Everyone has one good story about American Idol. Here’s mine. 

Pretty much everyone who covered entertainment in the last 15 years has at least one good story about American Idol. Here’s mine. 

In 2009, though I’d recently left the staff of OUT, I was so obsessed with this obviously queer guy on Idol that I wrote maybe a dozen blog posts about Adam Lambert for the magazine’s culture blog I’d founded, Popnography.

Spoiler alert: He didn’t win. I almost forgot I was there in person for the finale; his loss to Kris Allen was both completely shocking and not at all surprising. I remember better how I stood outside a restaurant that night telling NPR’s Neda Ulaby why that season was still, on some level, a win for the community.

From the beginning of that Idol season, OUT also pursued an interview with him for the magazine—which finally happened more than four months later. (It was also the week before I got married. The music documentary show I’d left OUT to work on was about to premiere. I will never learn not to try to do everything at once.)

So we sat out on the balcony of the 19 Entertainment offices and talked about an hour. There was nothing I asked that he wasn’t seemingly eager to give his opinion on. That wasn’t really that surprising.

What had been surprising was the way his publicist pulled me aside before we started and cautioned against making the interview “too gay” or, he said, “you know, gay-gay.” It was as baffling then as it is now. I made note of that exchange when filing my story, and my editor wrote a rather angry letter in the issue about the whole mess.

Thousands (millions? it felt like millions) of Glamberts and basically every other professionally employed Idol blogger or commentator condemned OUT and said we were blaming Adam for not being gay enough and that we would probably ruin his career, etc., etc. A lot of angry open letters were written. (I also forgot about those, too, until I went poking through my gmail tonight to see if I could find the interview transcript.) Middle fingers were raised during live performances, pearl-clutching ensued. Time passed. Eventually the magazine and Adam kissed and made up and we all lived gaily ever after.

Here’s something I wrote that November of 2009, in response to all the back and forth:

I’ve seen such striking change in even the last two or three years of how comfortable industry gatekeepers and their clients are in handling such new territory. We’re witnessing a changing of the guard, and it’s bound to overlap a bit in the middle, creating these strange moments where we work with both proudly out stars and their reluctant handlers, sometimes at odds with each other even when they have the same ultimate goals. I’m sorry it happened like this, too. But I’m looking forward to Adam Lambert having a long career, and to him proving every single one of us wrong in one way or another.

On Saturday my wife and I saw one of the last nights of Adam’s stateside tour, which was hands down one of the best, most entertaining and well-staged concerts I’ve ever seen. I spent most of it just leaning over the balcony, staring, smiling, impressed, swept away.

Last year Adam made more money than any other Idol alum, period, beating Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson. That’s largely thanks to his long stint fronting Queen in a worldwide run, and if it means he gets to spend the rest of his career making exactly the music he wants and performing it exactly how he enjoys, I think we all win.

Anyway: if you’ve got that funny Idol nostalgia feeling, you can read my whole long, barely edited interview with Adam from the glory days of 2009 right here.

Troye Sivan’s Brave New World

Troye Sivan’s Brave New World | Out Magazine
Cover Story, May 2016

For Out’s annual Power Issue, I talked to @troyesivan about his dreamy debut album, his deeply uncool YouTube years, the never-ending fan feedback loop, and boys, boys, boys.

I also published a very long set of outtakes: Talking Boys with Troye Sivan for 10 Solid Minutes.

Sometimes an interview subject says they don’t want to talk about something and they really don’t want to talk about it. But sometimes they literally mean they don’t want to name names, but anything else is fair game. Troye was not interested in calling out any one suitor in particular, but he was more than happy to talk about relationships at length.

How ‘Jagged Little Pill’ Changed Everything

How ‘Jagged Little Pill’ Changed Everything & What Alanis Morissette Thinks About It Now | ETonline.com
June 11, 2015

I wrote about the album that changed everything for me and almost every other thirtysomething woman I know, on its 20th anniversary of being released—the same week I graduated from high school, suddenly armed with a soundtrack-slash-survival guide to being a girl in the world.

8 Things Bruce Jenner Said About the Price of Fame, From 1976 to Now 

8 Things Bruce Jenner Said About the Price of Fame, From 1976 to Now | ETonline.com
April 24, 2015

Most of my work at ET covering Caitlyn Jenner’s transition was as an editor, guiding and shaping language and story choices through months of public discussion up until Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer. But along the way I ended up reading and watching and obsessing over every piece of archival material I could find that charted Jenner’s incredibly long and complex relationship with the media. This story was the most tangible result of that research.

I also wrote about the impact of the Sawyer interview.

A brief, personal history of marriage on our fifth wedding anniversary

Why we didn’t wait for California, and how our home states finally caught up

February 1, 2008: Our first date.

June 16, 2008: California begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court rules the state ban unconstitutional. I’m on staff at OUT magazine but get loaned out to The Advocate to help edit the flood of news stories about weddings. I’m in the middle of work when my parents arrive for a long-planned visit to Los Angeles and meet Jessica for the first time. Everybody cries and points at the TV a lot.

October–November, 2008: We each consider asking the other to marry her, even though we’ve only been together about eight months, but (we later confess) while we are both sure This Is It, we’re also wary of rushing the best thing that’s ever happened to us just because of possible political outcomes.

November 4, 2008: Obama is elected president. Proposition 8 passes in California, once again limiting marriage. Everybody cries and points at the TV a lot.

February 1, 2009: On our one-year anniversary, I ask, “Do you wanna get married?” She says, “But — I have rings! I was going to ask you!” We are at a hotel; her rings are at home, tucked away in her dresser drawer. I win.

May 9, 2009: In order to add Jessica to my health insurance, we do the paperwork for a California domestic partnership. It’s notarized by a guy named Howard at a Mailboxes Etc. in Malibu who never removes his Bluetooth headset. To mitigate the dumb humiliation of the whole mess, we drink champagne and eat cupcakes on the beach, then get tattoos.

October 10, 2009: In our Silverlake backyard, aided by several dozen friends and family members who insist on helping, we put on the best goddamned wedding-slash-party-briefly-interrupted-by-a-ceremony that anyone’s ever been to. There’s a spontaneous sing-along during the vows. Everybody throw glitter and blows bubbles. We don’t talk about politics at all, but we do get drunk and sing backup for our friends’ bands. The cops come because we’re too loud, and we just barely remember why it’s a bad idea to offer them Jell-o shots. For months after, people who were there will greet each other by yelling YAY BEST DAY EVER. Which it was.

August 4, 2010: U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker says Prop 8 violates the Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses.

December 25, 2010: Jessica cuts her hand while cooking for a potluck. The ER staff say, blithely, that of course I can sign all her paperwork — I’m her wife. It is the best Christmas present I have ever gotten. It is overwhelming, and then depressing again.

2011–2013: Being married is awesome, but people are always asking us if we’re married-married, and the answer never gets less stupid or complicated or painful. We know we met each other at the right time to fall in love more easily and quickly than either of us had experienced before, but if it’d been a few months earlier we probably would have gotten in under the wire. We’re glad we didn’t wait for California or a court to tell us when we were allowed to get married, but we agree we won’t wait a minute longer than we have to when this bullshit is finally over to get all the rest of the paperwork done. We talk about our wedding all the goddamned time, partly because we’re smug and happy and annoying and partly because we know the more appealing it sounds the more outraged straight people tend to get when they realize we still need notarized, signed powers of attorney and have an always nagging fear that at the worst possible moment we won’t be able to convince someone in some stupid low-level position of power to agree we’re already fucking married.

February 7, 2012: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Judge Walker’s decision.

June 26, 2013: The Supreme Court rules that parts of the broad federal law known as the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 are unconstitutional. Back pointing at the TV, except this time Jessica is at a work retreat in New York, so we’re both on the phone crying.

June 28, 2013: The stay on same-sex marriages in California is lifted and marriages begin. Because it’s late on a Friday afternoon, Los Angeles County officials announce that its clerks will open Monday morning with full service to all couples.

June 29, 2013: Dress shopping! We agree it will be the one and only time we wear matching outfits, mostly because the forecast predicts very hot weather and we have somehow found a mutually flattering dress made of the lightest possible material.

July 1, 2013: We wait in line with a bunch of couples on their way to work at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, then come out the front doors to a flurry of photographer flashes and news crews. We have a brief ceremony in a West Hollywood park. There is a lot of crying and this time we are the ones on TV.

October 6, 2014: Same-sex marriages begin in Virginia, Jessica’s home state.

October 9, 2014: Same-sex marriages begin in Nevada, my home state.

October 10, 2014: Five years. FIVE YEARS. Life is long when you spend it with the right person. So far so good.

The History Behind The Normal Heart: A Tumblr Teach-In

The History Behind The Normal Heart: A Tumblr Teach-In
April–May 2014

By the time I’d finished working on my outofficial story about Matt Bomer and HBO’s adaptation of The Normal Heart, I’d been convinced—by him and Ryan Murphy especially—that rather than seeing “the Glee generation” as hopelessly uninformed and uninterested in HIV, from current prevention efforts to the epidemic’s earliest history, that they might be especially interested because of this movie to want to learn more, more, more.

That said—as much as I thought it was an amazing adaptation of a very important play, it was all based on a very small part of the story of AIDS, and even a very small part of the story of the early epidemic among gay men in New York City.

One thing I especially love about Tumblr is how good people (aka “kids these days”) are at teaching each other things everybody might not know about history, or just life. There is more enthusiasm to LEARN EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW in online communities like Tumblr than I’ve ever experienced anywhere.

So, in anticipation that at least some of our friends and followers might hear about and have some questions or be interested in a deeper dive into AIDS history, my old friend michelet and I pulled together a Tumblr-based teach-in, kind of a mix of old-school DIY activism and new media strategy.

We wrote some posts, reblogged some of the many other backgrounder pieces done by other media, accepted submissions, and tried to answer as best we could some questions about the AIDS epidemic and its long, important cultural and political impact.

It was an unexpectedly intense and cathartic experiment.

Here are a few of the pieces I had more of a direct hand in:

On Larry Kramer and the impossibility of writing one piece about what that man has meant to my life

On the importance of Kramer’s original essay, “1,112 and Counting”

On the vitally necessary Denver Principles, which changed modern health care as we know it

On Jim Parsons’ uncannily evocative portrayal of a character based on Rodger McFarlane

On the explicit sex in HBO’s adaptation, and the conflict among safer sex advocates at the time

On the whiteness of The Normal Heart, even though the epidemic wasn’t