Report: Media Largely Ignored Unprecedented Anti-LGBTQ Violence of 2017

Last year was the deadliest on record for LGBTQ people, but you wouldn’t know that based on news coverage.

According to a new report from press watchdog Media Matters, cable and broadcast news spent less than 40 minutes across seven networks covering anti-LGBTQ violence, despite a year of unprecedented attacks.

“How are people going to know that this is a problem, not just so that they know that LGBTQ rights and safety is at risk but there are people who rely on this kind of information to be able to survive to know hey I might get targeted if I got on a dating app right now?” asks Media Matters’ LGBT Program Director Brennan Suen.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported an 86 percent spike in anti-LGBTQ homicides in 2017, the worst the organization ever recorded. (The Pulse Nightclub shooting is not included in the tally.)

Over the course of the entire year, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox Broadcasting Co., CNN, Fox News and MSNBC only discussed anti-LGBT violence 22 times, according to the report.

Fox News topped the list with 10 minutes and 21 seconds devoted to coverage of anti-LGBTQ violence. But most of that coverage (7 and a half minutes) was actually a segment that featured former Los Angeles Police Detective Mark Fuhrman defending the police officer who shot and killed nonbinary Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz, the report notes. CBS devoted 8 minutes and 29 seconds to coverage of anti-LGBTQ violence. Fox fell to the bottom of the list none at all, while other networks hovered in-between.

But networks largely covered just two stories related anti-LGBTQ violence. Schultz’s death was one. The other was the slaying of transgender Iowan Kedarie Johnson, which got attention after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ assigning a prosecutor to investigate the murder.

For the most part, networks discussed isolated incidents, failing to link them to a growing threat of anti-LGBTQ violence.

“Speakers contextualized their subjects as part of an overall trend of increasing violence against the LGBTQ community in only seven of the 22 discussions,” the report notes.

ABC hosted just one discussion of anti-LGBTQ violence. CNN did four times, but only linked it to a trend of violence against LGBTQ people once.
The report comes amid the most shocking NCAVP anti-LGBTQ violence numbers to date. NCAVP reported 52 hate-related homicides last year alone. Transgender people accounted for 27 of those murders. People of color made up two-thirds of the victims in the report.

The lack of coverage for anti-LGBTQ violence also comes at a time when acceptance for LGBTQ people is reportedly declining. Suen also notes that anti-LGBTQ hate groups have been mainstreamed over the last year. President Trump keynoted the annual event of an anti-LGBTQ hate group last year when he spoke at the Values Voters Summit, and he has championed a rollback of LGBTQ rights.

“It is extremely scary because this is not the only area of LGBTQ rights that is being attacked right now,” Suen says. “But I would say it’s really inspiring to see other human rights organizations sounding the alarm about this issue and other issues. I think people just really have to get out there and educate their friends and call on media to do better coverage.”

Trump Says Pulse Victims Would Still Be Alive Today If They Had Guns

Donald Trump believes that arming the victims of the Pulse shooting would have prevented their deaths.

The president met with lawmakers on Wednesday for a bipartisan meeting on gun reform in the wake of the Parkland, Fla. shooting, in which 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed by a former classmate. Although Trump signaled he would be willing to embrace some restrictions on access to firearms, he drew the line at “gun-free zones,” citing the 2016 gay bar attack as an example.

The POTUS claimed more guns might have stopped 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who murdered 49 people and injured 58 more in the Jun. 12 incident.

“Take an example, you take Pulse nightclub,” Trump said. “If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened, or certainly not to the extent it did, where he was just in there shooting, and shooting and shooting and they were defenseless.”

This isn’t the first time the president has asserted a lack of firepower played a part in the tragedy. During the 2016 campaign, Trump told supporters at an Atlanta rally the victims should have been packing as Mateen opened fire on the crowd.

“[I]f the bullets were going in the other direction… you would’ve had a situation, folks,” he said.

But Trump’s repeated assertions that the Pulse shooting could have prevented by giving everyone an Ak-47, his arguments neglect one key fact: There were guns at the bar that night.

Officer Adam Gruler, an off-duty police officer working security at Pulse during the shooting, was the first law enforcement official to engage Mateen. A police report filed the same day confirms that Gruler “engaged in a gun battle with that suspect, and the suspect went deeper into the club where more shots were fired.”

Two patrolmen who responded to Gruler’s call for backup were also armed, and the nearby officers traded gunfire with the shooter. Mateen would be shot a total of eight times during the standoff, which ended around 5:00am.

Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Pulse shooting, responded to the president’s repeated distortion of the facts on Twitter.

“There was an armed officer at Pulse and guess what?” Wolf claimed on social media. “We still were attacked. 49 killed. I lost my two best friends. You don’t get to spout lies and use them as leverage.”

Despite decrying “gun-free zones,” Trump broke with the Republican party on Wednesday to call for measures would prevent the mentally ill from accessing guns and enforce background checks on all firearm purchases. He even urged lawmakers to support a bipartisan bill put forward after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2013. The legislation, which instituted bans on ban assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines, stalled in the Senate.

“It’s time that a president stepped up,” the president claimed.

Trump has also stated in recent days, however, that he would have personally prevented the tragedy in Parkland by running into Marjory Stoneman Douglas unarmed.

h/t Orlando Weekly

Photo viaGerardo Mora/Getty Images

Bermuda Delays Repeal of Marriage Equality By Three Months

Same-sex couples in Bermuda will have an extra three months to tie the knot.

The island nation has delayed the revocation of marriage equality until the end of May, as the Royal Gazette reported on Wednesday. Walton Brown, the home affairs minister, confirmed the delay is intended to allow LGBTQ partners who have already planned their weddings to follow through with the ceremony.

“Commencement has been delayed to allow for any same-sex marriages that have license already issued and have been scheduled to be conducted in Bermuda or on-board Bermuda-registered ships to actually take place,” he said.

After the May 31 cutoff date, same-sex couples will only be permitted to register for a domestic partnership. They will have until May 12 to apply for a marriage certificate.

In February, Bermuda became the first country to strike down marriage equality when Gov. John Rankin gave his approval to a law passed by Parliament two months earlier. The Domestic Partnership Act repealed same-sex marriages and replaced them with domestic partnerships.

Rankin claimed upon giving his approval to the legislation that the law is intended to achieve a compromise over issues surrounding LGBTQ relationship recognition.

“While the majority of Bermudians do not agree with same-sex marriageas evidenced by the referendumit is the Government’s belief that this Act addresses this position while also complying with the European Courts by ensuring that recognition and protection for same sex couples are put in place,” he said in a statement.

Same-sex marriages had been legalized in Bermuda just months prior to the passage of that bill.

In a May 2017 ruling, Judge Charles-Etta Simmons claimed the federal government had discriminated against Bermudan Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, for denying the couple’s Constitutional right to marry.

“On the facts, the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage,” Simmons wrote. “The applicants are entitled to an Order of Mandamus compelling the Registrar to act in accordance with the requirements of the Marriage Act 1944 and a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act 1944.”

The delay in overturning that ruling coincides with a legal challenge from 38-year-old Roderick Ferguson, a native born Bermudan based in the United States. Ferguson, a stand-up comedian and singer, claimed the Domestic Partnerships Act subjects the country’s LGBTQ population to “inhumane [and] degrading treatment.”

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley is set to hear the lawsuit before the Bermuda Supreme Court on May 21. Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons is named as the defendant in the case.

Paramount Network Delays ‘Heathers’ Reboot, Cites Parkland Shooting

Paramount Network has decided to delay the premiere of its TV reboot of the 1980s movie Heathers, which was set to premiere March 7.

According to a statement from Paramount Network, the “satirical comedy” dealt with “many subjects” including identity, race, and socioeconomic statusas well as gun violence.

“While we stand firmly behind the show, in light of the recent tragic events in Florida and out of respect for the victims, their families and loved ones, we feel the right thing to do is delay the premiere until later this year,” the network wrote.

Though Paramount claims it’s moving the premiere due to the recent shooting in Parkland, Fla., Paramount made the show’s premiere episode available online on February 21, a full week after the February 14 school shooting.

Since its premiere, the show had garnered a slew of negative coverage for its anti-social justice warrior, pro-Trump aesthetic. Several right-wing trolls had already begun praising the show on the internet, as INTO previous reported.

Given that the Heathers premiere was released online a full week after the shooting, some people online felt like the decision to pull the show, especially after the hefty criticism it garnered, was a little suspect.

As others pointed out, given the relative frequency of school shootings in the United States, there may be no appropriate time to air the reboot.

Heathers is not the first show to rework its airing schedule in the wake of a shooting. In 1999, Buffy the Vampire Slayer moved its episodes “Earshot” and its Season 3 finale “Graduation Day Pt. 2” after the Colorado Columbine shooting. In October, American Horror Story: Cult decided to edit a mass shooting scene in the wake of the music festival shooting in Las Vegas.

The official Heathers Twitter account did not specify when the show would return, but asked viewers to “Stay Tuned.”

‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story’ Episode 6 Recap: The First Instagay

In my initial review of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, I described Darren Criss’ performance as Andrew Cunanan as “like an Instagay of the ‘90s: opportunistic, narcissistic, and a pathological liar.” We’ve seen flashes of that so far, particularly the pathology of dishonesty. But it’s in this sixth episode, “Descent,” that we see Andrew as the original Instagay fully flourish.

Andrew is throwing a birthday party for himself. He’s hosting it at the home he shares with his wealthy lover, Norman Blachford (Michael Nouri), in La Jolla, California. And everything about it has to be perfect. From his friend and future victim Jeff Trail’s presentation of his birthday present (Andrew actually bought a pair of shoes to give him instead of Jeff’s actual gift) to how he talks about his living situation (Norman isn’t a sugar daddy, Andrew is just living with him to redesign his home!), Andrew’s whole presentation is a construction.

Even how we first see him in this episode is bullshit. We see Andrew, nude, taking an extravagant dip into Norman’s pool on this gorgeous property as if Andrew is directing the scene himself, convincing his audience that all this is his. As the episode goes on, and the narrative escapes Andrew more and more, we learn just how false this tableau is.

Speaking generally, my issue with Instagaydom at large comes down to dishonesty. The very act of sculpting your life through what you choose to post, what lighting and filters you use, who you’re photographed with is like lying in grand form. Now, you could argue that social media invites such curation, be it on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. I wouldn’t disagree with you there. But we all work to put forth our best selves, our funniest selves, our smartest selves. That’s true of real life as well.

What I find troubling about doing the same on Instagram is that it’s such a physical medium that allows for little context. See this white, cisgender, gay man with perfect abs? See him hanging out with dozens of men just like him, traveling on a seemingly infinite budget from fabulous location to fabulous location? An Instagay isn’t going to tell you that this is all a fabrication, a carefully designed life meant to attract more attention that will, in most cases, ultimately be converted into advertising revenue through sponsorships. They want you to believe in that fantasy. Context is the enemy of success on Instagram.

So we have a generation of young queer people who are growing up seeing these Instagays as not just a form of success, but the pinnacle of success. These hyper-stylized lives are seemingly achievable. Maybe it’s harmless and I’m being anxious over nothing. But I think, were I a young gay person trying to come into my own in 2018, I’d be constantly comparing myself to Instagays. And I think, in my mind, I’d lose that battle every time.

Andrew’s life, on the other hand, has context. If that first nude swim is what we’d see on his Insta story, the rest of the episode is what we’re not seeing posted on an Instagay’s feed. The party turns into a disaster, with every attempt to flatter Andrew’s crush, the adorable architect David Madsen (another future victim), foiled by the fantasy unraveling. After the party, his tantrum to Norman falls on deaf ears, and Andrew finds himself cut off from his funding. Finally, an extravagant trip to Los Angeles, all spent on worthless credit cards, to seduce David proves futile.

“Descent” is the story of Andrew’s perfectly curated life falling apart. This is how the spree killer we’ve seen in the episodes so far came to be: his lies consumed him, and his attempts to cover up his pathetic core were unsuccessful. Andrew Cunanan may have been the original Instagay, but he lacked the filters and the platform to keep up the charade. At episode’s end, he’s left a husk of his former self, being washed in a bath by his mother.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story is as much about how a killer is made as it is about his killings. Through its reverse storytelling structure, we learned more about the latter first. But now, we’re seeing the former seeing how the seemingly perfect life slipped away from him.

That’s a lesson that’s still true: There is no such thing as the perfect life, no matter how it’s presented online. People get older. Looks fade. Money runs out. A fantasy is just that and it’s only so long until the truth is revealed.

The seventh episode of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story will air Wednesday, March 7, at 10 p.m. on FX.

5 Ways To Be A Happy Homo

Happiness is like a Chicken McNugget. Everyone wants some but no one really wants to know how it’s made. Finding the right ingredients, however, can help you create your own actual meal instead of a late night drive thru binge. Who needs that bloat anyway, amiright??

True happiness in life can be challenging especially if you’re trying to live your best gay life. Our LGBTQ+ community has made great strides for equality and acceptance, though our beliefs about ourselves still get impacted by homophobia every day and it can hurt our ability to really know how to achieve longer-lasting, authentic happiness.

Take a peak at what I’m dubbing the “5 Ways To Be A Happy Homo” to see which specific hurdles our community faces and what you can do to spark that light of joy within yourself so you in your own way can illuminate the world! (OK I stole that last part from Oprah.)

Kim Davis Wrote a Book About ‘Furious, Fist-Pounding’ Gay Men Because Of Course She Did

This week in “nobody asked for this”:

Remember Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2015? Well, she wrote a book called Under God’s Authority: The Kim Davis Story. The book’s official press release describes the demonic text as an “amazing narrative of redemption and courage.”

There’s nothing brave about denying a gay couple a basic civil right, but sure.

In 2015, the Rowan County, Ky. clerk sparked national controversy when she refused to issue a marriage license to a gay male couple. As a result, Davis was jailed for five days by a federal judge, because her refusal violated the Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, which ultimately legalized same-sex marriage.

The hatemonger ignited a conservative-led conversation on religious freedom and details this “unlikely saga” in her new book, where Davis tells her side of story on this “disastrous same-sex ‘marriage’ opinion.” (Friendly reminder that same-sex marriage is not an opinion, it’s the law of the land, and in that context, marriage doesn’t require quotation marks.)

According to the Lexington Herald Reader, the book chronicles Kim’s “dramatic encounters with furious, fist-pounding, homosexual men,” which sounds like an average night out in West Hollywood.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee endorsed the nightmare book.

“It’s a great read,” Huckabee said. “But more than that, this remarkable story of what God did in Kim’s life gives me hope for our nation. I think it will give you hope, too.” The only thing this book is giving me is agita.

“Kim Davis is one tough lady,” said Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse. “In a culture that demeans people who obediently follow Jesus, Kim Davis drew on His strength as she experiencedand enduredpersecution from the culture, the court, and the crowds, and survived to tell about it all in her compelling book Under God’s Authority.”

“Her story proves that one person can really make a difference when taking a stand for Christ!” Graham concluded.

If you’re completely gobsmacked by Davis and her hate-filled, homophobic minions, fear not: She’s up for reelection this year but will be challenged by David Ermold, one of the men to whom she denied a marriage license in 2015. Ermold is one of four Democrats hoping to challenge Davis for the county clerk job. According to his website, Ermold hopes to “restore professional leadership, fairness and responsibility” to the county.

Congratulations, Kim, you played yourself.

Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images

President of Gay Republican Group Thinks Trump Is Better Than Obama on LGBTQ Rights

The Log Cabin Republicans are standing by their man.

Gregory T. Angelo, president of America’s largest gay GOP group, defended the organization’s continued support for Donald Trump in an interview with Michelangelo Signorile on his Sirius XM radio program. Although the LCR declined to endorse Trump in the 2016 election, he once claimed the sitting POTUS was the “most gay-friendly Republican nominee for president ever.”

Angelo did not back off that assertion in his conversation with Signorile, suggesting Trump has been better for the LGBTQ community than predecessor Barack Obama.

“This president is the first president to enter the White House who believes that marriage equality is settled law of the land,” he said. “Barack Obama didn’t believe that when he entered the White House. Hillary Clinton only came around to that position in 2013.”

Trump did, in fact, refer to the marriage equality issue as being “settled law” in a November 2016 interview with 60 Minutes, but Angelo’s claim leaves out an important point: The POTUS had previously vowed to overturn the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges if elected. He promised to appoint judges “that maybe could change things.”

The president’s eventual choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia, Neil Gorsuch, opposed same-sex unions in his 2004 dissertation at Oxford University.

Although Trump vowed to be a “real friend” to queer and trans people during the 2016 presidential race, critics say his administration has persistently rolled back LGBTQ rights. Shortly after taking office, the Departments of Justice and Education rescinded guidance allowing transgender students to use restrooms which correspond with their gender identity in K-12 schools.

The Trump administration also filed an amicus brief in support of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who believes serving gay couples violates his Constitutional right to religious freedom, in a pivotal Supreme Court case.

Angelo claimed criticism of Trump’s record on issues should be tempered with “highlighting the pro-LGBTQ things he has done.” When asked for examples of ways in which the president has furthered rights and protections for queer and trans people, he offered few, as Signorile wrote in a subsequent op-ed for The Huffington Post.

He said Education Secretary Betsy Devos is “still pursuing other instances of discrimination against the transgender community,” even though the DOE recently announced it would no longer investigate discrimination claims in regards to restroom use.

“The facts speak for themselves,” Angelo asserted.

In a follow-up interview with Breitbart, the LCR president claimed the biggest threat to the LGBTQ community isn’t Trump’s policies but the “liberal agenda.”

“Log Cabin Republicans is the only LGBTQ organization in the United States that calls radical Islamic terror by its name,” he said in a conversation at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “Log Cabin Republicans is the only LGBTQ organization in the United States that is standing up for our Second Amendment Constitutional rights to keep and bear arms.”

Forty Years Of Mardi Gras: Recalling The Arrests Of Australian Gays And Lesbians At Pride In 1978

This year’s Sydney Lesbian and Gay Mardi Grasthe world’s biggest night time paradeis a special one: it’s 40 years since the very first one in 1978.

It’ll be a special one for Max Townes, 13, too: his first ever.

“I’m very excited” he tells INTO. “I like being surrounded by compassionate people, so this’ll feel right. It’s going to be awe-inspiring, jaw dropping and fun. Yay, gays!”

Max captured the hearts of the nation when a picture of him, then 12, at a rally for marriage equality went viral. He was holding a sign which read: “All I want is the right to marry Chris Hemsworth. You’ve got five years until I’m 18 Australia! You too Chris!”

Such early comfort in his own skin is a world away from Kate Rowe’s description of “ultra conservative.” Rowe is what’s known as a 78er: one of the 24 women and 29 men arrested on the night of Sydney’s first ever Mardi Gras in 1978.

“The police trapped us into a small section of one street then things got really violent,” Rowe says. She was 27 at the time. “It was scary and horrifying. They dragged us into paddy wagons and threw us 24 women into a four-person cell.”

Australia’s first-ever Mardi Gras followed a daytime conference for gay people. It was initially, Rowe says, a celebration.

“It was the first time anybody walked down the street out and proud. It started with a few people, along a 700m stretch, with a truck playing bad ’70s music like ‘Glad To Be Gay.’ Then people came out from the bars and joined us–we took over the road, till there were about 1,000 of us. There was great camaraderie.”

At midnight, when the parade veered into a stretch of street outside the agreed permit, was when things turned ugly. It’s the stuff of legend: ABC TV is about to screen a dramatisation of events that night, called RIOT.

When I tell this story to Townes, he’s impressed.

“They’ve very brave. They wouldn’t back down. I’ve heard that people even thought there was something mentally wrong with gay people. For those people to block that out and fight for what they believe in,” he says. “I wish I could be how she was.”

It’s for his courageousness that Max has been selected as one of the “40 faces of Mardi Gras” by the Star Observer.

“It makes me feel like I’m significant in some way,” he says. “It was great to see other people’s stories, too.”

The storytelling of this year’s special anniversary Mardi Gras includes a heavy focus on the past, as well as fresher faces like Max. Rowe is on the 78er Creative Working Group, which gives the founding mothers and fathers of Mardi Gras a voice and recognition. Stories like Rowe’s have made Townes’ story possible.

After migrating to Australia from the UK, Rowe had been in the country just 18 months when she was arrested at the 1978 Mardi Gras. She went on to be arrested twice more – both times, in the spirit of political protest that the first Mardi Gras had awakened in her. The second time was just a week after the parade, when, along with other 78ers, she protested in favour of women’s right to choose at an anti-abortion rally and she “got bashed up by some right-wing Christians.” The third was at a demo for a group called Women Behind Bars, where she protested at the life sentence given to a woman who killed her husband following years of domestic violence.

But prison was the tip of the iceberg, in the events following Mardi Gras 1978. Kate was one of the people “named and shamed,” and outed by the Sydney Morning Herald, many of whom were closeted at the time and lost their jobs or families. (The newspaper has since apologised unreservedly.) Rowe’s job was only saved, she says, by a sympathetic “closeted HR Manager.” But problems at work–in the film and TV industry–were only just beginning. She was called derogatory homophobic names around the building. Graphic heterosexual pornography was put in her drawers at work.

“It was horrible” she says. “People just didn’t come out the closet. It was a secret even to yourself.”

But one surprise coming out happened eight years after her own: Rowe’s sister, who’d been a nun for 10 years, had fallen for another nun, and they were both fleeing the convent to be together.

“She rang me to tell me from the UK and I literally jumped for joy,” Rowe says. “It brought us closer together.”

Many wounds were healed when, in 2016, the New South Wales Parliament apologized to the 78ers. Rowe was in the gallery.

“Lots of us were crying. It was another part of the puzzle of our civil rights moving forward – one thing leads to another,” she says. “Had it not happened, I don’t believe we’d be as far forward progressively as we are today. Their plan was to crush us but it did the opposite. It galvanised us.”

Since the deeply unpopular marriage equality postal ballot awakened many people’s politics and anger, Rowe has noticed a “paradigm shift” towards recognising LGBTQI history:. “Young people at Fair Day [the opening of the month-long Mardi Gras season] were coming up to us [in the 78ers tent], hugging us, thanking us and even crying. It touches my heart.”

Rowe, now 66, will head to the Gay Games in Paris this year to compete in cycling and triathlon. She has been volunteering and competing for 25 years and has won several medals.

When I mention Townes to her, and that he’ll be attending his first-ever Mardi Gras this year, she responds with: “That’s fucking amazing! The parade is going to blow his mind. It’ll be a very poignant moment on his journey. If I could meet him, I’d absolutely hug him. To be at ease with himself, and have the space to explore his sexuality so young, he’s going to be one very strong man.”

“Now that,” she says triumphantly, “is what you call progress.”

Image header photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images. Other images via Kate Rowe &Facebook

Exquisitely Magnificent: A Love Letter to My Gender Identity

Non-binary identities have attracted a lot of media lately. While I am grateful for increased representation, I cannot help but notice that some of these public conversations are oriented towards cis audiences and don’t necessarily center non-binary voices. Insider discussions amongst my peers tend to focus on how awkward it is to define ourselves by who we are not, how the term “non-binary” itself can defy description, how much of queer theory manages to be inaccessible (and thus useless) to us, and how our racial identities and gender identities go hand in hand.

I visualize my gender lightly hugging the topography of my physical body. I recently binge-watched Altered Carbon, and seeing one consciousness wear different “sleeves,” including the occasional “cross-sleeve,” held a lot of emotional resonance for me. I exist to inhabit myself fully and passionately, to consolidate lessons from past lives into my current form, and to practice radical authenticity in every space. For this, I do not have to agree with my gender assignment or binary gender.

A friend My friend Yaya Atta Bailey once posed the question: “What if I told you that no black people get to be cis in the context of white supremacy (especially AFAB folks)?” Chasing cis-ness feels false like backhanded compliment. Empty like a hungry belly. Elusive and always–always–conditional. I am a daughter, I am a son, and a multiplicity of souls that travel through me on a regular basis. Acknowledging this reality has given rise to embodied habits. Some of them serve me well. Others, less well.

Almost seven years ago, I pursued a legal name change with the help of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund’s The Name Change Project. I chose Dominic for my first name because it has the same meaning as my birth name but animates rather than disgusts me when I hear it spoken aloud.

Cinnamon, my middle name, comes from a distant relative. I grew up studying photographs of her in my grandparents’ basement. They captured a swagger I wanted for myself.

I also changed my last name to reflect the profound influence of my matriarchal line. I sought power and respect, and it is a testament to my choice that my first name even in its shortened form does not diminish me. I wanted rise from the ashes of my birth identity as someone who is healing significant childhood and adult trauma.

I am not so naive as to think a simple name change will replace the dedicated work I need to do to experience post-traumatic growth, but it has given me the confidence to hear my body’s wisdom and act on what I know. My chosen name is a delight to hear, to say, and to write. It is balm in three syllables.

I have a relatively high speaking voice, and uncontrollable acne put a halt to my testosterone trial before my voice had a chance to drop, but I love to sing. Singing helps me shift into a lower vocal register. When I sing along with contraltos like Tracy Chapman, Meshell Ndegeocello, or Toni Braxton, it sounds as though my voice is so deep and so heavy I’m dragging it across the floor. It’s everything.

I craved more of an outlet, so I joined Audre Lorde Project’s newly formed secular choir. At least once a month I engage with other people who look like me and are invested in making liberation music. We began working on an arrangement of “I Need You to Survive,” which is incredibly poignant given the present political, social, and economic climate gender variant people of color live and die in.

The choir is not the only step I’m taking towards vocal androgyny. I just learned that The NYU Speech Clinic has a free Voice and Communication Modification Group for the transgender community that may be able to help me identify and achieve my voice goals. It is a setting where I am likely to feel vulnerable, but a free workshop is an almost irresistible draw.

Now for the decidedly less triumphant part of my story. I hate my chest. After surviving sexual violence in my late teens, I started taking psychotropic medications for an underlying mental health issue. It took time to get the correct diagnosis and find a combination that was right for me. I experienced difficult effects of the medication, including weight gain, and my chest size ballooned.

As of this writing, I wear a 36 GG brassiere. Part of the harm doer’s focus was my chest. It is psychologically scarring to have a constant, ever growing reminder of that unwanted attention. It is challenging to participate in physical activity. I often have low back pain. When I lift my chest, the skin is red and inflamed. I avoid full body photos; my chest swallows the whole picture.

I tried to bind thinking it might ease the dysphoria. I endured a lot of discomfort and was never satisfied with the results. Commiserating with my struggle, a my friend Azure D Osborne-Lee remarked: “Past a certain point binding is like trying to hide a bread loaf underneath your shirt.”

Top surgery seems a bit too drastic for me. I don’t want a male contoured chest. However, I desperately want a reduction. I can’t afford it. I literally “put a pin” in the idea of surgery by getting a nipple piercing. In my fantasies I picture lying under anesthesia and the clink of my jewelry hitting a metal basin as the surgeon prepares to operate.

A mentor once said: “Your vision should excite you. It shouldn’t be on your back.” I truly resented it at the time. I thought visions were necessarily unforgiving and my personal happiness (at least in the short-term) was the price of changing the world. I wanted to change the world and yet, was afraid to say, do, or be things that would keep me on my growing edge. I recognize the need to change. I now know that I must have joy or else the urgency of the work will overtake me.

I mean to “show up and show out!” I look to people like Angel Haze, Grace Jones, and Ashleigh Shackelford as conscious molders of gender identity. I am inspired to outline a 10-point program on building certain habits around my vision for my gender identity:

I develop my own vocabulary around my gender.

Although I find the term non-binary underwhelming, I’ve used it out of convenience. There are other terms I’m starting to favor, including one friend Yaya Atta Bailey’s term “trans androgynous” and MicahHobbes Frazier’s “mixed gendered.” I’m also toying with the idea of identifying simply as a shifter.

I trust myself.

I know myself better than anyone. I do not allow others to define my reality.

I reserve the right to protect my emerging understanding of my gender.

I don’t have to prove myself or disclose anything to anyone before I am ready. My gender is valid, even if it is messy.

I establish intimacy through authenticity.

My gender identity used to be a subject mostly too painful to contemplate, because I already was different in other ways, I hesitated to alienate the few people in my life. As I age, it occurs to me that I don’t love anyone so much that I am willing to disown parts of myself for the sake of preserving a relationship.

I modify my body as I see fit.

This has taken the form of tattoos, piercings, and changes in hairstyle and color. I am hoping to gain access to gender affirming surgery (i.e. chest reduction).

I am a good steward of my body the way it is today.

I am working with my therapist on understanding the impulse to self-harm through work and food and sex and drugs.

I embrace the “magnificently ugly.”

I have been shaped by the disability justice work of Mia Mingus. I am turning towards the “ugliness” of being fat and disabled in a culture that values the thin and able-bodied. Sometimes I just want to be attractive, but I am trying to take Mia’s advice and be magnificent.

I allow myself to mourn paths not taken.

I did not have this language until college and it wasn’t until my late twenties that I realized I fell outside the binary. By the time I had the desire for and access to hormones, I was an adult. Even if I had continued hormones, I probably would have had to accept that I would not look like Tiq Milan. I’m still actively grieving for the puberty I always wanted and never got.

I believe in the power of sacred adornment.

My good friend has a business called Armed with Compassion, selling mala bracelets with affirmations to support self-love. They made me a custom bracelet using stones that they believed are specifically associated with my guardian. My affirmation is “My innate energy is powerful, and I can direct it wherever power is needed.” I wear it for that extra bit of protection.

I build community with other non binary people.

I have cultivated relationships with people that have eased my loneliness and given me the courage to stand in my truth.

It has taken me weeks to write these words. I was terrified through all of it. I’m still terrified, but I must believe something beautiful is waiting on the other side of my fear. May I remain faithful to this belief. May I lean on my own magic for strength. May I occupy my head, heart, and hands with the work of transformation no matter how brutal or costly. May I die and die and die. And live and live and live.

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