Brooklyn Stevenson Is Oklahoma’s First Trans Murder Victim in At Least Two Decades

Friends remember Brooklyn Stevenson as “friendly” and “buoyant,” the kind of person who makes a lasting impression.

The 31-year-old trans woman reached out to Paula Schonauer, a trans activist in Oklahoma City, a few years ago when she was employed at a local ice cream shop. Stevenson said she was facing discrimination at her job and wanted to file an EEOC complaint. Her coworkers were misgendering her and calling her transphobic slurs, while bosses were moving her schedule around to get her to quit.

“She was a very sweet, kind personsomeone who was willing to work for her place in the world,” Schonauer tells INTO. “She was always honest and open about who she was.”

The last time that Schonauer spoke with her friend, Stevenson had gotten a job at a beauty supply storea natural fit a person who had an innate eye for fashion and makeup. Schonauer remembers her as someone who was always put together.

Stevenson sounded “happy,” she says.

Her body was discovered at 2:30am on Monday morning after police responded to reports of a disturbance in an Oklahoma City motel room. Although Master Sergeant Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case, he told the local news station KFOR that the victim’s wounds were “consistent with homicide.”

Stevenson’s family called her an “amazing daughter, sister, and friend” in a statement calling for justice: “We pray that those who committed this heinous crime will be identified.”

Her death marks a dubious distinction: Stevenson is at least the 24th transgender person murdered in the United States this year, making 2017 America’s most violent year for transgender people. (At least one report claims that the number could be as high as 27.)

But advocates say her probable murder is a first for Oklahoma. Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, tells INTO that he can’t recall another transgender Oklahoman being killed in his 22 years of activism locally. Although Schonauer says trans people often experience bigotry and abuse, the murder of a trans individual has yet to be reported in local news.

There are a number of reasons for why that may be.

Stevenson was initially misgendered in police reports, which led to news outlets referring to her by her birth name, not the one that reflected her gender identity. Schonauer says that it was likely the victim “hadn’t had the ability to change her legal name,” meaning that her identification may not have been updated.

“There are a lot of people who lack the resources to fully legally and medically transition,” Schonauer says. “It runs into problems at times like these when a tragedy happens and we’re unable to speak for ourselves.”

Law enforcement officials and local media would update her name and pronouns after members of the LGBTQ community began to tweet about Stevenson being misgendered. Schonauer claims that accountability and accuracy in reporting on the deaths of transgender people is “very meaningful” for the community: “It’s an affirmation of our identities.”

But if the either the victim’s family or LGBTQ activists aren’t able to correct the record, the individual’s identity may never be accurately reflected.

Other trans murders in Oklahoma may have simply been erased.

But if Stevenson’s death is unprecedented in the state, the timing is uncannily relevant: LGBTQ Oklahomans have experienced a deluge of attacks under an administration that has placed queer and trans rights in the crosshairs. LGBTQ centers in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa have been vandalized in 2017, while community members report increased harassment.

Oklahomans for Equality averaged around 120 calls per day prior to the 2016 presidential race, Jenkins says. Members of the local community often call the center for resources or instructions on how to file a discrimination complaint.

But in the weeks leading up to the election, their phone lines were flooded.

“By December 31, we were averaging 300 phone calls per day and had 29 incidents of violence directed at LGBTQ people or very, very hostile discrimination,” Jenkins claims. “That continued to grow to the point that in January and February, we were having trouble following up on all the calls.”

His organization was targeted by a shooter just a month later in a crime that remains unsolved. An assailant fired on the Oklahomans for Equality building in the early hours of March 6, shattering several windows. Thirteen bullets were found.

The devastating attack was the first-ever instance of vandalism in the organization’s 12-year history, but it wasn’t the only altercation that day: A man walked into the center later the same afternoon, screaming anti-LGBTQ obscenities at the front desk staff. Jenkins claims the harasser yelled at employees, “I wish you would all die.”

Things settled down after the incident for several months, Jenkins says. But after President Trump called for a ban on open trans military service, the center began to see an increase in discrimination complaints all over again.

“Hatred and anger leads to violence,” Jenkins says. “That’s why civil society stops it at its source.”

The White House’s assault on LGBTQ rights has been matched in Oklahoma by the state’s legislature. Last year, at least 30 bills were introduced by Republican lawmakers targeting queer and trans people, a record number in the United States. 2017 saw continued debate over a bathroom bill nearly identical to North Carolina’s semi-repealed HB 2, as well as legislation that would nullify any existing LGBTQ protections in the state. Both attempts failed.

Schonauer says that she began to notice a difference in her state as early as 2015, following the defeat of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. Anti-trans conservatives launched a successful campaign to strike down the LGBTQ-inclusive law, one that falsely branded trans people as “sexual predators” that would target women and children in bathrooms.

Just weeks after the ordinance was voted down, Schonauer was cornered by a group of men at a screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As she was walking out of the bathroom, one of them looked at her and said, “You’re too big to be a woman.”

Schonauer quickly grabbed her wife and walked downstairs, asking to leave as soon as possible. “Let’s go straight to my car and get out of here,” she pleaded.

“That was the first incident that I had experienced in 10 years,” Schonauer says.

Getting justice for Brooklyn Stevenson may prove difficult in a state which won’t recognize her murder as a hate crimes.

Oklahoma is one of 18 states that doesn’t recognize identity-based bias attacks on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Georgia and South Carolina, as well as three other states, don’t have any hate crimes laws at all.

Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson (no relation) says local advocates “aren’t sure” if the victim was murdered for being transgender, but given the striking increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, it’s not unlikely. Attacks on transgender people skyrocketed by 43 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Data is not yet available for the past year, but the rise is certain to be even more dramatic.

Local police have not stated whether Stevenson’s death is being investigated as a hate crime.

Local advocates say the response from law enforcement has left something to be desired. The Freedom Oklahoma director claims that it “took a couple days and getting the attention of the community before people started talking about this.”

“We have a great relationship with the local Oklahoma City Police Department and the local FBI office,” Stevenson says. “But there’s levels of bias to this case that may go farther than that. Even with the police being as good on LGBTQ issues as they are, if this was a white woman in the suburbs, you would have found a different reaction.”

The victim was found in northeast Oklahoma City, the most predominantly black area in the state capital.

The advocate claims the police response was the exact opposite of what happened following the attacks on LGBTQ centers earlier this year, as well as the 2016 attack on Pulse nightclub. After 49 people were gunned down at an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando in June, law enforcement officials helped control traffic for a march in support of victims and their families.

“They were very responsive at that time,” Stevenson says. “We had police escorts coming by our office.”

Schonauer believes that local law enforcement agencies have improved in the past two decades, even if there remains room for improvement. A former officer, she transitioned on the job in 2000, a time when she claims that homophobia was rampant in the department. A number of gay male policemen left their jobs after coming out, whereas her lesbian colleagues largely kept quiet about their sexual orientation, in fear of discrimination.

“There was a time in which it seemed like open season to harass me, and no one would do anything about it,” Schonauer says. “One of the lieutenants said that if I got shot, don’t touch me because I was sure to have HIV. I felt very isolated for such a long time.”

During her 14 years as an out transgender woman on the force, Schonauer claims her coworkers began to come around, inviting her to coffee with them in the morning.

As a former officer, Schonauer believes that police have been “very forthcoming” about Stevenson’s case. She claims that it’s customary for law enforcement not to “release details to the media,” in fear that it will compromise a case.

But the trans advocate says law enforcement officials can do a better job of getting justice for transgender murder victims simply by accurately identifying them in the first place. Police didn’t reach out to Stevenson’s family following her death in order to get correct information to put on the report.

“It’s an invalidation of who she was,” Schonauer says. “In that process, it’s also an invalidation of all of us.”

Stevenson’s mother, Vivian, set up a successful GoFundMe accountto raise money for her daughter’s memorial. The campaign reached its $5,000 goal. Funeral services and solidarity vigils are currently being planned and are set to be announced soon.

Rihanna Is Not Here for Trans Tokenism

Always one to garner headlines for her music, her looks and her fashion, music superstar Rihanna is now getting headlines for her remarks on the transgender community.

After a fan left an Instagram comment urging her to hire a “trans girl” for her Fenty Beauty campaigns, Rihanna responded by saying that she wasn’t about to token the trans community and just hire a person because they are trans.

A fan suggested to RiRi that she should add a trans girl to her next campaign and her response was everything!

A post shared by The Shade Room (@theshaderoom) on

The “We Found Love” singer said that she was not going to use trans people as “a marketing tool.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted trans women throughout the years, but I don’t go around doing trans casting!” she wrote in response on Instagram. “Just like I don’t do straight non trans women castings! I respect all women, and whether they’re trans or not is none of my business! It’s personal and some trans women are more comfortable being open about it than others so I have to respect that as a woman myself! I don’t think it’s fair that a trans woman, or man, be used as a marketing tool! Too often do I see companies doing this to trans and black women alike! There’s always just one spot in the campaign for the token ‘we look mad diverse’ girl/guy! It’s sad!”

Rihanna’s comment is yet another moment in a year of newsworthy moments for the star. Earlier in November, Time named Fenty Beauty one of the best inventions of 2017.

A Gay Man Murdered In Australia Gets Some Justice 30 Years After His Death

They could be serving me my morning coffee or pouring my evening beer. One thing we now know: Scott Johnson’s gay-hating killers are likely to still be amongst us in Sydney. Yet still, the Coroner hasn’t recommended re-opening the investigation.

Another thing we now know is that Johnson’s death was not a suicide, as was originally ruled, but an attack motivated by homophobic hate, the findings of a significant Coroner’s report revealed this week.

It has taken almost three decades, two police investigations, three coronial inquests, letters across the ocean from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Kennedy, a national TV drama and well over a million dollars of Scott’s brother’s personal money to come this far.

Justice should not cost this much. If it wasn’t for the dogged lobbying of Steve Johnson, Scott’s brother (both originally from Los Angeles), his death would’ve been dismissed 29 years ago as just another sad case of a gay suicide.

But something didn’t sit right with Steve. He knew how much Scott had to live for and how unlikely he was to take his own life. Scott was a promising mathematician, studying for a PhD (which his supervisor poignantly finished for him). He had a boyfriend of five years and at 27, his whole life ahead of him.

As State Coroner Michael Barnes said this week: “Regrettably, those responsible for the initial investigation quickly jumped to conclusions without thoroughly and impartially examining all the facts.”

The facts are chilling and damning. Scott’s body was found naked at the bottom of a cliff at North Head, near Manly, Sydney. The picture of his clothes folded neatly at the top of the cliff is an eerie final frame of his life, which we now know was cut short by homophobic hate.

The fact that it was a gay hate crime has been teased out in a drip feed of inquests that happened only because of Steve Johnson’s wealth, persistence, influence and intuition about his brother.

The first inquest saw police dismissing the possibility of Scott’s death being linked to his sexuality, even though evidence was heard that the clifftop was a gay beat (cruising ground), which police still didn’t accept. The second inquest not until 2005 included evidence of gay-bashing gangs and murders of gay people on Sydney’s clifftops in the late 1980s. Specifically, the court court heard that a group called the Narrabeen Skinheads bragged about assaulting an “American faggot”.

But it wasn’t until the third inquest that State Coroner Michael Barnes found that Mr. Johnson’s death was the result of a gay hate attack, and that he was either pushed or fell to his death while trying to escape.

The coroner stopped short of recommending a reopening of the case, saying that there were more than “500 suspicious deaths that are awaiting investigation, none of which have received the same scrutiny this case has.” How many of those 500 cases are other gay men, perhaps callously killed by the same homophobic death squad who, for all we know, walk freely amongst us now? NSW Police have stressed the case “remains open” for people to come forward with new evidence. But this isn’t the re-opening of the case, deploying resources to a fresh investigation, that’s clearly required because they bungled it so badly in the first place.

Imagine how many gay men who came from less financially privileged families have been denied justice? Imagine how many families, more trusting and less connected, have grieved over a suicide when really they should’ve been fighting for a perpetrator of a homophobic murder to be brought to justice?

In the case of Johnson, he was able to deploy over $1 million of his own money to hire a private investigator, former Newsweek journalist Daniel Glick, to investigate the case. These resources money, investigators, media should’ve come from the public purse, to protect Sydney’s gay population who were instead hung out to dry, their deaths shamefully portrayed as fetes of their own hand, as opposed to murderous gay bashers.

It is only the second time in Australian history that a third inquest has been ordered in to the death of a single person. The only other is the case of Azaria Chamberlain (“a dingo ate my baby”) as portrayed by Meryl Streep in the film Evil Angels. The unprecedented level of investigation comes from the extraordinary citizen justice a loving, grieving, and well connected brother who said “If I hadn’t conducted my own investigation … all would be quiet. There’d be no memory of this period in Sydney’s history, and families would be still mystified and grieving with no help from the police.”

It has been reported that 88 Sydney deaths dating from the 1970s onward, including 30 unsolved cases, were gay hate crimes. Many cases were marked suicide or cause unknown, but past police conclusions are being called into question. Until this week, Johnson’s death was one of the question marks on that list.

Last year, Australian media outlet SBS’s produced Deep Water, a documentary, podcast, online interactive hub, and a four-part fictional drama inspired by real events. They wanted to attract a national audience to an under-reported story, and to uncover more possible gay hate crimes and murders in Sydney. The producer told Guardian Australia he was inspired by hearing in 2012 about the murder of Ahmed Ghoniem, who was found in Sydney apartment with multiple stab wounds and blunt trauma injuries. His home had been set alight. No one has been charged over the death.

This is still happening, and people are walking free.

How many question marks on that list of 30 unsolved cases could be resolved if NSW police deployed resources to re-open an investigation to find Johnson’s killers? Until they agree, we’ll never know.

This news comes just days before one of the greatest leaps forward in Australia’s history of gay progress: the passing of a law enacting marriage equality, expected next week. It was an option never afforded to Scott Johnson and his partner of five years; a step forward in their relationship forever denied to them.

As the rainbow garland is no doubt triumphantly unfurled next week, that bar I step into for my celebratory drink could employ a barman serving beer who has killed someone for being gay, and got away scott free.

It’s a sobering reminder of how far we’ve come, yet how far there is still to go.

Twitter: @garynunn1

Photos via Justice for Scott Johnson/Facebook

Morrissey Is A Problematic Fave—And He Likes It That Way

Earlier this month, the city of Los Angeles gave Morrissey his own day. November 10, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced, would forever be in recognition of the musician who famously fronted Manchester-based band The Smiths before going on to cultivate a successful decades-long solo career for himself.

“Los Angeles embraces individuality, compassion, and creativity, and Morrissey expresses those values in a way that moves Angelenos of all ages,” Mayor Garcetti said in a statement. “Morrissey Day celebrates an artist whose music has captivated and inspired generations of people who may not always fit inbecause they were born to stand out.”

That night, I was among a sold out crowd at the Hollywood Bowl, one of two nights that were not only dedicated to the now 58-year-old musician, but that had also created an exclusive all-vegetarian menu throughout the venue. (Morrissey is a diehard vegan, who dedicates an entire song during his live shows to highlighting the terrors of slaughterhouses, meat markets, and farms around the world. The violent visuals are unavoidable, which is kind of the point.)

The kinds of “values” that Morrissey holds, and that the city of Los Angeles is now celebrating annually, are what make him a little difficult to stan forespecially as of late. While he’s spent his entire career thwarting off gay rumors (instead professing to be a “humasexual,” but also celibate), he’s also been quite vocally anti-women, expressing disparaging thoughts about not only women he knew personally, but Prime Minister Theresa May, Fergie, The Duchess of York, and Madonna, the latter he referred to as “closer to organized prostitution than anything else” in a recent interview with the Sunday Times.

It was that interview that has stirred a resurgence of Morrissey bashing as of late, some that had been latent between his last album in 2014 up until his newly released LP, Low In High School. When asked about current topics such as sexual harassment, specifically as it relates to power players in Hollywood, he remarked that he found Anthony Rapp’s statements against Kevin Spacey to be “not very credible.”

“One wonders where the boy’s parents were,” Morrissey told Der Spiegelmagazine. “One wonders if the boy did not know what would happen. I do not know about you, but in my youth I have never been in situations like this. Never. I was always aware of what could happen. When you are in somebody’s bedroom, you have to be aware of where that can lead to. That’s why it does not sound very credible to me.”

He later told The Sunday Times, “You must be careful as far as ‘sexual harassment’ is concerned because often it can be just a pathetic attempt at courtship. I’m sure it’s horrific, but we have to keep everything in proportion. Do you not agree? I have never been sexually harassed, I might add. I hate rape. I hate attacks. I hate sexual situations that are forced on someone. But in many cases one looks at the circumstances and thinks that the person who is considered a victim is merely disappointed.”

Yet at the show at the Bowl on Morrissey Day, four different fans jumped on the stage, effectively flinging themselves at the singer and grabbing at his torso until security guards rushed to pluck them off and place them back into the crowd. This kind of grabby ownership is one that many Moz fans feel entitled to, especially as many of them have been long-dedicated stans for an artist who is somewhat problematic. And it’s not just his distancing himself from the queer community, nor the anti-feminist feelings he espouses. He’s also somewhat of a cultural appropriator. Yet somehow, he gets away with it and is actively embraced by the Mexican-American community he, an Irish man who grew up in Manchester, England, is not a part of.

Morrissey’s Mexican fanbase are said to be drawn to his ranchero style; his consistently sorrowful croons about the loss of love lingering, something he almost seems to lavish in despite his public declarations of having never been on a “proper date.” But the borrowing of a style from a country not his own has been repeated throughout his career, and it’s questionable whether his efforts are sincere or some kind of pandering. His 1999 album and tour, ¡Oye, Estéban!, had him remarking from stage “I wish I was born Mexican, but it’s too late for that now.”

And on his new tour, almost two decades later, Morrissey opens the show with his face painted as a calavera skull. It would seem that in a time when cultural appropriation is being called more than ever before (and rightfully so), Stephen Patrick Morrissey is exalted instead of exiled.

Much has been documented of Morrissey’s Mexican-American fans, who say they appreciate his appreciation; that he’s an outsider like many of them are made to feel, more often than not by the current U.S. administration. “It seems if you’re rich and you’re white, you think you’re so right,” Morrissey sings on his song “Mexico.” “I just don’t see why this should be so.” It’s like Disney with Cocowell-intentioned and largely respectful, if you ignore the fact the studio tried to trademark the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, and that Morrissey is making money off selling Mexican-Americans an Irish man’s version of their own culture.

Morrissey is a staunch hater of Donald Trump (both in press and on stage), so it would seem that he’s at least correct politically. Except he doesn’t voteproudly never has. And his perceived support of Anne-Marie Waters, a British politician with staunch anti-Muslim views is incredibly troubling. A song on Low in High School called “Israel” includes lines like “The sky is dark for many others/They want it dark for you as well/Israel.” He’s played several shows in Tel Aviv, including a performance where he wrapped himself in an Israeli flag.

Morrissey told the Sunday Times that he sees himself as a pioneer of gender fluidity (“I spearheaded the movement”). He surely contributed to that movement,but he is predated by many public figures from bygone eras, whichMorrissey even highlights in thequeer-friendly imagery he sometimes chooses to accompany his music (Joan of Arc graced the album cover of his album World Peace is None of Your Business). He loves James Baldwin and Oscar Wilde, and his work is literary and sweeping in a way that connects with so many, and has for decades.

But separating the man from the music is getting harder to do.

Fans of Morrissey himself know he’s an ego-maniac and a cynical curmudgeon, and that somehow makes him even more desirable. A new film coming out in December, England Is Mine, tells the fictional but biographical story of how he’s always been that kind of guythe one who seeks to be the counter to everything that exists as normal, acceptable, or even likable. And to some, that makes him an icon.

How do we solve a problematic fave like Morrissey? We can’t; we don’t. He’s promised to never do written press again after a recent interview with the German magazine where he felt misquoted and mischaracterized, despite it having been a Q, insisting that he’ll instead only submit to visual or audio press where he can be accurately and authentically him.

The trouble is, that’s exactly what makes him so difficult to love. No matter how smooth his vocals, how enchanting his self-deprecating serenades, how queer he reads, Morrissey is hard to love, and it seems he prefers it that way.

If you can stand all that he stands for, then perhaps you’ll be celebrating Morrissey Day next November.

Danica Roem Confirms She Is Funnier and Cooler Than You With ‘Opposition’ Appearance

Virginia delegate-elect and thrash metal enthusiast Danica Roem appeared on Comedy Central’s The Opposition with Jordan Klepper on Wednesday night to discuss her historic victory. While the satirical show is hosted by a comedian, Roem was the one bringing all the laughs on the segment.

“As transgender people, we don’t get to fly our unicorns to work every day,” Roem told Klepper as she discussed her plans to improve Virginia’s roads and infrastructure. “We only get to use them on weekends, sometimes Thanksgiving.”

When Klepper brought up a New York Times opinion piece calling her “boring,” Roem quipped: “I don’t know at what point in American culture a transgender, metalhead, journalist, stepmom, vegetarian became boring, but guilty as charged!”

Earlier in November, Roem was elected to the Virginia legislature, becoming the nation’s first openly trans state lawmaker. Since then, she’s been on quite a ride, including accompanying pop singer Demi Lovato to the American Music Awards.

Nicollette Sheridan to Fill Joan Collins’ Shoulder Pads in Dynasty Reboot

Since nostalgia is all the rage with TV shows today (Riverdale, Twin Peaks, Will & Grace), it should come as no surprise that Dynasty was recently picked for a modern-day reboot on the CW. The original had all the fashion, big hair, and catfights we could ask for. The new version has all that, plus gay sex.

But one thing that’s been missing from the reboot is the appearance of our favorite southern mama bear, Alexis Carrington. We can now clutch our pearls with the announcement that Nicollette Sheridan will step into the iconic shoulder pads passed down by Joan Collins. If anyone can pull off the catty rich bitch persona Collins made famous, we have faith in Sheridan, whose she-devil portrayal of Edie on Desperate Housewives appeared to come to life when she sued ABC for killing off her character.

Nicolette Sheridan is set to appear as Alexis Carrington in the last few episodes of the reboot’s first season.

Photography: Getty Images

Roy Moore Says Lesbians, Gays and Socialists Are to Blame for Sexual Harassment Allegations

While speaking at Magnolia Baptist Church in Alabama on Wednesday, Republican Senate hopeful and serial teen girl wooer Roy Moore said that LGBTQ people and socialists falsified sexual harassment allegations to keep his Christian conservative ideology out of Congress.

Moore has been accused by several women, some as young as 14, of sexual harassment. The Washington Post recently reported that Moore may have been banned from his local mall for skirt chasing. But, during his Wednesday night pulpit pontificating, Moore once again called the accusations “false and malicious” and believed the allegations to be part of a vast Democratic conspiracy to ruin his good ole down-home Christ-lovin’ lady-touchin’ campaign.

“When I say they who are ‘they?'” Moore said to the congregation. “”They’re liberals. They don’t hold conservative values. They are the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender who want to change our culture. They are socialists who want to change our way of life and put man above God and the government is our God. They’re the Washington establishment…who don’t want to lose their power.”

Moore is one of America’s most extreme and high-profile anti-LGBTQ figures. When he’s not blaming LGBTQ people for 9/11, he’s barring queer women from seeing their children! Moore’s anti-LGBTQ bigotry actually had him barred from the Alabama Supreme Court in 2016.

People in the audience called out during Moore’s speech. One person asked about the women and asked Moore if “all the girls are lying.”

Moore stopped his speech to ask those speaking out to be removed.

Some people in the audience yelled back to the original heckler, saying “Does that look like the face of a molester?” and “You ought to be ashamed.” That’s a man’s man.”

Despite the multiple accusations, Moore is still leading Democratic challenger Doug Jones in the polls.

Photography: Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images

Wow! Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet Really Are Just Two Straight Guys Kissing

In news that will hit you harder than finding out that Call Me By Your Name author Andre Aciman is, in fact, straight, it turns out that Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, the two lead characters who do, in fact, call each other by their own names, are straight.

OK, OK, you knew that. But the two reminded us just how straight they are on an Ellen appearance where Chalamet and Hammer recounted their very first make-out encounter. It turns out director Luca Guadagnino had the two break the ice by making out on the grass and walking away, leaving the two to ravish each other.

After yukking it up with Ellen DeGeneres over their grassy spit swap, Chalamet commented on dealing with razor burn while kissing Hammer.

“Armie didn’t have to deal with it becuase I am on the cusp of manhood, I don’t really have to shave ever,” Chalamet said. “There’s a signifcant beard goign on there. That’s a real thing people deal with.”


DeGeneres responded, “I don’t anymore, but I did.”

God bless you, DeGeneres Queen!

On another note, Hammer’s wife loved the film, but Chalamet’s grandmother hasn’t seen it yet.

In Search of a Safe Place for Central America’s LGBTQ Immigrants

Thirty-four-year-old Camila* left El Salvador in 2016 because she feared for her life. Her neighbor, a police officer in her town, targeted Camila for being transgender. He harassed her on the street, called her at home, and threatened Camila and her partner with death while armed with a gun.

When she reported the incident to the Civil National Police (PNC), authorities threatened to arrest Camila. She decided she’d be safer in Mexico only to face renewed harassment moments after her arrival in the southern town of Tapachula. Unidentified men in uniform mocked her gender identity, threatened her, and took the money she and her partner brought on their journey.

Almost two years after Camila fled her home country, she shared her experiences with someone willing to listen. Camila’s story is part of Amnesty International’s latest report, “No Safe Place,” which sheds light on the increased violence displacing LGBTQ Central Americans, as well as the continued danger they experience in the face of forced migration.

Central Americans in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are suffering through some of the most violent conditions in the world. These neighboring nations make up a region along the west coast of Central America known as the “Northern Triangle,” where rising homicide rates, widespread poverty, and organized crime have kept communities in a stranglehold for decades. In 2016, El Salvador had the highest murder rate in the world, and since the 1980s, all three countries have experienced some of the highest numbers of homicides among nations not at war.

The Amnesty report explores how LGBTQ Central Americans seeking refuge from the violence in the Northern Triangle are exposed to another cycle of risk and re-victimization on their path to Mexico or the United States. By focusing on the stories of LGBTQ Central Americans traveling to Mexico and compiling data on the violence that pushed them to make the journey, the civil rights organization seeks to document the experiences of queer Central Americans, which are often missing from mainstream conversations about immigration.

Cristel, a 25-year-old trans woman from El Salvador, tells Amnesty she fled her home country when a gang identified her as trans and threatened to kill her if she didn’t leave within 24 hours.

Carlos, a gay man from Honduras, says that he faced rejection from his family and violence at the hands of local gangs over his identity. When he left Honduras for Mexico, he was detained by Mexican immigration authorities and placed in an overcrowded detention facility where detainees were rarely allowed to leave their cell. Even though he learned his experiences qualified him to seek asylum in Mexico, he was discouraged from formally applying,

Marbella, a trans woman from Guatemala, claims she was kidnapped and sexually exploited by gang members in Guatemala City. Even after she was freed by a police raid, she received threats from the men who abused her and left for Mexico.

These case-studies are emblematic of the violence and abuse LGBTQ Central Americans immigrants experience in their effort to seek refuge. But many never make it to their destination at all.

In 2016 the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) reported that714,000 people from the Northern Triangle were displaced due to violence and while those displaced often seek refuge in the U.S. or Mexico, the journey north presents an entirely new set of dangers for immigrants. Over the past 15 years, an estimated75,000 people have gone missing from Mexico and the northern triangle region after emigrating.

When it comes to LGBTQ immigrants from the Northern Triangle, the dangers of displacement and forced immigration can feel compounded by their status as social outsiders. While comprehensive data on the violence faced by queer Central Americans is lacking, firsthand accounts and surveys of Northern Triangle countries document a culture hostile to LGBTQ people.

“The greatest dangers we face are violence, machismo, corruption, and the constant violation of human rights in the countries where we live,” says Alex Castillo, president of the Central American Network for Trans Men. “None of the countries in Central America have laws about gender identity, which puts us on the list of most vulnerable populations.”

When people like Cristel, Carlos, and Marbella make the difficult decision to leave their homes, it doesn’t guarantee their safety or even a future with better conditions. Traveling to, or being detained in, a foreign country can prove as hazardous as the violence they faced at home.

“We often hear stories of extortion, kidnapping, being left behind by the ‘coyotes’ or caught by immigration in Mexico then either sent back or abused by immigration officers,” says Jennicet Gutierrez, community organizer for the trans immigrant advocacy group Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, in an email.

Much of Gutierrez’s work with Familia focuses on queer immigrants and asylum-seekers caught in legal limbo at the border.

“[Trans immigrants] face all sorts of human rights violations in immigration detention centers,” Gutierrez adds. “They are not given the medical care they need, and many of them do not have the pro-bono legal support they need to be able to fight their immigration cases. We have seen cases of transgender women that spent anywhere from six months to over two years in detention while they fight their cases.”

Extensive research from the United Nations Refugee Agency contextualizes the breadth of Gutierrez’s accounts. According to a UNHCR report from 2016, two-thirds of LGBTQ asylum-seekers interviewed by the agency reported “sexual and gender-based violence in Mexico after crossing the border at blind spots.”

While Americans might be familiar with the increased detentions under the last two administrations in the U.S., Mexico isn’t far behind. A shared border has led the U.S. to exert pressure on Mexican immigration authorities and spur the cycle of violence.

Immigration from the Northern Triangle region reached a peak in 2014, when the Mexican and U.S. governments were forced to respond to an influx of unaccompanied minors and asylum-seekers from Central America. The following year, Mexican detention of Central American migrants at the country’s southern border skyrocketed so much so that in 2015, Mexico deported more Central Americans than the United States.

The amount of unaccompanied children and asylum-seekers that were sent back from Mexicofar outnumbered those deported from the U.S.

Deportations in the U.S. also increased, albeit less abruptly, under the Obama administration. Between 2009 and 2016 the U.S. saw a record number of deportations, earning Obama the nickname “Deporter-in-Chief.” While deportations have fallen under Donald Trump’s presidency, arrests of undocumented immigrants have increased, likely indicating that the “Trump Effect” is filling detention centers while bogging down court systems with non-criminal deportations.

In November, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced they plan to construct five new immigrant detention facilities.

Today Amnesty says they’ve gathered data confirming both U.S. and Mexican immigration authorities consistently deport immigrants unaware of their right to request asylum. In some cases, eligible detainees are deprived of the ability to request asylum at all.

Deportation to their home countries can have a particularly dangerous impact on LGBTQ asylum seekers. Amnesty reports that in 2016, 40 transgender people were murdered in Guatemala. In El Salvador, there were 28 attacks on LGBTQ people between January and September 2017. And between 2009 and 2017, Honduras saw 264 queer and trans individuals murdered.

The violence aimed at queer Central Americans doesn’t stem from a single source. While transnational gangs like MS-13 and M-18 might target LGBTQ Central Americans, queer people in the Northern Triangle also suffer at the hands of corrupt law enforcement officials, human traffickers, and even anti-LGBTQ members of the Catholic church.

“The Northern Triangle is invaded by different violent groups that persecute us, attack us, and even kill us,” says Castillo. “We have no access to justice, so it is safer to flee from our countries before seeking protection, because our justice system sees us as abnormal, sick, and depraved.”

Castillo says that corruption and religious extremism make government officials more of a hazard than a help to LGBTQ individuals in the Northern Triangle. Because of their

sexual orientation or gender identity, Castillo says some politicians and justice officials perceive violence against queer populations “as a social cleansing” a phrase queer advocacy groupshave been using to describe apathy toward anti-LGBTQ violence in Guatemala since 2001.

But the future for queer people in the Northern Triangle isn’t entirely grim.

Sandra Moran, an out lesbian, was elected as Guatemala’s first LGBTQ legislator in 2016; Hugo Salinas is an openly HIV-positive gay man who served as the mayor of Intipucá, El Salvador between 2009 and 2012; and this year Kendra Stefany Jordani became the first openly trans woman in Honduras to win a party primary.

Besides groups like Amnesty International, the last decade has seen international advocacy organizations like Human Rights First and the Latin American news organization TeleSur make a concerted effort to center the experiences of LGBTQ Central Americans in their data about violence in the region. For many advocates, that visibility is an important first step in a long journey.

“The current dialogue for asylum-seekers is not fully inclusive of trans and gender non-binary people,” insists Gutierrez. “The majority of coverage in mainstream media is dominated by heteronormative discourse, leaving the issues and struggles of LGBTQ people unheard.”

For many displaced LGBTQ Central Americans, telling their stories is about more than visibility finding a safe place seems unlikely until they’re counted and heard.

Note: Names have been changed where indicated to protect subjects’ identities.

Photos via Getty

The Country’s First Queer Latina Sheriff Wants to Make History Again: She’s Running for Governor of Texas

The country’s first and only queer Latina sheriff is reportedly planning to run for Texas governor in 2018, facing off against one of America’s most anti-LGBTQ politicians.

Lupe Valdez is expected to step down from her position as the Dallas County Sheriff to mount a gubernatorial bid in an already crowded field. Democratic Party officials confirmed her intention to run, although Valdez’s office refused to comment. Claiming that the sheriff is “considering the next stage in her career,” a spokesperson said in a statement Valdez would “make a formal announcement when her final decision is made.”

If the 70-year-old wins the Democratic nomination, she will face off against Gov. Greg Abbott, who has endorsed a number of bills attacking the LGBTQ community in 2017.

The governor called a special session on July 18 to force through a bill which would force transgender people to use the restroom corresponding with the gender listed on their birth certificate. That legislation stalled numerous times during general session and again failed to become law following further debate by lawmakers.

Abbott did, however, sign into law in January which would allow adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples if doing so would conflict with their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Despite the attacks on the LGBTQ community, Abbott remains widely popular in one of the nation’s most conservative states. The 60-year-old was re-elected in 2014 over Wendy Davis, who became a rising star in the Democratic Party after her headline-grabbing filibuster of a Texas abortion bill a year earlier. Abbott still won by more than 20 points.

But if anyone can beat the odds to become Texas’ first Democrat governor in two decades, local advocates believe it’s Valdez.

The daughter of migrant farm workers, Valdez is extremely well-liked in the Dallas area. She has served as the Dallas County Sheriff for four terms, winning reelection in 2016 with 58 percent of the vote. Prior to her current position, she was an investigator with the U.S. Customs Service and a Homeland Security agent.

Last year Valdez gained national renown when she was invited to speak at the 2016 National Democratic Convention. In her address, she lambasted the increasing political division under Trump.

“Violence is not the answer,” Valdez told the audience in an acclaimed speech. “Yelling, screaming and calling each other names is not going to do it. Talking within your own group in your language only your group understands leads nowhere. We have to start listening to each other.”

Valdez is just one of a number of Democrats who have announced their intention to run in 2018, including Dallas Eagle owner Jeffrey Payne and San Antonio businessman Tom Wakely. The latter describes himself as “Bernie Sanders in a cowboy hat.”

Should the sheriff win in 2018, she would make history all over againbecoming the first Latina lesbian to serve as a U.S. governor.