Maya Monès Talks Crowd-Funding Her Dreams And ‘The Girls’ Having Her Back

“Everything I do is for the girls,” says Maya Monès, a model based out of New York who also DJs under the name br0nz3_g0dd3ss. When she’s spiraling on a shoot or working through some shitty comments, it’s the trans women in her life who bring her back and keep her focused. “They remind me that what I’m doing is bigger than me,” she says. “They’ve been my support system from the jump, and they always will be.”

Her faith is not misplaced. For the past few months, Monès has been crowd-funding her facial feminization surgery on YouCaring, and over that time the girls have shown up for her over and over and over again, raising nearly $30,000 by the fundraiser’s end last night. We were wondering how she’s feeling now that her long-imagined future is about to become her present, so we caught up with her over the phone on Saturday during the final hours of fundraising. Check it out below, and Venmo her some recovery money at @maybeitsmaya!!

HARRON WALKER: In your Chromat interview, you said that you find a lot of strength “in envisioning a young Maya seeing herself now thriving on her own.” Who was the actual young Maya seeing in magazines and on screen? Who inspired her?

MAYA MONÈS: I grew up pretty sheltered, so the only person I really had was a vision of myself, who I wanted to be. Another big person who inspired me is my mom. I know that’s like everybody’s pageant answer, but really! We were born on the same day and have a really special connection. She made everything out of nothing, and she taught me to put others before myself. Everything that I am today and everything that I hope to be really is a reflection of her. Everyone’s always like “I’m turning into my mom!” with fear in their voice, but I’m like “Hell yeah! I’m turning into my mom!!”

So many trans girls I know, myself included, are super particular about the photos they post online. Your line of work is like entirely shot by other people. Did you have to work to develop a comfort level around that, and, if so, how’d you do it?

I mean, yes and no. I have developed a comfort level, definitely, but I’m never really 100% comfortableever. It’s something, on some level, I’m faking and pretending because I know that my position is helping other people. That’s what keeps me going. I practiced in front of the mirror to figure out what angles I’m comfortable with. It’s really limiting because I can’t fully be the artist I could be through modeling, really letting myself go to make art with my body. I grew up acting, so it’s been really easy for me to turn that counterfeit confidence on and off.

You were in acting? What kind of roles did you get to play?

Well, actually, I played two trans women when I was 15 or 16. I played Angel in Rent, who’s depicted as a gay boy but really she’s one of the girls, and I played Mary Sunshine in Chicago. In the movie, she’s a female reporter, but in the show she’s a trans woman, pretty much. There were some random ones, too. I played Audrey, the plant, in Little Shop of Horrors, with a deep voice and everything. I’ve tried to get back into it, but it’s hard to find roles that are meaningful for black trans women. We’re always the same old narrative, and it’s a boring narrative. I want a role that will make people see us as humans, not the same story that’s already been told. I’m hopeful that will come along.

What kind of fashion industry work do you hope to do someday?

I really want to work overseas and hit the Paris-Milan-London runways, really have the world see me stomp. Nobody does it like I do. Just me walking into a room can change and challenge so much, so I can’t imagine what my runway walk would do to the fashion industry.

Who are some of your favorite people you’ve already worked with?

My favorite people I’ve worked with, and there’s a lot of people that come to mind, are Chromat and Gypsy Sport. Both brands really allowed me to be myself. They really did not limit me as far as my walk or my pictures. They looked at me and understood everything I was going through. Everything I said, they heard. They were my faves to work with. I didn’t feel like a trans girl or a “trans model” at their show. I just felt like a model.

Wait, so have people said stuff about your walk?

Yeah! Think about the fashion industry in the ‘90s and 2000s. There was a period where supermodels had personalities. They were household names because of who they were or how they walked. After that, there was a total whitewashing. Models didn’t have to know how to walk. They could have two left feet, but as long as they could just walk down the runway they’d get the job. It’s a slap in the face! One of my favorite things I’ve ever been told about my walk was, “Ummmmmm, could you make your walk less fabulous please?” I was like, “Do you think anybody ever asked Naomi Campbell to make her walk less fabulous?

Absolutely not.

Like, no! Bye! Fuck that! I came here to do what I came here to do and that’s pump.

How do you feel now that the crowd-funding’s almost over? How did you feel when you started it all those months ago?

Going into it, I felt very hopeful that things would come together. I always knew in my heart that it would happen, but that still didn’t take away the fact that it’s been such a scary, tiring, exhausting, confusing process for me. It’s been really hard to explain to people over and over that this isn’t something that has to do with beauty. It’s me returning to myself and existing as myself for the first time in my life. I have the right to do that, and it’s people’s responsibility to provide that for people that they’ve put down. I’m feeling great now, happy and relieved. It’s been really beautiful to see people rally together to make my dream come true. It’s an indescribable feeling. I’m so grateful. It’s going to change my life. I’m going to finally be able to be myself and look in the mirror and see what I’ve been seeing in my head since I was a baby. My life is absolutely going to start right now.

Do you have any advice for black trans femmes or anyone else who wants to break into fashion?

Set a vision for yourself, no matter how crazy or wild or intangible or far away it may seem from where you are right now. Set that vision, and chase it. If you want it, go get it. Do everything in your power to keep that vision in your line of sight. Don’t let anybody blur that vision. You’re the only one that can make it happen for yourself. No one else is going to do that for you. There are so many things pushing up against girls like us. Just remember that us being here is changing the world. Our existence is so beautiful and so powerful and so necessary. We’ve been around forever. People have looked up to us throughout history. We’re healers. We’re teachers. We’re pillars of community. We’re everything. We’re magic. We have to find the strength in us to help us continue fighting. I would just say thatand keep your girls close.

Any upcoming projects you want to talk about?

Yes, actually. With the help of some friends at Discwoman, Bearcat and Frankie Hutchinson, I’ll hopefully be going on a little European DJ tour a month after my surgery. It’ll be my first time in Europe, so I’m really excited. I just decided on the name of the tour: The New Face Who Dis? Tour. It’s going to be really fun. I’m not going to say anything about anything else I’m working on. I’m just going to wait and gag all of you.

I cannot wait to be gagged.

Me either, bitch! Me either.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

‘Battle of the Sexes’ Has Largest Wide Release for a Lesbian-Themed Film Ever. How?

Over the weekend, moviegoers across the United States had more access to ever than before to a lesbian-themed film: Battle of the Sexes. The film, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, tells the story of the famous tennis match between queer tennis legend Billie Jean King and male chauvinist tennis pro Bobby Riggs.

The sports biopic opened in 1,213 theatres across America, according to Box Office Mojo. That bests all-time theatre counts from other lesbian-themed films like The Kids Are All Right (994), Carol (790) and Grandma (1,061).

While the film certainly has some of the most frank and intimate moments of lesbian intimacy ever seen in a wide-release film, that’s certainly not what got the film to so many screens. The lesbianism was mostly hidden from the film’s marketing, which relied on Steve Carrell and Emma Stone to put butts in seats.

“On the one hand it’s awesome that [Sexes] is getting a wide release,” Kelly Kessler, associate professor of media and cinema studies at DePaul University, told INTO in a phone interview. “But I don’t want to pat it on the back because of what it’s not.”

Kessler said that, while the film does have a lesbian theme, it relied much more heavily on its stars Carrell and Stone and its prestige sports biopic swagger to draw audiences than it did its queerness. That’s much different, she mentioned, than other films which required audiences to accept its lesbianism as part of the ticket purchase.

If you look at the string of high-profile lesbian films that didn’t crack 1,000 screens, like Carol or The Kids Are All Right, outright queerness is a part of their aesthetic. For Grandma, which did open in over 1,000 screens, the draw was Lily Tomlin herself an out lesbian and its awards prestige. But The Battle of the Sexes doesn’t bank on queerness to sell itself.

The Kids Are All Right, that’s a different story,” Kessler said. “That’s a story about lesbian relationships. That is about those women in relationships and their family. It asks viewers to accept all those things in the premise. This movie does not.”

Along with the film rejecting lesbianism as part of its marketing, it also cast Emma Stone, for whom sex appeal and heterosexuality are a part of her magnetism. In doing so the film has taken the butch King and made her a femme woman in butch drag.

“The movie is pushing her aesthetic femininity more than Billie Jean King’s really was,” Keesler said. “It’s completely relevant that it’s Emma Stone. That it’s not even Ellen Page.”

In the end, the movie’s heterosexual selling points ultimately helped it exist.

“What do you want the end of the day?” Kessler asked. “Do you want the story to be made? Do you want it to be told and be able to do something?”

“If you want it a mainstream wide release,” she added, “What do you want to give up?”

Shaving Cream

In this society, Black men are perceived as the epitome of masculinity. I have always been Black and effeminate so I had pressure from the men around me to eventually assimilate to their toxic behaviors.

At the same time I also had to navigate society’s infatuation with straight, cisgender, white men, as I am none of those things.

I have always known that men are toxic, and I never wanted to be considered one of them. I was taught that hair was a sign of manhood, so after I began to grow hair, I would routinely shave on Sunday nights to avoid being perceived as a man.

The razor became a metaphor in my life for struggles with my presentation.

During my time shaving I dealt with my internal anti-blackness, relationship to eurocentric beauty standards, my interactions with men, and where I fit in the gender spectrum.

I wrote this poem to heal myself from the marks toxic masculinity has left on my body & to remind myself and others that masculinity ain’t shit.

Amir Khadar is a Black nonbinary multidisciplinary artist and activist. Their artwork focuses on deconstructing systems of oppression, and practicing unapologetic self love. Amir is currently studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

The Complicated Queer Rights Legacy of Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefnera pornographer, revolutionary, and misogynistdied on Wednesday at the age of 91. It’s fitting to his legacy that he somehow managed to be all three.

While many saw him as what his magazine, Playboy, was fittingly named, others argue that he was a crusader against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Hefner was an early supporter of LGBTQ rights, viewing the nascent gay liberation movement as part and parcel of the wider sexual revolution of the 1960s. His magazine, which published its first issue in 1951, spread awareness of HIV/AIDS at a time there was little information on the virus.

While the HIV was widely referred to as “gay plague,” Hefner told The Advocate that “the only thing ‘wrong’ with AIDS is the way our government responded to it.”

Playboy gave transgender actress and model Caroline Cossey the cover in 1991 after she was outed by a British tabloid a decade earlier. Cossey was the first trans woman to pose for Playboy, giving her widespread visibility years before Laverne Cox and Janet Mock became household names. At its height, Playboy commanded a readership of seven million subscribers.

It was a groundbreaking landmark, but also one that allowed trans bodies to be objectified and fetishized. Such are the contradictions of Hugh Hefner.

His legacy as a crusader for LGBTQ equality is further complicated by criticisms from feminists over the tone Hefner set in the porn industry in regards to female bodies. After news of Hefner’s passing broke, Glamour argued that he was “no hero,” claiming that he “built an empire on misogyny.” That thesis isn’t new: A 1963 expose from feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who went undercover as a Playboy bunny, detailed her experience of being fondled, manhandled, mistreated, and underpaid in Hefner’s clubs; the expectation was to be beautiful, not comfortable. Men would follow her around in Hefner’s clubs yelling, “Bunny, bunny, bunny!”

The working conditions were unfavorable, to say the least.

Hefner only seemed to enrage feminists more as he grew older and his girlfriends got younger. The controversy grew more steep as he accumulated more young blonde trophies; at one point, the nonagenarian was juggling seven ladyloves. What riled critics was the fact that several of these women worked for him; they were then sent to live with and sleep with him. Like much of his career, Hefner’s relationships with the women who shared his bed straddled the line between sexual liberty, commerce, coercion, and exploitation.

As a nonbinary porn star who once graced the cover of Playboy magazine, I lived these contradictions.

In many ways, I consider my August 2011 cover to be a major accomplishment. At 24, I felt a palpable sense of pride to be on the cover of a magazine I always admired in secret, reading Playboy under the covers as a queer teenager coming to terms with her sexuality. The women who graced the magazines’ pages might have been objects to Hefner, but to me, they represented freedom, a model of someone I could be like or be with. It might lose me feminist points, but I can’t erase this part of my history. And that tensiona mixture of desire and nagging apprehensionis one I imagine many other queer women of a certain age share.

When you act in porn films for a living, people ask you a lot of questions: How much money do I make? Are there drugs involved? Am I faking it? But the one I’m asked most often is: What was it like to sit for Hugh Hefner? His larger-than-life image inspires a certain curiosity.

That day I felt an intense excitementin some ways the culmination of a life’s journey. But I’m also reminded of Steinem’s “A Bunny’s Tale,” in which she detailed a world of impossible rules and expectations. The bunnies of the 60s had dry cleaning bags stuffed in their bras to maximize their bust size. I was instructed that I must have bleach blonde hair. In order to obtain that, I had to fry my hair and wear hair extensions the day of the shoot. I was also told that I must be extremely tanand as in shape as possible.

After subjecting myself to one tanning bed after anotherand crying each day leading up to the shootI stepped on the scale the day of my cover. All was well, except for my self-esteem. I wanted to be perfect, just like so many young women before me.

I worried that I would never be good enough for a man like Hef. Even though I knew in my heart I wanted to be with a woman, I felt I would be more valuable to the world if I served men.

It’s easy to excoriate or celebrate a man whose entire life invited scrutiny and criticism. But the truth is that Hefner was many things to many people. Feminists view him as a libertine who built a multimillion dollar business off exploiting the women who bared all in Playboy’s pages. The models under him saw him as a boss, mentor, boyfriend, or a necessary evil. He helped me build a career that allowed me to pull myself out of poverty, but one that made it difficult for me to value myself on my own terms. It’s hard to leave the gaze behind, and it’s only as an adult that I recognize what I deserve: to be a fully realized person, not someone else’s bleach blonde fantasy.

Hefner used his platform to give voice to marginalized groups at a time when they needed advocacy and visibility, but that work made it difficult for women like myself to find our own. Is he a misogynist or a queer rights messiah? The answer is yes.

Taking Photos of Women Without Their Consent Is a Crime. Why Is It So Hard to Get Justice?

In a world where the sitting President once toldHoward Stern that his daughter was “a piece of ass,” objectifying women feels less indictable than ever. And unfortunately, and harassing women is more pervasive than ever.

Earlier this week, actress Natalie Morales called out a photographer who took pictures of her “bits” at theBattle of the Sexes red carpet premiere. The former Parks and Recreation star, who came out as queer in a June essay, lambasted the paparazzo on Twitter, claiming that he sent her photos which he thought had exposed her vagina. (It was actually just nude-colored underwear.) In Battle of the Sexes, Morales portrays one of the tennis players who fought for gender parity in the 1970swhen female athletes were paid a fraction of what their male colleagues earned. It seems that things haven’t changed as much as we’d like to think.

Even at an event celebrating gender equality, Morales couldn’t escape the toxic treatment of women’s bodies by news publications that exploit them for clicks. Publishing explicit photos of women without their consent is not only customary for tabloid mediait also sends the dangerous message that the public is entitled to the full access of women’s bodies.

In 2013, the private photos of more than 500 celebrities were leaked from their private iCloud accounts. Some of the victims were men, but most were women. The perpetrator would be convicted on felony charges, but not before images of Kate Upton and Ariana Grande were widely circulated on websites like Reddit and 4chan. But even worse, the photos were posted on gossip blogs and entertainment websites, who aired them for the nebulous purpose of “newsworthiness.” Perez Hilton, the famed tabloid blogger, would apologize and remove photos of Jennifer Lawrence, which he said were posted “in haste.”

Lawrence, one of the most prominent victims of the hack, would subsequently describe it as a “sex crime.” In an interview with Vanity Fair, the Hunger Games actress said that just because she’s a public figure doesn’t mean she “asked for this.” “It’s my body, and it should be my choice,” Lawrence claimed, “and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting.”

Due to the relative ease of sharing photos without someone’s permission in the age of digital media, this problem has become ubiquitous in contemporary culture. In June, the Guardian reported that Facebook received over 51,000 reports of revenge pornand that was just in January alone. Last year Data and Society found that around one in 10 women under the age of 30 have either had someone post an image of them or threaten to do so without consent. There’s often surprisingly little recourse to stop it, even when you’re a celebrity.

While some these cases did have penal consequences, the majority of leaks never go to trial. If you’re a famous woman, photos of the most private areas of your body might end up as clickbaitunder listicle titles like “Nip Slips, Crotch Shots and Other Embarrassing Celebrity Moments” or “34 Uncensored Celebrity Nip Slips.” Upskirt photos were nothing short of a cultural phenomenon in the 2000s, with women like Kirsten Dunst, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton being “exposed” by invasive paparazzi. After a sex tape of Hilton was famously circulated in 2003, the heiress and socialite told Marie Claire, “I could not leave my house for months. I was so depressed.”

When it comes to this abusive, damaging treatment of women, the laws actually support it in many cases.

Most states recognize what’s known as the “Right to Publicity,” which proclaims that celebrities can sue any party who is profiting off illegally obtained images of their likeness. However, the guilty party is usually only subjected to an injunction to stop dissemination–essentially, a cease and desist. The process of suing these offenders is more expensive and tedious than it is worth financiallyand ultimately, it wouldn’t stop pedestrians from sharing the photos. Most countries enforce laws against phishing, or illegally obtaining personal property through hacking or “brute force.” If a prosecutor is able to prove that images were illegally obtained, then the perpetrator can be punished by law.

However, once the image is “out there,” so to say, it’s a free for all. There is no distinct law that penalizes those who share and disseminate the photos.

If the pictures become a news story, news publications can claim their First Amendment right to report the news. In layman’s terms, once J-Law’s pictures were a trending topic, media outlets had free reign to publish the story, and linking to the photos was a matter of personal discretion.

Pursuing legal action can be complicated and murky. If a celebrity who feels that their right to bodily privacy has been violated, they can sue a photographer, but they don’t have the ability to take legal action against anyone who shares the photos. It’s difficult to prove possession, and even more difficult to prove that a leak led to harassment.

Even when legal action is pursued, the case can backfire. One of the more bizarre outcomes of “The Fappening” involved U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, who was underage when the leaked photos were taken. Anyone in possession of the material risked being charged with the possession and distribution of child pornography. But there’s an unfortunate twist here: Because Maroney was in possession of the photos she took of her body, it could be argued that could she was legally culpableand could be prosecuted for creating and possessing child porn.

This nightmare scenario might sound outlandish, but this actually happened to three teenage girls in Pennsylvania, as well as the boys they sexted. They were all prosecuted on child porn charges.

The existing legal framework often doesn’t support victims in such cases, and the laws themselves aren’t very practical. Legislation prosecuting revenge porn is on the books in 15 states, which “criminalize disseminating sexually-explicit photographs of anyone without his or her consent.” People who disseminate the photos can cover the genitalia with black bars, and there’s no law to incriminate a censored or doctored image. Linking to photos isn’t illegal either. The lines are blurry and need to be explicitly defined.

These type of cases are extremely painful for the victims. Studies shows that people who have had personal sexually explicit images shared without their consent were likely to suffer from significant physiological and somatic trauma. Victims of revenge porn, as researchers found, experience “long-term personal and psychological consequences,” including “anger, guilt, paranoia, depression, or even suicide.” Fox Sports broadcaster Andrews broke down in hysterics when testifying against a man secretly recorded her naked in her hotel room. Her complaint stated that the 2009 incident led to “severe and permanent emotional distress” and “embarrassment.”

The laws surrounding nude photo leaks remain shadowy and arcane. Social media has changed the sharing landscape forever, but legislation in the United States hasn’t caught up yet. Not only is a nude photo leak humiliating, but it’s also a betrayal of trust and damaging to victims’ mental health. Without a change in the political and legal framework, womenand menlike Natalie Morales remain vulnerable.

This problem isn’t going away. Until the laws change, no one is safe.

The Leather Community Is Changing — And Some Say For The Better

The traditional image of the Leatherman holds a very specific place in the gay community. Even those who may not be intimately aware of the BDSM world can identify a Tom of Finland drawing. The style of the drawing is unmistakable, consisting of one or more impossibly built men with a perfect mustache, a comically large bulge, and an ass you could feast on for hours.

While this unachievable ideal may have been the standard for men in the leather community for years, that idea is starting to change, and that change is certainly a welcome one.

The Tom of Finland Leatherman image is, like many things within the Leather community, an image based on traditions. The image represents what a man is supposed to look like, or at least what we thought a man was supposed to look like in the mid-20th century.

However, as the idea of what a man should look like shifts within popular culture, changes are happening within the leather community as well.

Some who have been involved in the community for some time say it’s clear that changes are already happening. “There has been an evolution of the male masculinity spectrum,” Tyesha Best, the Media Director for International Mister Leather Inc. told me via e-mail. “Many have come out of the closet persay [sic] as more feminine presenting male identified individualsIts [sic] really exciting.”

Tyesha is far from the only one who sees changes and believes more are possible. Jody Corbett, Mr. Kentucky Leather 2016, says he sees changes and is confident more are on their way.

“Every day, there are new conversations to be had, new ideas to be shared,” Jody told me over email, “I see our possibility as a community limitless.”

And Jody has some first-hand experience with a changing community. In addition to competing in this past May’s International Mister Leather competition, Jody is also known as Sister Cordelia xoxo of the Derby City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

“It’s an organization that lets me express a part of myself I didn’t know existed.”

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, for those whose knowledge is lacking in the subject (don’t worry, I had no idea either) are a group of, according to Jody, “Anarchist pagan witchy queer genderbending radical faerie fabulous drag nuns who do the work for our community, in whatever form it comes in.”

The sisters are impossible to miss, with their stark white face paint, delightfully flashy outfits and their larger than life cornettes. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have, according to their website, “devoted [themselves] to community service, ministry, and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity, and spiritual enlightenment.”

Somehow the Sisters manage to be both distinctly queer and incredibly traditional at the same time. The first time I was introduced to the Sisters, I knew right away they were supposed to be nuns, despite the fact that they looked more like the main attraction at the most fabulous circus on earth.
The Sisters may be the furthest possible from the Tom of Finland prototype. They are the very image of flamboyance, ignoring traditional gender norms and doing so with unabashed glee. The energy of a group of Sisters is electric, it’s nearly impossible to not be laughing while surrounded by them. They are the very antithesis of the toxic masculinity which surrounds gay men.

You’ll often see the Sisters at major LGBTQ events across the country, including the International Mister Leather convention. In fact, that’s where Jody first saw his first Sister. He described seeing a Sister at the 2012 IML convention but didn’t think the group would ever be in Louisville Kentucky. That is until a couple of years later when he saw a group of them walk into the bar he was in.

Since then the sisters have been an incredibly big part of his life, so much so that Cordelia even showed up on stage when he competed in IML this past year. Impressive when you consider a contestant donning any type of drag would have been unheard of just a few years prior. Cordelia showing up on stage is a sign of the change that is already happening within the Leather community.

Of course the community is far from perfect, there is still plenty to be done in order to make it a more inclusive environment for anyone who may be interested. Tyesha is keenly aware of that, and she has some ideas on how to best facilitate that growth.

“If given the opportunity I’d have more facilitated dialogues and panel discussions,” she told me, about changes she’d like to make in the community. “It’s important that there is a diverse intellectual stream when it comes to leadership and education.”

Tyesha also told me that, as a woman in the community, she definitely feels supported, though of course there are some “bad apples” in the bunch. She hopes that the racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, and other “-isms,” as she calls them, will eventually die out within the community, a hope Jody also shares.

“I would change the ‘no fats, no femmes, no Asians, no blacks, etc.’ mentality present within so many aspects of culture, not just leather,” Jody told me. “But especially in the kink and leather scene; there is simply no room for that.”

He’s right, of course. The issue of misogyny and racism and all the other “-isms” is not something specific to the leather community, it’s one which the LGBTQ community as a whole needs to deal with.

Within the leather community, however, the pressure of the “-isms” feels different. As someone who has been involved in the leather community, I’ve felt it, and it’s always felt different from the pressure I’ve felt from the larger community.

A lot of that pressure comes from the traditions of the past, and the aptly titled “Old Guard” of leather. There are very specific ways you’re supposed to wear your leather, specific ways to act around other leathermen, specific ways you’re supposed to talk about the community. These all stem from the same place, and all have their roots in a form of toxic masculinity which is no longer as accepted as it once was.

It does feel like there is a change happening. It’s a change I’ve noticed myself over the past eight or so years as I’ve attended IML. The crowds feel not only bigger but also younger. New people are coming in, and that’s forcing others to change and be more open.

The “Old Guard” still exists, and is still important, but people are feeling more comfortable branching out and trying to do things a bit differently. Change is definitely happening in the leather community, and while it certainly isn’t rid of the pressure of the “-isms” just yet, it’s getting closer all the time.

Jody is confident that it has to happen.

“Leather and kink are comprised of moments, time, experiences, politics, which often transcend the physical,” he says. “To maintain that toxic mentality is not only racist and discriminatory but incompatible with some of the best feelings you get out of these communities.”

HHS Head Who Doesn’t Think Health Care Kills Enough Gay People Resigns

Another one bites the dust.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price turned in his resignation Friday following a firestorm of criticism over the $400,000 in travel costs he accrued through habitual use of private planes. A former House representative from Georgia, Price is one of at least 14 White House officials to have stepped down during Trump’s embattled first year in office.

The 62-year-old Republican is likely to be remembered for his role in the stalled Trumpcare bill, which has repeatedly stalled in Congress.

Referred to as the “evil mastermind” behind the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Price has been an enthusiastic supporter of the president’s failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Even as research showed that premiums would increase as much as 74 percent, Price defended the numerous plans put forward by Republicans. He told Meet the Press in March that “nobody will be worse off financially” should Obamacare be struck down.

Congress doesn’t appear to agree. The most recent iteration of that effort, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill, failed to pass the Senate earlier this week.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said that the Graham-Cassidy legislation, if passed, would have had a nearly identical impact to previous repeal bills. The proposal would leave 32 million Americans uninsured, many of whom would not be able to otherwise afford coverage. Populations disproportionately affected include the low-income communities, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and individuals living with HIV.

The Williams Institute estimated that the Republican proposal, which slash funding for Medicaid dramatically, would leave around a million queer and transgender people uninsured. Many of these people gained access to care for the first time under the ACA.

A Republican health plan is likely to eliminate nondiscrimination protections for trans individuals enacted last year. Section 1557, which barred bias on the basis of gender identity in all federally funded health centers, has been under assault from the new administration, who has sought to roll it back. That rule was sent back to Health and Human Services for reconsideration in May.

Advocates say this rollback would contribute to a society where LGBTQ people can be turned away from hospitals and doctors simply because of who they are. Twenty-seven percent of transgender people and 20 percent of HIV-positive individuals claim to have been discriminated against or refused service in health settings.

The National Center for Transgender Equality has subsequently referred to the GOP effort to repeal the ACA as a “death sentence” for LGBTQ people.

Prior to his appointment, LGBTQ rights groups warned that Price could pose a danger to the community. As a member of the House of Representatives, he repeatedly voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes laws. Price referred to the Obama administration’s support of trans student rights as “absurd.”

The White House said in a statement that Don J. Wright, the current Deputy Assistant Secretary, would serve as the interim Secretary of HHS following Price’s department.

Massachusetts Librarian to Melania Trump: Oh the Places You’ll Hell No!

She will not read them on a stump, she will not take them from a Trump.

A Cambridge, Massachusetts librarian has refused a gift of Dr. Seuss books from Melania Trump, Newsweek reports. The books donated were part of national Read a Book Day.

In a shady turn of events, school librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro refused the books, saying that “Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché.”


In a blog post titled “Dear Mrs. Trump,” Soeiro wrote that her school has “plenty of resources” that contribute to its excellence.

“Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an amazing city with robust social programming, a responsive city government, free all-day kindergarten, and well-paid teachers,” she wrote. “My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science. Many schools around the state and country can’t compete.”

She continued, “Meanwhile, school libraries around the country are being shuttered. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit are suffering through expansion, privatization, and school ‘choice’ with no interest in outcomes of children, their families, their teachers, and their schools. Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control? Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos?”

“You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature,” she added. “Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”

Soeiro also appended a list of books she urged the president’s wife to read, including The Boy and the Bindi, Red: A Crayon’s Story and Two White Rabbits.

“Books can be a powerful way to learn about and experience the world around us; they help build empathy and understanding,” she wrote. “You and your husband have a direct impact on these children’s lives. Please make time to learn about and value them. I hope you share these books with your family and with kids around the country. And I encourage you to reach out to your local librarian for more recommendations.”

Girl, leave it to a librarian to REEEAAADDD.


White House Says Trump Isn’t Responsible for Anti-LGBTQ Views of Politician He Endorsed

Donald Trump doesn’t condone the virulently homophobic views of a man he endorsed, according to the White House.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in a Thursday press briefing that there’s no “parallel” between Trump and Roy Moore, who won a runoff election in Alabama this week to fill Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat. When questioned about Moore’s notoriously anti-LGBTQ background, Sanders claimed she and the president “don’t agree.”

“I have not taken a deep dive on every comment that the senatoror the Senate nomineehas made,” Sanders continued, “but I certainly know where the president stands on those issues and wouldn’t see any parallel between the two of them on that front.”

Moore, who thinks that Sandy Hook was punishment for a society that “forgot the law of God,” is one of the country’s most extremist bigots. Among his many outlandish beliefs, the GOP Senate nominee has claimed that the LGBTQ community caused the September 11 attacks and compared same-sex marriage to the Holocaust.

As a judge, Moore argued that an abusive father was better suited to be a parent than a lesbian mother, calling homosexuality “abhorrent, immoral, [and] detestable.” The former Alabama Supreme Court justice was removed from his position last year after attempting to block judges in his state from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. He was subsequently found guilty of multiple ethics violations.

But his views should be offensive to every community. Moore has claimed that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress, calling a “false religion.” He once referred to Native Americans and Asians as “red and yellows.”

Although Trump supported Moore’s opponent, Luther Strange, in the Alabama runoff, the president was quick to flash the fundamentalist Christian a big thumbs up following his decisive win. “Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!”

The POTUS also deleted several tweets stumping for Strange.

The reason that Trump didn’t support Moore earlier wasn’t because of a divergence on LGBTQ rights, which he claimed to fight for as president. It’s because his advisors urged him to back Strange, an establishment candidate who had the endorsement of Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

After Strange’s loss, CNN reports that Trump lambasted his aides for telling him to back a “loser.” Anonymous sources told the news station that the president went to bed Tuesday night “embarrassed and pissed.”

Moore has another theory about why Trump didn’t throw his presidential weight behind him in the election: They had never met in real life. The Alabama Republican told Fox and Friends after his victory that “when he gets to know me… he’ll understand that I do support a very conservative agenda for this country.”

Trump’s record certainly suggests that he wouldn’t have a problem supporting someone with Moore’s beliefs. A majority of his appointments to the White House have a strong record of opposing LGBTQ rights.

Since becoming president in January, LGBTQ advocates say Trump has consistently rolled back equality for queer and trans people.

14 Messages Trans People Want You To Stop Sending On Dating Apps

Hey babes! It’s your friendly neighborhood trans person here to stop you from being “that guy” when it comes to chatting up trans cuties on your favorite dating apps.

Look, we know we’re sexy, and we’re glad you think so too! But, the last thing we want from people who are trying to date us is to be asked a bunch of invasive questions or treated insensitively.

So, here’s 14 messages you can stop sending to trans people if you want to be good to the trans community (and possibly get in our pants):

1. You’re so brave! I know, I know! It seems like you’re being nice when you tell a trans person how brave they are for living their life unapologetically. But, for myself and my trans friends, it can feel like being treated like an exhibit at the zoo. Are you just looking for brownie points or do you want to put in the work to make sure trans people are safe and treated equally? We’re happy you respect us and the journey we’ve been through, but we also want you to just honor the fact that life is complicated and we’re all humans doing what we need to do to live authentically.

2. You look just like a man/woman. I would never know that you’re trans! We look just like men, women, or non-binary people because, well, we are. Congratulating us on how well we line up with cisgender norms of beauty and attractiveness isn’t flattering. Here’s a simple thing to remember: we are the gender we say we are regardless of whether we live up to your ideals and we don’t need your stamp of approval to make that so.

3. What does your junk look like? Are you on hormones? Like many trans folks, I dream of the world where these questions are no longer a thing. If you’re attracted to me, you’re attracted to me. And, there are plenty of ways that we can make sex work for us where our junk configurations don’t need to be an issue. Nothing is worse than being asked if we’ve had “the surgery” or told your interest in us is contingent on whether or not we take hormones. Earn extra points for asking what words we use to refer to our junk instead!

4. If I hook up with you, does that make me bisexual? Are you interested in people who identify with the gender you do and people who don’t? Then congrats, you may very well be bisexual! But, if you consider yourself bi simply because you hook up with trans people who may or may not have the same junk as you, then you need to sit all the way down. If you’re a man who digs men (including trans men), you’re still gay, honey. If you’re a man who’s into men and women (transgender or cisgender) and people who identify outside of the binary, then bisexual, queer, pansexual, or whatever else might be the right label for you.

5. I’ve always wanted to be with “a trans.” Good god, where do I start? It’s cool if you’re curious about having sex with a particular trans person, but do us a favor and figure out how to speak to us respectfully before you reach out. We are trans people and we’re not here to be your experiment.

6. MTF or FTM? These acronyms have become a sort of shorthand for trans women and trans men (they stand for male-to-female and female-to-male). But, many of us don’t identify with those terms as they seem to boil our gender down to something physical or biological. They make it seem like we transitioned from one fixed thing to another fixed thing or that we haven’t always been the gender we know ourselves to be. Not to mention the fact that trans people are not just some amalgamous blob. If you’re attracted to the person you’re talking to, then it really shouldn’t matter if they’re a trans man, a trans woman, or non-binary. If you’re that worried about it, try picking up on cues about how they present themselves and how they talk about themselves.

7. Your profile is too angry or too overtly political. Being a trans person and trying to date on or offline can be downright exhausting. Sorry if my language comes across as harsh, but I have every right to ask that the people who contact me are respectful, value consent, and are, like I try to be, aware of their own privileges. The personal is political, y’all!

8. Trans people, trans people of color, disabled trans people, fat trans people, etc. are my fetish. Check out the dictionary description of “fetish,” and you’ll find that it’s sexual attachment to an object. Well, turns out trans people, people of color, disabled folks, and fat folks are not objects! We’re real, live human beings. The people I find sexiest are those who are down to include me in their sexuality without making a big deal about it or obsessing over how my body is different from a cis person’s body.

9. Conversely, I’m not into trans people, people of color, disabled folks, fat folks, femmes, etc. No bro, it’s not just a preference. There are systems of oppression in place that shape our attraction to different groups of people. Take some time to examine why you have the “preferences” you have and whether those preferences are actually just coded transphobia, racism, ableism, body negativity, femmephobia, etc. You should never have sex with someone you don’t want to, but if you feel the need to be adamant about your problematic preferences, don’t broadcast it to the world. We’ve got plenty of hate circulating in this political climate, and we don’t need yours added to the mix.


10. Hey, hello, we’ve never talked before, but here’s an unsolicited picture of my junk inexplicably next to a remote, a banana, a soda bottle, or some other strange penis-sized object. I know, Mr. Headless Torso, you think that sending me a picture of your genitals is going to magically make me want to have sex with you. But, if you met me on the street would you lead with “sup” and then pull down your pants? I didn’t think so.

11. On a related note: I’m 5,362 miles away, send me pictures of your junk! Nobody likes a pic collector, and unless you’re actually planning to come visit my hometown and hang out with me in person, I’m not interested in doing the work to chat with you. Grindr tells me there are 82 Daddies within a 5-mile radius of me who I’m sure can get here faster. There is a veritable abundance of trans pornography on the internet to satisfy your needs; try that instead!

12. How do you top or bottom? This is one of those questions I always just shoot right back at the person. I put my pants on one leg at a time, I take my coffee without milk, and I top and bottom like you do. If we’re actually going to hook up, then we can talk logistics like you probably do with your cisgender dates. Still confused? Try checking out some trans porn on one of your favorite sites before asking a trans person to educate you.

13. I’m not interested, but I want to ask you invasive questions about your life. We’re on the apps to cruise and date and fool around just like everyone else. Most of us get asked on a daily basis to educate people about our lives and explain what it’s like to be transgender. It’s a lot of emotional labor, and it gets old very quickly. The same technology that brought us Grindr also brought us Google; use it!

14. Just read my damn profile. For some of us trans folks, there comes a point in our interactions where we feel the need to disclose our trans status to make sure the person we’re chatting with isn’t going to be weird about it. It’s not something we’re required to do and we shouldn’t have to do so. But, if you reach out and message someone on an app and then are shocked to find out that they are trans or are disinterested in them when you get that information, make sure you’ve actually taken time to read their profile and make sure you check your cissexism at the door.

Happy cruising, babes!