George is Tired…of Kevin Hart and DL Hughley

I don’t know if this is going to be a reachable moment, teachable moment or draggable moment. What I do know is the last few days have been mentally challenging for anyone in the LGBTQ community that watches the continued bashing and “it’s just jokes” rhetoric from others — jokes that often lead to getting folk hurt or killed. And yes, I’m very serious about the trickle-down effect that jokes have on creating thoughts that become dangerous towards our community.

Where do we start? Let’s start with Mr. Hart. When Kevin was announced as the host of the Oscars for 2019, I didn’t necessarily leap for joy — not so much because of Kevin Hart, but because the Oscars are trash. When the old tweets came up, I wasn’t even that bothered because, years after the old tweets, you stated you didn’t want to have a gay son. My problem was in how you addressed the situation.

Apologies can only go but so far. Atonement is where you should be in your process of “I love everyone.” Love is an action. I have not seen any action from your or your platform as we have watched the rights of trans people be decimated over the past two years. I don’t remember you being a champion of marriage equality, or vocal against any of the policies being enacted that harm the most vulnerable in your community. Instead when you were called out on your past, you ranted on multiple platforms about how you moved on although the community you hurt HAS NOT.

You then went on the quote MLK, but not the entirety of what MLK said.

You quoted: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comforts and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” But as Ira Madison pointed out, the rest of the quote states “the true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.” That’s the part you need to be at in your period of “growth.” Work on that.

You let your pride get in the way of your dream and left a bad taste in the mouth of the community that got you here, and yes that community does include LGBTQ people who have supported you despite your homophobic antics. Think about while you watch someone else on the Oscar stage this year have your dream, when all you had to do was show the growth.

I’m also tired of the rhetoric of “beating the gay” out of a child or “preventing your child” from being gay. I’m going to be very clear about this.

If you agree with beating a child for being gay, you don’t deserve to have kids.

If you think you can prevent a child from being gay, you don’t deserve kids.

If you don’t want a gay child because of additional oppression, you don’t deserve kids. Because a black child, gay or straight will always be oppressed.

Now on to Mr. Hughley. I don’t know what side of the bed you woke up on that made you think that you could call Indya Moore (Black trans actress of POSE) a “pussy” or Blair Imani (Muslim queer activist) a dickhead, but someone done told you wrong. It is utterly disrespectful for you as a Black man to not only attack two women from the Black community, but resort to name calling because you, in your 55 years of barbershop wisdom, were unable to respond to valid critique.

It is people like you that keep toxic masculinity alive in the Black community. It is people like you who unfortunately are heralded as leaders, when you are really patriarchal “pro-Black with conditions” and part of the problem with why our community will never be free. It is very clear after seeing all of the hetero antics around Black LGBTQ people over the past few days that Black cishet men will never lead us to freedom.

A word of advice. If you feel some way towards the LGBTQ community, keep your mouth shut about it. Or better yet, why don’t you engage an LGBTQ person for once and have a conversation with us. We don’t bite (unless you ask), but on the serious. We are people just like all of you. Many of us are your cousins, brothers, sisters, and children. Many of whom will never come out or abandon their families because of the deep hatred for LGBTQ people, brought on from conditioning of colonization. We are quick to wanna break anti-black cycles systems, never realizing that homophobia and transphobia are part of these too.

Black homophobes and transphobes block us from liberation on a daily basis. None of us are free unless we all can be free, and that starts with fighting for the most vulnerable in our community, which is often Black LGBTQ people. We are quick to wanna break anti-black cycles systems, never realizing that homophobia and transphobia are part of these too. We must break every chain, not step over the shackles of your queer brothers and sisters. That’s not liberation, it’s just oppression with a new name.

Facebook Appears to Enact Ban on Discussing “Sexual Partner Preference,” Provoking LGBTQ Anger

Facebook has been under fire this week for two revelations impacting the LGBTQ community: past donations to Republican political candidates that support conversion therapy, and a broad new policy that appears to ban users from discussing “sexual preference,” roles, and making “sexually suggestive” statements.

Facebook’s community standards regarding “sexual solicitation” have been drawing criticism this week from LGBTQ users of the platform as well as from sex workers — both groups that are likely to be the most impacted by the guidelines.

According to its community standards, Facebook bans content which uses “sexual hints such as mentioning sexual roles, sex positions, fetish scenarios, sexual preference/sexual partner preference, state of arousal, act of sexual intercourse or activity (sexual penetration or self-pleasuring), commonly sexualized areas of the body such as the breasts, groin, or buttocks, state of hygiene of genitalia or buttocks.” The sweeping language caused an uptick in panic as people began to slowly discover the new policy that dates back to October 15.

The reference to “sexual partner preference” has caused immense confusion, with many people noting that Facebook gives users the option to identify their sexual orientation, gender identity, and preferred sexual partners in their profile settings. The move also raised questions about why a company that has traditionally made overtures to the LGBTQ community in the form of Pride month filters, partnerships with groups like Trevor Project, and a perfect score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index would create a policy that appears to ban users from saying something as simple as “I’m a woman who has sex with other women.”

For queer people, it’s not entirely possible to separate frank discussions of sexuality and partners from issues of politics and equality. When your “sexual partner preference” is the very thing that prevents you from accessing full social and political equality, it’s direly important to be able to discuss it — and difficult to come out of the closet without referencing it in some way. For trans people, not being able to discuss breasts, genitalia, or other “commonly sexualized areas” means in some ways not being able to discuss transitioning, surgery, feelings of dysphoria, or access to appropriate healthcare.

LGBTQ youth are especially dependent on social media when it comes to learning about and discussing sexuality, said Lincoln Mondy, a spokesperson for the organization Advocates for Youth.

“LGBTQ young people have questions about their identity, health, and future. However, their questions are often ignored by the schools, communities, and families that are supposed to support them,” Mondy told INTO. “Abstinence-only sex ed curriculums across the country already silence LGBTQ youth by denying them access to critical information, and Facebook’s new guidelines are no different.”

Mondy pointed out that youth advocates from his organization have used Facebook in recent months for the express purpose of widespread sexual education. In April, youth advocates held a Facebook Live program called #SexEdLive in response to a rightwing nationwide protest of school sex-ed programs that was driven by anti-LGBTQ sentiment.

“Young people recorded condom tutorials, videos on how to get tested, spoke about pleasure, and more. If Facebook’s new guidelines were in effect then, young people across the country wouldn’t be able to receive factual information,” Mondy said.

In response to a prompt (posted on Facebook, no less) about the new Sexual Solicitation guidelines, several queer Facebook users expressed concern.

“Really looking forward to the comeback of all those early ‘80s in-the-closet euphemisms like ‘a friend of Dorothy,’” said Kate Huh, referring to the code lingo that gay people used to employ to identify one another in the days before it was acceptable to be out.

Toronto-based queer artist GB Jones wondered how the policy would impact her ability to post her work on the platform. Jones, one of the founders of the ‘90s homocore movement that in part grew out of her filmmaking partnership with Bruce LaBruce and her seminal riot grrrl band Fifth Column, is probably best known for her illustration series Tom Girls. The drawings, a dyke homage to Tom of Finland, feature punky, muscular girls performing rebellious acts in a hyper-sexualized and fetish-heavy format.

“Obviously this means I won’t be able to post any of my older drawings of the Tom Girls on Facebook,” said Jones. “I do think this ruling will adversely affect LGBTQ artists. I think we can be almost sure that any nudes that Picasso or Matisse or Monet et al painted will be allowed; the straight male gaze is normalized, permitted, acceptable. All other gazes, other vantage points, are not.”

Other users said the policy affects them in multiple ways, not just in terms of LGBTQ identity.

“As a sex worker and dyke (just inviting a ban) this feels like erasure,” said Amanda LaFollette, in response to the prompt posted by INTO on Facebook. “Total erasure — this is not a ‘place for friends,’ it is a place run by enemies of the norm. Sex workers told everyone that FOSTA would impact the entire net, and here we are.”

FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act that was voted into law this past April,  launched an immediate crusade against online forums employed by sex workers — the April seizure and shutdown of Backpage happened just days after the bill was passed — but its effects continue to blanket online sexual expression in much wider ways. When Tumblr announced Monday that it was banning all adult content, an entire generation mourned the ways Tumblr porn had empowered their sexual discovery, especially for queer people.

So when Facebook’s October policy began to circulate this week, LGBTQ people seemed to awaken all at once to the new anti-sex rules of the internet. Is it true that Facebook has banned users from talking about sexualities? Not entirely. But it’s possible that many LGBTQ users will be impacted and, in some ways, silenced by the guidelines.

In a surprisingly frank phone call, Facebook policy communications manager Ruchika Budhraja told INTO, “I don’t think everyone will be happy with where we draw the line.”

“Just saying ‘I’m gay and I’m a bottom looking for a top,’ that won’t come down under the policy,” said Budhraja, who works on content policy issues that impact LGBTQ users. “But then f you said ‘I’m a bottom looking for a top, call me’ that would come down under this policy.”

It all comes down, Budhraja implied, to whether a post about sex is trying to solicit a real-life encounter.

Budhraja explained that Facebook’s Sexual Solicitation policy isn’t new, but used to be part of the policy against sexual exploitation (think: revenge porn, upskirts, bestiality). A copy of the former policy sent to INTO made it clear that it was intended to prevent the platform being used for prostitution and other paid forms of sex work such as BDSM.

So basically, the intent of the policy is not to prevent people from talking about sex writ large, but from using Facebook to find customers to pay them for sex. Hence terms like “sexual partner preference” causing confusion since the policy was revamped and published October 15 in a separate section from the anti-exploitation rules. In rewriting the policy, the entire payment context was removed — and the current policy appears to broadly ban discussion of sex and sexuality, period.

It’s puzzling to try to discern where Facebook is drawing the line, and the explanations the company provided to INTO didn’t help clarify much.

“Stating one’s sexual preference or partner preference would not violate our policies,” reads the Facebook statement emailed to INTO. “Implicit sexual solicitation as we have defined it also requires ‘offering or asking to engage in a sexual act.’”

According to this statement, one doesn’t need to imply a cash exchange in order to violate the policy. Simply using the platform to try and hook up appears to be out of the question, too.

“In writing our Community Standards, our goal is to ensure the safety of the people that use Facebook, people who vary in age, come from different cultures and maintain different sensitivities. We also may lack the context necessary to establish consent, which is why some of our policies – particularly those specific to nudity and sexual activity – may appear less nuanced than we would like, leading to an outcome that is at odds with their underlying purpose,” the statement reads.

The company also acknowledged that its Sexual Solicitation policy is overly broad and confusing, and said it plans to adjust the language.

“We are always working to improve our policies and provide clarity and additional context where necessary,” says Facebook’s statement to INTO. “In the coming months, we plan to add more detail to our Sexual Solicitation policy based on feedback we’ve heard to date.”

In a phone call with INTO, Budhraja emphasized that Facebook isn’t likely to turn into some kind of broadly anti-sex censorship zone in which language is policed the moment it posts. Facebook doesn’t employ teams to constantly troll people’s profiles for content violations, she said. Instead, someone would have to report a post in order for the platform to then consider taking it down. And even then, said Budhraja, there is an appeal process that allows users to lobby for removed content to be replaced.

“If your profile is private, the report would have to come in. And only the people you are friends with or have allowed to see that post would have to report it,” Budhraja said.

Regardless of intent, the Sexual Solicitation policy’s broad language continues to cause confusion and worry among Facebook users. And until the company rewrites the community standards, it’s not entirely clear what can and cannot be posted on the platform when it comes to sex.

Image via Getty

Couple Kiana and Jasmin Share Their Love Story in ‘Queer Love’ Episode 3

Love and poetry have long gone hand in hand in history, with the latter being a superior way to express the former. For Kiana, one of the subjects of this week’s episode of Queer Love, poetry is part of her art. But it’s also deeply present in the way they talks about their partner.

The full-time teacher and part-time drag king speaks about their event planner girlfriend, Jasmin, reads some of their poetry in the episode, but even the couple’s conversations have a poetic rhythm to them. They’re honest about the difficulty of love, but so visibly deeply in the throes of it, too.

Kiana and Jasmin

Anything we could say would feel insufficient next to Kiana and Jasmin’s words, to be frank. Their description of each other is rooted in such emotion, and such power, that we can do nothing but urge you to watch the full new episode below.

Missed the first two installments of Queer Love? Catch up on the series below.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane Is Bringing the Macho Sentimental to Menswear

Inspired by sentimentality and love, Mexican fashion designer Barbara Sanchez-Kane is on a mission to create clothes for a muse she has dubbed the “Macho Sentimental.” The Macho Sentimental can be someone of any gender; any individual who is in touch with their emotions. It is out of that space that Sanchez-Kane creates her innovative, unique designs that take inspiration from both high fashion couture and Mexican streetwear.

Sanchez-Kane recently collaborated with Nike on their The Force is Female project and hosted a pop-up in Los Angeles in late November. INTO caught up with the queer designer to talk about the philosophy guiding her inspired menswear line.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane
Barbara Sanchez-Kane

What does “Macho Sentimental” mean to Barbara Sanchez-Kane? Is there a safe way for queer women to be masculine without embracing the toxic parts of masculinity?

MA·CHO SEN·TI·MEN·TAL

Noun

  1. A human being of either sex; a person. Strongly influenced by

emotional feelings and in contact with male and female forces.

synonymous: human being, human, person, mortal,

individual, personage, soul.

I think we need more education – that is the main problem with the toxic part of masculinity. That is derived in aggressiveness and violent response as we have been taught that masculinity is associated with these terms that need to be broken.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

You are a lesbian fashion designer who makes menswear. Do you think the phrase “menswear” is outdated now since people of all genders wear what is considered “men’s” or “women’s” clothes?

Sanchez-Kane started as a menswear brand. I use the term menswear just as a marketing strategy in sizing purpose, but as I say, we dress the Macho Sentimental.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

You used to live in Los Angeles where you interned for German designer Bernhard Willhelm. Do you see his influence on your work or the experience of having lived in Los Angeles in your clothes?

Well, my first collection Citizen Sanchez-Kane was designed based on an old love relationship I had during my time in LA.  So yes all experiences and places influence my work.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

You’ve created pieces in your fashion line that were inspired/for your mother and in your pop-up in Los Angeles, your mother was there to assist you with the event. You also have an alter-ego called “SOLRAC,” which your father’s name spelled backward. How does your relationship with your parents inform your work?

I couldn’t have built SANCHEZ-KANE without the support of my parents.

Family is the main pillar of my education and will continue to be a presence in the brand. I am so blessed to share all the growth of the brand with them.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

You publish love poems and journal entries on your Instagram signed with the name “SOLRAC.” The graphics on your clothes feature phrases such as “Mexikanemicorazon” and “Freelance Lover,” along with “Macho Sentimental.” Is Sanchez-Kane a brand for queer romantics?

I am a sentimental romantic 100 percent guided by my inner feelings. I found in clothing the best way to deal with my problems good and bad ones. Is therapeutic and a way of living. Women have always been the starting point to create a world where all the misfits are welcome to join.

Barbara Sanchez-Kane

All photos by Navi.

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Needs Real, Competitive Special Episodes

Critical and fan consensus on RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s Holi-slay Spectacular that aired Friday night has been, shall we say, mixed. Were I diagnosing the problem, I’d say it was trying too hard to fit into the format of a regular Drag Race episode and should’ve just given up that particular ghost. If you wanna make a musical advertisement for RuPaul’s latest Christmas album, just do that. (Also, save the delightful return of Sonique and Mayhem Miller’s surprisingly strong showing, the cast was pretty underwhelming.)

Despite the largely negative reception to the special, though, I’m hopeful Drag Race won’t abandon the idea of one-off episodes entirely. There’s value in a format that gives us little tastes of veteran queens without them having to compete in a full season.

Sonique is a great example of that, actually; she’s not who I’d call “All Stars material” in the most traditional sense, having gone out on episode 4 of season 2 and not broken out in a big way since. But she showed she’s really evolved in her drag during the special; in a more competitive format, she might be able to prove that she is ready for All Stars.

For example: Have an episode that’s one long ball. Collect six queens, some of the most fashionable to ever compete on Drag Race. Roxxxy Andrews. Detox. Kim Chi. Even throw in some winners, like Violet Chachki, Aquaria, and Raja. The limited commitment makes it easier to get bigger names back, and will inspire them to bring out the big guns immediately, instead of saving them for later in the game. Put a $10,000 prize on the line for a winner. Drag Race meets Chopped.

You could do similar episodes for acting, comedy, singing, lip-syncing, dancing — what’s amazing about the Drag Race universe is how many skills it involves. And there are over 100 queens who each excel at different things. Showcase specials make sense in a way a holiday special, especially one as scripted as this one, doesn’t.

I doubt last night was the last Holi-slay Spectacular we’ll be getting, to be frank. While fans and critics may have rolled their eyes, it’s likely that the special did actually boost sales of Ru’s music. My only request is this: If we’re going to get more of that, Drag Race, at least give us some real, competitive specials, too.

Living ‘The Bi Life’

The Bachelor. The Bachelorette. Love Island. Beauty and the Geek. Rock of Love. Flavor of Love. The Cougar. All these reality dating shows have many things in common, but an overarching, unavoidable theme is their focus on heterosexual relationships.

The highly problematic reality series A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila was 10 years ago now, and since then, there has been little visibility for queer people on dating shows. In 2016, gay men had Logo’s Finding Prince Charming, and the UK’s First Date has featured some LGBTQ cast members. But it’s only recently there has been an embracement of bisexual-identified people on television. Desiree Akhavan’s series The Bisexual recently premiered to praise from the LGBTQ community for its accurate portrayal of a woman exploring her bisexuality, all the while battling and dismantling the stereotypes associated with her sexuality. But that was fictional — where was our dating show?

E!’s The Bi Life, hosted by Australian drag queen, pop singer, entertainer, and Celebrity Big Brother winner Courtney Act. The show, which premiered late October, followed nine bisexual-identified millennials as they summered at a villa in Barcelona, getting to know each other and sharing their bisexual experiences. 

This isn’t a Big Brother or Survivor sort of show with challenges, alliances, and backstabbing to get ahead. There’s no competing for the heart of another with the result being kicked off or engaged a la The Bachelor, either. Think of The Bi Life as if you were hanging out with a bunch of friends, but it’s televised You’re observing their summer getaway as they discover one another and parts of themselves. Courtney Act advises the cast members on being an out and proud, offering advice and listening to their concerns. She plays part host, part guidance counselor.

“I couldn’t think of a single bisexual role model growing up, and so to have that now, to be able to see real people having real problems and most importantly talking about bisexuality is so important,” The Bi Life cast member Irene Ellis told INTO.

The Bi Life

Ellis, who identifies as pansexual and hails from Chichester, England, says she applied to be on the show after seeing an ad — a pure act of spontaneity.

“Seeing that there was going to be an LGBT show on TV, I just kinda felt drawn to it,” Ellis said. “I thought ‘You know what? My dating life is also getting a bit stale — maybe a TV show can help me find someone.’ And deep down, I still had that nagging feeling that I wasn’t being as open and as confident as I wanted to be with my sexuality, so maybe this might help that.”

An introvert and self-professed nerd by nature, Ellis was nervous heading into the house, but says her fears were quickly abated when she met her castmates. The cast is as wide and varied as bisexuality is. There’s Daisie, a fraud prevention officer from Manchester; Kyle, a support teacher from South Wales; club promoter Leonnie; an international swimmer named Michael; and London-based makeup artist, Mariella.

“I felt like I knew them all immediately, and we all just wanted to talk and learn about one another,” Ellis said. “One of my favourite things was that we all had breakfast together, often Matt … or Mariella would cook and we’d sit at the table chatting. And between filming, we’d be seen trying to catch up on telly together — often cuddled up on the big sofa inside.”

It was a big happy bisexual family, a positive and relatable space. Ellis said she felt comfortable being herself, explaining her love of cosplay to a very bewildered, but ultimately fascinated Matt. She also showed off her bee tattoo — an ode to her love of Sherlock Holmes to Ryan, a fitness influencer from London.

“Everyone just completely accepted me for who I was,” Ellis said.

As much as a bisexual Barcelona abode may have seemed like a dream vacation, they were all there for a specific reason.

“We would often have conversations in the villa about what might happen after we finished filming, and what people might say,” Ellis said. “However, we all said that the one thing we wanted was to have a mainstream show out there that just normalized being bisexual/pan. We considered that if we could make even one person feel like less of a stereotype, feel less like they had to justify themselves, then that would be one of the most important things we’d done.”

Judging by the immediate and ongoing reactions to the show, they’ve done their job.

One viewer, @Little_Ms_Wise, tweeted, “I’m really excited about #TheBiLife reality series on @e_entertainment it seems like it’s opening a lot of eyes and outing a lot of stereotypes about the #LGBTQ population.”

While there are the inevitable negative comments, they’re not in the majority. Ellis says that most people are “really just excited to see bisexual/pansexual people on their screens.”

“A lot of people messaged us and asked how we’d come out, and to thank us for being the guinea pigs, as it were, to go out and be the first faces of a show of this kind,” she said.

Her favorite reaction came from an Instagram DM she received from a viewer. “She let me know that watching The Bi Life with her parents made it a lot easier for her to explain her sexuality,” Ellis said.

Still, there’s’ room for improvement: Ellis is the only pansexual-identified person on The Bi Life, and the show has faced criticism for every castmate identifying as cisgender.  Those additions would only add more benefits to a show disseminating information about bisexuality that is ultimately helping to normalize it. There is a concerted effort to break down “the complexities” of being bisexual, moreover, the fact it’s not complex at all. Viewers are watching a television show about people who are sexually attracted to people of all gender identities. The conversations the cast mates have with one another both break down the barrier and inform the viewers, as conversations range from coming out of the closet to being told their sexuality wasn’t as important as a gay woman’s, the latter having been an early experience for Ellis.

“Bisexuality is completely valid,” Ellis said.  “You’re not sat on a fence, you’re not undecided, and you’re certainly not greedy. You just like both, and that’s perfectly okay. You can define to what percentage or level or whatever that is, but that’s yours to own.”

The Bi Life has helped Ellis to become more confident in herself and how she identifies, as dealing with bisexual erasure was something she’s struggled with. Even at Pride, she felt like she didn’t belong, with people telling her she was only there for the party; that she wasn’t “gay” enough. She said she was closeted in school because she saw how her bisexual classmates were called greedy or manipulative, people saying they didn’t know which side they were playing for. It stuck with her for years.  

“It’s only really since being on the show and finally talking about those experiences and those discriminations that I now feel proud to be who I am, and no one else can shame that,” Ellis said.

While The Bi Life has had an important impact on LGBTQ viewers, it’s also a show heterosexual viewers can enjoy and learn from.

“By watching the show and being a little more educated about LGBTQ+ issues, you’re going to become an ally that someone you know might really need,” Ellis said of straight viewers. The more people hear about the show and watch it, that’s “. . . one more person in your life that understands you and doesn’t judge you, [it] can make the world of difference,” she added.

“I certainly would have felt a lot more comfortable coming out at a younger age,” Ellis said. “Even if just to say yeah, well, I’m not weird, there’s a whole TV show about people like me!”

The Bi Life airs Thursdays at 9pm on E! UK & Ireland and is also available on heyu.

Party Dyke, Interrupted

Trigger. That was the name of the Castro bar where I attended my first ever lesbian party. I was 18 and the only two gay people that I knew in the world were closeted. I was in love with one of them, but they were in love with each other. Naturally.

As a freshman, I would overhear the seniors in my upper division queer theory class talk about the queer bars they were going to on the weekends. I sat anxiously in my seat, eavesdropping and hoping that one day they would ask me to join.

I wanted so badly for these older queers to accept me as one of them. The invitation I was waiting for finally came on the third week of class. I convinced my only friend with a fake ID to join. It wasn’t hard to convince my friend to come along — even straight people knew that the Castro was the best place to get drunk on a weekday.

My friend with the fake ID, like everyone else, thought I was straight. My tumblr page filled with vintage photos of Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie and the fact that I was in a Queer Theory class wasn’t a dead giveaway for them, nor for me, at the time.

Before that night, my forays into the Castro were by accident.  I used to wait on the corner of Market and Castro in front of the old Diesel store three times a week to transfer onto a bus that would take me to work after school.

Bored out of my mind at the stop, I would read the informational billboards offering drug counseling and free HIV tests featuring images of people with hairless, glistening chests. The artfully curated ads were everywhere, but I doubted that the group that I so badly wanted to be a part of had “real” drug problems. They probably just like to have a good time, I told myself.

My first real night out in the Castro took off quickly. After pounding dollar drinks at The Edge, a corner street dive that played classic ’90s movies to its mostly burly, bearded clientele, and then two-for-one wells at Q Bara strobe-heavy bar that is barely wider than a hallway, we walked over to Trigger.

Girl parties aren’t known for drink specials, but the rest of Castro is full of heavy pours. So by the time we reached our final destination, the fake ID I gripped in my hand, like everything else, blurred in front of me. I didn’t need to worry because the bouncer didn’t closely examine to check if it was fake. He was too distracted by a group of snapback-clad girls pulling at his shoulder sleeve, reminding him that he has to let them in because he let them in last time. They don’t have IDs, and Trigger would eventually shut down for letting in too many underage queers like the snapback lesbians and me.

Once I made it past the doorman, a bitter butch in a too-tight flannel stamped the inside of my wrist, and I zoomed in without waiting for my friend to make it inside. Everything was exactly how I dreamed it would be — bartenders with asymmetrical haircuts and lip piercings, go-go dancers gyrating on top of the bar, neon colored shots in lab-inspired tube glasses, and dykes everywhere.  

“It’s just like The L Word,” I muttered to myself. My straight friend asks me to repeat what I just said, but I couldn’t give away that I was an avid watcher of the most lesbian TV show in history. Plus, I was already at the bar ordering a Dos Equis because that’s what Shane drinks. The rest of the night was a blur.

Gay culture is deeply interconnected with drugs and alcohol. Blame it on the fact that most of us are reliving our adolescent years in our twenties, or that we need more sedation than your average hetero to put up with the daily attack on our human rights — either way, there’s always a good reason to order another round of shots.

Historically, the only places that queer people could be out were undisclosed bars, clubs, and parties. Queer people couldn’t fly their flags high back then, so underground venues and exclusive parties served as the primary place to meet other queers. Although we have more freedom now as queer people than our elders did, the desire to escape into a safe space still exists. Queer bars are spaces where we can embrace every part of ourselves without fear being perceived as “different.”

If we want to be around other queer people it often feels like the only option is to go to a bar, where we tell ourselves we will only have one drink. But, it’s hardly ever one. In my experience, gay bars are fueled by alcohol in a way that their straight counterparts aren’t. The drinks are cheaper, stronger, and you can find a party on any night of the week.

As a baby dyke, I drank to calm my anxieties before entering these unknown spaces without realizing that most of my peers were doing the same. Cheap drinks in the Castro, five dollar AMF pitchers in Boystown, double margarita pints in WeHo that make the extra $1 charge for an additional shot worth it.

Gays are taught how to party. It’s not a secret. Straights know it and we own it. It’s part of our Brand™. Bachelorette parties flock to WeHo in search of a Vegas-style good time, and by the time I moved out of San Francisco, the straight-to-gay ratio on Monday night at Q Bar was pretty much even. Cishets venture into our spaces for a “wild night out” away from their norm, but for us, it’s just another Thursday.

The reason there is such a disdain for straight people with an affinity for partying at gay bars is that these spaces are sometimes the only ones queer people have. Straight people already have everything else. For queer women and non-binary folks, the battle is even steeper. Unlike gay men, we don’t have Grindr to scratch that mid-week midnight itch. Dykes have to wait for the weekly or monthly girl parties. If not, then you can hit up Tinder, but that usually entails spending money to meet up with someone for a drink. Meeting other gays sans alcohol has been not an easy task for me.

I still remember the morning after my Tuesday night at Trigger, when I stumbled into class with a swollen jaw, burns on my fingers and very little recollection of what had happened the night before. I wasn’t a stranger to blackouts, but this night was different. My older classmates laughed and told me that I had probably been roofied at Q Bar.

“Everyone gets roofied at Q Bar,” they told me. I’d repeat that line every time I told the story with a smile or a laugh. It felt like a rite of passage. I finally belonged.

Gay adventures in San Francisco continued for me throughout college and those nights consisted of pouring half bottles of tequila into half emptied sprite bottles, hopping on the back of the train and downing the drink before the operator announced “Castro.” On those nights, I never saw the billboards that lined the MUNI station walls warning against addiction, inviting gays to focus groups that might help them. It wouldn’t have made a difference. Those billboards were talking about meth and ketamine binges. It wasn’t for me. I was a fun gay.

In the past eight years, I spent only two handfuls of weekends sober — eight, to be exact. I wish I could tell you that I had a moment of enlightenment that led me to sobriety, but the reality is that my body just gave out — twice in two years. Last year, I spent two weeks in a hospital being pumped full of blood and was released with instructions to stop drinking for eight weeks and “drink moderately” after then, if at all. It was easy at first. But those eight weeks ended up being more like six weeks and before long, I was back at it. I avoided doctor visits, ignored symptoms until it was too much to ignore.

I rolled my eyes at the nurse who said I had a drinking problem. “I drink the least out of all the people I know. I’m just cursed with a weak stomach lining. Faulty genes.” It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago, that while talking to some friends, I realized that I had drank despite all the warnings my body gave me. Just because I didn’t drink as much as I did before, didn’t make my problem any less severe. At first, I pretended to be stoked about my sobriety: “I wanted to quit anyway.” But, on a Saturday night, the only thing standing between me and a well whiskey on the rocks is the stack of hospital bracelets sitting in a box in my room. 

Seven years later and three hundred miles south, I’m now living in Los Angeles. I have been sober for a month. The queer bars with their shiny disco balls and sweaty, gyrating bodies aren’t as fun as I remembered. Sobriety is dulling at times, and the stark realization that so many of the things you enjoyed, you only did under the influence is lonely.

But the incessant hangover state is gone, and my days are longer. I get more stuff done. I look for experiences instead of drink specials.  Most of my queer peers still drink. Some of them don’t have the same issues with self-control that I do, none of them have a stupid stomach lining with a propensity for bleeding.

I’m starting to see a shift. More and more, young queers are opting for sobriety, taking breaks from drinking, tiring of the monotonous weekend festivities. Maybe we’re getting older, maybe the hangovers are getting too gnarly or I don’t know — maybe this is growing up.

New ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4’ Trailer Drops Big News

Whenever RuPaul’s Drag Race releases a supertrailer, fans on the show’s infamous (and hugely popular) subreddit get to work dissecting it. Which queens are featured in which challenges? How many outfits are they seen in? Stuff like this can give obsessive superfans a hint of which queens stick around longest.

But the biggest reveal in the All Stars 4 supertrailer that dropped after Friday’s RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-slay Spectacular doesn’t need close examination at all. In fact, the good folks at Drag Race were kind enough to make it basically the first thing in the trailer: RuPaul announcing that All Stars rules are, at least for now, off the table.

Viewers of All Stars 3 will know that “All Star rules,” as Ru speaks about here, is a reference to the controversial Lip Sync for Your Legacy format. In the system used in the last two All Stars seasons, the top two in each challenge competed in a lip sync for $10,000 and the power to eliminate one queen. This stands in stark contrast to the flagship series’ Lip Sync for Your Life format, in which the bottom two queens fight for their chance to stay in the competition.

Exactly how suspended the Lip Sync for Your Legacy format is still remains to be announced. However, in a recent Instagram post, season 9 veteran Trinity “The Tuck” Taylor hinted at a very different twist coming down the pike. That speculation, we’ll leave to the subreddit.

Gia Gunn

Two more big developments in the trailer: First, that Ru appears to be addressing a cast of just eight queens at the start of the trailer, with former All Stars 1 competitors Latrice Royale and Manila Luzon nowhere to be found. Perhaps they’ll be brought in as a surprise to the other queens, similar to how season 1 winner Bebe Zahara Benet was during All Stars 3?

Additionally, Gia Gunn, season 6 veteran and trans queen, presents female in her confessionals. This, like season 2 alumna Sonique during the Holi-slay Spectacular, is something of a change for Drag Race, which has typically continued to feature trans contestants presenting male in confessionals even after they’ve announced their transition. This was particularly puzzling when it came to season 9 queen Peppermint, who announced her transition to the workroom about halfway through the season, but didn’t change her confessional look after.

All in all, it’s a pretty packed supertrailer, with plenty for fans to obsess over for the next week until All Stars 4 premieres next Friday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. Eastern. Watch the trailer below.

A Trans Woman Has Been Killed, Three Years After Speaking Out Against Anti-Trans Violence

 

Three years ago, after a trans woman in her neighborhood was killed, Keanna Mattel lamented that police didn’t understand the challenges facing trans people.

On Friday, Mattel herself  became the latest transgender victim of violence.

Mattel was 35-years-old, an active member in Detroit’s ballroom scene, and loved by many. She died two blocks away from the spot where her transgender neighbor Amber Monroe was gunned down in August 2015.

On Friday morning, police found Mattel dead in her Palmer Park neighborhood, the victim of a gunshot wound.

Detroit Police Department spokesperson Dan Donakowski declined to identify Mattel. Instead, friends and LGBTQ advocates spread word of her passing through the grapevine. Donakowski did confirm that police found the body of a transgender female at 6 a.m. on East McNichols Road between Brush and Omira on Detroit’s East Side.

Police have arrested a 46-year-old male in connection with the shooting, said Donakowski. He would not release the identity of that person.  

“It may be a case of self defense, possible robbery,” Donakowski told INTO, adding that police were in the process of interviewing suspects, but believed that the shooter may have been the victim of an attempted robbery. “So the investigation continues.”

LGBTQ advocates, however, declining to speak on record, said some who knew Mattel said she may have been picked up by the person who killed her, suggesting she may have been targeted.

Donakowski said it was unknown whether Mattel knew the shooter.

In 2015, The Guardian quoted Mattel in its coverage of Monroe’s death.

“The police are unaware with (sic) our struggle so they have no sympathy for us,” Mattel told the Guardian. “Nobody ever asks, what happened to that person to get here?”

On social media, Mattel’s friends mourned her passing. Mattel was active in Detroit’s ball scene and a member of the Legendary Iconic House of Ebony.

This is a breaking story. INTO will update as details become available.

If you’re LGBTQ and have experienced or witnessed violence, report to the Anti-Violence Project’s hotline at 212-714-1141 or online.

Florry Frontwoman Francie Medosch is The New Queer, Trans Face of Punk

In the queer feminist punk underground, there are few labels with as much prestige as Sister Polygon. Formed by the members of the punk band Priests, the label has launched alternative music stars like queer indie artist Snail Mail and Downtown Boys.

Now the label has a new band to champion: Florry, a group led by 17-year-old queer and trans-identified frontwoman Francie Medosch, who’ve been playing bleeding-heart bedroom punk under various names for years. The band just cemented their status as one of the cool kids by putting out their debut full-length Brown Bunny November 23rd.

Medosch first broke onto the Bandcamp scene with past project Francie Cool, before cycling through members and changing the name to Florry, looking to put the focus on the music instead of herself. The mysterious fingerpicking guitarist we see onstage is a shy person offstage who gets really excited about her pets (three cats ― Simba, Robocop, and Bill ― as well as a potbellied pig, Bluto, and husky, Kaya). Her pets, alongside the inclusive punk underground scene Medosch found, have helped her move on from the harsh realities of being openly trans, including school bullies, mental health problems, and a suicide attempt in eighth grade.

Medosch embodies the “quiet genius” archetype often mythologized in rock. She takes a long time to answer questions, often falling back on platitudes. She relies on her instincts when it comes to her music, and is still working out how to explain it to people. Similarly, her songs really take flight during the instrumental breakdowns, where she and her bandmates can flex their chops.

Florry’s eight-song Brown Bunny is a showcase of Medosch’s inventive song structures and dark lyrics. Unlike many of their contemporaries who draw from the twee and Riot Grrrl movements, Florry pairs folk elements like slide guitar and violins with her voice, which brings to mind the squeaks of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Alec Ounsworth or Human People’s Hayley Livingston. Even when you can’t make out that Medosch is singing lines like “Whatever you what you want is what I get /  I’ll choke, I’ll choke” on songs like “Period,” her melancholy is palpable. Throughout the album, Medosch wrestles with her desire to have a simpler life free from abuse and the reality that she shouldn’t have to diminish what makes her different to do so.

We chatted on the phone about the struggle of being a queer high schooler, how punk is her realm to let loose, and her future plans for Florry.


INTO: You said you were working on Psychology notes earlier today. Are you still in high school?

Francie Medosch: Yeah I am a senior in high school.

Nice, so its an AP Psych situation?

Yeah, it’s AP Psych.

How is that going?

It’s good. I feel like its coincided very nicely. This year I’ve been trying to work on mental health a lot and trying to explore myself.

It’s hard exploring yourself in high school and you’ve already done so much. I didn’t come out until after high school was over. Is it hard existing in that context? Being in high school and discovering so much about yourself?

Yeah, it sometimes is. I think for the first three or four years I was pretty uncomfortable most of the time. But this year, senior year, I have felt strangely so comfortable with myself and projecting myself out there, being social and trying to let my ideas be known more. I used to be very shy, like purposefully shy. I would sometimes go days without saying a single word at all back in sophomore year. That was a really shitty year for me.

What was especially hard about sophomore year?

A lot of mental illness reasons. It was super hard to remain functioning every day. Also, I was doing so many shows that year, sophomore year. I was always fucking around playing shows or hanging out with friends. Junior year was the first year I was getting better, and I didn’t play any shows at all.

Going back a bit, earlier you said the first four years you were out was really hard. So did you come out in eighth grade? We’re you coming out both as gay and trans or was it one before the other?

I had always been open about being flexible with whom I’m attracted too. I don’t think anyone who knows me was surprised by that, except for a few people which felt really weird. For me, it’s always surprising when I discover anyone is homophobic. It’s such a weird thing to be mad about. I came out as trans sometime around the end of freshman year and the beginning of sophomore year.

Was your family okay with it?

Yeah, they were. I was hard at first, for the first year or so, just them getting used to all that stuff, but now it’s great. For the most part, I’ve always felt pretty nervous at family gatherings. Especially when I started dressing feminine, I would get more scared. I was able to feel so much more comfortable with being myself around other people.

Do you think that’s at all tied with how your music is going? Florry just got named a “Band to Watch” on Stereogum, which is a pretty buzzy title.

Honestly, I haven’t paired the two together at any point until just now. I’d say it was just a coincidence. It just happened that this album took a really long time to produce and make.

Did you always know it would be out on Sister Polygon or were there stretches of time where you thought you would just release it yourself?

We started recording in 2016. Halfway through the recording process, we played a show with Priests up at Bard [College] in September of 2017. I know they liked our set, and I loved Sister Polygon as well. I reached out to [Priests frontwoman] Katie [Greer] asking if she could listen to what we had so far of the record, and I also asked if Sister Polygon was accepting submissions. Katie said at the moment they weren’t, but she wanted to hear the album anyway, so I sent it over. The next thing she said from there was that they’d probably release it and asked what I’d want from the label and how it would all go down. We only officially figured that all out in June. I half assumed they’d release it, but there’s always the possibility it wouldn’t work out.

You’ve already got plans for another album, but you’re also a senior in high school. Do you plan on going to college?

Yeah, I plan on going to college, probably somewhere in New York or if not, then around Philly. Was that a good answer?

Sure! Do you plan on having your bandmates come with you to college or are you just going to mail songs back and forth and then tour? How do you anticipate being in college and being in a band going?

Well my drummer RL [Srinivasan] already lives in New York. Our bassist Peter [Gil] is fine with traveling when we need to. We don’t practice that often. In the past with Francie Cool, it was me in Philly and Abby [Jones) and RL and Theo [Woodward] all in New York so we’re used to having to travel to practice and stuff.

Let’s talk about the songs on Brown Bunny. What does the acronym KFG stand for?

Oh, Kung Fu Girl. [laughs]

There’s a lot of stuff in the song about empowerment.  You say “Maybe I should just go after it/maybe I will change my life.” It sounds like with those lyrics and the title “Kung Fu Girl” you’re building yourself up as this hero protagonist, like a Buffy character.

Yeah, I did that a lot on the older album of mine, assuming an identity that works better and is easier and then feeling insecure about lying to yourself. “Kung Fu Girl” is another one of those songs.

What kind of Identity would you assume?

Oh, just like being a stronger person ― pretending I don’t have all these problems.

In “Someone Please Ask Me Out,” you sing “He’s got the weight of the world on his big broad shoulders.”

Oh yeah, that’s my cat! I love him. I mention him a lot in older Francie Cool stuff as well.

The song seems like it’s very much about wanting to be “normal” so you could be asked out. Why did you mention your cat in the song but leave so it sounds like you could be describing a boy?

There’s a lot of hidden messages in my music. Looking at it now it makes me feel super straight or something. I rarely talk about women in music.

Liking women?

Well, actually, in the new album there’s some gay stuff.

So why bring up your cat?

Oh, I just love him and just playing little tributes to him.

At the end of “Someone Please Ask Me Out” you sing “I’m extra normal to you.” Does that mean you’re the most normal, or something more than normal?

I think that’s more me saying that is me wishing it was true.

That you were normal?

No, not that. I just use the word in my music sometimes because I like the simplicity of it. What I mean when I say that stuff is to live without being hated.

You play at a lot of DIY or illegal places. Do you ever get nervous that someone at a gig will be really homophobic or transphobic?

No. No, because I know everyone is pretty chill at places I play. I’ll get nervous on the street, though, or at school. Well, I don’t get nervous on the street actually, or I rarely do. The place I get the most nervous is at school. Being surrounded by upper-middle-class white kids is really stressful.

But the gigs are like safe spaces.

Yeah. I feel pretty loose at gigs or just outside school, in general. But shows are where I can really let loose.

Have shows always been like that?

I think so. I’ve never really had stage fright when it comes to performing music, which is interesting considering all the other anxieties I do have about stuff. For some reason, it always felt pretty comfortable and natural for me. I don’t think I’ve ever played a show where some douche was rude to people. Or maybe I just don’t notice it.

Do you have any goals with your music going forward?

I just hope I can inspire other younger people to get active in their field of interest. You don’t have to be done with high school or even college to do the shit you wanna do. Especially today you have so many opportunities to shape your whole life. I wish I could see other people doing that. You shouldn’t be scared of trying to live in a man’s world. I hope my music can help people if they’ve been through similar situations that I’ve been through. Some people have told me that my music has helped them which is a really great feeling, knowing that you can help someone with your art and also just with yourself.

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