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Stepping OUT to find a Handsome Cab!

There is no doubt that downtown York is an incredibly exciting place. The only thing missing to make it the perfect vision of artist paradise I know it will soon be? The opening of it’s very own wine bar! A local LGBT businessman is working hard to correct that. If you’ve never met dashing and classically charming local entrepreneur Robert Godfrey hosting a gallery wine tasting or a special event, just know that you will soon. A victim of harsh teenage bullying, Robert even entered into a heterosexual marriage seeking to earn the approval of his family and community. Today, he is a prime example of a courageous man who chose to turn being harassed into motivation for personal success and community empowerment. Meet today’s life HERO!

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I am Robert C Godfrey Jr, but you don’t have to be that formal… I am 49 years old and have lived in York my whole life except during college. I am a senior clinical consultant in healthcare and I help hospitals all across the country implement and maintain their electronic medical record systems.

I am a downtown supporter.  I eat, drink and shop downtown York.  I am involved in the art community and an art collector.  Had I not gone into the computer field, I would have been an artist.  I have some talent and have done some of my own painting, but never had the experience of training.  I love what is happening with the art scene in York.  We are fortunate to have this grow and grow every year. Growing up there was nothing in the city to do.  My high school friends would ride the circuit, something you don’t hear about much anymore.  I was never interested in that.  I started working at 15 for Spangler’s Grocery store as a bag boy and saved money to go to college. I don’t remember there being any resources available when I was young, but I really wasn’t looking for them.  I really focused on my career.  It was an easy way to shut out those thoughts.

I really don’t even really have a “coming out” story.  I was never really interested in dating, went to the Prom with friends… was interested in my career and worked and went to school.  I was picked on as a kid in school quite a bit and called all the bad gay words you can think and never understood what they were talking about but it made me feel so bad about myself that I just went the career path instead.  As I got older I had some inclinations, but always had this other voice that knew I wasn’t a bad person and those feelings from back in junior high would come back and I would suppress my true self… to the point that a few others pushed me to get married to a woman  I even remember on my wedding day I wanted to walk out but felt I would disappoint my mother.  I ended up with 2 children and a wife who years later was in a terrible automobile accident… that event made me realize that I wasn’t happy doing what everyone else expected and needed to move on.

I raised both of my children as a single father.  It wasn’t until about 6 years ago that I actually met Andrew, the love of my life while working in Detroit, MI.  A year later we were married and now we are opening a wine bar… who knew??  Raising children is the hardest job anyone will ever do.

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Robert, with grandson, Aiden

 

I think today it is much easier, but I don’t initially trust anyone with the information about my sexuality.  I know that some people will discriminate against me for that fact and have had that situation early on in my career.  I always persevered, moved past them, left the company for something bigger and better. Today I don’t feel the need to tell people that I am gay.  It is a part of me like my eyes are blue.  People will either like me for me or not.  Being gay should have nothing to do with it.

My husband Andrew and I were married in August of 2010 in Toronto.   It was legal there and not here.  My children are great with everything.  We really never had a big gay discussion.  My daughter was out living on her own when we met and my son is fine with everything.  He attended the very small service in Toronto along with a few family and friends (only 20 people were there).  Andrew and Corey have a strong relationship.  I think my son looks at Andrew as more of a friend than parent and often times will discuss things with him, that he won’t with “his dad”.  My son recently graduated from college and is now back in York trying to figure out what he is going to do with his education and back living with us

For fun, I like to dine out with friends, art openings, movies, wine tastings, most types of music and I love to entertain.  I also throw in a play every now and then.  Andrew and I enjoy traveling the world.  That is what introduced me to wine.  Traveling will open up your experiences and your culture.  It gives you new perspectives on the world we live in.

A little over 3 years ago the idea popped into my head that we should have a wine bar in York and that it would be fun to open and run one.  It would add to what is going on downtown.  I was excited to see the new shops opening, new restaurants and wanted to be part of making a difference in my town. I also enjoyed visiting wine bars through out my travels and with the opening of so many brew pubs in York, it only seemed logical that we needed a wine bar.

I discussed the idea with Andrew and we started looking at properties.  We looked at quite a few spaces.  The former Formpress building was one and I pretty much knew that day, it was the space for us and for The Handsome Cab.  The building itself also allowed us to add an element of art to the building with its space upstairs.  We are going to have a 2 room art gallery that will be called The Cab Gallery, with ongoing shows through out the year and 5 artists that will rent studios from us. We are hoping to open this space sometime this summer. We will also be serving small plates, be open for lunch, have a late night happy hour on weekends, open 7 days a week, and the kitchen will be open after 9PM. We will have micro brews, bottled beer and artisan cocktails available as well.

It just kind of happened in a way almost like it was meant to be.   As most things in my life there have been so many obstacles in the way, I usually won’t take no for an answer, my father always told me that and I guess it is true.

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Stepping OUT…with the ADORABLE Marc Torres

Too often we look at things in black and white. Or Black and White, if you get my drift. I met Marc through his dancing, but from the first time I saw Marc’s photography, I loved the way he celebrated all the colors of the rainbow – and how he embodied them himself. Marc is a bold Latino business man, a multi-genre art lover who refuses to be pigeon-holed into one art form and a proud gay man who doesn’t let himeself be defined by his identity. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s step OUT with Marc.

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My name is Marc Torres. I am 20 going on 21. I’ve lived in York since I can remember. I do Fashion and Beauty Photography. I am also a Dancer, Graphic Artist, and High End Photo Retoucher. I am involved with many things in York. I work with Singers, Models, Wardrobe Designers, Youtubers, and Local Businesses. And I am gay.

I started to figure out that I was gay around middle school. I knew that I liked guys. But I never acknowledged it. I was apart of the “outcast” in school. I wasn’t popular, I didn’t have many friends, and I my mind wasn’t focused on dating. I was more focused on trying to “Fit-in” with my peers. That changed once I got into High School. I started to find myself and started to realize that I was different from everyone else. I started to involve myself in many clubs, groups, and sports. I tried Basketball, Football, Wrestling, Track, and Swimming. I was also a part of Performing Arts, Student Government, and the LGBT club. Something quirky and unexpected about me is that I am a total computer geek and gamer!

Through all of my involvement in school I made many great friendships. I think it was great how everything happened because everyone got to know me before they found out I was Gay. My friends and I like to go to go shopping, watch movies, and go out to eat. But mainly we just like to hangout with each other. We go to New Grounds Cafe a lot! We go there and chat about our lives and careers. My friends are very talented and goal oriented. Most of the time we are coming up with new ideas and way we can achieve our goals and dreams together.

Coming out to my parents was a different story. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it wasn’t the best. I came out to my parents during an argument. When I came out, they said they didn’t accept it but the next day they apologized and told me that they just want me to be successful and happy. Being able to read and watch videos on the internet from other’s experiences and how they got through everything was most helpful. The LGBT club in my school also helped a lot during my coming out to my parents. The teacher in charge of the club was absolutely amazing. She helped me get through a lot of emotions.

My orientation is a major part of my life now. Although it has helped me define who I am and where I want to be in life, I do not force my status onto anyone. Knowing that I am gay is something that people will learn when they get to know me. I still noticed many stereotypes while growing up.

  • Gay men are all feminine
  • Gay men are into fashion and only listen to female pop artists
  • Gay men are attracted to all men and can’t control their desires
  • Gay men are promiscuous and obsessed with sex
  • HIV/AIDS is primarily a disease among gay men
  • Male homosexuality is caused by parenting or trauma in childhood

Some or all of those may be true for certain individuals, but not all gay men are like this.

The one thing I wish people would do when dealing with me or any other gay men, is to get to know someone before you automatically make a judgement based on what you hear and see. I have more straight male friends and than anything else. And that’s because they got to know who I am as a person instead of passing a judgment based on my life choices.

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Rock on Marc!

Indiana, Pennsylvania, Oz or Fantasy Island…There’s No Place Like Home

The Indiana Religious Freedom Act. What is it and what does it mean for us here in south central PA?

There is some good old Wikipedia information here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_SB_101, but basically, the Religious Freedom Act attempts to allow businesses to refuse services to individuals based on their religious beliefs.

Within a week of the bill being signed into law, a family owned pizza place made national news as it became the first business to publicly announce it would refuse to cater a same-sex wedding as a result of the law. The announcement was followed by an onslaught of negative Yelp reviews for the restaurant and following the negativity, the business temporarily closed due to fake orders and threats it received. Next came running the anti-gay supporters who raised over $800,000 for the restaurant. Complex, right?

Every forward movement in the march for equality has been met with a desperate and passionate backlash from frightened religious extremists and anti-gay crusaders seeking to maintain whatever foot, toe or claw hold they can to still maintain what was. The fear so clearly motivating this new legislation shows how far we have come. It also serves to remind us not to be complacent. That we as freedom and equal rights activists are battling centuries of prejudice and that we have to systematically dismantle and rebuild an entire culture before we can rest comfortably on the knowledge of an accepting and open-minded country for our children to learn to express themselves in. (IT also better remind us of the importance of voting, knowing who our local politicians are and vetting their views before we put a check box next to a name. Trust me, the extreme conservatives are taking the time to do that.)

So could Pennsylvania’s General Assembly conceivably pass such a law?

How many police officers have been acquitted of charges while unarmed or mentally ill individuals lay dead in the street? I would pray that such a law could never make it past the individuals charged with upholding freedom, justice and liberty for ALL American people, but I think such optimism would be dangerously naive. But if the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed such a law, do you think the Pennsylvania business community would rush in to support LGBT civil rights like they did in Indiana?

I truly believe they would. When Equality Fest, a festival celebrating marriage equality, came to York, Pennsylvania, we expected at least a certain amount of backlash. It never came. What did come was the enthusiastic support and active participation of our business community and our neighborhoods. Pennsylvanians are a strong and passionate group of hardworking and practical people who have good hearts and good heads on their shoulders. Do we need to learn and continue to adjust to change with more openness and optimism? Sure. But just let us be. Most of us come out all right in the wash.

What do you think? Let me know!

Stepping OUT to Find the the Invisible “B” Word!

Bisexual that is! (What were YOU thinking?!?! Gracious!) It’s not just a trendy behavior for soul-searching high school students or tipsy Spring Break-ers. It’s the genuine attraction by an individual of any gender to both male AND female type folks.

Missi McLaren Ritter works at a corporate accounting job during the day so she can be a fabulous and flamboyant artist by night. 41-year-old Missi moved to York County from Minnesota in June, 2008 then moved to the heart of the Royal Square Neighborhood in York City in 2013 to be closer to her art events. There isn’t a soul there who doesn’t recognize the sway of the sassy-tongued poet/artist/Parliament Gallery board member with a heart of gold who has a door that always remains open to lost or starving creatives-in-need. Missi hosts the monthly 4th Friday poetry event at The Parliament along with serving on the board of directors and just this month has art up in more than one gallery space! She also happens to be a poet who I have written with, edited with and even co-op habitated with. No one sells YorkArts fundraiser raffle tickets like we do!

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Aside from just being awesome, Missi is – you guessed it! – a real live bisexual. The too often invisible letter in the LGBT family. Many times not accepted by members of the gay community and still ‘gifted’ with the same harassment or intolerance many gay or lesbian folks experience, its hard to tell whether bisexual folks get the best of both worlds or the both bad ends of the stick.

When many people hear that a woman is bisexual, their minds go to the sex part and stay there. They think of threesomes and women that enjoy multiple partners and things of that nature. I was told once that someone thought that I may not be faithful because I am attracted to members of both sexes. Men have treated me like I was easy and had less respectable boundaries because of my sexuality.

No one has ever asked me about the relationship part of my sexuality, the reasons why I’ve found a man or a woman attractive outside of sex. This has always bothered me. I would never say that I don’t see gender, because I find that thought ridiculous, of course I can see it, but the qualities that I like about another human being aren’t always based on whether they have a penis or a vagina. Like many people, I too would like to settle down someday without “settling”.

I met a girl named Sara when I was 17 and we started dating. I dated both girls and boys until I married a man at 20. I never really “came out”, so to speak, because I didn’t really consider it to be anyone’s business who I dated. My family figured it out after I had my son and was divorced and had a girlfriend. Some of them accepted it, most of them ignored it. I didn’t really mind at all because it wasn’t something that I thought they had a say about.

It’s important that it be recognized, but there are many just as important things that I would like people to see about me as a person.  I really just enjoy continually exploring the local art scene. It’s where most of my friends are and admittedly it’s a draw that it’s a little more open-minded than other parts of our community.

I would like it if the LGBT community could be more of a standard instead of just a special event in our community. I also deal with a mental illness and have the same problems finding people to connect with on that level. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know what it isn’t. The answer isn’t things like support groups because we shouldn’t feel like we have to go to support group for things that just come naturally to us. Sexuality isn’t a disease or a cause, it just is.

Fair enough. With, time to go make some art. Talk to y’all next week!

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Missi and I at a Royal Square block party, photographed by Daniel Walczyk of Vulcania Graphics and Fine Art, an awesome space at 122 W. Philadelphia St in York.