This year’s Gay Days fest brings a welcome new addition, and it’s coming from the strangest of sources! Focus on the Family – known best for its spittle-flecked morality rants – is putting on its Love Won Out conference June 7, the very same day many a gay will be using a red T-shirt to “wipe one off”! The synergy is thrilling!

“We reject the notion that men and women are bound by genetics to live homosexually,” press-released Focus on the Family’s Melissa Fryrear. (No, we are not making up her name.)

Anyway, Focus on the Family will gather between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando on Church Street. There, they’ll proffer “hope to those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.”

On the other side of the rhetorical aisle, the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Community Center on Mills Avenue is holding its own little symposium June 4 (which means by the time you read this, it probably already happened, but we tried) in support of those maybe not struggling so much with same-sex attraction. At 7:30 a.m. June 7, they’ll be holding a prayer vigil outside the Focus on the Family symposium, just to really confuse God and passersby. It’ll be like a prayer war!

Meanwhile, don’t miss the billboards all over town about turning un-gay, if that’s what you want. Should be a gender-bending week.

So you’re all dolled up in your red T-shirt and repurposed vintage white Versace jean shorts, twirling around your hotel room until the bottles of water blur into the bottles of vodka, and you haven’t got a care in the world, right? Gay Days is made for cartoon mice and bathroom groping, so what could possibly be wrong?

Well, just to be sure, the Orange County Health Department would like to swab your mouth for a second between noon and 7 p.m. June 5, or 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. June 6 – because they like you.

A quarter of the one million people in this big gay country infected with HIV don’t even know they have it, which is why your friends at the county are providing free rapid HIV tests – along with hepatitis A and B vaccines and condoms – in the lobby of the Royal Plaza Hotel at 1905 Hotel Plaza Blvd. in Lake Buena Vista. It may sound like the ultimate Gay Days buzzkill, but given the subject matter, the “buzz” could probably be spared in favor of avoiding the “kill,” right? Right.

Oh, and the right colored condom makes even the ugliest penis palatable. Or so we hear.

Queer? Son, you don’t know queer until you’ve been on the receiving end of a big sweaty bearhug – emphasis on “bear” – from Orlando’s favorite anarchist, Ben Markeson. After wrapping his moist arms around us at a presser on police brutality May 28, Markeson complained about the frequency of his sexual encounters and invited us out for drinks. Just thought we’d mention that, this being the Queer Issue and all.

Back to business. We were within Markeson’s grasp because he – along with the other half of Orlando’s hetero odd couple, local ACLU/CopWatch guy George Crossley – had set up in front of the Orange County Courthouse to inform the media about the misdeeds of local cops. Not much in the way of press showed up, however, to hear Crossley portray the Orlando Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division as a joke, say cops are reckless and abusive to the homeless, and complain that people in poor neighborhoods are stopped and searched for no good reason.

It wasn’t much of an event, but that doesn’t mean Markeson and Crossley are wrong. We’ve been looking into the issue ourselves and will report back on our findings in the coming weeks.
Stay tuned.

Hey, you know what’s cool and totally not gay about Alan Grayson? He’s like Indiana Jones, and he’s not afraid to tell us all about it! From the mildly embarrassing e-mail his campaign blasted May 27:

“`W`hat makes Indiana Jones so special? We think that what makes Indiana Jones so special is his uncanny sense of direction. Drop him in the Amazon jungle, the Himalayan plateau, the Sahara desert, just about anywhere, and Indiana Jones knows exactly where he is, where he wants to be, and how he’s going to get there.”

Yeah, plus there’s that super-sexy whip. Still, this relates to your campaign how, Alan?

“Now compare that to our own intrepid explorer, Congressional candidate Alan Grayson. Alan has visited 175 countries, and every single time, he has found his way home. That shows a very good sense of direction.”

Or the ability to get on a plane. What’s the point?

“And what about Congressman Ric Keller? Well, on March 26, Keller made one of his rare visits to Central Florida, in order to conduct “mobile office hours” in Leesburg. There was only one problem with that – Leesburg is over five miles outside of `Keller’s district`. That shows a poor sense of direction.”

We get it, Alan. Indiana Jones would vote for you because you know where you are at any given time, and Keller is a moron.

“This month, four different national polls found that almost 80 percent of all Americans think that the United States is heading in the wrong direction – the highest percentage in history. Alan Grayson knows in what direction America should go. And Ric Keller? How can he find the right direction out of the mess we’re all in, when he can’t even find the right direction to District 8?”

Not a stretch at all.

The Orlando Sentinel, long a patron of various local arts groups, is slashing its donations to arts and cultural groups.

Within the last two months, the Sentinel hacked 90 percent of its annual contribution to United Arts of Central Florida, from $100,000 annually to $10,000, according to UA president Margot Knight. “Obviously it hurts us,” Knight says, before adding that cuts from local governments are hurting arts groups more. “Whom do I feel consternation with? The local guys have been terrific.”

According to Knight, Sentinel executives have told her that the cuts are part of a larger expense-cutting scheme mandated by the Tribune Co., the Sentinel’s Chicago-based corporate overlord. Knight was told that the paper either had to cut its philanthropic money or lose more reporters.

We tried to find out how pervasive these cuts were – if, for instance, the Sentinel only cut its UA spending, or whether it cut arts-and-culture sponsorship across the board – but that didn’t prove easy, because the Sentinel’s spokeswoman, Ashley Allen, is apparently gone too. Eventually, our messages were routed through the paper’s switchboard to someone’s voice mail, and we’ve yet to hear back.

It’s worth noting that on May 25, the Sentinel’s editorial board slammed Seminole County for doing exactly what the paper did – cutting funding to United Arts.

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