Stevens Añazco Photographs 5 Rising Queer Creatives

For photographer Stevens Añazco, queer creativity is a source of endless inspirationand it shows in his vibrant portraiture. Says Añazco of his recent INTO-commissioned series:

“I was moved by and followed a group of queer artists creating work that deals with themes and issues of queer lifestyle, drawing inspiration from their identity and their upbringing and exploring how that translates into their work.”

Check out Añazco’s striking portraits, along with interviews of his emerging subjects, below.


Nay Campbell

Preferred Pronouns: He/she/they

Occupation: Artist
Location: New York City
Wearing: LORDELE season 1 collection ‘Heartbreak and the Bowery’

Who are you and what do you do?

Visual artist, styling, designer at LORDELE.

How are you keeping politically active through your work?

My first collection, “Heartbreak and the Bowery,” is centered around my position as a young queer artist. Dealing with the corruption and heartbreak of our current political climate, I wanted this collection to celebrate queer NYC culture and the individuals who helped define it–not to distract from what’s going on, but to help promote the idea that we are all still here with valid positions/ideas about the future.

What are some recurring themes you explore through your work/designs?

I’m very influenced by former kids of the underground: Warhol’s Factory, Studio 54, CBGB and the people who cultivated these eras.

How has your experience as an LGBTQ person influenced your work/designs?
As an artist it is everything. If the only thing I do as an artist is help influence/educate and promote inclusivity to people who have felt ostracized from mainstream or even gay culture, that would be okay.

How do you explore gender identity through your work?

The identity/persona Nay Campbell was formed to help push me out of my comfort zone and promote a side of myself I did not always feel comfortable with in the past. Two years later I believe I’ve established who that person is for me, and I’m now trying to push that energy into my work, my clothes etc.

Who is your favorite artists right now?

I absolutely love the fashion duo Fecal Matter. I think their work is so important.

What are your professional goals and dreams?

To develop my aesthetic further and continue to grow as an artists, creating some positive impact and hopefully being able to monetize.

What are you currently working on?

New editorial work, along with LORDELE season 02, much more glam to come…


Edvin Thompson

Occupation: Fashion Designer
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Wearing: Top from Theophilio SS18

Who are you and what do you do?

I am into the arts, primarily fashion design. I’m also involved with creative direction on various artistically inclined projects. I enjoy traveling, developing new hobbies, and learning about different cultures.

How are you keeping politically active through your work?

I always aim for my consumer to have a conversation about my clothing. For being content, secure, intimidating because it’s the norm but endearing because it’s fresh. My clothing can be hypersexual, especially for men. So the conversation about sexuality and gender identity is inevitable. Fashion represents that. Politics and fashion will always have a seat at the table with each other.

What are some recurring themes you explore through your work/designs?

I love to explore the deconstruction of garments. The perfect fabric that adheres to that is denim. Denim is my favorite textile to conform and deconstruct into anything

How do you explore gender identity through your work?

When I design, I design as I see fit. I rarely think of whether this would look good on a male or female’s body. I’m all for the function of the garment and the rest follows.

Who is your favorite artists right now?

My favorite artist right now would be Cardi B. Simply for her success story.

What are your professional goals and dreams?

Professional dream for the coming years would be having my own studio space.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on my first pop-up shop due late November and my Fall ’18 collection for Fashion Week in February.


Darius Xavier Moreno

Preferred Pronouns: Male/He
Occupation: Illustrator/Fine Artist
Location: New York City
Wearing: Theophilio SS18 diamond corset

Who are you and what do you do?

Illustration is my main focus, but I do animation, portrait painting, sculpting, and want to continue to practice more forms of visual art. More specifically I’m into portraying black figures with colorful expressions through my work. It reflects what I’m attracted to irl. If I’m not working on commissions I’m usually working on pieces for future shows or personal art projects.

How are you keeping politically active through your work?

I try to paint black people in situations or with elements that are nostalgic to my childhood and where I’m from. To stay politically active or relatable through my work i use colors that are relatable to everyone. I think because of the color palettes I use, people of different backgrounds can relate to my work and see the beauty in the characters regardless of the action of the piece.

What are some recurring themes in your work/designs?

Themes that occur a lot in my work are androgynous figures with sculpted features, money, cars, jewelry, lustful women and men. I like to explore my own fantasies and how I view myself in different worlds. Most of the worlds I imagine are underground music videos from the late ‘90s/early ‘00s.

How has your experience as an LGBTQ person influenced your work/designs?

I find myself painting or creating characters that I’ve encountered in the past. People that I’ve met in the LGBTQ community have had a huge impact on my my art. Going to balls and LGBTQ parties in New York, I’ve seen beauty in every type of person. A lot of the times when I’m painting I can’t say if it’s male or female, i just know it’s what I’m attracted to.

How do you explore gender identity through your work?

I like to push myself to keep playing with gender roles in my art. Also creating characters that everyone’s attracted to regardless of sexuality.

Who is your favorite artist right now?

Antonio Aiello. I’ve been following him for years now and I’m always blown away by his colors. Also Gerald Lovell. He uses so much texture in his paintings, they literally look 3D.

What are your professional goals and dreams?

To have my own cartoon, have a piece in a major at museum, to continue doing art shows and cover art.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on some new paintings for a pop-up later this month, and some more projects with that artists that will be out really soon :).


Jewel Friday

Occupation: Fashion Designer
Location: New York City
Wearing: Top from Jewel Friday collection entitled “Bandits of Society”

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jewel Friday and I’m a fashion designer. I am a recent graduate from Parsons school for design with a BFA in fashion design. I originally grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and I’m very proud to say I’m from there. It made me the person I am today. I am a creative individual who loves art. To me, fashion is a key aspect for one to express themselves emotionally.

How are you keeping politically active through your work?

Being politically active is very important for me, especially right now. I am black and queer and knowing that there are people in this world that despise me for those two factors alone isn’t comforting, but I don’t let that intimidate me. It is important for me to at least showcase the struggles that I face on a day to day basic through my designs, from fabric manipulations, embroidery, and prints, so people can pay attention and finally see that what’s going on in the world isn’t right.

For example, I designed and constructed a hoodie with pearls running along the shoulders, hood, and the bottom hem with long gathered sleeves. You would think it’s just a pretty hoodie until you see the back that was embroidered with the iconic phrase “stay woke” in a rich red color that stands for the blood that was shed from every fallen angel victim of police brutality. I chose to put “stay woke” because the phrase is so powerful and means so much to the black community. It is us telling others and our fellow people to pay attention to the systematic injustices in this country and make a change.

What are some recurring themes in your work/designs?

A recurring theme that plays throughout my work would be the whole idea of masculinity and femininity. I am often influenced by myself when it comes to this topic because I feel as if I am the perfect balance of the two. I am very much in touch with my feminine side, from emotions to random things like facial features, color choices, the way I behave, being sensual, nurturing, and showing affection but also in touch with my masculine side like my jawline and muscles, being overly confident and free. All these things come into play when I design and play around with fabric. I strive to merge the two together to make something magical and special even tho society tell us to keep these two things separate and that one goes with a specific gender.

How has your experience as an LGBTQ person influenced your work/designs?

My personal experience with being a gay man has been nothing but positive. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen and heard some horrible shit, but I try not to dwell on negativity. You just have to know how to flip it and make it positive. Being a part of the LGBTQ community allows me to live my best life. It allowed me to do things I probably never would have done before. I became more sure of myself and I started to live free. And as far as being a designer, I mean there is that stereotype that all gays love fashion, which is not true, but this gay man does. I live it, I breath it. I love the craft behind it and I love making someone feel good, and if I can do that with my art, then I’m more than satisfied.

How do you explore gender identity through your work?

I feel as if my clothes are made for everyone. I do not exclude anyone from wanting to be apart of my journey. Gender identity comes into play after I’ve made the clothes and am thinking who would look best a specific garment. If I see a guy and think, “Wow he’d look good with bundles of hair down to his lower back with cunt eye makeup” or a girl with short hair and a chiseled jaw, then I’m all for making magic in front of the camera. Let’s gender-bend. Let’s break these barriers that are telling us “No! You can’t do that.”

Who is your favorite artist right now?

My favorite artist at the time is hands down Rihanna. She’s legit breaking barriers with everything she’s doing. She’s also my muse. I keep her in mind a lot when designing new work. She’s experimented with so many things, from music to acting to having a fashion line and now makeup. She’s fearless, bold, sexy, confident, sensual, artistic, and a Pisces!!! HELLO!

What are your professional goals and dreams?

My professional dream would be to continue to work hard at my career and land a job as a creative director for a big fashion house. I would definitely love to take over and merge my creative mind with the legacy of the house. That would be pretty amazing. The perfect example would be Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy. He’s a visionary and a legend, if you ask me. I also wouldn’t mind having my own line In the near future.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a new collection all by myself with no help. It’s definitely a tough thing to do but I know I can get it done and I want to debut it sometime next year. The only thing I can really tell you is that it’s about female empowerment but also their ability to seduce.


Cory Camargo

Preferred pronouns: Female/gender neutral
Occupation: Photographer
Location: NYC/Boston/CT

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Cory Camargo, a fashion and fine art photographer. My work focuses mainly on the public and private aspects of identity and how components such as race, culture, gender, and sexuality play a role in our constructed social and personal identity. I work mostly in self-portraiture to express my experience on whichever topic and invite viewers to analyze their experience with it as well, creating dialogue between them and myself as both artist and subject.

How are you keeping politically active through your work?

Although I don’t create work as a direct response to politics, I understand that the topics I grapple with are not free from important political narratives of our time. I think that my work acts as both expression and inquiry: this is my experience; what is yours? It’s important to me that viewers can use my images as a mirror to further understand their political reach when it comes to the extremely crowded conversations around social politics. By understanding my experience, maybe then they can share theirs and come to personal or global solutions to large political issues.

How do you explore gender identity in your work?

The central theme of my most recent body of work, Convirtiéndome, was constructed identity, analyzed mostly through the scope of gender/sexual identification and pop culture. Each image was a self portrait representing different female pop culture icons from my formative years (the late ‘90s to the early 2000s.) Overtly, the work was an homage to the myriad of mediums that pop culture engages as well as to the women that have acted as conduits for the expression of this engagement. I wanted to explore the way that womanhood, sexuality, and representation played a role in how I as a consumer, viewer, and creator experienced art.

How does being a member of the LGBTQ community influence your work?

Well, Convirtiéndome was truly a catalyst for a long period of self-analysis and reflection. Prior to working on this project, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where I was going with my work. I feared that continuing to make work that was directly focused on myself was too simple and was lacking inspiration to make anything substantial or that I even felt connected to when I shot things like still-life or portraiture. I think that I also had a lot of questions about myself that were unanswered and it caused a lot of aggression in me, that I finally found a way to channel with the series. I grew comfortable presenting myself as a new person, both through my images and with my engagement with others. Also, simply learning more about gender and sexual identity through exposure in New York, school, and research for the work drew for me a larger picture of our culture’s engagement with transgender and non-binary people.

Who is your favorite artist right now?

I really love the drama of artists like Gregory Crewdson and Philip Lorca-DiCorcia, whose images were central for developing the moody and sometimes over-dramatic lighting and composition of my images. Spending a few months doing visual research for how I wanted to shoot my thesis work, however, really opened me up to analyzing commercial photography as a deeply engaging medium. Artists like David LaChapelle and Frank Ockenfels helped serve as a guideline for how I could create images that engage viewers that way. I’d say that those four would be the biggest visual and conceptual inspiration for me.

What are your professional goals and dreams?

I hope to still be making work! I want this series to continue and grow and evolve. I want my work to continuously progress and act somewhat like a performance. I just want people to see it, and be able to walk away and maybe think about how they relate to what they saw and how they can use it as a tool to guide engagements with others. Also I want to be rich.



Photographer: Stevens Añazco (@stevensanazco)
Beauty Director (hair+makeup): Yanni Peña (@domcheeks)

Newspaper Behind Homophobic Slur Run By Billionaire Trump Supporter Tied to Powerful Anti-Gay Elite

One of the country’s most controversial right-wing newspapers landed in hot water yet again when a reporter’s byline was replaced with an anti-gay slur this week.

The Santa Barbara News-Press listed staff writer Paul Gonzales’ name as “Paul Gayzalez” in an article about last-minute holiday shopping. Printed on page A3, the description next to his name referred to Gonzales as a “News Press Faggoat.”

The homophobic insult was exclusive to the paper’s print edition. The reporter’s byline is listed correctly in the online version of the story.

The News-Press apologized in a note to readers on Wednesday.

“In Monday’s News-Press, one of our employees changed another employee’s byline to reflect an offensive slur,” the mea culpa read. “The News-Press has taken immediate and swift action with this employee; we do not tolerate any form of harassment in the workplace. We apologize to our readers.”

The outlet claims that the employee has since been terminated, while Gonzales told the L.A. Times the individual responsible “offered [him] a personal apology” which he has since accepted.

But it shouldn’t be a surprise the frequently contentious Santa Barbara paper is the outlet behind the bigoted flap.

The News-Press was one of just a handful of publications to endorse Donald Trump in the 2016 election, even though strongly liberal Santa Barbara County voted 61 percent for Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. An editorial published two weeks after its initial endorsement claimed Democratic leaders are “taking the country from prosperity to dependency.”

Documentary filmmaker Tyler Sam told Politico there was “no question” that its owner, conservative billionaire Wendy McCaw, was “behind the endorsement.”

McCaw, who opposes labor unions and a federal minimum, purchased the paper for $100 million 17 years ago. Since buying the News-Press, she has decimated its staff, taking a thriving pool of 200 journalists and editors down to a 20-man shadow crew. Under McCaw’s tenure, the newspaper has frequently referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegals.”

She also surrounds herself with notable anti-gay figures.

McCaw’s “Freedom Lecture Series”boasted names like Ben Shapiro, Newt Gingrich, and Charles Krauthammer in its 2015 run. Shapiro, an editor-at-large for Breitbart, believes Matthew Shepard’s death wasn’t a hate crime. He has also dismissed the high rates of violence LGBTQ experience, saying queer and trans people are subjected to a “vastly minute amount” of discrimination in the United States.

Gingrich, meanwhile, once referred to the LGBTQ movement as “gay, secular fascism,” comparing it to Nazi Germany. Krauthammer, a widely circulated conservative columnist, called the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling “a huge loss for democracy.”

McCaw has yet to speak out about the paper’s latest controversy.

Image via Twitter

Church of Sweden Denies Banning Pastors From Calling God By Male Pronouns: ‘That’s Fake News’

The Church of Sweden is distancing itself from reports it ordered clergy members to stop referring to God as either “he” or “him.”

News outlets around the world have alleged the Evangelical Lutheran entity would be banning male pronouns in its services in favor of gender-neutral terminology. But in a Friday phone interview with INTO, the Uppsala-based church claims those reports have been misinterpreted by foreign press.

“That’s fake news that has been circulated abroad,” says Martin Larsson, a press secretary for the Church of Sweden.

In November, the church adopted a new book of worship. Larsson says the update gave pastors “more options” when referring to the Christian deity than previous texts. The opening of Sunday service commonly begins with the phrase “the father, the son, and the holy spirit,” but clergy members now have the choice of saying “in the name of the triune god” instead.

Another example is calling the higher power “God” instead of “The Lord.”

But Larsson cautions about projecting contemporary discussions about gender identity into the changes. Although the word “lord” might have a strongly masculine connotation in the U.S. and the U.K., he claims the Swedish equivalent (“herren”) is “very connected to the church” and has a “slightly archaic touch to it.”

“It’s not a word used by everyday man to express [his] personal belief in or relationship with God,” he clarifies in an email to INTO.

Many more radical changes in how the Church of Sweden genders the divine were actually rejected during the November meeting of its guiding body. There’s a passage in church liturgy which Larsson says is traditionally sung: “You are to us a father, a father.” Some members of the church body wanted to change it to “a father and a mother” instead. He claims the proposal was voted down.

When INTO asked how the news was so widely mischaracterized, Larsson couldn’t provide an easy answer. He traced the report to a Danish newspaper who told him they picked the story up from a Christian publication in the country. But nothing in that version of the story attested to claims of a ban on masculine pronouns.

“We have two Danish newspapers referring to each other,” Larsson says in a slightly teasing tone.

The spokesman, unprompted by INTO, repeatedly singled out a particular story on the changes from PBS Newshour, the hour-long program aired on the Public Broadcasting System. In a Dec. 26 broadcast, correspondent Hari Sreenivasan alleges the church “recently decided its clergy should stop describing God in masculine terms, such as he, and instead use more gender-neutral language.”

The report quotes several officials with the church, including Lund Cathedral Chaplain Lena Sjostrand and Uppsala Archbishop Antje Jackelen. Sjostrand told PBS that she doesn’t think “God is a big mother or a father sitting up in the sky.”

But Larsson wasn’t pleased with the presentation, to say the least.

“He misleads the viewers by saying that Sweden has forbidden pastors and clergy not to use masculine terms,” Larsson claims. “That is totally wrong. Masculine terms still dominate in the Church of Sweden. The pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ are [used very frequently]. They are not in any way being washed away.”

“That story in PBS might be easily misunderstood by viewers who don’t have the whole picture,” he adds.

The Church of Sweden does not deny that updates to the book of worship were intended to be more gender-inclusive, attributing the push for inclusion to the “strong” feminist movement in Sweden over the past three decades. But Larsson says the changes were designed to encompass a range of perspectives during changing times, including children and LGBTQ people.

What readers won’t find in the book of worship, however, are gender-neutral pronouns. Although a church in the town of Västerås used the pronoun “hen” to refer to Jesus in advertising for its Christmas services, it is not mentioned in the official handbook.

The pronoun, frequently used by nonbinary and transgender people, was added to Sweden’s official dictionary in 2015.

When INTO asked Larsson if the new worship books described God using female pronouns, he responded that he wasn’t sure at the moment. “I haven’t quite gotten the thick book,” he claims. “I won’t swear that there are no female pronouns.”

But the spokesperson didn’t deny that the changes reflect a continuously evolving theories of a greater power.

“God can be said to include both male and female perspectives,” Larsson says of the church’s theology. “When we say God, we refer to something beyond gender. That perhaps is something more striking outside Sweden than it is in Sweden.”

The changes are set to go into effect on May 20.

Jay-Z Releases New Music Video Staring All The Icons — So We Had To Rank Them

Hello, everyone. Jay-Z has finally release the much anticipated music video for ‘Family Feud’ and WHEW IT’S ICONIC.

The music video/short film is PACKED with celebrities from every corner of culture and not to mention directed by Ava Durvernay.

So, due toall the other outlets presumably rushing right now to re-sign up for Tidal it’s only release there andbeginning their biganalysis of what themeaningof the futuristic video is while also deconstructing how Beyoncé’s outfit somehow references the Illuminatiwe are going a different route.

Here are all the ICONS we are gagging over that make appearances in the video, ranked:

10.) Jessica Chastain
9.) Michael B. Jordan
8.) Rashida Jones AND Rosario Dawson
7.) Niecy Nash
6.) Trevante Rhodes
5.) Thandie Newton
4.) Janet Mock
3.) Beyoncé Knowles Carter
2.) Blue Ivy
1.) James Baldwin

Trump Firing His HIV/AIDS Council Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen

On Wednesday, the Trump Administration reportedly dismissed the remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) after those members warned that the president and vice president were “dangerous.”

Established by President Clinton in 1995, the purpose of the PACHA is to provide “advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary [of HHS] regarding programs, policies, and research to promote effective treatment, prevention and cure of HIV disease and AIDS.”

This move by the Trump administration is yet another indication that the administration, particularly the Vice President and leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services, is invested in gutting HIV research and compromising the health and well-being of those living with or at high-risk of HIV.

Efforts to gut Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have particularly devastating consequences for people living with HIV who rely on those programs to obtain affordable, life-sustaining medication.

This latest move comes on the heels of reports the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been advised by HHS officials to avoid certain words in budget documents that could attract cuts to funding. Those words include: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.” Originally reported as a ban on words by the Trump administration, the list actually represents self-censorship by CDC officials to protect against slashes in funding for scientific research and government aid programs.

The administration has already proposed over $150 million in cuts on HIV/AIDS funding at the CDC and more than $1 billion in cuts from global programs for the coming fiscal year.

These restrictions and funding cuts will have devastating consequences, especially for populations with disproportionately high rates of HIV infection: LGBTQ people of color, particularly gay and bisexual men (whether cisgender or trans), transgender women and femmes, and nonbinary people.

These actions and funding cuts are an attack on science. Prevention will be compromised. Stigma will be heightened.

The medical and scientific consensus has made clear that HIV is a manageable condition that cannot be transmitted through sexual activity by an individual with an undetectable viral load. Treatment and prevention are also attainable, and education is critical for those continuing important advancements in treating and understanding HIV.

After decades of research, the CDC officially announced this year that compliance with medication resulting in suppression of the virus prevents people from transmitting the illness to a sexual partner through unprotected sexual activity.

But the Trump administration is bringing us backwards. By removing experts from advisory roles, cutting funding, and promoting abstinence-only sex education, they are all but ensuring that vulnerable communities will face upticks in rates of HIV transmission and worsening health outcomes.

Put plainly: People will suffer from lack of treatment and die from completely preventable conditions.

Vice President Pence knows this first-hand. He witnessed escalating rates of HIV transmission in his home state of Indiana while serving as governor, a crisis due in large part to his own policies.

Indiana criminalized needle exchanges in 2015, resulting in one of the largest HIV outbreaks in the United States in decades. Morally opposed to needle exchanges, Pence refused to act with policy changes even after “nearly 200 people in rural Scott County” were diagnosed with HIV. Instead he told health and law enforcement officials that he would “go home and pray on it.” The crisis worsened and Pence ultimately succumbed to pressure to pass legislation permitting needle exchanges and the outbreak was stopped.

But with increased power and a Congress and administration to support him, Pence is back to cultivating conditions for widespread attacks on access to HIV treatment and prevention.

With the legislative and executive branches eager to cut health care access, comprehensive sex education, and HIV treatment options, we must act now
before we are confronted with a national crisis that mirrors the one Pence ignored in Indiana.

Former Member Gabriel Maldonado Speaks On the Dismissal of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS

On Wednesday morning, Gabriel Maldonado received a letter from the Trump administration dismissing him from the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. All 16 remaining members of the council received letters as well.

Maldonado, 28, was the youngest member of the council. He was appointed in 2015, and his tenure was meant to last until the end of 2018.

According to Maldonado, who is alsoCEO of the California-based HIV/AIDS service organization TruEvolution,the dismissalletter was “very sterile.”

“[It] was very apathetic and dry,” Maldonado tells INTO. “It was not only a professional dismissal, but it felt like a personal dismissal as well. It felt like the work we had done did not warrant our service even though we had been on the council one year into the administration.”

Maldona added that the council had been putting together action plans and recommendations throughout the last year. He had taken time away from other projects to work with the council, which he now feels are moot.

“So, over the last year,” he says, “what have I been doing?”

During his time on the council, Maldonado was co-chair of the disparities committee, a group that made policy recommendations regarding groups that are vulnerable to HIV infection or negative health outcomes after diagnosis, such as LGBTQ people, people of color, people without homes, and youth. In 2016, the group put on a stigma summit that addressed the cyclical nature of HIV stigma and how it fueled high infection rates in vulnerable populations.

Prior to the council’s dismissal, Maldonado said that the council’s interactions with the administration were “pleasant,” though it was clear that the council had a different ideology toward public health than the administration. For one, many members of the council were part of crafting the Affordable Care Act and were at odds with an administration actively trying to dismantle Barack Obama’s signature legislative victory.

For Maldonado, this spoke to a difference in bedrock public health principles.

“We’re not even starting from the same place,” Maldonado says. “It’s a lot more serious then it just being a difference in philosophy or a difference in ideology. How we prioritize communities, whether we believe in abstinence-only or harm reduction, whether we believe in needle exchange verse criminalizing those who are drug users. Whether we believe in communities of color a one-size-fits-all approach.”

“Your philosophy makes a dramatic difference in the outcome for the policies that you push and promote,” he adds.

Maldonado also points to the recent controversy surrounding the Centers for Disease Control being told not use several wordsincluding “transgender,” “evidence-based” and “science-based”as proof of root-level ideological differences.

According to Maldonado, the letter of dismissal he received was the first time the White House communicated with him personally. All other correspondence had been to PACHA as a whole.

“We were putting together action plans for the next few years ahead,” he says. “If I had known I was getting dismissed, I wouldn’t have put in such an investment. To be dismissed abruptly without any forewarning is also a dismissal of all the work I’ve done over the last year.”

When asked what he thought about an October Washington Blade report that Trump was seeking gay Republican to fill seats on PACHA, Maldonado warned about assembling a partisan body to fight the epidemic.

“Any time you place partisanship at the forefront in your appointments when it comes to a widespread public health epidemic, you’re already molding the conversation to be a single train of thought,” Maldonado says.

Maldonado warned against employing a “single type of ideology” to fight an epidemic that is affecting people from a wide range of socioeconomic and political backgrounds.

Now that Maldonado has more time on his hands, he says he’s ready to turn his attention to statewide advocacy for Californians living with or at risk of acquiring HIV.

“Our state needs to rise up and help those of us living with HIV,” he says. “They can’t forget us even if the federal government doesn’t supply all the resources necessary to support us.”

Photos courtesyGabriel Maldonado

Queer Poly POCs Deserve Better Representation Than “She’s Gotta Have It”

Netflix’s remake of Spike Lee’s 1986 film She’s Gotta Have It focuses on a 20-something Black female artist named Nola Darling who describes herself as a pansexual polyamorist. In a time when Black women are rarely afforded the freedom to express themselves freely and uninhibited, Nola’s declaration of her sexuality and relationship style are incredibly meaningful. The opportunity for She’s Gotta Have It to open up for more nuanced portrayals of sexual identity and relationships resonates deeply with audiences and could have worked to the show’s strengths; after all, as marginalized communities are gaining visibility, the responsibility for media to reflect that grows.

There are a plethora of relationship styles that are included underneath polyamory (or the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time), and a growing number of Americans are exploring themselves within polyamorous relationships. It’s estimated that up to 5 percent of Americans participate in some form of ethical non-monogamy. Yet visibility in the media is still lacking when it comes to an accurate representation of what polyamory looks like when centered on the lives of people of color.

The premiere and reception of She’s Gotta Have It especially raises this question.

Criticisms of the show have been free-flowingcritiques pointing out its anti-feminist portrayal of women; the hyperfocus of Nola’s relationships with her three male lovers; the awkward inclusion of social justice rhetoric and Twitter hashtags inserted throughout the showbut the biggest misstep of the show stemmed from its treatment of Black polyamory.

In She’s Gotta Have It, both Nola’s sexuality and her identity as a polyamorist comes across as a convenient afterthought. Throughout the show, her pansexuality is only mentioned when she is sick of her men, and even then, she only dates cis men and women.

During her sole relationship with a woman, Opal, there’s notable queerphobic undertones to how Opal regards Nola’s sexuality because Nola isn’t a lesbian. Opal refers to Nola as “bi-curious,” and is highly jealous when one of Nola’s male lovers, Greer, makes an unexpected appearance.

“You get to be a try-sexual and try anything,” Opal remarks. “It’s different when you’re like me and don’t have a choice.”

With Nola as the only polyamorous person in the show, the identity becomes further marginalized because it sits itself upon incorrect ideas of what polyamory actually looks like, especially for queer people of color. In a piece published onThe Root, Monique Judge condemns the show’sstereotypical portrayal of polyamory as reinforced through Nola’s disposability and selfishness when it comes to her lovers.

“Her lack of respect for other people’s time, feelings and needs is another issue,”Judge writes. “Polyamory is based on mutual respect and consideration; it doesn’t work any other way.”

Throughout the series, Nola centers her own needs and desires before the concerns that her lovers have. All of her lovers want to be monogamous, making their expectations of the relationship with Nola reasonablethey want her to only be romantically involved with them individually. However, Nola’s disposability of her partners remains a core part of her attraction to them. Her relationship with Jaime relies heavily on his financial support of her; when he surprises her for her birthday, Nola has no qualms about taking calls from both of her other love interests, Mars and Greer, with Jaime next to her in bed, visibly upset.

In the final episode, Nola invites all of her men to her home for a Thanksgiving dinner, where they meet each other for the first time, without warning or chance for rebuttal. This is also where Nola unveils her latest artwork: a painting depicting all of the men as, as Judge describes, a “three-headed penis.” This is the ultimate depiction of the disposability and self-serving nature that Nola regards these relationships, posing them as strictly sexual objects. While this may be emotionally unethical, it can be powerful representation to see a Black woman in a traditionally male-exclusive role of control and power over their lovers.

Opal, too, arrives at the end of the night, though it’s unclear whether Nola wants to continue their romantic relationship or if Nola she sees their relationship as platonic. Throughout the series, there is the sense that Nola idealizes Opal and regards her relationship with Opal as secondary to the relationships with her men.

Though unlike her relationships with Mars, Greer, or Jaime, Nola doesn’t see Opal as easily disposable. In fact, their relationship failing to progress rides almost exclusively onto Nola’s inability to commit. In comparison, the relationship Nola has with her men is focused more exclusively on their desire of her, and although her lack of commitment is an issue, viewers are expected to see them as expendable in ways they aren’twith Opal. Despite the chance for allowing queer love to exist on the show, Nola’s relationship with Opal is moved to be a placeholder for the central plot of Nola and her men.

The show diminishes Opal’s importance to the show but giving hersignificantly less screen time and development than the men. Opal is set up to be regarded as passing; for Nola to retreat to only when she is over her men, leaving asOpal demands more. Even when Nola speaks about her romantic relationships, she doesn’t mention Opal (when Opal rightfully calls her out on this, Nola responds with “It’s not personal and it ain’t political. I just don’t want to put my loving bed out in the street”). Yet the tenderness and romanticism that exists in the relationship when they are alone proves that the potential for their relationship to be successful is there. But is it societal expectations that Nola places on herself or that is placed on the show itself that hinders this?

Representation aside, this still moves to push a kind of polyamory that is unrealistic and far-removed from the polyamory that queer people of color actually engage in.

While fans may have been expecting a showcasing of how modern-day polyamorists actually integrate their sexuality to other aspects of their identities, the reality is that She’s Gotta Have It only served to further present the same tropes and stereotypes about what polyamory looks like. The portrayal led viewers to not take polyamory seriously as a relationship style that Black people and other people of color can practice, and that’s incredibly harmful for the people of color who do practice polyamory through healthy communication, active consent, and empathy for all of their partners.

“I am sure there are many that can relate to pieces of the series but as a whole, it felt fabricated,” says Cindy Lee Alves, a sexologist, educator, and writer. “There were several instances where I was watching this series with my lover saying ‘They’re making fun of me/of us,’ or ‘Is this supposed to be a parody?'”

Alves says she believes what hindered the show’s success in reflecting the experiences of polyamorists of color could have been avoided by speaking with those who are actually poly.

“The series was riddled with misogynoir,” she says, “and regardless of the affirmations and Nola’s character being written as empowered, I feel it continues to center patriarchy. Again, this is why you hire us. Series like this could have talked to folks who identify with these particular identities more if a sensitivity reader was used for the script or a sexuality consultant. I’d like to think we have a critical understanding of the nuances.”

Xemi, a polyamorous pansexual Two-Spirit Trans Womxn performer and writer, finds She’s Gotta Have It to be all too affected by the male gaze.

“Even though the story is centered on a Black cis womxn character,” she tells INTO, “and many of the episodes are written by Black cis womxn, the show is still directed by a Black cis man. This interpretation of Black cis womxn through a Black cis man, points out one of the flaws of cis culture: competition between cis men and cis womxn.”

Though the writers’ room included Black women, the reality is that viewers are rooted in the outsider perspective of the show. Instead of allowing Nola to center herself and her polyamory authentically, it is pushed aside in favor for something that isn’t entirely clear. It’s difficult to say exactly whether She’s Gotta Have It is meant to be regarded as satire or commentary on contemporary Black life. Short of an obvious message, we are left viewing it as spectators rather than valid participants in what the show is meant to be offering us.

“Mainstream culture believes that queerness is ‘radical’ and Nola’s words and actions show she plays right into that belief,” Xemi says. “The truth is queer folx are not ‘radical’ simply for being queer, and there is nothing ‘radical’ about cisgender, heterosexual-normative queerness. Nola’s perspective of queerness, namely pansexuality, is openly cissexist and treats same-gender love as an escape from true desirecishet love.”

Nola’s relationship with Opal being treated as “an escape from true desire” is rooted from the unequal portrayal of their relationship versus Nola’s relationships with her male lovers.At the series’ end, there is an ambiguity in how Nola and Opal’s relationship will progress, if at all.

After the Thanksgiving dinner, the men leave and Opal appears, asking to come upstairs. Nola allows Opal inside, almost hesitant, though the scene ends before the audience is given resolution for the relationship in the same ways as Nola’s other lovers. The show’s tone of Opal and Nola’s relationship almost forces it to be seen as less serious, frustrating viewers looking for truequeer representation.

Xemi also argues that cishet people often find queers to be promiscuous, and pansexuals to be “greedy, incapable of commitment, or confused”; andqueer and pansexual lifestyles to be temporary or phases.She’s Gotta Have It also serves up some transphobia in Nola’s “man cleanse,” in which she says she wants “no penis in [her] loving bed.”

“[That] is a perfect example of how Trans people are not even in the mindset of cis(het) writers and directors,” Xemi says.

In a piece for Bitch, Evette Dionne writes that the downfall of the show is rooted in Nola’s inability to trust and know herself, embracing all parts of herselfincluding her queerness and her identity as a polyamorist.

“What’s most prominent throughout the series is that [Nola] seems incapable of choosing herself,” Dionne writes. “Toward the end of the season, [Nola’s therapist] Dr. Jamison, asks [Nola] if her partners’ energies are feeding her voice as an artist. The answer is clearly no. Rather than saying that, she responds with, ‘I’ve got to maintain some sort of control.’ In the She’s Gotta Have It writers room, which is thankfully full of Black women, [Nola]’s sexual proclivities are treated as an output of her inability to understand who she is. She has rules, but not much else.”

Shows like She’s Gotta Have It makes bold moves when it comes to trying to portray various parts of the lives of people of color, but a better effort could have been made to make the show more polyamory and queer friendly. Hiring sexuality professionals of color who are trained in and identify as queer and polyamorous would have helped to make some of the characterization run smoother.

Nola, as a character, could have discussed her boundaries and expectations of her relationships with each beau, allowing them to know exactly where they stand and giving them time to actively consent to whether they wanted to participate in a non-monogamous relationship, even while they themselves identified as monogamous. Nola’s relationship with Opal should have been regarded with more respect as well. Rather than using Opal as a placeholder while Nola was between men, the show could have better represented queer identity by placing this relationship on equal footing with Nola’s relationships with Mars, Jaime, and Greer.

Even as polyamory continues to grow in visibility in popular media, there is still much that can be done to give realistic portrayals of what it looks like for marginalized communities. But as its prominence in media continues, there is the hope that the representation that we deserveon-screen and within the development teamwill not be far off. As with other depictions of specific communities and identities, the people behind these representations need to be more intentional in their research and reaching out in order to not only be more accurate, but to tell more compelling and realistic stories that will inevitably create a better experience for viewers as well.

Illinois’ Ban of Gay/Trans Panic Defense Goes into Effect with New Year

Earlier this year, Illinois made a progressive ruling when a bill banning the gay and trans panic defenses passed through the legislature and was signed into law by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

The bill prohibits the use of the legal defenses that have largely been used to justify the murders of gay men and trans women by cis straight men who argued that they could not reasonably control their rage after learning of someone’s gay or trans identities. Until then, California was the only state to have banned the legal defense.

Illinois’ ruling will officially go into effect in 2018, but it could be just the tip of the iceberg. As LGBTQ activists aim to continue Illinois’ momentum, seven other states could follow with similar legislative motions.

“The gay and trans panic defenses are outdated relics, reminiscent of a time when widespread antipathy was commonplace for LGBT individuals,” D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, said in a statement. “It asks jurors to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity excuses the actions of a violent criminal. Our nation’s courtrooms cannot truly be places where law rules supreme while these defenses are still allowed to persist.”

The gay panic defense was used in the 2008 case of Larry King, a 15-year-old boy in California who was killed by a 14-year-old classmate after King asked him on a date for Valentine’s Day. In 2013, James Dixon used the trans panic defense after murdering Islan Nettles.

But the gay panic defense was most notably used during the murder trial of Matthew Shepard in 1999, when Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson claimed they beat and tortured the 21-year-old gay man because he’d made sexual advances toward them.

In Shepard’s case, the defense was not accepted by the Wyoming jury, and the killers were sentenced to life in prison. As for Dixon, he was given a much more lenient 12-year sentence.

Image via Getty

Oregon Rules Lesbian Couple Will Still Receive Reparations From Homophobic Bakery

A bakery in Oregon will be required to pay a $135,000 fine for denying a wedding cake to a lesbian couple following an appeals court ruling on Thursday.

The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld an earlier judgment against Aaron and Melissa Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who claim that providing wedding-related services to same-sex couples contravenes their faith beliefs. Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer ordered a cake from the Kleins in 2013 and were turned away. The Bureau of Labor Disputes found in January 2014 that the Christian couple had trespassed the state’s nondiscrimination codes in doing so.

This case has been tied up in the court system so long neither the state of Oregon nor the U.S. Supreme Court had legalized marriage equality when the suit was originally filed. Oregon didn’t recognize same-sex unions until 2014, and the nation followed suit a year later.

The Bowman-Cryers celebrated the verdict as long-overdue vindication.

“It does not matter how you were born or who you love,” the couple claimed in a statement. “All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally. Oregon will not allow a ‘Straight Couples Only’ sign to be hung in bakeries or other stores.”

But one favorable aspect of Thursday’s ruling for the Kleins is that the appeals court, which first heard the case nine months ago, reversed a key claim from the Bureau of Labor Disputes. The board had argued the couple “violated Oregon law by communicating their intent to discriminate against same-sex couples in the future.” The Court of Appeals disagreed with that finding.

First Liberty Institute, which represented the Christian bakers in court, claimed that it will continue to appeal the case.

“Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others. Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free speech,” Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, said in a press release. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs.”

The self-avowed “religious liberty” organization, which is based in Plano, Texas, may not need to continue the crusade.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this month in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a nearly identical case out of Colorado. It’s one of several outstanding legal battles over whether wedding cakes should be protected under the First Amendment as artistic expression.

The SCOTUS case will be decided as early as June 2018.

Although the Kleins were forced to shutter Sweet Cakes by Melissa as a result of the judgment, they have had a second life as cause célèbres of the religious right. The couple successfully netted more than $500,000 from supporters through a crowdfunding campaign, in which they cited financial fallout arising from the 2013 complaint. The fine is not even a third of that amount.

Photo via Facebook

Roseanne Goes on Pro-Trump, Anti-Lib Tweet Rant

“What doesn’t kill us is making us stronger” should be the motto of our generation. That was the first line in the Roseanne theme song, way back when. It was a classic underdog story of an outspoken working-class mom played by Roseanne Barr, back when TV was full of rich kids in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Nanny.

Kids of the ‘90s rejoiced over the recent news of a Roseanne reboot. With most of the cast returning (including John Goodman’s Dan, even though he died in the original series), it should be cause for celebration. They even released some teasers that had us on the edges of our seats.

But many of Roseanne’s original fans have been hesitant to get onboard with this reboot. Given that she’s always been an apparent outspoken liberal, even including multiple LGBT characters in the original series, it’s a tough blow for the young liberals of today who watched her show as children to see that she’s currently supporting Donald Trump.

We’d think a national symbol for working-class moms would have the good sense to support a politician who supports working-class moms.

Although many could have lived in blissful oblivion of the TV icon’s current political leanings and enjoyed the upcoming TV reboot, she recently took it upon herself to make her opinions very clear in a Twitter rant.

Perhaps she’s a bit removed from reality since she’s not actually a working-class woman (just as Lena Dunham was never been a struggling 20-something), but she makes the absurd argument that when the show originally aired, it was boycotted by women on the right because it featured an opinionated working-class mom, and now it’s those same women on the left boycotting for that reason.

We’re not sure who’s been feeding her this info about her demographic, but it’s precisely the left-wing liberals who grew up watching her and would now throw all our support behind a ‘90s TV comeback with this exact subject matter.

Unfortunately, we have no choice but to cancel her before she even makes a comeback. Sorry Rosie, but you’ve become the very bigot you encouraged us to stand up to.