Sunday, June 12, 2016

Another Tragedy Occurs : #PrayForOrlando #PulseNightClub #GayPride










Going to a gay club is more than just a night out...it's a place where you can gather with friends, a place of community, camaraderie - a place where people can just have fun and be themselves no matter who they are. Whether you want to go out to the mall, a movie theatre, bible study at your church, a concert - you should feel safe in those places. For me, I love going out with my friends to the club and especially love it when I can take straight friends into that world and they have equal amount of fun as everyone else.
Being specifically targeted simply "for being gay" as motive of killing is a hate crime - and I remind myself once again of how I didn't want the world to know I was gay because I didn't think I could be safe. Hearing the whispers of being called a faggot behind my back, the snickers, or looks of judgement always made me self conscious . The killing of Matthew Shepherd and the bullying suicide of Lawrence King still haunts and affect me in asking why people hate and seek out to hurt others simply because "they are different". There are still times that we feel afraid to kiss our same sex partner in public, to hold hands, to simply show affection in the same way our straight counterparts can freely and lovingly do so. If you are judging and placing the blame on an extreme religion, take that mirror up and look at your own and see what messages are being sent to the LGBT community on how you view and support them. It may not be calling out to openly kill them, but what message does shaming, turning your back on them, ignoring them, or refusing to pass laws that protect tell the LGBT community send a message that "we don't want you"?

How ridiculous and sadly ironic that gay men cannot donate blood to the very population of those that they want to help in this tragedy???

With June being Pride month, more than ever, we have to look at our history, look at the struggles of the past, and see what fights are in store for us in the future that we have to overcome. I am PROUD of my community that comes together in times of crisis. I am PROUD of all the allies that I am best friends and the ones who I constantly add to my group of friends who love and support me and see me as a person (who just happens to be gay). I always tell you how much I love you and today makes no exception.

So instead of being that young man who was afraid to speak up because he hated the sound of his voice because it sounded "too gay", well I am now PROUD that I can use this gay voice in whatever way I can to help join the fight of equality, acceptance, and be as vocal for those who cannot speak up and speak out for the very fears that they themselves could one day be a target simply for trying to live their life of being open, proud, and their authentic selves. 

 ‪#‎LoveConquersHate‬ #PrayForOrlando #PulseNightClub #GayPride 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dear Next President: We need to provide safe spaces for LGBT youth across America #DearNextPresident

#DearNextPresident team is bringing you voices from Charleston ahead of South Carolina’s Democratic Primary on Saturday. 

The Charleston-based organization We Are Family provides support and leadership opportunities for LGBT youth and I had the privilege to lend my voice in this national campaign to address issues why it’s time for the next president to focus on protecting LGBT youth.

Check it out HERE


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Not All Wanderers Are Lost


I opened an early birthday present from my two best friends last night. One of the gifts was a kitchen cloth with an imprint of a nautica compass inscribed with the phrase "not all wanderers are lost", which coincidently I learned is a Lord of the Rings reference later on, however I think will be my mantra of the year, tying into the theme of what I am looking forward to, in the new stage of being 34.

My two birthdays that I always reflect on are engraved permanently as a tattoo on my arm and still hold much significance of what has shaped me.  

9° 27' 1 N, 78° 54' 43 W : the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama where, on an island resort on an archipelago surrounded by the Pacific Ocean with nothing but the stars and waves, I came out to myself and took the first steps of what it was like to be comfortable with who I am and how I would present myself to the rest of the world. This was my 16th birthday, my coming of age.

54° 48' 0" S , 68° 18' 0" W - just hiked up a glacier at the edge of the southern most place in Ushua, Argentina. Ice as blue as the ocean. Freezing but proud of the accomplishments I just did. And to top it off, a glass of champagne waiting for me on top to toast officially my legal drinking age and in my mind, an adult. This was a moment literally frozen in time memory- and would always remind me to push myself harder, constantly explore, and never take the opportunity for granted, because let's be real, I've been given so much.I've learned a lot this year (and in some cases, still learning). Stayed friends with those who have been with me thru it all, who can challenge and call me out on my BS, and made new friends with people who I've bonded with on different levels of how I view them as friends. (I think we can say we've had some epic, crazy times together and managed mischief in many ways).  I admit that I def had moments this year which I felt a bit lost or distracted, straying from the path that I have this preconceived notion that I must follow. It happens. I'm human. Sometimes my private life and public personae have a love/hate relationship balance.  I compare myself to the accomplishments of my peers, seeing what they have that I don't, what they have carved out for their lives while I may still be wandering mine.  However, there is no set answer in stone.  I'm still navigating the waters, exploring options and charting new territories. 

But what I know so far, is that I've been blessed with the desire in wanting to do more.  Whatever this power is, I want to do it for the greater good, to play towards my strengths. I've found a niche in my desire to help others, be passionate about causes that I hold dear to my heart and still try to balance an artistic, creative side.  I surround myself and find positive energy in the company I keep.  I love having my different parties as an opportunity for my friends to connect with each other just as much as it gives me time to say hello to them.  Someitimes it's only been a year since we were last in a room together, so it's nice that they look forward to it as well.

I'm excited to spread the same fun to my Charleston friends, to continue the celebration and meet other groups of my friends.

Birthdays 16 and 21 will always remind me of the journey that I've had, the lessons to learn, and the explorations that still await  I will never quite know where the final destination is but I'm I know that I can never be lost if I'm wandering around in the adventure of life.

Thank you for the well wishes and for being a part of my life

Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage Equality: It Is So Ordered

Prob not as coherent as my other writings but this is just off the cuff so bear with me:

One of the trial and tribulations of growing up gay is the fear of "no".  For me, one of these was knowing that once I come out to the world as gay, I would be hit with many walls.  People would hate me, reject me, religions would persecute me - there is this loneliness in the pursuit of trying to truly be yourself and not want to hide any longer.  I think my biggest sadness was the fact that I couldn't' do certain things with the label of being attached to "gay".  I really wanted to have joined the AirForce and continue in my father's footsteps but that was not going to happen with Don't Ask Don't Tell (because clearly, no one really would haven even had to have asked).  I thought I would never be able to be able to experience love like my classmates because "where else can I find someone" and then of course could never get married and eventually have a family. 

I've still been struggling finding my place in this world - but that is just the human experience of it all.  For the gay experience, it's the need of community, to be accepted, to be among peers who will love you for who you are - being completely comfortable in one's own skin.  I might have only felt ashamed for a few brief moments in the past but those feelings past and I remember how much more I have to offer as a human.

With the ending of June, "Gay Pride Month", coming to a close - it is so fitting with today's ruling.  I understand that there will be some whose "religion" has their own set of ideas, however, as I've had in conversations in the past, this moment is about equal rights that will surely trickle down once we get past this "marriage" issue.  It's the basic knowledge that we can't treat one set of people different than the other.

There is so much I want to say and don't have the words for it.  But what I'm really trying to get at, is that as Gay Pride Month comes to a close, I am proud to be a part of this community that works towards equality for all.  I am proud that America has taken a huge step towards equality. I really hope that with this acceptance by our government, the knowledge that we really are all created equal, is that the new generation grows up knowing that that we aren't bound by limitations....less judgement in the world, less fighting, less hate, less suicides - that no child and person feels different or out of place...

What I'm also so proud of, are the friends who I have met along the way who have loved me for who I am, without judgement, who see me as an equal person.  I love being in the company of like minded, open, loving people and allies, because without your love and support, I probably would feel lost and defeated - but your support has always meant the most to me in more ways than you ever have known.  That also goes along with the gay families I have made over the years too - the friendships and the passions we share -the activism in wanting to help our own be lifted up in the eyes of the community and not torn down.

In the past two weeks where emotions have been ups and downs, the common theme in all of this has been love.  Love will always win.  

My heart is happy.  And now we have more work to do to truly make this a better world.


Friday, June 19, 2015

A Love Letter to Charleston



The past 48hrs have been such a numbing experience in the fact that personally I’m dealing with two deaths that happened in the same night – and it may be weird to group a national tragedy that happens right in your own backyard and the passing of a pet into the same category – but its’ still death, and grief, and personal emotions.

Walking down King St. last night I kept looking around watching people.  I paid my respects at the AME Church and met up with friends who had just come from the service.  It’s a media circus with trucks all around, cameras lighting up the streets.  I saw so many familiar faces on the street and we all said hello and hugged – reminding me how small this city feels, but all in a good way.
I met up with my friend Jared, who happened to be out that evening and we had drinks at the local hipster-y bar where we had a conversation about how this was all affecting us and how we’ve both been in cities/places that we love and how they have somehow had major tragic events.  I was a sophomore in Boston when 9/11 broke.  A junior during that whole DC sniper craziness that swept the nation.  Once again my association with Boston during the Marathon bombing and now Charleston.  I told him how I thought it was weird that people were milling around the streets – couples taking selfies, out to dinner laughing, people out partying, and all I wanted to do was to shout at them saying “Don’t you know what just happened!??!”  But we sat and talked and processed things together in that moment which was very comforting.

Here’s what I’m starting to learn – that when things like this happen, when grief comes to you in whatever form – the best thing to do is just talk about it – surrounding yourself with people who you care about and feel connected again instead of retreating.  It reminds you of being part of something bigger, that community feeling.  And then somehow, eventually, you move on.  Actually I don’t like the term moving on because it has a connotation of putting things to the side or forgetting.  Rather, I like the term moving forward. 

So we continued thru the night - celebrating and toasting to life.  And while yes, there is still grief and processing time, at least we were able to not feel numb and start to live again with more appreciation, more love, more connection to humanity – because we shouldn’t let someone or something take that away from us.

It’s been comforting that friends from afar have been emailing/messaging/texting me through this process or sharing news stories that have been touching their hearts or communal outrage – the message of assurance that things will be okay and the faith they that we’ll bound together finding strength in rebuilding.  We learn. We take action. We make things better.

I will always remember the happiness that a pet brings to you, the comfort of the loud purr, a bedside companion, or the laughter they bring from being just a silly pet.

And I love this city because of the beauty that lays in the scenery, the spirit, the life, and the people.  That will never be taken away and it will only grow stronger in time.

RIP Bernie the Turkish Van (2006-2015)



We are sad to report the passing of Bernie "the Turkish Van" Feldman on Wednesday June 17 at 11:10pm EST.

Bernard, affectionately known as Bernie, was a rescue cat who found his way into the loving arms of Ms. Amanda Feldman. As a kitten, Bernie found comfort in food, meowing, and playing with his brother Stanley, and continued up until his untimely passing. He loved taking long naps, licking himself excessively, snoring, and purring loudly upon any contact touch from others. While curious about the outside world, he preferred the indoor life, content with people approaching him instead.

Bernie can only be described as a gentle soul who loved showing off in front of others. His regal elegance commanded the attention of anyone he encountered. His favourite time of day was 5am and 5pm, coincidentally the same time that his automatic feeder would go off - for no matter where he was in the house, he would always dart to his meal, often begging for 2nds and 3rds. Bernie became a poster child for big cats, as he learned to embrace his fattiness and was always comfortable in his own skin - eager to eat as much as anyone would feed him.

It was only until recently he finally learned his breed, the Turkish Vans, who among other things were known for their blue eye/brown eye combo, long white soft fur, and swimming abilities. Bernie never tested the waters on the swimming aspect so it cannot be confirmed if he would have been set as a rising star for Rio 2016 or not. His most recent discovery was licking the air excessively as his butt got scratched, a move he appreciated from anyone who would do so.

Recently, Bernie rose to internet fame as one of the‪#‎RealHouseCatsofCharleston‬ and took social media by storm - managing Twitter and Instagram. He had a loyal following of people who loved him, even a strong fan base from afar despite never having met him face to face.

He is survived by his immediate family Amanda, Stanley the Tuxedo Cat, and Topher. He would have been 9 years old this October.

Bernie lived a good, happy, and productive life surrounded by the things he loved most and was always around the people who loved him. He purred loudly until his last breath and left the world being petted to sleep, his most favourite feeling ever.

Gone too soon but never forgotten

"I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful". - The Fault in Our Stars

Bernie Feldman (2006-2015)

Friday, October 10, 2014

National Coming Out Day 2014!

My initial coming out story is kinda awkward. When I announced and actually uttered the word "I'm gay" to my parents after having had a Dawson's Creek moment of an emotional night earlier on when I ended up telling all my youth group friend, their response (which I blame for them being of an older generation) was a confused question of, "As in happy???"

A few of you may remember that I officially came out to myself right at 12:01am on my 16th birthday - where I took the bold steps to personally proclaim those words out loud.  Granted, I was alone on a remote archipelago island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (9* 57'N, 83*W) with no one around to announce it to, but to utter those words yourself is indeed the first major step of coming out. 

When one come out, the closet door doesn't just open - it floods you with every emotion known to human kind: from exhilaration of relief, to excitement, nervousness, and naturally fear. And while the world you once knew now becomes a whole new map to explore, there is this voice in your head that paralyzes you - fear of others discovering who you really are, fear of what others will think of you, and the fear worrying how others will accept you.

As humans, I think it's safe to say that we share a common desire of wanting to be a part of something - a need of belonging, especially part of a community.  We are not meant to be in total isolation.  Looking back, the desire to belong first meant that I had to accept myself - which I will admit to this day sometimes can still be a little bit of a struggle.  I didn't want to be labeled in a box. I didn't want being gay to simply define everything there was about me to others. I would rather be known for other qualities that I thought were much more appealing and news worthy.  I was focusing on the limitations of what I thought being gay had over me and I started to be ashamed of my own self worth- feared to embrace my true self - that I was the "other" that I had a pre-destined limitation in life.

It was only until recent times that I somehow turned all of these doubts and fears that I had into something that I just had to accept, embrace, and channel into something else. Perhaps it was when I first heard about the killing of Lawrence King in California that somehow woke me up from a bubble. Or perhaps the several stories about young gay youth and adults either being murdered for being who they are or committing suicide because they felt ashamed and alone for the fear of being themselves. And during my time in Los Angeles when Prop 8 took front and center stage, it dawned on me more that one cannot simply stay hidden in the background.

Coming out is being comfortable with yourself - to be willing to stand up for what you believe in yourself as well as standing up for others who don't have anyone else to help their voices be heard.  I find myself in fortunate positions where I have a platform to use for the greater good.  When I moved to this new town, I wanted to be a part of a community and I definitely got more than I ever thought.

My work with an organization like We Are Family which helps provide a safe space for LGBT teens and young adults is such an important experience that is always reaffirming my hope in this movement. In a few days we are organizing Spirit Day, which came about because of the effects of what bullying has on LGBT youth. I see the power of what this organization does - the empowerment that the youth display, their caring abilities to help their fellow peers, and the drive to really set forth in changing their communities and being productive leaders. This is an organization that is literally saving lives so that there can be no more Lawrence Kings and Tyler Clemetes of the world - where those who feel they have nowhere else to turn can actually find solace in being a part of a community that accepts them for who they are, where they can truly know that there is nothing about themselves that can limit the possibility of who they can be.

I think about how proud and lucky I am to have surrounded myself with such great friends - especially my straight allies who love and support me no matter what (for better and for worse, right?) and to be involved with organizations like We Are Family, Charleston Pride, and BEAU magazine that really set forth to make such a positive impact on the community around us.  
I know now that while being gay doesn't completely define who I am, but rather have learned to embrace that it is a part of my identity and I have no choice but celebrate it rather than hide away from it or feel like it needs to be kept on the sideline.  It has empowered me to want to do more for the community, has ignited the passion to get involved with causes I believe in, and has given me a unique perspective of life and compassion to want to help others. It's a strength that only comes in time and gets reaffirmed every time more LGBT rights continue to make progress in the world.

I take no shame or apologize for who I am.  I am a proud individual who is constantly finding communities built on love and respect.  I will tell the world every day that I will always fight for equality and strive to change hearts and minds with the positive actions that I do.

So to answer that question - YES, I am happy.

------------------------------------------------------------

To learn more about We Are Family or how you can donate towards LGBT Youth in Charleston, please visit: http://www.waf.org/




Sunday, July 20, 2014

Topher Larkin - Charlie Magazine "50 Most Progressives" Of Charleston!

I am so honoured to have been recently featured in Charleston's Charlie Magazine recently as of the Top "50 Most Progressive".  

In just shy under a year, I've somehow made a mark in my new home city and couldn't be more excited to use this as a platform to help launch some projects that I've been slowly developing.

I would go into detail but I'm planning a little anniversary reflection blog for the year (so stayed tuned for that), however, what I can say is that I really didn't know what to expect from this town and despite some recent heartbreaks, frustrations, and changes, I can truly say I've enjoyed every minute here.

My advice to my loyal fans?  Sounds cliche but take every opportunity that comes your way -whether you are scared or unsure of the outcome, try it out first and see where it takes you.  Always strive to be a person that you want others to want t be around because of who you really are, and most importantly, find a good source of friends that you can lean on for support.

Enjoy the article!




“Everything begins with dialogue,” says Topher Larkin, recent Charleston-transplant and an expert at making exciting things happen.

So don’t be shy: walk on up and say hello.

Not only is Topher a Prevention Outreach & Quality Management Coordinator at Lowcountry AIDS Services, he is also involved with World AIDS Day and We Are Family, a local group providing support and resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and straight ally youth.

“My goal is to get the community involved so we can help each other out,” he says. “We accomplish more when we work together, so I always like to see groups partner up.”

Topher was raised in Tampa, studied theater and communications in Boston and worked for many years in L.A.’s entertainment industry on public relations campaigns for big films like “Brokeback Mountain” and “Lost in Translation.”
He hopes to see arts organizations, businesses and the city working hand-in-hand to make Charleston a place where all people can live and love with acceptance. “If you can see how your cause relates to someone else’s goals, that’s where you begin,” he explains. “Look at the positive benefits of working together and engage each other in that conversation.”
When he’s not busy bringing people together, he can usually be found on the water – living in California introduced him to surfing and he’s an aspiring sailor – or rehearsing for a play in one of our local theaters.

“I was in RENT with Flowertown Players back in January and it reminded me how much I love theater,” he says. “There is so much great theater in Charleston and I can’t wait to discover all of it.”

In fact, he credits studying theater with much of his approach to life and work today.

“Theater taught me about the importance of collaborative efforts,” he says. “And it taught me this important life lesson: if you want something to happen, you have to jump in and make it happen.”

Words by: Jason Zwiker
Photography by: Mark Stetler





Topher Larkin - 50 Most Progressives of Charleston!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dreams

I had a dream Saturday night that Kim Jong Meow suddenly appeared on the foot of the bed and tried to nestle in the spot where my ankle and knees bend.  I was excited because I kept saying "you're here! You're alive" over and over until I realized it was a dream.  I could clearly hear the distinct loud purring noise he would make when you immediately touch him.  He let me pet him for a bit and he stared at me with his blue eyes and then when the moment had passed, he disappeared and I slipped back to consciousness.

I don't recall having any dreams that had ever involved the cats prior to this experience.  And it was one of those dreams where it's like how in the movies where you don't know if you are quite dreaming or not at first and then until you do realize its a dream and then you want to hold onto that moment and not wake up.

I would classify myself as a spiritual person - I'm still on the fence with the whole afterlife - heaven/hell metaphors of it all and not quite sure where animals would fit into all of this.

I choose to believe that Meow came down to visit to let me know that he's fine now - to let me know that he's okay where ever he is.  I hope he's having fun playing with an endless supply of kale stalks.  And if he ever decides to visit me again, I'll make sure to keep that spot of the bed available for him.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Remembering Kim Jong Meow (October 1, 2012 - July 3, 2014)



I am sad to report the passing of my beloved Kim Jong Meow Taylor Larkin from sudden kidney failure. It was reported that there was no suffering and he went peacefully. He is survived by his brother Purrba the Hutt and co-owners Carl and Topher and was loved by all. He will be buried in Reston, VA.

Topher Larkin's publicist has released the following statement:

"A seal point Siamese, Kim Jong Meow was adopted on January 2013 in Tampa Florida from Cat Lovers Inc along side with his adopted brother Purrba the Hutt.

Meow was never fond of car rides and would sing/howl along for hours to fill time before passing comfortably asleep. He had a fondness for napping in the most awkward spots on his owner's bodies and playing with leftover stalks of kale. He loved his kitty treats, playing with his spring toys, purring loudly at the touch of a finger, above all fitting and sitting in boxes at any given moment.

Affectionately Kim Jong Meow's full title was "Mega Ultra Elite Sweetness Supreme" but he was okay with just Meow. He was always proud to show off his hunting skills, whether it be a fly, a bird, leaf, or once again, a leftover kale stalk.

Unfortunately, I was not around at the time of passing since he was with Carl for the summer as we agreed we would share custody of the cats due to our consciously uncoupling. The diagnosis was quick and sudden and Carl stayed with him until the very end. The vet's made a paw print mold for us and Carl will give me Meow's collar when he returns in August. It was reported that the vet's said the only happiest part of their day was finding out his name was Kim Jong Meow."

I will miss the way he would try to meow - this little mixture of a squeak and stutter. I will miss how he would find the worst possible spot to curl up on you but you forgave him, because he really was the Mega Ultra Elite Sweetness Supreme. And I will miss those magical blue eyes of his that would stare up lovingly at you - eyes that could cheer you up after a hard day, encourage you to get out of bed and start the day with a positive outlook, help you drift off to a peaceful night sleep, and even help you heal after a painful breakup.

He will always be a memory of a happy, loving time.

"I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world." - The Fault in Our Stars



 
Kim Jong Meow Tribute Page