News
Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

Regina Gazelle Wells, who overcame serious struggles with substance abuse to become a committed trans activist and advocate for trans individuals affected by homelessness, substance abuse and HIV, and Elijah Palles, whose drag stage name is Eddie Broadway and is Mr. Trans USA 2020, will co-chair AIDS Walk Arizona & 5K Fun Run scheduled Feb. 19, 2022 at Tempe Beach Park, 80 W. Rio Salado Parkway.

“Having Regina and Elijah as co-chairs is important on so many levels,” said Aunt Rita’s Foundation Executive Director Jimmy Thomason. “First, the trans community and the people living with HIV/AIDS, a disease that impacts every segment and demographic of our society, have something in common: we never thought we’d have a ‘happily ever after.’ This is When. We. Rise. Second, of course, because they’re both incredibly fun!”

Regina Gazelle

Regina, a trailblazer and trans activist representing the LGBTQ+ community whose stage name is Regina Gazelle, has been a long-time supporter of Aunt Rita’s efforts to raise funds.

An Arizona resident since 1975, she has been trans since she was 14. Today, at 63 and 24 years clean and sober, she has dedicated her life to maximum service to others. Regina, who is HIV negative, started one of the Valley’s first all-transgender recovery halfway houses. Among her numerous awards was being the first transgender woman awarded Echo Magazine’s Woman of the Year. She also was a former Grand Marshall of PRIDE.

"My goals and mission for this year are to raise as much funds as possible for Aunt Rita's Aids Walk. To bring more awareness to the trans community. To continue to be a voice that can penetrate this positive message to all cultures and communities," said Gazelle Wells.

During his ten years as a drag entertainer in the Valley, Elijah has held a number titles including Mister Phoenix Pride 2014, Mister USofA MI 2017 and Emperor to Reign XIII of the Imperial Court of Arizona, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to unite the LGBTQ+ and heterosexual communities through charitable fund raising through 65 chapters in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Outside of performing, Elijah is a mental health therapist primarily assisting the transgender/gender non-conforming community with their transitions and mental health concerns. He is newly diagnosed with HIV.

Elijah Palles

"Being involved in the mission of HIV prevention and treatment so soon after my own diagnosis in September 2020 is humbling. People don’t know those who are newly diagnosed because it usually takes time for individuals to come out about it," said Palles.

"My mission at AIDS Walk Arizona is to assist those who are both newly diagnosed or longterm survivors who are uncomfortable about their status in knowing that they can open up about their diagnosis and break the stigma. As a trans male, I also want to stand up and be counted. I want to help everyone understand that their voice matters."

AIDS Walk Arizona, Aunt Rita’s Foundation’s largest single event raising funds and awareness of HIV and AIDS, raised more than $150,000 in 2021 for Aunt Rita’s 14 partner agencies.

AIDS Walk Arizona and 5K Fun Run will begin with registration at 1 p.m. The Walk starts at 3 p.m. at Tempe Beach Park. The course will take walkers and runners across the Mill Avenue Bridge and entertainment will be provided throughout the route. Additional details are being finalized and will be announced in the coming months, including for an after party.

Walkers can begin registering in the fall as individuals, as a team or make donations to walkers to help reach fundraising goals by visiting www.auntritas.org.

Stay tuned for more information about AIDS Walk Arizona in the coming months.

"Those who are out about their HIV status often get asked 'That’s still a thing?' Yes, yes, it is. AIDS Walk Arizona is an annual opportunity for those in the HIV community and our allies to have a voice and use this platform to inform Arizona that the only way we can end HIV is if individuals take safety precautions – including a single pill a day regimen that prevents HIV transmission, get tested, know your status, and get treatment if needed," said Jimmy Thomason.

"Within weeks of a person finding out they are HIV+ and getting on treatment, they can be undetectable. This means that the virus cannot be transmitted to another individual and they can live a normal, healthy, and happy life. It all starts with awareness; and that’s why Aunt Rita’s Foundation and AIDS Walk Arizona will be here until HIV ends."

For more information about Aunt Rita’s Foundation, visit www.auntritas.org.

As each state has achieved marriage equality, there’s a wave same-sex couples rushing to legalize and formalize their relationships that follows.

And, if you are one of these blissful Arizona couples, you will need someone to officiate your ceremony. Here are 10 do’s and don’ts to follow as you look for a minister or officiant for your big day:

DO NOT expect that every ordained minister who is gay wants to marry you for free just because you’re gay, too. Although those who are ordained are happy to help you on your special day, it doesn’t mean you should be expected to take away time from their busy lives for free. Gay ordained ministers are professional too, and their time is valuable.

DO expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 for a ceremony. Some ministers charge by the hour and others by the service, so be sure to ask questions and find out up front what is customary for your minister.

DO NOT ask your minister to provide witnesses. When signing your marriage license, you will need an officiant and two witnesses to sign the document. If you do not have at least two friends who are willing to stand up with you and witness, you might reconsider getting married.

DO make friends with someone besides your Chihuahuas, your cats and your partner.

DO NOT feel insulted if the minister requires at least one pre-marital counseling session. The minister has a responsibility to the sanctity of marriage, their ordaining organization and the state to sign the certificate in good conscious that this union is viable and sustainable. It’s nothing personal.

DO get at least one session of pre-marital counseling. This small investment of time can save you large amounts of heartache, stress and money in the future. Counselors charge less per hour than divorce attorneys.

DO NOT expect your minister to plan and organize your ceremony. It’s YOUR ceremony; the minister is only there to provide a service of ceremony and documentation. Every couple is different in their ideas of what a ceremony should be. So if you don’t know what you want, don’t expect the minister to know for you.

DO get a wedding coordinator!

DO NOT ask an ordained minister to “just sign the marriage license”. They are not Notaries Public who just stamp and sign your much-anticipated piece of paper.

DO one stop shop at the Justice of the Peace if it’s just a legal document for you.

Last, but not least, DO your homework before jumping on the marriage equality bandwagon and DO respect everyone you’re involving in your marriage experience.

Keep reading Show less
Chad Cochran

Whether it is her songwriting, her performances or her activism in the LGBTQ+ community, Sarah Shook is unwavering when it comes to taking chances, being honest, open and even vulnerable.

Now, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers have released a new song and video of “It Doesn’t Change Anything” in advance of their forthcoming album Nightroamer, out on February 18 via Thirty Tigers.

Keep reading Show less