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Health LGBTQ Outdoors Personal History Place Sports

Reno Rollerblading

Wanna hear a joke?

Q: What’s the hardest part about rollerblading?

A: Telling your parents that you’re gay.

Hahahaahaha. But…wait…seriously.

Little did I know, all those years, pushing the rink floor and the pavement on those rollerblades through the University of Illinois campus quad in Champaign, down the Lakefront, and all through that great city of Chicago that I would have to have that conversation with my parents that I was dating a woman.

Since then, I’ve rollerbladed the hills of Wyoming, the parks of Las Vegas, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and now the Parkways of Reno/Sparks. Reno and Sparks have some amazing bike trails which double as rollerblading heaven.

Terry, from Reno 911 knew how great these streets are for rolling. Especially by the Taco, Taco, Taco.

Just this past weekend, I drove myself down to the Rosebud Nature Study Preserve at Veterans’ Parkway and Pembroke Drive in Sparks. There, I strapped on me ole trusty K2 blades and rolled for a pleasant 20 minutes south, over creeks, past fields of cows, passing underneath the Parkway, and to South Meadows Parkway, where the trail ended.

I could have kept rolling down the perfectly manicured, smooth sidewalks which line this southern part of Veterans’ Parkway, but I didn’t know if my new knee agreed. I had my ACL replaced this time last year and I’m still trying to figure out what it will allow me to do. I turned around and made it back to my car. It was about 7 miles in 40 minutes. Not bad. And I didn’t have to worry about traffic except at well-kept stoplights.

I hardly noticed the cars passing by. I saw a LOT of friendly bikers. It was one of the first beautiful days of Spring. I sang 80’s songs to the cows as I paraded past.

If you love the 4-wheeled boots like I do, I encourage you to check out some of these trails. Wear your brightest neon clothing and rainbows while you sweat and firm up that booty. See you out there!

HAPPY TRANS DAY OF VISIBILITY!!!!

Categories
Art Beauty Dance Drag Queen Event Hair LGBTQ Makeup Mom Place

Maria Twampson aka Cameron McMechen

When we moved to Reno in 2020, I decided that I wanted to connect with the local drag queens even while in a lock-down. It was a slow process, but once I found one on Facebook, I was able to find many. I’m not even really sure how, as sometimes they include their given name in their social media and sometimes they include their drag name.

But one queen who I picked up along the way was Cameron McMechen. I had the opportunity to see his pictures as he graduated from Paul Mitchell cosmetology school…IN FULL DRAG…IN THE LIGHT OF DAY.

Mamá, come through. You know I love anyone who can stick it out to graduate. Plus, I was like, “Oh, this queen is degree’ed legit.”

Credit: Facebook Cameron McMechen page

Background

Cameron has been in Reno for 3 years. He came from Denver to dance at shows at the Eldorado here in town. He soon met his partner of 3 years after moving. His parter, Ferny Gonzalez, is his drag “sister”, Shania Twampson, both comprising the unstoppable due, The Twampson Sisters.

Cameron said he came out at 14, but he suspects his family already knew. His grandma brought rainbow cupcakes to the dance studio for his birthday in his formative years.

He considers his mom, his partner and his two roommates to be his chosen family these days.

He started doing makeup during the pandemic. During this time, he also started school and now does makeup and hair at BJ’s Hairshop. These Reno drag artists are not disappointing. Here are few examples of Cameron’s mad makeup skills.

Credit: instagram @maria_twampson

Dancing

Most importantly, this queen’s moves are not to be missed. As a trained dancer, you can see Cameron’s work on his instagram dance page. He masterfully takes over the stage, from risers to floor and connects with his audience. His performance is well worth a visit to his next show and throwing down a few dollars.

He said the biggest single tip he has ever received was a $100 bill.

Check out the energy of Ms. Maria Twampson dancing in 8-inch heels to Ballroom Blitz by the British glam rock band, The Sweet.

Cameron said that his favorite part about drag in Reno is his fans. He loves the di-fierce-ity, getting to know the other queens, and being a part of the community.

If you want to learn about his work/life relationship, check out my post from 3/26 to see Maria and Shania Twampson performing We Both Reached for the Gun from the musical, Chicago.

Credit: Erica Pionke at Splash

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Beauty Debbie Hair LGBTQ Place

Non-Bin-HAIR-y: Lana Taylor Hair

Credit: Erica Pionke

93% of the LGBTQ+ community has been misgendered during an appointment at a salon or barbershop. 65% feel that their hair is an important part of how they choose to express themselves (www.dresscodeproject.com accessed March 5, 2022). This is why my nonbinary friend, Cas, gushed to me about Lana Taylor Hair on pinterest as a queer-friendly hair stylist who specializes in non-binary cuts (and vintage roller styles).

Well, Debbie’s hair has been getting long around the ears and didn’t know where she was going to go if not all the way down to Las Vegas, to her favorite barber. Debbie agreed to make an appointment online with Lana.

Her appointment website shows the following services, along with perms, colors, conditioning, treatments, and styling:

Genderless Haircuts –

– Long Haircut

$50 and up for 90 minutes

Haircuts have no gender! This is the price for a haircut that requires shears and a blow dry and style

– Short Cut

$30 and up for 75 minutes

Haircuts have no gender! This service is for any short haircuts that require clippers. There is no blow out or style.

****

Setting the appointment was very easy. We had to add a debit card to the account for $1 to reserve the appointment. But when the appointment was over, Lana was able to charge to the card to save time as we were running to an evening meeting.

Her salon space sits among other salons, but she has a fully contained space and chair. Her approximate 200 square foot space contains a door, a glass wall, a wall with sink and mirror and then a fourth wall, making it a completely private space that does not seems as small as it actually is. She also carries products for sale in her little space.

The importance of the privacy of the space is because her clients are 30% transgender and even more who prefer cuts outside their assigned gender. The privacy allows her clients to be able to discuss their needs openly with her, like a transgender female with a receded hairline or a transgender male who is learning he has the receding hairline gene.

She took a solid hour or so to cut Debbie’s hair, and it looked adorable/handsome when Lana was done. Here are some pictures to show the final product. Be sure to check out her portfolio on pinterest.

Categories
Coming Out LGBTQ Political Transgender

Lt. Governor Candidate Familiar with Transition

Please meet Ms. Kimi Cole, running for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada. If you read her “About” page on her website, you will read about their childhood in rural Nevada racing motorcycles and developing a relationship with the land and environment and then becoming a construction project manager where they learned, absorbed and lived the importance of housing in Nevada.

Picture of Kimi Cole in front of sagebrush background
from http://www.KimiCole.com

While discussing her history on that page, she cryptically mentions her transition. But take note: her gender pronouns change after this nod to transition.

While interviewing her on February 19, she explained that she transitioned into her female identity in 2009 at 55 years old. As she started living her best life, she was an innovator in the transition culture, since information on gender identity and gender dysphoria were very limited back then.

She talked about how the greatest obstacle to moving forward is to not feel misplaced in the world and to be able to accept ourselves.  She said that it’s easy to feel alone when it seems like the world is staring at you.  But it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not just your transition; everybody else is transitioning, too.  She talks about this in her 2016 TEDx talk, Walking in Another’s Shoes.

When I asked about any issues she intends to breach on LGBTQ+ issues, she said that Nevada has legislation that is favorable to the LGBTQ+ community. She talked about issues she’s advocated for or fought before, like the 2015 transgender bathroom bill.

I’ve heard it said that Nevada is the most favorable state to those in the transgender community. But she said that this is most true in the more urban centers, like Las Vegas, Reno, Sparks, and Carson City. She said that there are estimated as many as 12,600 who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum in rural Nevada, and it is still more difficult for the youth in the more rural areas.

As a lifelong resident, she believes she is an advocate for all in Nevada, but she also feels like if she can change a mind and save a kid’s life, she will take the time to invest.

Her website provides her current status as Chair of the Rural Democratic Caucus and her main political foci, which are the economy, infrastructure, the climate crisis, and affordable housing. The primary is June 14th and the general election is November 8th. Take a look at Kimi’s website, educate yourself on the other candidates, and BE SURE TO GET OUT THERE AND VOTE.

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LGBTQ Non-binary Our Center Place Transgender

Our Center – The Leader of the Pack: Stacey Spain

Stacey Spain is the new fearless leader at Our Center in Reno. She has brought life to the Our Center Facebook page, requiring her volunteers to post twice per day to keep patrons of Our Center always thinking about the programs that will bring them in to Our Center and then back, again and again.

She was hired in December of 2021 as the very first paid employee of the organization, but brings with her an extensive background in public service, including grant writing and work in arts programming. She is currently working 30 hours per week at Our Center.

When I visited her last week, she had just finished another meeting with a community organization who was interested in using the space. Stacey said that she fully believes that community spaces are meant to be used and not to sit vacant and empty in between meetings. She is working on bringing in various organizations beyond the LGBTQ panorama, including Girls Scouts, a Women of Color book club, the Northern Nevada Democratic Socialists of America, and 12-step recovery groups.

Of course, the standard events that fall under the Pride flag are still present at Our Center, like PFLAG, transgender youth support groups, and senior programs. Stacey said that the programming focus right now is the senior, youth and transgender demographics. But from the discussion that I had with her, I could tell that she also had an affinity for family events.

She lit up when she talked about the services that Our Center provides to those in need like a small food pantry and sleeping bags. She talked excitedly about health programs she would like to see promoted at Our Center, like HIV testing. She would also like to start a scholarship program for queer kids. She was quite proud of the cozy lending LGBTQ library that takes up a nook in the office space.

Stacey explained to me that she answer to the Our Center Board of Directors which is currently 5 members and meets monthly. She also said that there are several Our Center committees that do a lot of work, which include programming, fundraising (including the Northern Nevada Pride Celebration that happens each year in Wingfield Park on the fourth weekend of July) and governance.

She told me of a story of a mother who had come in to the office with her child after her child had told her that they wanted to transition to female. The mother was visibly scared, confused, and heavy-hearted. Stacey was able to take the mother into a private room and discuss services and support for the mother, while a transgendered woman who had been serendipitously volunteering in the office that day was able to spend some time in the office talking to the child. Stacey said it was the perfect situation.

Several weeks later, Stacey saw the two together at an Our Center group function and they all looked much more adjusted and lighter.

She ran into the child in the office just recently with a big bow in her hair and a beautiful smile on her face. Stacey said it warmed her heart.

When I asked Stacey what her favorite program was at Our Center, she told me that it was probably the “We Are Family Movie and Game Night.” She loves when the LGBTQ parents get together and their children can see that they are not the only ones with LGBTQ parents. She told me that she, too, has a family which has been involved in the family events at Our Center.

If you have questions, please contact Ms. Stacey at the office. Her email is stacey@ourcenterreno.org.

Categories
Event LGBTQ Non-binary Our Center Place Transgender

Our Center LGBTQ(+!) Community-Based Programs

We are going to keep talking about Our Center, because there is so much that it does and provides for the LGBTQ community. They post daily on their Facebook page about all the programs and events they run 5 to 6 days a week.

Our Center has been in existence as an organization since 2009. Before they had a brick and mortar location, they were hosting programs for the LGBTQ community. Programs create the fellowship that make up the heart of the Our Center community.

Our Center’s primary focus for programming are youth, senior and transgender folks. After talking to Stacey Spain, the first and only person on the Our Center payroll and just hired in December 2021, I picked up that she also has a desire to really engage LGBTQ families in Northern Nevada.

Stacey also told me of her many plans to start health-based programs like HIV testing and clincs. She wants to bring some programs out into the community, like attending plays on the town. She wants to make sure to have programs that involve all groups, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

Our Center provides services and resources to homeless youth and others in need. They have a small food pantry and sleeping bags if needed. They also refer those in need to other social services in Northern Nevada.

Stacey handed me the list of events that are happening in March 2022. Strap in, because you are about to get the full-month social calendar.

First Tuesday of every month (March 1) 6-8pm – We Are Family Movie and Game Night for parents who are LGBTQ and their children

First Wednesday of every month (March 2) 6pm – Our Center Board Meeting (open to all)

Weekly on Wednesdays (March 2 and thereafter) —

  • 2-3pm – Senior coffee time
  • 2-4pm – Social services assistance
  • 6:30-7:30 – Alcoholics Anonymous meeting

First Thursday of every month (March 3) 6-7:30pm – Silver Dollar Court

Weekly on Thursdays (March 3 and thereafter) —

  • 5-6pm – Transgender Youth Support Group (call 775-600-4467 @Hillary or Sam for approval before attending)
  • 6-7:30 – Girl Scout Troop 258 – ages 5-18 (contact enterpeace72@yahoo.com to join group)

First Friday of every month (March 4) 7-9pm – Queer Karaoke

Weekly on Fridays (March 4 and thereafter) —

  • 2-4pm – Social services assistance
  • 7-8pm – Narcotics Anonymous meeting

Weekly on Saturdays (March 5 and thereafter) 10:15am-12:30pm – Womens’ Al-Anon

Sundays – Closed

Mondays – Our Center only open by appointment

Second Tuesday of every month (March 8) 6-7pm – Asexual support and fellowship group

Second and Fourth Tuesdays of every month (March 8 & 22) 6-7pm – Gay/Straight Alliance Consortium

Second Fridays (March 11) 3-5pm – Movie Night

Second and Fourth Saturdays of every month (March 12 & 26) 11am-1pm – Knitting Group

Third Tuesdays of every month (March 15) —

Third Wednesday of every month (March 16) 6-8pm – Northern Nevada Black Cultural Awareness Society Board Meeting

Third Thursdays of every month (March 17) 6-7:30pm – Transparenting – Parents/caregivers/supporters of transgender and gender variant youth

Friday, March 18 – Outing to Reno Little Theater to see “Bull in a China Shop”

Third Fridays of every month (March 18) —

  • 3-6pm – BINGO
  • 6-6:30 – Out and About Seniors Group

Monday, March 21, 6pm – Volunteer Meeting

Tuesday, March 22 —

  • 6-7:30pm – LGBTQ Veterans Peer Support (Nevada Department of Veterans)
  • 7-8pm – Gay Prom Planning

Fourth Thursday of every month (March 24) 6-7:30pm – PFLAG

My call to action today is to ask you to plan to attend at least one event this month to support and grow the Our Center community. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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LGBTQ Our Center Place

Reno’s Our Center

Welcome to Our Center. This will be the first in a series of posts about the Biggest Little LGBTQ Community Center in Reno, which has an active Facebook presence. My hope is that this blog will show me as a human person walking around and observing in the LGBTQ world of Reno, while Our Center is the hub from which most of my adventures will eventually connect. Our Center is the Kevin Bacon of the Reno LGBTQ scene.

Our Center is located at 1745 S. Wells in Reno.

The space is a walk-up storefront taking up about half of the building and approximately 3,000 square feet of space with a lot of nooks and crannies within. Parking is available on the street out front or in a lot on the south side of the building.

Upon walking in the door, you find yourself in the lobby where they kindly ask visitors to sign in via ipad.

To the left is a bulletin board that takes up a full nook and 1/3 of the storefront window. There you can find listings for events and groups within Our Center and in the community.

Small nook with bulletin boards and flyers attached.  One wall has cabinets and pamphlets.
Bulletin board. Taken by Erica Pionke.

To the right is the reception desk and LGBTQ merch displays. The racks have t-shirts, beer coozies, pride flags of all sorts, bumper stickers, rainbow jewelry, and other came-to-slay-bought-some-gay merch.

Debbie at the Our Center reception desk.

Walking back into the bowels of the Center, there is a very tight boardroom to the left.

Tight board room at Our Center with about 8 comfy boardroom chairs around a long conference table.
Board room. Taken by Erica Pionke.

As you keep walking back, you pass a small office, a small open work room and a tiny corner kitchen space.

On the right is a brightly-colored open space with a work table and cabinets that have scissors, yarn (for the bi-monthly knitting group), markers, glue, and everything your 3rd grade art teacher could have supplied to you. A bulletin board showcases its artists.

Colorful art nook with table and four chairs and lots of art supplies.
ART room. Taken by Erica Pionke.

Beyond the art nook is a library nook packed floor to ceiling with LGBTQ literature for the reading and borrowing. There are a few comfy chairs in that nook. I kick myself for not taking a pic of it.

The back of the Our Center space opens up into a large conference space that wraps around into a colorful medium-sized annex. The large room has a coffee bar, large flat-screen television, piano, tables, chairs, and a comfy leather sitting area.

Conference room. Taken by Erica Pionke.

The colorful annex sports shelves of board games and another little work space and couches. The annex then leads around into a supply room which appears to lead back to the main hallway.

Back room with a person in a yellow cardigan at a small table with their laptop.  The picture shows shelves full of games and the walls are painted blue and bright pink.
Colorful annex to the conference room. Taken by Erica Pionke.

I may have missed a room or two. Like I said, there a lot of little nooks to hide out and work or relax and chit-chat. Subscribe to my blog at the bottom of this page to read more about Our Center in the next few weeks.

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Debbie LGBTQ Personal History

EP + DO

Before I go off running and tell you all about the Reno LGBTQ scene, I need to help you understand where I fit into the LGBTQ community. I am a cisgender female with a loving cisgender female partner named Debbie who I’d like to introduce you to today.

My last post talked about my coming out experience with my parents in the summer of 2010. This was right before I moved out to rural Wyoming (is there any other kind of Wyoming?) for 1.5 years.

While in Wyoming, a friend suggested we take a trip to Las Vegas for a youth sobriety conference. I had never been to Las Vegas, and it seemed like a good reason to go.

While at the conference, I went to a workshop for the LGBTQ community, which I had been craving desperately during my 15 months in Wyoming. This is where I met Debbie.

Debbie was on the panel of speakers. She was in her late 40s at the time, so she didn’t quite fit the young person demographic. She knew it and used this opportunity to try out her stand-up comedy routine. She had me hooked.

I grabbed her number after the workshop and asked her to meet me at the dance party that night. That was the last time I would talk to her until…

…I found out that I had obtained a job in Las Vegas. Since I knew no one else in Las Vegas, I called her. She told me that she would “show me around town.” She’s so confident.

After I arrived in Las Vegas in late May of 2012, we would meet up for coffee and she introduced me to her friends. Over time, we became good friends. She was always available to make me laugh or make me think.

We started dating after getting to know each other, and she has continued to make me laugh ever since. From Las Vegas, we moved to Arlington, Virginia, and then here to Reno in April of 2020. We’ve been together going on 10 years, through a total of five surgeries and one COVID-19 pandemic.

We are very different people. I like to run, hike, ski, and paddleboard. Debbie likes to people watch and chill in her kayak when I can get her on the water. I’m an introvert and Debbie needs people. We come from different backgrounds and even age groups. Thankfully, Debbie has this ability to connect with anyone, no matter their background or age group.

She’s constantly introducing me to her new friends, even with people whom she has just chatted up on a park bench while I was off running around. She’s kind with an authenticity and spark that make people immediately trust her. And she’s funny. Oh goodness. She can break tension in any room.

Did I mention that she’s a fantastic cook? Her street tacos are requested all over. Expect delicious enchiladas when you’re in the hospital or your family is having a difficult time.

She is the most generous person I have ever known.

I could go on and on and on about Debbie. Really. Mostly, I just want you, my reader, to know that I do not show up to this party alone.

And Debbie wants you to know that I’m taken. She also wants you to follow me on Twitter.

Categories
Coming Out Story LGBTQ

Erica’s Coming Out Story: The Parents

Photo by Arie Wubben on Unsplash

It was the June 26th of 2010 in Chicago. I took Belmont to the Kennedy Expressway south on my way to Jackson Park in my teal Chevy Cavalier. I don’t remember the meetup spot, but I remember the girl with a Jack Russell Terrier in a carrier on the back of her motorcycle. I followed her to the Dyke March and sought her out to meet her “casually.”

She was my first girlfriend. It didn’t last very long, but long enough to officially make my way out of the closet.

I was visiting with my parents in my childhood living room. They were sitting in one corner, my mom on the end of the couch and my dad in the rocking chair next to her. I sat in the other corner, in the swivel chair by the TV. We were talking about what I was going to do about my car that had just broken down.

There was a lull in the conversation and I thought, “Well, now is as good of a time as ever to tell them.”

“I need to tell you something.” My heart was pounding. “I’m dating a woman.”

Silence.

Then my mom said, “Well maybe your brother, Ben, can fix your car. Y’know, he used to work at the gas station.”

My mother is terribly hard of hearing. She had a cochlear implant in one ear and had 15% hearing in the other. She often misses discussions and has been known to have her own conversations with people who are trying to talk to her about something else. Once my friend asked where the garbage was and she responded that there were Cokes and Sprites in the basement fridge.

“Joan, your daughter just said she is dating a woman.”

“I know,” my mom responded. “I just thought maybe Ben might be able to help. I know she’s short on funds right now.”

I didn’t expect a celebration. I didn’t expect an explosion, either — my p’s are pretty hip people. But the complete lack of non-attention to the fact that I was dating a woman was surprisingly perfect.

It’s 12 years later and I live in Reno with my partner of almost 10 years. We just moved here and are exploring the city’s LGBTQ culture slowly. I hope to share that with you. Thank you for reading. Please subscribe to hear about all my LGBTQ adventures in Reno.