Tag Archives: lgbtqia

Keep Going

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

I researched a lot before I created this website.

There were common repetitive things that I kept stumbling upon that revolved around consistency, endurance, and don’t aim for perfection when posting.

Since going into hybrid mode with work, I haven’t been able to keep up with my original goals that I set to keep. So, I have to admit it may be time to adjust with how often I produce posts – at least for now

Instead of a couple of times a week, it may only be once a week that I can manage to write something to share with you all. Writing is my true passion, and it is what brings me joy. I won’t let responsibilities of growing older hinder the goals I have set out for this website, and myself.

The other thing is, my creative tank has also been closer to zero percent, but I think that has more to do with the grey skies of winter. I write this all in hopes that whoever reads this, if you’ve been feeling a similar sort of way – that you aren’t alone.

And I’ll leave you all with a song that can sum up how my feelings have been feeling lately:

What song have you had on repeat lately that’s been getting you through the days?

In the Midst of Chaos

By – Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

In the most chaotic of times you would think we as humans would take a minute to grow in self awareness of the happenings in the world that surrounds us. 

As the calendar keeps on creeping by I realize that it has almost been a year since the last time I functioned in the world without a mask, around my friends, and in a restaurant. 

Now that it’s been snowing for the past three days in DC, it’s really *snowballed* me in the face with how desperate we’ve been all trying to reach for normal…when there is no such thing as normal

Suddenly we are pressing on the gas pedal harder than ever before (and believe me, before we were still pressing it way too hard). Snow days used to be enjoyable and relaxing days at home – things we look forward to. Now it is much like how we’ve been living through this entire pandemic .. doing too much instead of taking a moment to just….be. 

In a world full of chaos (and a whole lot lacking in self-awareness of the going-ons around us…) I wish for you that you give yourself space to re-center. 

When the world is on overdrive to destination insanity – do yourself a favor and wait for the next bus. 

Finding the things that center you can be so vital to thriving in this life. Here are some examples of my own:

+Coffee (iced) – Iced black coffee soothes my soul, and yes it must be iced …even when it is snowing outside. *side note: there are times when my anxiety is far too high for the beverage I adore the most, so I have to switch to matcha tea*

+Naps – I hated naps as a kid. In daycare I would just lay there in the dark waiting for one of my parents to come pick me up. Now? I love them. I learned the hard way though that is is best to take short power naps and avoid napping for too long – the best reset button for the afternoon (or anytime) 

+Fresh air – It hasn’t always been easy to get myself to go outside, I won’t lie about that. When I do though? Sometimes I still regret it …but sometimes I also love it and take enjoyment in just being outside and smelling the fresh air.

+My favorite food – The one thing that can turn my day around is knowing I will be having pizza for dinner – no joke. Living in DC for four years though…I make my pizza at home mostly because well..I’m from NJ and I didn’t realize how good I had it until I no longer lived in the areas of NY, NJ, and Philly.

+Listening to music on vinyl – This is an experience of finding a comfortable center for me – going through my collection and trying to find the right record to play. Mostly I just lay and listen for a little bit – or I clean my apartment while it plays. 

+Cooking – This is a new one for me… sort of. I used to bake and I enjoyed doing that more than anything – especially baking for others. Now I cook significantly more than I ever have, and I realize how creating recipes and trying to cook different things is enjoyable for me (guess that’s another thing I got from my Chef of a Dad) 

+Writing Poetry – The creative in me needs to put words on paper when I am feeling almost any kind of emotion. Writing poetry is my way of dancing out my emotions – but on paper.

+Watching an old favorite TV show – Golden Girls anyone? Maybe some Living Single? Old sitcoms bring me so much joy and they are a great way, especially now, to just let ourselves laugh and not be consumed with so many thoughts. 

+Listening to voicemails I saved from my Mom Mom – My Mom-Mom was my rock. And I am extremely grateful that I had saved some of her voicemails before she passed a few years back. This year especially was one where I found myself going back and listening to them – mostly because I wanted so badly to just call her up, but couldn’t. 

There are many things out there other than those that I listed that have gotten me through this year. Some in a greater deal than others – but that’s the point…no matter how big or small… there are things we can turn to to center ourselves. 

…and just one final thought, as Margaret Atwood wrote in Handmaid’s Tale:
Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum = “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”

Waiting at the Bus Stop

By- Tray Taylor
(IG – allusiontoreality)

Is there any science behind January always feeling like 3 months within a month? I guess I could have researched before actually typing that sentence out…

Seriously though, it seems every January always feels so long in a short amount of time and then we blink and it is March. 

Whatever you are doing this week, may it be focused on taking care of yourself and staying safe. I live in DC and it is a bit surreal right now – I feel like I am inside a movie of The Purge. *I wrote this sentence a couple of weeks ago, just for clarification*

While the earth feels like an over shaken snow globe on fire, I have been trying to rethink back to times when I felt the most connected to music when I was younger. Trying my best to remember times when music sucked me in so deep that I felt extremely connected to what I was listening to.

All I could imagine was a younger me, waiting at a bus stop with my one chosen CD to listen to for the duration on my disc man. 

So yeah, that gives me the opportunity to introduce the musical choice of a younger me on a format that still exists but is rarely chosen over streaming. 

The Jackson 5 (The Best of Jackson 5)

I went through a phase when I was younger when all I wanted to listen to was “older” music. The moment I got my hands on the greatest hits of The Jackson 5 I was thrilled. There was a brief moment in my youth where this was the only CD I listened to. I used to watch the miniseries/movie on VH1 The Jacksons: An American Dream whenever it was on tv (yes, the one with Angela Bassett). The infatuation ran deeper than a greatest hits CD.

All American Rejects

This album triggers one of the most vivid memories I have of standing at the bus stop when it was absolutely freezing out – flurrying almost, and listening to All American Rejects through my discman. Going back and listening to this album now I am impressed with how well I know every song, but also how deeply I felt these lyrics at such a young age. I can’t even lie, I was obsessed with this band and this album. Here are a few favorites: My Paper Heart, Swing Swing *this was their most popular song at the time*, Time Stands Still, One More Sad Song, Why Worry, Happy Endings, The Last Song ….okay I think I just named the almost the entire album…

Dream Street

Most people have never heard of this boy band, but they were my …obsession. I was a member of the fan club, and I even had a Dream Street dedicated wall in my room (yes…this is true..). They were also one of my first concerts at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City with my best friend in the 6th grade and my Dad took us there (still grateful that he was willing to sit through this for me). Anyway, I know this album from beginning to end and I still remember the dance to “It Happens Every Time” but younger me had some embarrassment around my love for them in public. Whenever I would bring this CD to listen to on the way to school I would bring another CD case in my backpack so people didn’t know what it was that I was listening to. Unfortunately one of the members passed away this year from COVID – rest easy Chris Trousdale.

2GETHER

I think one of the funniest things about this band is the fact that they were supposed to be a joke manufactured by MTV. However, people (ahem – me) fell in love with 2GETHER after the movie aired. From the movie, to their albums, to the TV show – I was hooked. I even had my Dad listening to them in the car when I would get dropped off for basketball practice (back when I thought my future was the WNBA…pipe dreams). Anyway, does anyone else know their calculus? Do you further know that U + ME = US?

Taking Back Sunday (Tell All Your Friends)

The moment I got this album I was in awe. An instant flashback to middle school, I remember holding this beautiful teal jewel case album in my hand – I was infatuated. My best friend and I in middle school would listen to this CD on repeat and knew almost every song by heart. I wore this album out going to and from school – plus away games for sports (because that was a thing). And of course as an adult, when I eyed this album on vinyl there was no question on whether or not I had to add it to my collection.

Damian Marley (Welcome to Jamrock)

Growing up I had a deep appreciation for the Marley family – it started with Bob though, of course. Then, as I always tend to do, I did a deep dive within to discover the other musicians in the Marley family. I was a big fan of many of his children- Damian and Stephen especially. I listened to Damian’s album on repeat all throughout high school. Side fact: my first concert in Philly was seeing Damian and Stephen on South Street (this was either in high school or right after I graduated…)

Saves The Day 

Would I be a true millennial from NJ if I wasn’t a fan of Saves The Day? I first got into them because my sister was a fan. Then somewhere along the way I became a bigger fan of the band and now still own almost every CD they have ever released (as well as vinyl records). There was like this section of bands that were emo/punk/pop and that was 100 percent my favorite genre in high school (see above: TBS). Their lyrics felt like poetry to me when I was in high school and I overplayed almost every album of theirs. A few favorite songs I’ll share if I had to narrow it down: At Your Funeral, Shoulder to the Wheel, You Vandal, As Your Ghost Takes Flight, This is Not an Exit, Sell My Old Clothes I’m Off to Heaven, Hold, Jessie & My Whetstone, The Way His Collar Falls, Take Our Cars Now!, Z, O….. okay that list was longer than expected & that was me cutting it short.

….mixed CDs

It doesn’t feel right to write a piece about music of my youth without pointing out how much mixed CDs ruled my younger years. I still have stacks of CD books in the closet of my apartment somewhere…but who owns a CD player anymore? (says the person who owns a record player….)

So…what were you listening to when you were younger? Was it on a cassette player, walkman, discman, stereo sound system, boombox, record player, 8-track player…?

To the Books that Shaped Me

By- Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontorealuty

My yearning to be a writer stems from my love of storytelling and the stack of books I used to carry around with me that was always far too big for lil me to even carry down the stairs.  

Here’s the thing though – before I could even read I would sit on the couch with that stack of books and make up a story within the book because I didn’t know what the sentences actually said.

Lately I’ve been thinking back to that memory a lot, trying to remember how passionate younger me was to tell a story. How it all started with a stack of books. 

There have been so many authors and books since then that have further shaped me into the writer I am today. 

So, yes …it’s time to take a trip down memory lane:

Perks of Being a Wallflower

I remember when I first got my hands on this book in middle school. I was what one would classify as an avid reader when I was younger. That definitely faded once I got into my teenage years (except I always read every book my teachers assigned..I still don’t know how people got away with not doing that…). However, I remember not being able to put this book down. The way it is written through letters and how relatable (at least to me, Charlie seemed to be). Filled with quotes that I adore to this day like, “Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it’s no excuse.” This is the book that made me fall back in love with reading all over again – this is the kind of book that reminded me why I had always dreamed of being a writer.

Virginia Woolf

In my undergrad years I went to Millersville University and majored in English Lit. The most memorable and enjoyable professor I had was Dr. Steven Max Miller (who unfortunately recently passed away before I could ever tell him this). I loved taking his classes because he was an interesting man who knew his sh*t. Why was he so different? I’ve had many (not all) English teachers and professors in the past that have acted “above it all” or never really encouraged me to be a writer or reader. Dr. Steven Miller was different – he introduced me to the great works of Virginia Woolf. One of the first of her works that we read was The Waves and I fell in love. After that semester I felt the need to learn more about Virginia Woolf and read everything she ever wrote. A personal favorite of mine is A Room of One’s Own and of course, The Waves

JD Salinger

No…this isn’t JD Salinger…this is me dressed up as Holden Caulfield for Halloween

Yes, I’ll admit I have a thing for JD Salinger and own almost every piece of literature he has ever written. I’ve once even dressed up as Holden Caulfield for a Halloween party (pictured above). The first time I read Catcher in the Rye I couldn’t get through the first page, it bored me to death. Then, I revisited the book (a more angsty time in my life..because yes Holden is angsty that’s why I adored him) and I fell in love with every word. It was around the time that I came out of the closet, so I somehow was seeing myself through the lens of Holden. The years following I filled my bookshelves with more literature by Salinger and adored his creation of the Glass family. I romanticized JD Salinger and his words – longing to one day write words as relatable to readers as he had written. Knowing what I know now, yes I recognize Salinger wasn’t the greatest human and Holden is misogynistic and problematic. My favorite conversation I’ve ever had was with a former student I used to coach as I was warming her up for a field hockey game and how she called me out on my love for Catcher in the Rye and JD Salinger. She cringed for me, but I can’t help it – I still have to admit his works have influenced me as both a reader and writer. 

Rubyfruit Jungle

I devoured this book the first time I read it and I’ve read it multiple times since then. There are parts of this book that felt relatable, but the true glittery lining for me when reading Rubyfruit Jungle was it was the first book I remember with LGBTQIA+ main characters in it. After having just come out recently, this book was validating. 

Bossypants

There are two celebrities that I I absolutely adore – the first is Christine Baranski and the second is Tina f**king Fey. When she was on SNL (AHEM the first woman to be THE headwriter) – I sometimes only watched just to see her on Weekend Update (because she was rarely in skits – all of her work was mostly behind the scenes as a writer.) Then she left and started 30 Rock, which I didn’t get into until the second or third season (which then I became obsessed with and still today quote that show like some people will know what I mean when I say BLERGH!) Anyway, when she came out with this book I read it in on the couch in just three hours – I never got up to eat or go to the bathroom. I was that entranced and I remember laughing out loud page after page – and I can count on one hand the amount of times a book has made me do that (Cry? Yes…but laugh? RARELY). If you’ve never read her book, I recommend it. I’ve had the privilege of meeting her twice and I can only one day hope I can thank her again someday for inspiring me to pursue my dreams of being a writer …and that she won’t remember me as the frazzled waitress that left her own tables to go into another restaurant to get a family photo with Tina Fey (see below). 

Chuck Klosterman

This is one of the MANY Chuck Klosterman books I own..this just so happens to be the first one I read

There was a time when my dream was to be a rock journalist and reading Chuck Klosterman books fueled that desire. I was hooked on almost every word he used to write, and still own all of his books. I’m not his usual fan-base, I recognize his books can be seen as a bit “bro-ish”. However, I still think it’s important to highlight the impact his books had on me wanting to be a writer. If it wasn’t for Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs I may have given up on my dreams (as silly as that sentence sounds). 

David Levithan

One of my favorites…I recommend more in the paragraph below

If you’ve never read anything by David Levithan, please go buy one of his books or check out a title of his at your local library. Here are some that I recommend: Boy Meets Boy, Two Boys Kissing, The Realm of Possibility, and The Lover’s Dictionary. My first librarian job was when I stumbled upon David Levithan books. It was that same feeling warm and fuzzy feeling I remembered getting when I first read Perks of Being a Wallflower. Except the difference was, I could relate to the main characters directly because they too identified within the LGBTQIA+ community. Discovering David Levithan was refueling my fire of falling in love with wanting to write my first book, and wishing I had his books to read as a teen instead of only having access to books with straight characters. 

Sara Farizan

At the time I first read Sara Farizan I hadn’t read any recently published books that had Queer women as the main focus. So, discovering both Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel and If You Could Be Mine rocked me with all the gay feelings. Please if you’ve never read these books, I highly recommend checking one or both of them out. I should note I discovered her books before there were so many new LGBTQIA+ titles coming out every month or so (which is a beautiful thing!) It just feels important to note this, because for me discovering these books felt like a special moment for me as a reader, writer, and Queer. 

Adam Silvera

Adam is a writer that I imagine throws his entire being and emotion into his words – you can feel that when you read his work. History is All You Left Me was the first book I read of his, and it was perfect timing because my first breakup since coming out had just happened. When you finish his stories you really do wish you were best friends with him at the end. That kind of impact is what I wish I will one day accomplish as a writer, and that alone should encourage you to read some of Adam’s work. 

There are other book titles and authors that I could highlight that have influenced me over the years – but who would want to read a post THAT long?…

Music is Meditation

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Poetry has always felt like meditation in a way, from my perspective. Words that paint a landscape for us if only just for a few stanzas. 

When I write my poetry I feel like I am in a zone of only my thoughts and for those moments – I am at total peace. 

I have tried to bring meditation into my everyday life for the past few years (recommendation from my therapist, and just something I thought would be better for my mental well being). I started to keep track of the days I meditated back in December, then a good friend invited me to do a meditation challenge for 15 days. *which I was doing well with, until the weekend hit* 

Music does something similar – it gives us different perspectives into different worlds if only for a few minutes in a song. 

I’ve been trying to think of the songs I turn on when I need to just get lost in the music and be present in reflection. These were some of the songs that came to mind right away for myself:

World Spins Madly On – The Weepies

I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with this song, but I think it happens every single time I listen to it. As I type this and have this song playing in the background – I am reminded how similar poetry and music are. Lyrics are poetry, and I think this song is a testament to that. “And the world spins madly on…” 

Baby Can I Hold You – Tracy Chapman


Oh Tracy Chapman, how I could listen to her sing for hours upon hours of any day of the week. When I need to really “feel” I will put on certain songs of Tracy’s. “Baby Can I Hold You” is the song I like to play when I just want to get lost in her voice and her lyrics. A perfect three minute meditation of Tracy Chapman.

Brace feat. Rainsford – Twin Shadow

A couple of years ago I used to listen to this song on repeat on my way to work whenever I was trying to channel myself into a good headspace. I went through a solid few months where I only listened to Twin Shadow. If you’ve never listened to them, I highly recommend adding them to your playlist. I like to seek songs that remind me I am not alone in the way I am feeling, and Twin Shadow tends to have those lyrics I need in the right moments.

Tilted – Christine and the Queens

This is a song I had on repeat for awhile after discovering it on the season finale of Better Things (have you seen this show? Go watch it. Pamela Adlon is a treasure). Mostly because that scene brought me so much joy, but also the lyrics (that are originally in French) are like damn yes a message we all need 100 percent.

Ship to Wreck – Florence and the Machine

I didn’t fully appreciate Florence and the Machine until I saw them live a couple of years ago with a few good friends. It was a special night that I really needed at the time, and I’ll say they were the right group of friends to experience this concert with. I fell in love with this song that night. Also grew a greater appreciation for Florence as an artist. This song pulls me into myself for a couple of minutes and allows me to sing out loud in meditation to cleanse my soul & feel my heart beat a little louder.

Runaway Goliath – Mantaraybryn

No clue how I found this song, I assume it was from a Spotify rabbithole that I tend to go down. For a whole year I had this song on repeat (because my self esteem needed it bad). I loved getting lost in this song- and I still appreciate getting lost in it every now and again. The beauty of music is the power it has of reminding us of our worth or it can just give us hope that darkness isn’t meant to be permanent.

A Better Son/Daughter – Rilo Kiley

Jenny Lewis is everything and Rilo Kiley is a musical gift. There are many Rilo Kiley songs that I like to play, so it’s difficult to choose just one. This is a song that, if you aren’t a huge fan, many people don’t know. I think my favorite part is hearing the emotion of Jenny Lewis in the song, how it breaks from her speaking in the beginning and then her emotion continues to build throughout the song. And you can feel it – in the lyrics and her voice.

I Got a Name – Jim Croce

My favorite artist to listen to on vinyl is Jim Croce. I love almost every single one of his songs and know them all by heart. “I Got a Name” always brings me back to my college years and listening to this record in my old apartment when I didn’t know what the future held (I mean, do I know now? No..but you get what I mean). I’ve always been a dreamer, and I think this song sums it up for me….”Like the fool I am, and I’ll always be/I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream/ They can change their minds, but they can’t change me.”

Do you have any of those kinds of songs that you find putting on in time when you need to recenter?

To Do List: You

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Things I have realized about myself in the past several months since the lockdown of March 2020: 

  • I love lists (and they help keep me sane)
  • My anxiety has increased with age (or I always had anxiety & just never had the language…but it most definitely has still increased with age either way)
  • I am happier when I am reading (since I have started to pick up reading more and binge tv less I have noticed I feel more grounded) 
  • Stretching is a necessity for a person like me (who has severe herniated and bulging discs) 
  • Listening to music increases my productivity and brings me joy
  • I don’t need to completely cut off coffee (I love it too much – there is a thing of balance between coffee & tea) 
  • Creating new recipes & cooking is a way to show my love for others and gets my creative juices flowing in the kitchen (grateful that I have been able to cook for not just myself, but my partner over this time in quarantine..) 
  • Above all else – writing makes me feel whole

I’m sure the list could go on and on (see above, cause ya know…I love lists). The point is though, I’m not sure I fall amongst those that have “accomplished so much over this time” but I know I have learned a lot about myself. I’m sure you all have too, if you take some time to reflect. Sometimes the tiniest of things are actually rewards, just depends on your point of view. 

The world is still in chaos, whether we are choosing to be aware of that or not. It just is, and more than likely will be for a bit. 

In knowing that, the most important question is – how are you taking care of you?

Remember the flight attendant reminds us (remember flights? Airplanes?…those things in the sky?) before trying to save others we must put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. 

If you set goals for yourself in the age old “New Year, New Me” mindset – good for you. If you didn’t, eh no worries – I didn’t either. One thing I will propose you do after you finish reading this post is: think of one thing you promise to do that will be taking care of you this year – one thing that will leave you feeling happier, more loved, healthier, or better taken care of. 

What’s that one thing?

And I’ll leave you with a line from one of my favorite poets: 

“You are the best thing that has ever happened to you”
– Andrea Gibson, ‘Boomerang Valentine’

When I Thought I Was Punk

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Sometimes our younger years feel so long ago, and other times they feel a “blink of an eye” away.

A particular song did that for me this past week, and then I, of course,found myself going down a rabbit hole of old songs that I associate with that period of my life. 

In middle school and high school I listened to a lot of “punk” or “skaterboy”  or “Tony Hawk video game” music. However you want to classify it. It was a reflection of the company I kept and the town in which I grew up in. 

Anything Volcom I wanted to own and every Tony Hawk game I needed to have. Some of my favorite past times were riding my bike over the bridge to the beach to meet up with friends in Cape May to hang out all day or just cruise around the neighborhood on my skateboard. 

Let me just note, this was merely a part of who I was – I was also an athlete, a homebody, a reader, and a hippie loving child amongst many other things. I swear my vast music taste that spreads across genres & decades is a reflection of how I was able to become a chameleon to many different friend groups. 

Anyway, I somehow found myself listening to Pennywise – then I stumbled into Bad Religion, Millencolin, NOFX, and I just got lost in it all. Instantly transported to a time where my biggest worry was if I was going to be able to meet up with my friends over the weekend. 

I could spare you all the trip down memory lane and just say go listen to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack (which you should do anyway) – but instead I’ll highlight some of the classics that had me laughing at imagining 13 year old angsty me rocking out to the following songs. 

Yesterdays – Pennywise

As I was browsing in Spotify, I looked up an old band I used to love when I was in my middle school years. I haven’t listened to Pennywise in so long, but seeing the albums Full Circle and From the Ashes I was transported back to a younger, angstier time in my life. When all that mattered was playing Tony Hawk and longboarding to meet up with my neighborhood friends. Sometimes I wish my muscle memory for music was something I could apply to a few other things in my life that could use it. Anyway, this took me back to a fond time in my life where I had to listen to every track on an album because I was only allowed to take on CD to play in my Discman while riding the bus to school. So bada**. (Also listen to – Society)

Los Angeles is Burning – Bad Religion

Listening to this music again is making me feel like I am stuck in a Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack, and I don’t hate it. A true nostalgic moment for myself, interesting to listen to it as an adult. Realizing the truth of the song and meaning behind it – how sensationalistic the media is (said by bassist Jay Bentley). (Also listen to – You)

No Cigar – Millencolin

This was definitely one of my favorite songs from this music era in my life. As soon as I hit the play button I felt something ignite in me that just wanted to sing along and jam out. It also made me really miss the group of guy friends I had that influenced this music on me at the time. They all had big dreams of moving out West (which they all ended up following through with for the most part & chasing their dreams). Funny how music can pull you back into a certain time period of your life, or old friends. 

Timmy the Turtle – NOFX

Well, this is just for humor and pure appreciation for how catchy this song is. I remember I got this album the summer I was going into 8th grade as a birthday gift. That album cover is forever burned into my memory. 

Superman – Goldfinger

If there is one song that encompasses Tony Hawk Pro Skater it has to be Superman by Goldfinger. This is a song that always puts me in a good mood and I like to return to it from time to time ….All of a sudden I have an urge to watch the movie Brink. 

Seein’ Red – Unwritten Law

The movie Grind. *that’s it, that’s the story*

Die For Your Government – Anti-Flag

In a way, it cracks me up that 13 year old me was seeing these songs. Like, I lived in a split-level house in a small beachtown in New Jersey – who did I think I was? I loved this song so much though. I know younger me didn’t fully comprehend this song as I do now, but oh I would love to meet younger me to have a chat about their thoughts on this song. 

….and with that I wish you a Happy New Year

A Friend of Dorothy

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

I’m fascinated by all of the code names people used to use to communicate that they belonged to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Lately I’ve wanted to know more about the history of the Queer community, so I’ve been seeking out a lot of literature that can help me to understand how far the community I belong to has come.

I had never heard the phrase, “A Friend of Dorothy” until recently – but as soon as I did a let out a laugh. Then I tried to comprehend how terrifying it must have been back then to have to use coded language to connect to others.

For all the times I have fantasized to want to grow up in a different time, I am grateful that I live in the here and now (even in the pandemic times of 2020). I could not imagine not being able to live my truth out loud, or never having the chance to meet my chosen family out in the open. *note for those not in the LGBTQIA+ community: I do experience hatred on a regular basis, and sometimes exist in fear of living so outwardly. I think that’s important for folks to know.*

One of my favorite things about myself is my Queerness – I am a friend of Dorothy, just like the other Queers before me.

The phrase left me curious to go through some standout LGBTQIA+ musicians from the past. Some I have listened to before, and some recently discovered (I suppose nowadays it would be a friend of Beyonce, Cher, Whitney or Britney….or still Dorothy because, she’s still relevant).

You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester

This is actually one of my favorite songs to play when I’m in a dancing mood or need to pump myself up. I imagine if I was alive when Sylvester first came about in the late 70s and 80s I would’ve been a huge fan. For some reason I picture myself walking into a Gay bar on a weekend in the Castro just to see Sylvester perform. Queer history really had some fabulous figures within it.

Galileo – Indigo Girls

You may be thinking since I grew up in the nineties I listened to the Indigo Girls – but I never did. The funny thing is I grew up on a lot of different music, but never remember listening to the Indigo Girls. I know they are recognized as the very gay band of the nineties (Lilith Fair and all…). When I got into the Indigo Girls it was actually around the time I came out (stereotype, I know) and I started to watch the series the L Word (…the stereotype keeps doubling). This is one of my favorite songs by them, and I of course will always appreciate “Closer to Fine” because it is the first song I heard of theirs (and yes it was the scene from the L word when they are all in the van…).

Million Dollar Bill (Frankie Knuckles Radio Mix) – Whitney Houston

Frankie Knuckles…this was a fun discovery of mine – I had never heard of Frankie before, but there’s a lot of information out there about him. They referred to him as “The Godfather of House Music” and he was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1996. Of course after listening to a few songs this song stuck out to me because, Whitney.

When the Party’s Over – Janis Ian

How funny it is that it always seems that those within the LGBTQIA+ community tend to gravitate towards one another without realization. Like in elementary and middle school – how many of my good friends from then are now living life happily out of the closet (as if I had my own gaggle of gays back then, without any of us realizing…). Anyway, I consider the same with music. I remember listening to Janis Ian after getting into collecting vinyl as a teenager and feeling drawn to her music in a very deep way. Funny to think years later I’d be writing this piece about LGBTQIA+ musicians within history and reminiscing of the first time I listened to Janis Ian feeling connected, and yet still not knowing myself.

Karma Chameleon – Culture Club

When MTV and VH1 played music videos once upon a time I used to be glued to the TV when this song came on. I was entranced by Boy George and “Karma Chameleon”. Now this song makes me long to go back to times when dancing in the streets for Pride or Outfest or in Queer bars was once a thing (pre-2020).

Watch Me – Labi Siffre

At first I thought I had never heard of Labi before, and was excited to discover his music. Then I started to listen to a few of his tracks and was instantly like “hey..wait a minute…” Eminem and Kanye have both sampled his tracks for their songs – as I am sure many others have as well. Once again, remember how I mentioned the incredible coincidences where LGBTQIA+ people are somehow drawn to each other without realizing? Labi’s story is intriguing and his music is soul soothing. Important to note he has been out- openly gay throughout his career too.

City Girl – Joan Armatrading

The first time I listened to Joan Armatrading was just last week. I was trying to find more artists that had a similar sound to Joni Mitchell, and Spotify led me to Joan Armatrading. This was one of the first songs that pulled me in. Her voice reminds me of Tracy Chapman with the feel of Joni Mitchell. When I looked her up I realized she was also a part of the community (which instantly makes me appreciate an artist or frankly anyone… a little bit more). I’ve been pretty hooked on her music ever since, and this album particularly.

Tutti Frutti – Little Richard

For no reason for which I can remember I listened to Little Richard a lot as a kid. I loved his music and he was just so fabulous – almost hard to resist. Sadly I think my appreciation for him took a bit of a backseat in my life up until his recent passing. I began to revisit his music more and learn more about his history with being underappreciated within the industry.

Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

One of my favorite songs when I was younger has held true into adulthood. As an adult I feel I have related to this song in different phases in my life and somehow the same words in a song have had different significant impacts to various stages in my life. I love Tracy Chapman and I could listen to her all day long.

Main Event – RuPaul

The Brady Bunch movie was the first time I saw RuPaul on screen and I was mesmerized. That scene stuck with me for years (the one at the pool with Jan). Then Rupaul’s Drag Race was a thing, and I fell in love with the Queens of season 2 and so many seasons later – it’s still my favorite. This album is my favorite of Rupaul’s and the world outside of the LGBTQIA+ community needs to know more than just “Supermodel” and “Covergirl” exist.

References and Further Reading:

How the LGBTQIA+ Community Has Influenced Music

Pitchfork

Rolling Stone

LGBTQ Music Icons

Tis the Season for Movies

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

What is supposed to be one of the most joyous times of the year, is also somehow the most stressful time as well (and occasionally the most depressing). 

I’m no stranger to spending a Christmas or two by myself – and frankly sometimes those have been the most festive ones. Holiday movies are a way of immersing myself with the spirit of the season. 

So, in the spirit of undeniable joy – I’d like to share a few of the movies that shaped me (yes- Christmas movies can have more of an influence on a person than you may know….just read to find out). 

A Diva’s Christmas Carol 

This movie aired on VH1 on December 13, 2000 – I was a ripe 10 years of age and instantly smitten by everything that is Vanessa Williams. Anytime and everytime that movie was scheduled to play on TV, I needed to be in front of the television. The inner gay-by in me was floored by the elegance and fierceness of Ms. Williams. Overall though, it was definitely the soundtrack that kept me coming back each time. As I type this I can hear “Heartquake” play over and over in my head. You want to talk about a campy Christmas movie? This is it. 

It’s a Wonderful Life

Hands down my all time favorite and an absolute classic. I remember the first time I saw this in high school at a friend’s house and how resistant I was because it was in black & white (teenagers, amirite?). By the end however, George Bailey had won me over and I was doing my best “Merry Christmas Bedford Falls” and “Clarence!” impressions until it annoyed my sisters to no end. This movie has a message that is one I think a lot of us need to be reminded of – appreciating the life we are living without regretting the journey. 

Polar Express

Top three songs: “Believe,” “Hot Chocolate,” and “When Christmas Comes to Town.” The movie didn’t come out until I was a teen, but it was my best friend’s absolute favorite and he listened to the music all of the time. It was kind of hard to escape and in the end became one of my favorites. For me, the movie has the feeling of what Christmas represents – that yearning to still want to hold on to the magic of the holiday.

The Santa Clause (2 to be specific)

You’re probably thinking, “wait…why the sequel? Why not the original?” There’s a reason The Santa Clause 2 is special to me, because of the impact it had on me accepting my Queer identity. Flashback to December 2011: Drunk off tequila at my ex-boyfriend’s house off-campus and all I wanted to watch was this movie *I had seen the movie before, but I was suddenly obsessed with watching it whenever I’d hang out with him* There was a moment in the movie when Elizabeth Mitchell plops down on her couch (in the cutest possible way) right before Tim Allen is about to explain to her he is Santa Claus.

I suddenly realized something about myself in that moment that I felt like I had been suppressing for over two decades of my life – because I thought I only could have one choice. On the screen, I realized I loved this movie because I have a crush on this actress and maybe it was the tequila – but does this mean I’m gay? It was a lot to process: I was drunk, I was at my ex boyfriend’s house, and I was having this inner monologue. So what do I do? I went outside after it had just snowed, sat on his front step and looked above my head to a porch decorated in Christmas lights, and I just cried. Then, I called my best friend (all while still sitting on this front porch). I remember him answering and me saying, “Joey, I think I’m gay” and his only response was, “WHAT! My two best friends are having life changing moments tonight. How is this happening, what is my life. Wait where are you?” Then I of course told him where I was and I’m sure he said “Omg Traci!” Our conversation lasted a bit longer, and then I remember trying to gather myself before going back upstairs to finish the movie (I’m pretty sure I wandered back to my place after that). This movie was my segway into accepting myself, yes – but I’m not guaranteeing it’ll do the same for you….it’s just a funny story about a cheesy Christmas movie that in a significant way, changed my life. 

The Grinch

The best part of this movie is Martha May Whovier and her iconic line “Betty! Hiiiii!” (yes the role is played by Christine Baranski.) However, the reason I really love this movie is because of my fabulous friend Jeremy. I’m not sure why or how the tradition started, but every Christmas Eve he will send me the scene of Martha May and it is a highlight of my holiday season every single year. This movie for me is about friendships and traditions…and it’s not even necessarily about the movie. Also, sidenote: The Grinch is clearly a Gay icon that has a bad wrap. 

Recipe for a Perfect Christmas

This is actually a Lifetime movie, but I of course own it on DVD. A heartfelt Christmas movie that has quite a few familiar faces (Christine Baranski…is anyone sensing a trend here?). I got pulled in because of Baranski, but I stayed for the food critic trying to rise to the top by also saving the chef who doesn’t want his restaurant to close all while repairing a mother/daughter relationship throughout. Take it or leave it – highly recommended for the Lifetime movie lovers in your life. 

This Christmas

Okay, so I actually watch this movie all year around and here is why: it gives me that comforting feeling that only certain movies can bring. The family dynamics are believable because they feel real – not “Hallmark” like. There are also so many big names in this movie it is hard not to adore. A mixture of humor, drama, and feel-goodness – if you haven’t seen this movie yet, add it to your list for today or tomorrow. 

The Family Stone

Another holiday movie that I could watch at any time of the year when I need a sense of comfort. I think there’s something about how real the family dynamic feels, or the comical bits of SJP being the butt of every joke as the uptight girlfriend. Any movie with Diane Keaton tends to win me over, but regardless this is a must watch for me every holiday season. Watch it, but I warn in the end it ends up being a tear inducing one. 

Honorable mentions:
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Happiest Season
The Preacher’s Wife
Home Alone 1 and 2
Elf
Jack Frost
A Bad Mom’s Christmas (because, Baranski)
All of the Claymations

What are some movies you’ll be watching? Do you have holiday favorites that weren’t on the list (and please don’t say A Christmas Story…)? Share below in the comments!

Holiday Music to My Ears

By Tray Taylor
Instagram: @allusiontoreality

Through the years I’ve realized there are three kinds of people out there: 

  1. Ones that love Christmas music and will start playing it as soon as they possibly can.
  2. Ones that tolerate it, but only when (and I mean ONLY when) Christmas is a few days away.
  3. Ones that cringe at the sound of it. 

So where do I fit? I fall into the let me listen to Christmas music whenever I need a lift in spirits, and that definitely starts some time in November. 

But don’t worry 2’s and 3’s – I usually keep this to myself through headphones or when I’m in a car driving solo. I won’t subject others to it until, at least, December. 

My favorite thing growing up was playing Christmas records on our huge stereo (that had a radio, cassette player, record player, and cd player). We had a solid collection of Christmas with The California Raisins, Chipmunks Christmas, New Kids on The Block, and I’m sure a few other classics. 

The ones I still own: two throwback vinyl records and one new…all Christmas

Then the 90’s and 2000’s brought us a few classics like: 

+Mariah Carey (ahem the Queen of Christmas) – Her original Christmas album is the stand out above them all. I remember being young and trying to make up dance routines (by myself) with a single candy cane – as if I was in one of her music videos for “All I Want For Christmas is You”. Fast forward for a second to current time, have you seen her special that includes a festive number with Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande? If not, go watch it…now!

+Snowed In by Hanson (things that feel gay, but aren’t gay) – I remember walking in the mall past an FYE (remember those?) and seeing this beautiful album cover. My obsession with this band was so deep, and this album fulfilled all of Christmas music AND Hanson needs (…still does).

+Whitney Houston – She’s a woman that gave us lots of holiday content in these decades – with her ‘One Wish: The Holiday album’ and her role in The Preacher’s Wife.

+*Nsync’s Christmas album (did it even have a name?) – Apparently this album was entitled ‘Home for Christmas’ – who knew? This album is very nineties, but also still amazing from start to finish even in 2020. And that music video for “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” yes…please…on repeat.

+Britney Spears – let us not forget “My Only Wish (This Year)” because without Britney Spears what were the 2000s?

+TLC – I don’t know about you, but TLC encompasses everything 90s. “Sleigh Ride” is a necessity to listen to and have on every Christmas playlist. Plus, that video will surely send you back to more cheerful times than the current.

+Hilary Duff – before there was Miley Cyrus on Disney Chanel there was Hilary Duff. I just rediscovered “Down on Santa Clause Lane” when trying to create my latest holiday playlist. And I listened to it about five times on repeat. This song reminds me of the abundance of cheer Christmas music can bring.

+Vanessa Williams (okay but have you EVER seen A Diva’s Christmas Carol? *more on this later in an upcoming post if you haven’t*) – Little gayby me loved Vanessa Williams – so much to the point I can’t explain why entirely. The early 00’s gave us the pleasure from VH1 of dropping a full soundtrack of Vanessa William holiday songs via the movie A Diva’s Christmas Carol. I watched that movie any chance I got, to the point that it irritated everybody else in the house because it was on so much.

+Destiny’s Child – Oh the “8 Days of Christmas” how representative of the times. The music video for this song is so festive and will fill you up with nostalgia. One of the greatest female groups in musical history provided us this song, so if it’s not on your playlist – is your holiday music intake even complete?

I could go on, believe me – especially with all the new music that has come out over the past couple of decades. Instead, I’ll just share my newly created playlist, along with one filled with more of the “classics”. 

Happy Holigays (I needed a more upbeat Christmas playlist, and for it to be super gay)

‘Tis the season (I created this back in 2013, and have been adding on ever since – note: does contain some repeats from Happy Holigays)

So, where do you fall on the holiday music spectrum- are you a 1,2, or 3? Share some of your favorite holiday songs with me below in the comments.