Sam Smith Opens Up About Something Many Gay Men Struggle With In Private

Sam Smith talks about a lot of things in his new cover story for V magazine. The interview, conducted by none other than Sarah Jessica Parker (!! but also ??), finds him jumping from topic to topic, covering everything from money to media to learning how to stop falling in love with straight men.

Perhaps most importantly, the singer, whose album The Thrill of It All dropped in November, opens up about body image and how he struggled to feel okay in his skin as his fame grew.

“My body image is always going to be an issue. I need to constantly train myself to watch the right sort of films, to not look at certain ads and think that’s how my stomach should look. It’s something that I’m [fighting] every day. I think men should talk about it more,” he said.

He’s right: Men should talk about body image more, gay men in particular.

Eating disorders and body dysmorphia are typically associated with straight, white, cis women from wealthier class backgrounds, but all different kinds of people struggle with these issues. Gay and bisexual men are disproportionately more likely to have fasted, binged, purged, or taken substances to control their weight when compared with straight men, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

“When I was shooting my first music videos, I just wasn’t happy with the way I looked, so I was trying to control the way the camera moved,” Sam told SJP. “I was constantly looking in the mirror, pinching my waist, weighing myself every day. Now, I’ve gotten to a place where I really love my stretch marks and I just enjoy my body.”

I never say “body goals” but if I did it would be that.

Gillian Anderson is Finally Done With “The X-Files” (After This Season)

Trust no one: Beloved actress and queer icon Gillian Anderson has betrayed us all. This weekend, Anderson confirmed that she won’t be reprising her role as Dana Scully after the upcoming 11th season of The X-Files. In an interview with TV Insider, Anderson affirmed she would be exiting the show after her long three-decade romp as the tenacious Scully.

Fans can expect all their nostalgic favorites from FOX’s 10-episode reprise of the show, including Scully and Mulder banter, supernatural mysteries, and Mulder quipping, “Something weird.” And hopefully, Scully will finally take down her mansplaining partner with the grace and elegance of Laura Dern’s The Last Jedi character.

Anderson has long been a hero for queer women. In 2015, the actress confirmed to The Telegraph that she is open to dating women, and has before. The actress said, “To me, a relationship is about loving another human being; their gender is irrelevant.”

But even before that, queer women have always fawned over Dana Scully for her badassery and dogged affliction toward solving alien nerd crimes, so the revelation that Anderson herself was queer was revolutionary.

Anderson isn’t just a queer girl’s dream; she’s a role model for all women. Earlier this year, Anderson advocated for more women behind the camera on The X-Files. TV Line reported that all of the writers behind the reboot will be men, and only nine women have ever written for the show (which has churned out 208 episodes). Andersontook to Twitter and added that only two episodes have been directed by women. Two!

And in 2016, Anderson spoke out about gender disparity on the show, spilling that she was offered half the salary that Duchovny was for the reboot.

She told The Daily Beast, “It was shocking to me, given all the work that I had done in the past to get us to be paid fairly. I worked really hard toward that and finally got somewhere with it.”

In October, The X-Files star hinted at leaving the show while at Comic Con, so while the news isn’t shocking, it’s still a bittersweet goodbye. As of yet, FOX has not committed to a 12th season, but the series’ creator Chris Carter teased that the last episode wasn’t crafted as a series finale.

Though unconfirmed, the truth is out there

Images via Getty

Birkenstocks And The Power Of Being An Unfashionable Queer

Birkenstocks are a tragically misunderstood shoehistorically bashed and, up until their recent fashion renaissance, written off as somewhat of a cultural punchline.

This is sad, because Birkenstocks are objectively great shoes. They’re comfortable, durable, and they last forever, qualities that most shoes are specifically created not to be, particularly those made for women. Though Birkenstocks’ reputation as an exceptional orthopedic shoe has certainly garnered the brand entire generations of fans, it’s the shoe’s history as as the unofficial preferred footwear of lesbianism that arguably brought them into mainstream popular consciousness. As with the niche counter-culture aesthetic that later evolved into “lesbian chic,” queer women put Birkenstocks on the pop culture fashion radar before they inevitably became cool, not unlike denim vests, flannel, and undercuts.

Despite being political and social trendsetters, queer women rarely get the credit they deserve, particularly when it comes to fashion. On the contrary, queer women are often stereotyped as being frumpy or unfashionable dressers, and outdated idea that’s as oppressive as it is flat-out incorrect. Dismissing a woman’s clothes as “ugly” or “frumpy” is an easy way to undermine her individual power and agency, especially when her very presence and existence threatens existing structures.

Unfortunately, Birkenstocks’ utilitarian aesthetic, and its queer female and countercultural fan base, would eventually devolve into the pernicious trope and stereotype of the “unfashionable lesbian,” a false and deeply homophobic association that still follows Birkenstocksand, even more so queer womento this day.

Birkenstocks weren’t made to be prettythey were meant to be comfortable, and to make the wearer feel good, a radical idea even today. Anyone who wears them is wearing them predominantly for comfort, which is, in part what makes a queer woman in Birkenstocks a threat to heteronormative power structures: because a woman who feels god in her shoes is unstoppable, and choosing comfort over aesthetics is still a radical act. Whoever holds the comfort holds the power.

Named for their creator Johann Adam Birkenstock, the iconic shoes were born in Germany in 1774. They were initially created and marketed as a health shoe preferred by physicians and podiatrists, and eventually made their way to the United States in 1966, when they started to gain their distinct association with hippies, organic foodies, and, of course, queer women.

Writing about the mainstream fashion-izing of Birkenstocks for The New Yorker back in 2015, Rebecca Mead credited the shoes’ crossover from “niche German health item” to lesbian classic to a German woman named Margot Fraser, who wrote of her plight to find shoes that didn’t cause her pain and discomfort before the Birkenstocks boom.

As countercultural movements of the 1960s and ’70s gained momentum, so did the movement for quality, comfortable footwear for women. Long-term change required a long-term shoe that allowed women to spread their toes and feel grounded without unnecessarily restricting their movement. Heels require smaller steps and shorter strides, they break, they pinch. Birkenstocks were a shoe for the long game.

“All women’s shoes were narrow and had pointed toes,” Fraser wrote in her 2009 book Dealing With The Tough Stuff. “Even the so-called healthy shoes still had heels.” I can’t say it’s impossible to run in heels, because I’ve seen it happen, but it’s far more difficult, and if you fall, it hurts a whole lot more.

Women’s shoes have historically been engineered to value form over function, and pain was just a byproduct of being beautiful. Mead explains: “Women are so accustomed to the expectation that shoes will be uncomfortablethey will chafe our heels, or squash our toes, or make our insteps ache.” Even now, but particularly at that time, “slipping on Birkenstocks felt revelatory,” Mead writes.

According to Mead, some of Birkenstocks’ earliest American customers were “the owners of health-food stores, who[…]started stocking Birkenstocks on their shelves alongside granola and vitamins.” From there, they came to be associated with anti-establishment cultures, women’s liberation movements, and “lesbian militias” of the 1970s, comic and writer Kate Clinton tells Rachel Lubitz for Mic.com.

Personal style and beauty can be its own source of power and pride for some individuals and communities. Beauty and fashion themselves aren’t toxic, but for some, beauty can feel like a trap and an unnecessary requirement for womanhood. Many women just wanted shoes that felt good and prioritized their comfort in their own bodies, a radical act then and now.

“Suddenly, some women were looking for things like comfortable shoes, rather than heels or whatever,” Clinton says. “There was a certain amount of lesbian pride in being in comfortable clothes. Women really found confidence in our own comfort.” Comfort became a sort of signifier for queerness, because there’s nothing more queer or more comfortable than wearing exactly what you want, when you want. Rejecting painful, restrictive shoes was a rejection of heteronormativity.

At the time, embracing comfort also meant rejecting fashion, as Sherrie A. Inness writes in The Lesbian Menace: Ideology, Identity, and the Representation of Lesbian Life. “In the 1970s, many lesbians strove to appear as unfashionable as possible in protest against society’s beauty dictates.” In this way, being unfashionable was a political statement, a declaration that queer women’s bodies aren’t commodities for quick consumption, and neither are our clothes. To be unfashionable was to exist outside of traditional social structure and operate by a completely different set of social and style rules.

Part of the beauty of Birkenstocks has always been the purposeful ugliness of their wide, chunky cork base and thick straps. It’s a look that wholeheartedly rejects the male gaze (unless, of course, you’ve got a very specific thing for a lady in Birks), a complete opting out of fast fashion, consumerism, and even capitalism. A woman in a durable, comfortable shoes that last her years isn’t spending a ton of money on shoes that hurt and immediately fall apart, freeing up the mental space to care, or not care, about whatever else she chooses. Even more recent movements for self-care echo some of the same ideas about comfort as liberation. For many women, our bodies can be a site of so much built-up discomfort and pain inflicted by outside forces, that choosing to be comfortable when and where we can, seeking pleasure, is powerful.

This in part explains the emergence of the stereotype of the unfashionable lesbian in Birkenstocks. When a woman is powerful and unfettered by her footwear, society calls her ugly. The real joke is, though, that the ugliness is the whole point. Queer women’s sexuality isn’t meant to be commodified or “pretty” in the heteronormative sense, and calling us ugly doesn’t hurt. Part of the appeal of Birkenstocks is to insult heteronormative, white supremacist structures by making ourselves as ugly as possible to them, which is partly what makes people so angry at the women who wear them.

Even today, the kind of visceral reaction straight men have to the idea of a woman in Birkenstocks is astonishing. “When I see them[…] I think her place smells like organic cheese,” a young man tells the blog WhoWhatWear. “The only Birkin a girl should be wearing is the kind that’s sold at Hermes,” said another.

There’s something about these so-called “ugly” sandals that some straight guys still find incredibly irritating, confusing, or offensive, which is probably reason enough to keep wearing them. The shoes’ implied queerness can make them seem threatening to those who would write off queer women as organic cheese lovers fiends who don’t know how to dress. They’re just shoes, but this kind of response suggests there’s something more about them that’s deeply unsettling, which is the fact that they’re not worn “for” anyone but the wearer.

The “unfashionable” trope is an incredibly homophobic one that supports the same idea that queer women love women because they’re frumpy and “can’t find a man,” and not because they’re horny for other women and queer people (the real reason.) This idea completely desexualizes queer women in an attempt to downplay our power by suggesting we’re all shut-ins draped in flannel who love cats, likening Birkenstocks to the default, preferred uniform of a “Berkeley mom” (not that there’s anything wrong with being a Berkeley mom) rather than that of a woman who sleeps with women because that’s exactly what she likes and can’t be bothered with shoes that pinch.

“Ugly” is only an insult if you care about pretty in the first place, and there’s still something incredibly liberating about being an unfashionable, unpalatable queer at a time when it feels like everyone wants to be queer for the aesthetic. In the same way fashion can be a powerful, political tool for self expression, so can anti-fashion.

Birkenstocks are now a high fashion staple and a favorite of hipsters and hipster-adjacents, and it can be fun to watch the shoes evolve beyond their counter cultural roots into mainstream acceptance. As with H’s fast-fashion “femme” T-shirts, though, it’s also sad to see an aspect of queer women’s culture so divorced from its roots without any credit. Birkenstocks will always be a queer shoe, there’s no getting around it. As so many aspects of queer culture that were once considered niche become melded into the mainstream, being a radically unfashionable queer still holds significance. A queer aesthetic is in, but so is queer joy and queer comfort. Advocating for queer rights under the presidency of an orange asshat is going to require a comfortable shoe.

Especially in the face of the commodification of queer identities, comfort is still revolutionary. Life is hard, and for some more than others, everyday is a struggle. Sometimes, the most basic form of self-care can mean sliding into a pair of shoes that lets you spread your toes and breathe.

Images via Tumblr and Getty

“Strange Flesh” Is A Kinky Leather Daddy Video Game That’s Not Afraid of Gay Sex

Side-scrolling beat ’em up video games have a bit of a history of gay culture. There are the deep house soundtracks that backdrop Streets of Rage, and who can forget Mike Haggar’s thick leather belt/suspender in Final Fight?

In Strange Flesh, newly unfurled by Greatest Bear Studios for Mac and PC, players become a cigar smoking bartender who dives into the mind of a bored pencil-pusher named Joe, battling symbols of 9 to 5 repression either through punching or by making targets horny using cigar smoke. Players can either blow the smoke from a distance or embrace opponents, blowing the smoke directly down their throats, a process known as “shotgunning.” Horny combatants will join your side, fighting enemies for you, or ignoring the brawl to jerk off.

Strange Flesh comes at a time when queer games sometimes feel a little lacking in, well, sex. While attending the Queerness and Games conference in Los Angeles last year, there were a lot of great games on display. Anthrotari and Revisions were particular standouts, though I noticed some of the games (and their developers) announcing loudly what their games mean.

“My game is about identity!” one dev told me with pride.

Another game, which the developer described to me as being about boredom was, indeed, very boring. But I was surprised when none of the games I played in the arcade included sex or even mentioned it. 2017 saw the release of dating sim masterpiece Dream Daddy, but the sexual allusions in that game are PG-13. In order to appease Twitch’s streaming regulations Robert Yang, developer of the cruising sim The Tea Room, replaced all the genitalia in his game with guns, making a bold commentary on what we find offensive online. There are probably more than a few hypersexy visual novels released this year that I don’t know about but, by their own admission, visual novels aren’t games.

I understand why sex can be tougheven when sex is consensual and made “safe,” it still has risks because it changes the way the people involved think about one another. It can ruin relationships, friendships, or just reveal something that two people didn’t know about each other. Also, sex is easily classified as “problematic” because it usually has to do with turn-ons involving the bodythere’s always a degree of objectification. But it’s those body preferences and desires that classify someone as gay in the first place, so why remove those impulses from queer-specific gaming?

This is what makes Strange Flesh feels like such a breath of fresh air. What’s wrong with making some really fun interactive porn?

The developers of Strange Flesh are rather secretive. They preferred to communicate with me through the gamer messaging app Discord, and instead of real names, provide their handles: Ursa Major and Blazingcheeks.

Blazingcheeks, a successful furry artist, says the two first discussed the idea for Strange Flesh over private messages on FurrAffinity, the internet’s largest online gallery for furry, anthro, dragon, brony art work.

“I draw a lot of adult pictures with cigar smoking and hypnosis as the theme,” he writes. “I kind of brought that into the frame of the game.”

One of the voice actors for the game, Bearpad (who, full disclosure, is an old friend of mine) recently introduced me to the world of male possession, a fetish for people who like seeing men being possessed by ghosts. Do a YouTube search for “male possession” and you’ll find multiple compilation videos. Clips of a portly ghost diving into Bill Pullman’s mouth in 1995’s Casper seems particularly popular. Perhaps the interest is in a sort of extreme intimacy, being able to go inside someone’s body.

Like male possession, the cigar kisses in Strange Flesh enter men’s insides.

“It starts on the lips and ends in the lungs,” writes Blazingcheeks.

The beat ‘em up genres’ relationship with sexuality has always been a messy one. Double Dragon starts off with a damsel in distress being punched in the gut by the bad guys and carried off like literal property. The designers of 1989’s Final Fight were worried about feminist outcry over violence against female combatants, so they described minor enemies Roxy and Poison as “newhalfs,” a Japanese term for pre-op transgender individuals as if it was wrong to fight cis women, but violence against trans people was acceptable. Poison’s identity has since been ambiguous, with developers suggesting that it’s up to the viewer to decide Poison’s trans status.

By contextualizing queer violence as sexual, mental, and desired, Strange Flesh carries its genre into a more open beneficial sexual territory. Instead of fighting oppressed people, you fight Joe’s oppressive mental demonsand Joe likes it a lot.

While most of the sex and violence in Strange Flesh is mostly imagined, happening within Joe’s subconscious, the bartender does not ask before he dives into Joe’s mind. Online outrage over a forced feminization fanfic for the game Nier: Automata and a humiliation scene in the visual novel Ladykiller in a Bind have proven that displaying non-consensual fantasies can be risky for queer creators. But the developers of Strange Flesh argue that making this moment verbally consensual would ruin the fantasy.

“Consent and safe words and such are very important in real-world BDSM roleplay and relationships,” writes Ursa Maximus. “But when you veer off into fantasy, I think it’s safe enough to dispatch with them. We’re not trying to depict something that is a healthy BDSM activity in the real world, we’re creating the source material. This is the fantasy that BDSM play aims to simulate.”

Madame Grace Marie, a dominatrix known as the goddess of Los Angeles, offers another perspective. She suggests a disclaimer for “non-consensual mindfuck play” because “there is an audience for said content.” Otherwise, she thought it might be a good idea to have just one line that involves consent.

“If the daddy character is like, ‘I can take you down this rabbit holethat is,if you think you’re ready.’ Just one line like that, maybe,” she suggests. “Everybody wants to be hypnotized.”

A counterpoint game to Strange Flesh might be Robert Yang’s Hurt Me Plenty, a spanking simulator which includes aftercare and negotiation as part of the gameplay.

While a part of me would have preferred verbal consent or mindfuck disclaimers in Strange Flesh, the lack thereof doesn’t bother me profoundly because, well, telepathy isn’t real and no one got mad at Mario for possessing people in Mario Odyssey.

And while I may not personally agree with the way everything’s handled in the game, even the developers would say Strange Flesh, a game of unfiltered desire, isn’t for everyone.

“We’re simple people,” writes Blazing Cheeks. “We wanted to make something that wasn’t therea really naughty gay game, with good production and that was fun to play, but also really hot.”

Minneapolis Swears in First Trans People of Color to Hold Public Office in U.S.

Tuesday marked a historic first in the city of Minneapolis: Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham were sworn into as members of its city councilmaking them, respectively, the first transgender people of color to hold public office in the United States.

Cunningham, who defeated incumbent Barbara Johnson in the Nov. 7 special election, called the swearing-in ceremony the “greatest honor of [his] life.”

“I held the hand of my beloved as I took the oath of office,” he said in a statement posted to Facebook. “This moment is beyond my wildest dreams. I wear the title of Council Member as a constant reminder of the Northsiders who are counting on me. I will strive for nothing less than to serve my community and all of Minneapolis with excellence.”

The 30-year-old stood beside his husband, Lane, as he was officially anointed a representative of Minneapolis’ 4th Ward. The two were married in July 2015, just days after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions.

Cunningham, a former aide to the mayor, was joined in the momentous occasion by Jenkinswho ran virtually unopposed in the 2017 elections.

Like Cunningham, Jenkins has amassed an extensive background in public service. The 56-year-old served as a social worker and community organizer, as well as an oral historian for the University of Minnesota, prior to being voted into office during last year’s special elections. She also was an advisor to two city councilmen prior to her candidacy.

Following her Tuesday swearing in, Jenkins claimed she was “so proud to represent Ward 8 in the City of Minneapolis” in a note to followers on social media.

Many cities and municipalities will enjoy their first-ever LGBTQ office holders as more queer and trans people elected in 2017 take office in the coming weeks. At least 40 LGBTQ candidates won their respective races in November, the most ever in a single election.

This total includes eight openly trans politicians, including Lisa Middleton of the Palm Springs City Council and Danica Roem of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Why Are Black Lesbians And Their Children Being Targeted For Murder?

The Christmas Day discovery of a quadruple homicide that happened to a couple and two young children in Troy, N.Y. were widely publicized over the last week, as were the subsequent arrests of the two alleged murderers. Justin C. Mann, 24, and James W. White, 38, were caught on a security camera entering and exiting the home of 36-year-old Shanta Myers, her 22-year-old fiancee Brandi Mells, and two of Myers’ three children, five-year-old Shanise and 11-year-old Jeremiah. But later that week, another murder of a lesbian and her daughter happened in West Palm Beach, Fla. received much less attention, despite the victim’s surviving partner speaking out against the supposed killer: her son.

Robin Denson says her 26-year-old son, Marlin Lance Joseph, shot and killed her partner, 36-year-old Kaladaa Crowell and her daughter 11-year-old Kyra Inglett. At a press briefing held in front of the West Palm Beach Police Department yesterday, Denson spoke to her son through the media.

“Marlin, son, I love you,” she said. “You know I love you, but please, turn yourself in. If you’re scared to do so, call me.”

“Kaladaa was the sweetest person,” she said of Crowell. “She’d give the shirt off her back to help anybody–she was my girlfriend and that was our home.”

Law enforcement located and arrested Joseph today, after he fled in his mother’s girlfriend’s 2012 gray Toyota Camry, which bears a Florida Bethune-Cookman University tag and license plate number BAOMJ. He was last seen at an ATM early Friday morning, around the same time Inglett was declared dead at St. Mary’s Medical Center.

Denson was outside of the house when her son, who lived with them, allegedly shot and murdered Crowell and Inglett. Denson has previously served time for battery on a child after being accused of lewd behavior with a 13-year-old girl when he was 22.

“I love my son, but I loved Kyra and Kaladaa, too,” Denson said at the press conference. “I know the family wants justice. I want justice, too.”

Police advised Denson not to give too many details about what happened on Thursday, and there have been no possible motives revealed for either case of tragic, deadly violence, including any possibility of a hate crime. Still, the fact that three lesbians have now been killed in a week’s time seems to beg the question why they are being targeted.

“There are indications at the crime scene that this was not a random act,” says John Tedesco, the Police Chief of Troy, New York, regarding the case of Myers, Mells, and their two children. “We are certainly appealing to people in the community that would have any knowledge as to what may have transpired there to contact us as soon as possible.”

Mann and White, both charged with first-degree murder and second-degree murder have entered not guilty pleas. Tedesco reported that one of the men knew the victims, but did not give any further details. Shanta Myers’ nephew Khalif Coleman told The Daily Beast that Mann had been a friend of Mells.

“I never seen him before a day in my life, neither of them,” Coleman said. “But some of my family members recognize him as Brandi’s friend. He supposedly always hung out with her.”

White has previously served time for manslaughter in New York prisons from 2001 to 2010. Mann also has a criminal record and had been on parole after a robbery conviction. The two were arrested at Mann’s home in Schenectady last Friday night, a week after they bound the victims’ hands and ankles and slit their throats. Two bloody knives were found at the scene.

The similarities in these two cases are too hard to ignore–black lesbians and their children killed by men who knew them and their families. In 2014, James Larry Cosby was convicted of murdering his daughter, Britney Cosby, and her girlfriend, Crystal Jackson, in Houston. During his trial, friends and family testified that Cosby was vocal about his problem with their relationship and his daughter’s homosexuality, though he never went on record to state his motive.

“These are the things we know. He had resentment. They had a better life. They were being treated differently at [Jackson’s family’s] house,” Capt. Barry Cook, an investigator with the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office said. “He didn’t agree with their lifestyle, but neither did the Jacksons. Were they killed for being gay? Who knows? He’s the only one who knows and he’s not talking.”

While certainly not explicitly specific to black families, familial homophobia is often ignored when it comes to law enforcement declaring something a hate crime. It seems, for some reason, that an anti-lesbian motive isn’t one worth bringing up by anyone other than the prosecution or people that knew the victims well, at least in Cosby’s case. But with what seems like a tragic trend of black lesbians and their children being murdered in their own homes, it’s past time to acknowledge that their being targeted was very specific.

But if Mann, White, and Joseph (should he be apprehended) don’t discuss why they committed their alleged respective murders, then will law enforcement decide to ignore that the victims’ sexual identities? Will they decide their personal relationships had nothing to do with why they the killers were motivated to kill them, when it seems all too obvious that they may have somehow been some sick inspiration for men they knew to end their lives?

In 2014, a study found that a majority of LGBTQ hate crimes are perpetrated against Blacks or African-Americans, with 1,621 of 2,568 incidents affecting Black LGBTQs that year. In 2017, more LGBTQ people were killed in hate-violence-related homicides than previous years, and that was without including those who died at the Pulse shooting in Orlando. Of the total number of LGBTQ homicides in 2017, 75% of the victims were people of color; 20 (56%) of the victims were Black. Transgender women of color face the highest murders rates, and their gender identities are often identified as part of the motive, with some perpetrators even claiming trans panic.

Researchers posited that Trump’s election and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric coming from his administration, as well as other far-right conservatives in states like North Carolina and Texas, had made it somehow more acceptable for some to act on their hatred or dislike for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans men or women, and other members of the queer community.

But should those who are motivated by hate crimes are not charged for them, and if the identities and relationships of the victims are ignored as they can often be not just by law enforcement but by the press as well, it will be harder for the community to qualify an epidemic that could threaten to keep growing during a time of civil unrest inspired by those currently in power.

In Trump’s America, black lesbians and their children are being murdered; trans women are being murdered; hate crimes are rampant and can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, especially if this kind of hate is coming from inside our own homes.

Sadly, Denson told the press that she didn’t have a relationship with her late partner’s family.

“They’re from a Christian family and I respect that ’cause I was raised in a Christian family,” Denson said. “They just didn’t really like that me and her were together and I respect that.”

But Denson, Myers, Mells, and Crowell are deserving of respect as well.

Contribute to the GoFundMe set up to support the Myers Family. Donations will used to help Myers’ surviving son, 16-year-old Isaiah, survive, as well as providing mental health services for kids, families, and the community. A Celebration of Life is being held for Kaladaa Crowell and Kyra Inglett will be held on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at 11am at Christ Fellowship – South campus in Palm Beach Gardens, Fl.

Fake News Site Connected to Russian Government Refers to Transgender Soldiers as ‘Tranny Troops’

A news outlet connected to the Russian government has referred to trans members of the U.S. military using a transphobic slur.

The day before transgender people were allowed to enlist openly in the armed forces for the first time, the website Sputnik News referred to them as “tranny troops” a headline. The site posted an article titled “Tranny Troops: U.S. Military to Accept Transgender Recruits Beginning 2018” on Dec. 31.

“Tranny” is widely regarded as an offensive and derogatory term among members of the LGBTQ community, comparable to the word “faggot” for gay men.

Even more so, the word is a reminder of the disproportionate and often deadly violence to which trans and gender nonconforming individualsparticularly transgender womenare subjected. Trans people are more likely than any other segment of the U.S. population to be victims of a hate crime and are frequently referred to by that term during the assault.

The article itself isn’t an outright attack on trans enlistment, although a telling editorial choice betrays the outlet’s anti-LGBTQ bias.

Sputnik News refers to the Pentagon’s decision to comply with numerous court orders blocking President Trump’s transgender ban as a “capitulation.” In truth, the White House attempted several times to enforce the Commander-in-Chief’s proposed policy, which was first announced in a series of July tweets. The plan, however, was blocked in federal court four timeswith the administration losing each time.

After an emergency request to delay the January 2018 start date was denied, the administration said it would stop appealing the decisions.

“The Department of Defense has announced that it will be releasing an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks,” an anonymous official within the administration claimed in a statement. “So rather than litigate this interim appeal before that occurs, the administration has decided to wait for DOD’s study and will continue to defend the president’s lawful authority in District Court in the meantime.”

The president had previously ordered Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis to issue an implementation strategy putting the plan into effect by March 23.

A headline insulting transgender people, though, is unsurprising given the source of the article. Sputnik operates under the direct control of the Kremlin and the media organization was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last year to determine whether it had been disseminating Russian propaganda.

The website is known to publish fake news and conspiracy theories.

Sputnik’s bosses are no friend to the LGBTQ community, particularly trans people. The Kremlin banned transgender Russians from driving in 2015 as “part of a crackdown on people with mental health issues,” as The Independent reported. The government claimed trans people suffer from a “disorder,” making them ineligible for driver’s licenses.

The architect of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, Vitaly Milonov, proposed outing transgender travelers to the country in a 2017 interview with the newspaper Parlamentskaya Gazeta.

Queer Women In Hollywood Join the LGBTQ and WOC-Inclusive Time’s Up Movement

On New Year’s Day, the women of Hollywood started the new year right by launching an anti-harassment action plan and penning an open letter to their “sisters” for change. The initiative, aptly titled Time’s Up, aims to fight systemic sexual harassment in both Hollywood and blue-collar workplaces across the nation. 300 powerful actresses, writers, agents, and producers, including Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, and America Ferrera announced the plan on social media. Many of our queer, female heroes joined the frontline in combating sexual harassment, too.

Time’s Up is a legal defense fund that seeks “equal representation, opportunities, benefits and pay for all women workers,” with a great focus on women of color and other marginalized voices.

“I stand w/ women across all industries to say #TIMESUP on abuse, harassment, marginalization and underrepresentation,” Cameron Esposito tweeted. Cameron and her wife Rhea Butcher have both advocated for a change in the way we discuss and handle sexual assaultnot only have their characters on Take My Wife admitted to being victims of abuse, but Cameron also penned an essay for The A.V. Club on rape culture and jokes about assault. So, it comes as no surprise that Esposito decided to lead the charge with other powerful women in Hollywood.

Time’s Up comes as a response to the now-infamous Harvey Weinstein exposé that came to light in October. The plan was officially announced on Monday, but according to CNN, the group was formed shortly after #MeToo skyrocketed on social media. The open letter outlines stories of misogyny, gender-based violence, and systemic harassment from women in entertainment and the alliance aims to use their power and influence to stop workplace harassment in other fields, while giving women the chance to fight for equality.

Out bisexual actress Evan Rachel Wood also tweeted about the initiative, demanding,
“#TIMESUP on the abuse of power,” and linked to the website where you can sign a solidarity letter and donate to the legal defense fund. Wood has spoken openly about her experiences with sexual harassment and rape.

In 2016, pre-Weinstein, Wood told Rolling Stone, “I don’t believe we live in a time where people can stay silent any longer Not given the state our world is in with its blatant bigotry and sexism.”

The prescient Rolling Stone interview came as an outburst reaction to Donald Trump’s presidential win, and echoed the sentiment that would soon ripple through the women of America: We are tired of being silenced. In November, the Westworld actress outlined this feeling in an essay for Nylon in which she dissected the anger and trauma she’s felt in the year since Trump, a misogynist and accused rapist, took office.

Jill Soloway, the trailblazing executive producer behind Transparent who recently came out as gender nonbinary, said they were “in awe of the power of working with the women of Hollywood” on Time’s Up. In a tweet about the legal defense fund, Soloway said, “It has been so beautiful and radical.”

Lena Waithe, Ellen Page, Sarah Paulson, Angela Robinson, Rowan Blanchard, Anna Paquin, and Stephanie Beatriz have all signed and shared the anti-harassment action plan.

Other queer-adjacent allies have joined the battlefront, too, like Constance Wu, who recently starred in queer indie film The Feels and played a lesbian military psychologist in Hulu’s Dimension 404. Wu has been a major voice in the fight against normalizing harassment, including speaking out against the Academy’s decision to award Casey Affleck with an Oscar, despite the allegations of harassment against the actor. She tweeted her support for the cause, as well as contributing to the open letter.

Uzo Aduba, best known for her role as Crazy Eyes in Orange is the New Black, also tweeted about Time’s Up, denoting, “We are one tribe, standing in solidarity now.”

We’re still figuring out how to handle the collective outrage of women in America that transpired this year, and Time’s Up is the first major step toward actionable change put forth by celebrity women. As they say, the future is femaleit’s also simultaneously dark and revolting, but Time’s Up is already instilling hope in the hearts of queer women everywhere.

Images via Getty

Marvel’s ‘Runaways’ Leaves A Lot To Be Desired When It Comes to Lesbian Superhero Karolina Dean

*Caution: Spoilers for today’s all-new Runaways episode ahead.*

Marvel’s Runaways is now nine episodes in and it has finally given viewers that lesbian kiss they’ve been itching for.

The Hulu show based on the comic book series of the same name follows six teenagers with varying powers in their journey to avenge “runaway” children who fell victim to the crimes of their parents. One member of the super-squad is Karolina Dean, a lesbian superhero, one of few in the Marvel canon.

Though Runaways has flirted with a storyline about her sexuality, today’s episode was Karolina’s first major queer momentand Marvel’s second on-screen queer kiss everand it waslackluster.

Runaways is the first Marvel show to prominently feature a queer character and storyline, so I had high hopes for it. We’ve seen every white, male superhero under the Marvel sun land their own origin movie, but female superheroes, people of color, and queer superheroes have barely scratched the surface in film or TV. In 2015, Agent Peggy Carter of Agent Carter had a short (and unwanted) girl-on-girl kiss, but it was inconsequential. And unfortunately, Karolina Dean’s journey is just another uninspiring, superficial coming out story.

In the first episode of Runaways, Karolina has a bit of a self-coming out moment, or at least a revelation. In all her teenage angst, she sneaks out of her parents’ house and attends a party as an act of rebellion. She’s the goody two shoes, preacher’s daughter type (albeit, her mother leads a Scientology-like cult). At the party, Karolina watches two girls make out on the dance floor and her eyes light upit’s sweet and innocent, and a moment every queer girl can relate to.

Unfortunately, this moment still remains as Karolina’s most heartfelt and transformative queer moment.

A few episodes later, Karolina blindly latches on to one of her close female friends, Nico, who has a fling with one of the male protagonists. At this point in the show, we can assume Nico is straight based on her dating history (and lack of interest in women). Karolina isn’t gifted with many sexuality-defining moments, even though the pilot implied that her struggle with sexuality was a main driving point for her character. So, when we initially see her first spark of interest in Nico, it feels arbitrarythere was no unbreakable sexual tension, no painful, exciting or complicated hand-holding.

Basically, there wasn’t a series of romantic moments that would’ve sent #Kiko shippers reeling. We were just left to infer that Karolina was going to whimsically develop feelings for Nico, without any actual reasons as to why. Nico and her are comfortable together and are definitely strengthening their bond as friends, but outside of that, literally nothing led up to this transformative moment, exploding out of the closet moment for Karolina.

In the ninth episode, “Doomsday,” Karolina boldly goes where no baby-gay has ever gone beforeat a fundraiser, she seizes a moment alone with Nico, grabs her, and kisses her out of nowhere.

Nico initially looks shocked, and kisses her back for a second, but it’s short-lived. I didn’t want to write Nico offI was hoping for a storyline in which Nico explores bisexuality. Unfortunately, according to the Marvel canon, Nico ends up turning down Karolina, but they remain friends.

As a former baby-gay, the moment was totally cringe-worthynot only was it too soon, but it was also wildly misplaced, as if Karolina had projected romantic feelings on to the first girl she could get her hands on. That didn’t feel like a realistic portrayal of the very confusing, traumatic, and life-changing psyche of someone who was just beginning to grapple with their own queerness. I was disappointed to see Karolina’s character treated with so little care, when something as fraught as sexual discovery should be treated with the utmost of delicacy.

Plus, while Karolina wasn’t outwardly predatory, one could argue that the story aligns with the trope of predatory lesbians, like the queer character in Pitch Perfect who is constantly making moves on her straight friends.

There’s no shortage of coming out stories on TV, so if Runaways wanted to tackle coming out, they could have at least found a nuanced and innovative way to do soespecially with something as fun and exciting as TV’s first lesbian superhero. With that being said, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the way they did itmany queer girls definitely misplace their first crushes (and many more crushes) on straight friends. So for some, this is a very real experience. But it wasn’t special or monumental; it was vanilla.

Queer superheroes and villains haven’t gotten their due time yet, but they’re out there: DC’s Batwoman is a lesbian, Catwoman was recently revealed to be bisexual, and tons more. Marvel first dipped their toes in queerness in 2015 with the release of Jessica Jones.Jeri Hogarthwho is actually gender-swapped from the original character, Jerynis a powerful lesbian lawyer who hires the titular Jessica. But as of yet, Karolina is Marvel’s first real stride to place LGBTQ characters at the forefront of their storytelling.

On film, Marvel has never featured a queer character or outwardly acknowledged a queer character’s sexuality. The closest they’ve come is a Blu-Ray-only short feature in which Sam Rockwell’s Iron Man 2 character alludes to prison sex. So generous! Thank you, Marvel, for your bravery.

Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see more inventive storylines for our baby-gay superhero Karolina, andI know this is completely earth-shatteringMarvel will give queer superheroes ample screen time in film, especially queer women of color. At this point, anything would be an improvement.

Surprise! The State With the Largest LGBTQ Population Isn’t New York or California

The state with the highest percentage of LGBTQ people isn’t what one might expect.

Vermont is the gayest state in the nation, according to recently released statistics from UCLA’s The Williams Institute. 2017 data from the pro-LGBTQ think tank shows that 5.3 percent of its residents openly identify as queer or transgender, putting the Green Mountain State ahead of California, Massachusetts, and Oregon. The three states are in a tie for second place with 4.9 percent.

Others near the top of the pile are Nevada, which lands in the fifth spot with a population that’s 4.8 percent LGBTQ. Rounding out the top 10 are Maryland (4.7 percent), Washington (4.6 percent), New York (4.5 percent), Maine (4.5 percent), and Colorado (4.3 percent).

Given the state’s history of being on the front lines of LGBTQ rights, it’s understandable that queer and transgender people would flock to Vermont as a safe haven.

After the Vermont Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to prevent same-sex couples from marrying in a landmark 1999 decision, the state became the first in the nation to legalize civil unions a year later. Vermont made history again in 2009 by becoming the first-ever state to enact marriage equality through legislation, rather than a court ruling.

Although Texas and Mississippi recently topped INTO’s list of the worst states for LGBTQ people, neither placed in The Williams Institute’s bottom five.

Instead, the Dakotas share the smallest percentage of LGBTQ people in the United States by a comfortable margin. Just 2.0 percent of South Dakota residents claim to be queer or transgender, while North Dakota has a population that’s just 2.7 percent LGBTQ. The former boasts just one gay bar in the whole state, while the latter has none.

Many of the states with the most petite LGBTQ populations are located in the far north of the United States and the deep south.

Next on the list is Idaho, which places at the lucky number 48 spot; just 2.8 percent of residents openly identify as queer or transgender. Next up are Montana, Alaska, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Mississippi, all of which have a population that’s 3 percent LGBTQ. Nos. 41 and 42 are Tennessee (3.1 percent) and Kansas (3.1 percent).

Outside the 50 states, Washington, D.C. continues to dominate all U.S. territories when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion. Nearly 1 in 10 of residents (8.6 percent) are LGBTQ identified.

h/t Dallas Voice.

Top 10 States:

1. Vermont (5.3 percent)
2. California (4.9 percent)
3. Massachusetts (4.9 percent)
4. Oregon (4.9 percent)
5. Nevada (4.8 percent)
6. Maryland (4.7 percent)
7. Washington (4.6 percent)
8. New York (4.5 percent)
9. Maine (4.5 percent)
10. Colorado (4.3 percent)

Bottom 10 States:

41. Tennessee (3.1 percent)
42. Kansas (3.1 percent)
43. Montana (3 percent)
44. Alaska (3 percent)
45. Arkansas (3 percent)
46. South Carolina (3 percent)
47. Mississippi (3 percent)
48. Idaho (2.8 percent)
49. North Dakota (2.7 percent)
50. South Dakota (2 percent)

Credit: Max Braun/Flickr