen to all the stories from the Hindsight show via The Odyssey Storytelling Podcast. The recording was released on Friday, January 31st: January 2020: Hindsight. My story begins around minute 47:47. You can also find more information for Odyssey Storytelling and their upcoming events by visiting OdysseyStorytelling.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

New Tattoos (part two)

Well, I’ve gotten some new ink. My tattoo total is up to 12 now, but of course I’m far from done. I absolutely love the tattoos I’ve gotten in the past month or two, so I had to share:

 

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1. Mountains: A while ago, my sister got a tattoo of a simple line in the shape of a wave (similar to those wave rings you’ve probably seen on Instagram). I really liked the look and placement, although the beach and ocean does not mean the same to me as it does for my sister. Instead I took her inspiration and turned it into a mountainscape. I’ve always been drawn to mountains, and it’s part of the reason that I loved Tucson so much. Living in a town where you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains has been amazing, and I hope to always have a good mountain view in my life.

 

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2. That’s Amore: When my sister turned 18, I went with her to a parlor to purchase her first tattoo. We actually got coordinating tatts, where she has a lock and I have the key. When our cousin turned 18 this year, my sister extended the tradition down. Growing up, my cousin and my grams would sing the song “That’s Amore” before my cousin was fully able to read. Instead, Grams drew pictures for the moon, sky, a pizza pie, and then wrote the words “that’s amore”. My cousin, my sister and I all got the lyrics “that’s amore” in my grams’ handwriting, and it turned out absolutely adorable on everyone. Since my sister and cousin are on the east coast and I’m out in AZ, I wasn’t able to get tatted with them, but the sentiment still stands.

 

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3. Rainbow Dots: I’ve wanted something “gay” related for a long time, but I wasn’t ready to get a full on rainbow tattooed on myself. I thought about maybe just “BI” or something else subtle, but couldn’t find anything that I loved. My friend then sent me a tattoo she found on Instagram that had a line of dots in rainbow colors. It was so simple and beautiful, and I also loved the nod to R.O.Y.G.B.I.V. from my art days. This tattoos is so elegant and discrete, yet creative and unique and I absolutely am obsessed with it.

 

As always, more tattoos to come I’m sure!

Thanks for reading.

Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness

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There has been A LOT of buzz around JVN’s new book! Of course I’ve been a huge fan of Jonathan Van Ness for a very long time, but I love how much media attention he’s been getting in the past year. Jonathan originally was known for his recap show Gay of Thrones, and then earned mainstream attention after becoming a member of Netflix’s Queer Eye‘s Fab Five. The book has made headlines this year because of the secrets that JVN opens up about in the book, and his bravery is insanely admirable.

In one of the episodes of Queer Eye, the Fab Five talk about coming out img_7955of the closet. Jonathan says something along the lines of, “Hello! The sky is blue. The grass is green.” meaning that there really was no “in the closet” for him. He was clearly and obviously flamboyant from a young age, and that left for a good amount of teasing while growing up. The story of his friend from the swim team is one that I’m sure many queer people can relate to: a friend where the lines get blurry and complicated… and then in the end.. awkward. It’s sad that there was so much shame in being gay in these small towns, because it can do a lot of damage.

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I really enjoyed reading about his reflections on past relationships. Speaking in the abstract makes everything so poetic and tragically beautiful. I could feel that when JVN talked about Sergei. They clearly cared so much about each other as humans, even if their demons constantly came between them. Their story hurt my heart, but the love was clear and present the whole journey. Who gave them permission to be so hauntingly gorgeous?!

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It was super exciting to see Jonathan go to Tucson for college! However, his experiences at the U of A were not entirely positive. He was clearly in a dark place at this point in his life, and he was searching for answers in some of the worst places. I appreciate his willingness to be open about his escort experience, which left him vulnerable and broken. I’m sure it was not easy for him to be honest about his behavior during this time, but I appreciated that he shared this in his writing. There are a lot of experiences within the male gay community that is swept under the rug, and JVN was able to bring some to light. During this time of darkness, he was luckily able to reach out to his family for the help he needed, and headed home to “start over”.

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Recovery, self-love, and mental health are things that JVN is always promoting, and it’s clearly as a result of his life experiences. His words on recovery are inspiring, and he is always reminding everyone to love themselves for where they are at. He says, “One thing I have come to notice in my life is that recovery for me has not been linear. It’s more two steps forward, three back, five forward, two back, so I’m always improving but there are setbacks within the improvement.”

I love Jonathan and every single itty bitty baby gorgeous thing he ever does, and I of course loved this book. But truthfully, I think he could have REALLY JVN 4dove into his dark places and gone even deeper. It definitely would take being EXTREMELY vulnerable to do this, as Jonathan as already revealed so so much in this book. Home girl has been through some shit! I just feel like there was so many stories and deep details that we didn’t get to hear, as he barely skimmed the surface of what he’s been through. He explains the the summary of the dark places, but I was so interested in his life of tricks and compulsivity, and so I definitely wanted a little more. Still, I totally know how hard that would be for JVN, who is very much connected to people worldwide with Queer Eye and his social media presence. I still absolutely applaud him for how much he did open up and reveal in the pages.

I love the way Jonathan combats the stigmas around HIV. This is such a significant conversation! Learning about being “undetectable” is so JVN 6incredibly important to educate people on the virus, and even I learned a lot from his writing. I’m so glad that JVN was recognized for this conversation in the media!! This really can help so many people to not only get the help they need, but also feel comfortable to live a full life while managing their diagnosis. It’s so wonderful that modern medicine can allow those who are diagnosed with HIV and AIDS to live a long lives. In the book, Jonathan mentions how his doctor said he would “go on to die of a heart attack or cancer just like everybody else.” – which is of course a morbid joke, but just shows where HIV is JVN 1in terms of a terminal diagnosis. 

 

 

Below are a list of resources provided by JVN in the book. Also, if you are a member of any community that may be high risk for HIV, please ask your doctor about PrEP, or visit the CDC website or What Is PrRP? or for more information.

Planned Parenthood
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
Phoenix House
The Trevor Project
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
Advocates for Youth
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)
Peer Health Exchange
ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)

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He is fierce. He is real. He is raw. He gets into it, hunny! Jonathan gets sups vuln and you need to hear all the spilled tea. Grab your little baby copy wherever the finest of books are sold and come along for the gorgeous ride! Queer Eye is of course always available on Netflix – the Japan episodes were released not too long ago, and I know they were filming in Philly this summer!! JVN 2For all things JVN, you can visit jonathanvanness.com or follow him on social media @JVN.

“In general, if you can’t take me at my raw, heated moment, you don’t deserve me at my composed Emmys glam moment.” – Jonathan Van Ness, re-quoting Marilyn Monroe ♡

Thanks for reading!

Diva Rules By Michelle Visage

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I bought this book during Drag Con, where I actually got to meet Michelle! She even signed the book for me, which honestly made it a little more exciting to read. Diva Rules is partly about her life, but also largely a self help book for the misfits and freaks who consider themselves fabulous enough to be a diva. Definitely read this if you are ready to start feeling your oats.

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It’s inspiring to hear the story of a girl from New Jersey with big hair and big dreams, who actually managed to make it big. I especially enjoyed the praise through the words of RuPaul, her best Judy. I always think it’s endearing to hear someone speak fondly of someone they love and admire, and Ru clearly adores Michelle. From both of their perspectives, they had a clear connection from the moment they locked eyes, hunty. From there the chemistry just sparked, igniting a lifelong friendship and legacy. 

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One of my childhood friends was adopted, and it’s made a lasting impact on me. I have plans to get involved in either fostering or adopting in my future, and I’m also partial to those who have some experience on the subject. Michelle was adopted, as was her brother David, by two parents whom she praises immensely. She absolutely adores her parents and appreciates the life they gave her; Michelle’s only disappointment was that she was unable to inherit her mom’s big tits. 

I’m incredibly, overly jealous of the time that Michelle got to spend in New York during the up and comings of VOGUE (!!!), and the legendary children and houses featured in 03acd17c0c4d1e0ab48aaf731026608aParis Is Burning (available on Netflix). I mean, she knew Angie Extravaganza (!!!!!!!!) and was winning trophies for voguing before Madonna even know what it was. I mean, that is ICONIC. If she had written about having a kiki with Venus Extravaganza… omg, the fan girl in me might have actually gone crazy. It was during this time that Michelle got her namesake, Visage. She was entering in categories in the balls with her house, and one of the categories was “face”. Her first nickname was “Cara” – roll the “R” – the Spanish word for “face.” But when bedazzled onto her jackets and hats, people were mistaking it for the name Cara. So instead she went with the French word for “face” – visage. Bam! *Said like Alexis Mateo*

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Michelle is inspiring because she works hard, empowers others, believes in herself, and never gives up. She is loving, kind, full of wisdom and also not afraid to clock you for the wrong hemline. Her end goal is always to make those who shine, shine their brightest, including herself. Follow her Diva rules to do just that.

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I really enjoyed this book, and it’s a quick read for anyone who aspires to live up to their full diva potential (available wherever books are sold, or at her booth at DragCons). I also recommend watching Michelle as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, of course. She is also a current contestant on the British version of Dancing With The Stars (Called Strictly Come Dancing) and was on the British Celebrity Big Brother as well. You may also recognize Michelle from her many many years on the radio, or for her role in the girl groups Seduction and S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. The bitch works hard, okurr!

Tens across the board! Thanks for reading.

5 LGBT Historical Figures You Should Know

Even though Pride Month has officially ended, it’s still important to remember the people who paved the way for us to celebrate. My company’s internal Pride magazine has continued to show focus on the trailblazers that paved the way for the rest of us. So, here are 5 historical LGBTQ figures that you should most definitely know about:

 

harveymilk460Harvey Milk
The first openly gay elected official in the U.S., Harvey Milk was a civil and human rights activist who served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. His work in advocacy for the LGBTQ community was only beginning when he was assassinated less than just one year in office.

Bayard RustinBayard Rustin
A close adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin marched with on Washington as a black and gay man to fight for civil rights. He was one of the most effective influencers of the civil rights movement, and was nicknamed “Mr. March-on-Washington”.

Michael_DillonLaurence Michael Dillon
robertaBorn with the name Laura Maud, Laurence Michael Dillon was the first person to undergo FTM gender reassignment surgery.  He was a British physician, but when his story was revealed to the world, he fled to India and became a Monk. Roberta Cowell is also noteworthy, as she was the first to undergo a surgical MTF transition.

Simon NkoliSimon Nkoli
Experiencing extreme discrimination, Simon Nkoli was a South Africa native that was one of the first Black anti-apartheid activists to publicly identify as gay and HIV-positive. He was diagnosed while in prison for protesting, and eventually died of an AIDS related illness.

herculineHerculine Barbin
Assigned female at birth but later reclassified by law as male, Herculine Barbin was the first person to be labeled as intersex. Herculine eventually changed their name to Abel, and died by suicide at the age of 30 after much medical scrutiny.  (Note: There are no confirmed pictures of Herculine Barbin, so the above picture may not be accurate.)

 

gay   Thanks for reading!

For more information on these amazing people, please visit:  
milkfoundation.org/ ;  
kinginstitute.edu/rustin-bayard ;  
http://library.transgenderzone.com/ ;  
www.sahistory.org.za/tseko-simon-nkoli ;  
Herculine Barbin, By Michel Foucault

5 Reasons to Watch Pete Buttigieg

PeteEverything that I know about Pete Buttigieg so far has made me a fan of his. As we get to know more and more about the candidates participating in the upcoming elections, Pete is someone from whom I am definitely excited to hear. Here are just some reasons why:

 

chasten1. His Husband 
If Pete were to be elected, this would make him the first openly gay president! This would be a huge milestone for the community, and an amazing push forward for our country. Not to mention, Chasten would make an amazing First Gentleman … or whatever they plan on calling it. They are adorable, so are their dogs, and I am here for the representation.

 

unite2. His Platform
In a time when our nation is divided in such an extreme way, Pete is focusing on what we have in common, and running his platform with the focus on uniting the U.S.. There is so much more middle ground than anyone realizes, and Pete intends to use those common areas to attempt to unify the country. Many other candidates are running on the idea of “fighting the fight”, while Pete is looking to make peace again.

 

military3. His Military Experience 
Pete proudly brags that he has more military experience than his running mates, and many previously elected presidents as well. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2009, and was deployed in Afghanistan in 2014. He continued to serve as an intelligence officer until 2017. As a potential future Commander-in-Chief, military experience and leadership is obviously extremely important.

 

political4. His Political Experience
While a lot of people did appreciate that Trump did not come from the typical political background, there are others that argue that this experience is vital to the success of a leader in office. Pete has been involved in politics for the majority of his career, and he is currently the mayor of South Bend, Indiana (and has been since 2012). It doesn’t hurt to mention that he is a Harvard College graduate also.

 

personality5. His Personality and Charm
While he is a responsible, stand up politician, Pete is also not afraid to have a good time. He has shown his personality throughout the beginning of this campaign, including doing a fun sketch with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. He knows how to appeal to multiple audiences, and can be trusted to be authentic in various settings. As a millennial, I’m on board.

 

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I read most of this information from the TIME article that highlighted his campaign, which I definitely recommend checking out. He has also made appearances on other late night TV shows and has had various other press coverage as well. I intend to keep my eye on Pete as he continues to move forward with his political efforts, regardless of where they make take him. You can learn more about Pete by visiting PeteForAmerica.com or following him @pete.buttigieg on Instagram and @PeteButtigieg on Twitter.

“It’s time for a new generation of American leadership.”

Thanks for reading!

 

Coming Out: An Update

Wow. You all really showed up for my last post, huh? I mean, I post links to this blog all the time and I’ve never gotten the buzz that I did last week. A whopping ten people felt compelled to click and read what I had to say about JVN, but over one hundred of you wanted to get the details once it got super personal. I guess everyone wants in on the spilled T.

Let me just say that my parents are very understanding and open-minded people, and I never for one second thought that this was going to be an issue in my family. Truthfully, I was very much under the impression that they probably already knew. I had been playing with the idea of “coming out”, not even knowing if I felt the need to. This never felt like some deep dark secret to me, so I didn’t feel like I had to make some grand announcement.

Well, apparently that’s what I did last week.

When I wrote that post, I wasn’t thinking about who would read it – I know what my stats usually looked like, and there’s not often a lot of traffic. If anything, I thought it would just be helpful for me to write this out and maybe to collect my thoughts and figure out what I wanted exactly. Looking back, I’m regretful that I made that post public before talking to my parents. I think I was just trying to figure things out for myself, and I didn’t think it all the way through. Sitting someone down and telling them about my sexuality didn’t seem like the right thing for me personally to do, but maybe it’s also about who is on the other end of that conversation as well. I certainly didn’t mean for all these conversations to be had without me there.

That being said, I’ve had wonderful conversations with my parents and I feel really good about where things are right now. There was a lot of open dialogue that I knew would be there whenever I was ready to have it. And of course, there was a lot of love that will always be there to make me wildly uncomfortable when directly pointed my way.

So to anyone reaching out to my family members asking if they “are okay”, yeah they’re fucking great, thanks for asking.

To anyone who has reached out to me directly, thank you so much and please know that I really appreciated your words. It was very validating to hear from other bisexuals, and having that support means a lot.

I’ll try not to get on my soapbox about this, but it’s annoying that I had to “come out”. It’s annoying that the default is set to ‘straight’. It’s annoying that I have to tell everyone if it’s different. And it’s annoying that once I do, it’s a hot topic of conversation. I know I’m not a very private person, and I don’t really have secrets of my own. But being bisexual somehow by default gave me this secret that I never even wanted to keep in the first place. I will admit that while I usually love having all of the attention on me, I think I would do things just a little bit differently if I was given a second chance.

This whole experience was truly more than I signed up for. Without meaning to, I made myself feel exposed, uncomfortable, and embarrassed. But now, I also feel relieved, supported, and content. I’m out! And I’m totally done paying my gay dues for now.

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Thanks for reading.