Munroe Bergdorf On Visibility As The Path To Progress

On Transgender Day of Visibility, we’re reminded to honor and celebrate trans and gender nonconforming people while raising awareness for the discrimination they face worldwide.

Known for making waves of progress in the beauty industry and LGBTQ community at large, model and advocate Munroe Bergdorf is easily one of the most visible and outspoken trans voices in media today.

INTO spoke with Munroe Bergdorf on #TDoV about the importance of visibility and about how trans women, especially TWOC, need visible role options.

What does visibility mean to you?

Visibility to me is a path to progress. It’s being able to see ourselves and each other thrive in spaces that have either required us to be invisible, or have written us out of history all together.

Whose visibility paved the way for you?

The continued success of Janet Mock and Laverne Cox fills my heart with such joy. Seeing two fierce, strong, beautiful, intelligent, talented, fearless black trans women at the top of their game is something that I wish I had seen as a child.

How do you think your visibility in media as a biracial trans woman impacts those with similarly complex identities?

I can only speak personally, that my decision to be so visible is a celebration of every one of my intersections. I hope that it inspires other people to embrace and love what makes them different in the eyes of society.

Why is it important for trans women and TWOC to be a visible part of the beauty industry?

Because trans is beautiful, period. All people deserve to see themselves and aspirational imagery regardless of ability, race, sexuality, body size or gender identity. It’s important that trans people are included in the beauty industry, because if we’re not showing varied and diverse ideas of what it means to be beautiful in 2018, then we’re doing the world as it is right now a grave injustice, because beauty is not a singular whitewashed notion.

Where do you hope to see the trans community in 10 years?

Equal and safe. I hope that our humanity and our right to life is seen in equal regard to cisgender people. I hope that I’m not seeing the names of black trans women repeatedly on the news for being murdered. I hope for equality and safety.

Photographer @lukenugentphotography

Hair @edmundbossmanhair

MUA @picklemakeup

Parson James is the Soulful Queer Musician Our Hearts Need

If you don’t know the name Parson James, you’re bound to hear it again soon. This young queer artist has built a career around his soulful vocals and intimate lyrics. With his 2016 debut EP, Temple, and his 2017 summer hit, “If You’re Hearing This” featuring Betty Who, he’s steadily claiming his place in the music industry.

The South Carolina native recently dropped the video for his single “Only You,” a breakup track that touches on the toxicity and codependency that he experienced in a particular relationship. The song resonates for many, striking all the cords of a broken heart. And the video illustrates that beautifully with the choreography of Lindsay Blafarb performed by Kupono Aweau and trans femme artist, Neon as a young lovesick couple.

In addition to creating new music, James is also busy with SugarCube, an immersive performance experience taking place at Public in New York. We recently caught up with James to find out all about his southern influences and the heartbreak behind his music.

What was it like coming of age as a queer artist in South Carolina?

You know there are the obvious internal struggles of being considered the “outcast” or the “different” one in the community you are raised in. I was hiding a part of myself for so long because of my fears of disappointing those around me and when you’re caught in that bubble, it’s easy to feel that there is no way out, and at times, you begin to limit what you are actually capable of. I found my ability to sing and write at a very early age, and when I had discovered that, it gave me a feeling of some sort of power, this thing that I was actually good at that no one could take away from me. No matter what others thought of the way I looked, carried myself, or whatever, I still had this talent that hadn’t even begun to see its full potential.

So, even though I was struggling with hiding my sexuality and true identity, this thing I had gave me some sort of spark and excitement because it felt like I was meant to use it for a bigger purpose. It felt like I had a way out. I looked around me and saw so much potential in so many people but more often than not it was never self-realized. I wanted to make sure I didn’t follow the lead of the examples I had around me, so my artistry fueled my desire to do something much bigger with what I had.

How did gospel influence your music?

I have always been a fan of voices. I love unique voices. I love voices that allow you to hear every ounce of emotion tied to the story they are telling. There is something to be said about authenticity, and when I first was going to church, though I never was able to resonate with the sermons so to speak, I could always feel the hurt, power, passion, and fear in the vocals in my Baptist church. Gospel choirs, the instrumentations, grit, soul, the musicality of it all inspired me deeply.

So, when I initially started to write my project, I injected choir elements, organs, and tried to keep the music that I was making organic as possible. Sometimes my early work could almost sound hymnal. Lyrically, I liked the idea of creating hymns that I could finally relate to, and that embodied my story rather than make me question who I was as a human.

I know you have a tattoo of Selena and a cross earring as tribute to George Michael. How did they and other artists influence you?

Selena is an artist that I genuinely give the most credit to opening my eyes and giving me the cathartic realization that I wanted to be an entertainer. I wasn’t aware of her work before the film on her life was released. But I was about age five or six or when it came out. At that age, I thought that films were happening in real life, and I was an emotional kid just due to how tumultuous my childhood was. I watched this woman’s story, and I can’t explain how connected I felt in that instant. It really hit me when the bonus footage of her actual last live concert played at the end. I cried, I danced, and I sang her songs phonetically perfect. I think her charisma, grace, southern charm, exploration of genres, and vocals really influenced me heavily. Her perseverance in becoming a force within a male dominated music space as well, connected to me because I knew as a gay kid who was going to sing, I was gonna have some battles. So, she means the world.

George has paved the way for artists like me and any other LGBTQIA artist to do what we’re doing, period. He fought for what he wanted and for what was fair. He embodied a cool confidence and wrote with his heart on his sleeve. He’s impacted my work greatly, especially in songs like “Temple”―that was heavily influenced by “Freedom.”

Dreaming about buffalo chicken. 📸 @johanneslovund

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You released a very emotional video for the song “Only You.” Tell me about the relationship that inspired that.

You know, it was my first real relationship, I would say. My first time I co-existed in the same space as another person and the first time I told a partner I loved them and truly meant it. Timing is a bizarre and fragile thing. We met when I was without a place to live and became best friends, and then four months later, I was closing out Coachella. Life moved in a really quick way. It was my first taste of this career and first taste of love, and I didn’t want to lose either. Ultimately, after a few years and the demands of what I do, what he does, and the attention that is required to keep a unit together, it just went to a dark place and a lot of resentment came about.

So, it ended, and I retreated to L.A. initially on a break, and I wrote this song almost immediately. I felt I had made a mistake and that I wasn’t deserving of being loved by anyone else, that I should just swallow the pill, deal with the terrible things we were doing to each other and just call out for him. That was the initial “you” I’m referring to in “Only You.” After a few weeks/months, I had this realization. I was giving to nearly everyone, including him, so much of myself and not giving anything back to me. I was questioning music and everything I had known to make certain things stay afloat. I lost a part of me. That “you” in “Only You” suddenly became apparent, that it was actually the part of myself I had lost in order to keep something that came at the wrong timing alive. So, it’s quite an emotional one for me.

What other themes does your upcoming debut album explore?

I’m always going to tell stories as I experience them. A portion of this record is associated with the end of my relationship and adjusting to living on my own in a new environment and learning how to love myself. I’ve been hard on myself, on my body, on my mind for a bit now in this whole coping process but have luckily come out on the other side, and I am proud of that. I think this process has made me more vocal and honest about my fears, those in the world around us and in my personal life.

I think the main theme here though is coming out on the other side, learning that nothing is too hard to overcome, acknowledging how fucked up you are, how fucked up the world is, and speaking on it in a way that embraces it but searches for an answer to change it; self-love, self-deprecation, balance, celebration of self, change, and overcoming. Natural confliction, per usual.

The video for “Only You” features trans femme performer, Neon. Do you have plans to collaborate musically with her or any other queer artists?

I just ran into her in the street yesterday. She’s remarkable as a human, as a performer, as a light in this world. I want to make sure she is included in this project a bit more. I’m brainstorming on the next few visual elements she can be a part of, and I’m excited about wrapping her into this record. I would love to work with more queer artists, writers, producers, and performers in all mediums. I feel that there aren’t enough of us, especially in music, doing work together and I think that given the times and the platforms, it’s the perfect opportunity to do so. I want like a full-blown Coachella-style festival for all the queer performers all over out there to come together it would be major.

You’re launching SugarCube in New York this year. How do you hope it contributes to the artistic landscape of the city?

I just hope it creates a space where people feel free to express their individuality, share their art and connect with others to grow, create, love, and share. It’s all about love and all about acceptance.

Follow Parson James on Instagram and Twitter.

Chlöe Sevigny is Selling Her Clothes to Benefit LGBTQ Youth

Chlöe Sevigny has long been beloved by the queer community, ever since Jay McInerney declared her “the coolest girl in the world” in a 1994 New Yorker profile. Since then, she’s earned acclaim for her roles in such titles as Kids, Boys Don’t Cry, Party Monster, and American Horror Story. She’s also remained a fashion it girl throughout all of it.

#tbt #1994 #nyc

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And luckily for us, she’s sharing a little bit of her it girl fashion with the masses. Pieces from Sevigny’s closet are up for grabs onThe Real Real. Items like a Balenciaga wrap top, an Agent Provocateur slip dress, and a Gucci embellished sweatshirt are available for those who want a piece of the actress. There were even a few men’s items up for grabs, but only a Supreme button-up shirt remains.

“I’m trying to shed more and acquire less, to only hold on to the most sentimental of pieces,” Sevigny told The Real Real’s blogReal Style. “My first communion dress, prom dresspieces I wore on the most special of occasions and pieces that were always in heavy rotation. I’m also a true vintage addict and get a rush from the thrill of the hunt, so a heavy turnover has always been consistent in the life of my closet.”

The sale is for a good cause: A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Hetrick-Martin Institute. The organization creates a safe and supportive environment for young people of all sexual orientations and identities.

“HMI helps provide a safe place for our most vulnerable population: trans youth,” Sevigny says. “Youth members range from 13 to 24. ‘HMI’s Center for LGBTQ Youth Advocacy and Capacity Building, advocates on behalf of LGBTQ youth by influencing policy on local, national and international levels’this is where change needs to happen.”

Shop pieces from the sale at The Real Real.

‘Roseanne’ Actress Sandra Bernhard Has Something to Say About Women Who Support Trump

Roseanne Barr is suddenly on everyone’s mind again. It’s not just the revival of her self-titled sitcom that has everyone talking though. She’s been particularly vocal about her support for Donald Trump, a quality shared by her onscreen persona. Trump even called to congratulate her on the premiere, which saw 18 million people tuning in.

But at least one Roseanne star doesn’t quite agree with the star’s political views. This week, out comic/actress Sandra Bernhard spoke with Ari Melber on MSNBC to discuss the show’s highly-anticipated return. In particular, she had something to say about women who support Trump.

“Can’t understand it, don’t know where it comes from,” she said when asked about white women for Trump. “I think it’s a couple of issues. It’s being either under the thumb of your husband, or for the election, it was being so offended by Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton’s legacy that you turned on her. Or feeling inadequate, feeling like how could somebody be so educated, how could somebody have brought themselves up from their own experience and gone to the top, educated herself, fought for civil rights and equality? And I think that’s threatening to a lot of women. A lot of women have compromised, given in, gotten married, raised their kids, and not have the luxury of being able to think for themselves.”

Regardless of their differing views, Bernhard will be reprising her role as Nancy Bartlett in the revival. The role became particularly notable when Bartlett came out as lesbian, a pivotal moment for TV in the ‘90s.

“It was just really sort of a funny evolution for the character,” Bernhard said. “When Roseanne and I talked about keeping my character on, Nancy Bartlett, we said, ‘Well, what are we gonna do? How can we keep her fun and relevant?’ We said, ‘Let’s make her gay.’ Nobody was thinking we were gonna shake things up and break all the stereotypes, but because of that, it became something that was very powerful. Because we didn’t go at it with a sledgehammer.”

Baby Names Are Becoming Less Gendered

The treasured tradition that is choosing a name for your soon-to-be-born child has long been a painstaking task. Whether you’re naming them after a dead relative or just going straight from the store-bought book, it has to be good. This is the name that will cause most of their childhood trauma and/or be featured solely on their debut album.

In a new study,Quartzanalyzed public data from the Social Security Administration to find that the genders associated with names have become increasingly neutral. Focusing on the name “Charlie,” they found it was almost exclusively a boy’s name in 1910, with about 5% of Charlies being girls. Today, 51% of Charlies are female.

The study organized names with numeric scores, between 0 and 1. If the name is exclusively for one gender, it’s given a 1. A name that is perfectly gender neutral is given a 0. The smaller the number, the more gender neutral the name is.

In 1920, the average score for names was .97, which meant they were mostly gender specific. As of 2016, the most recent year pulled from SSA data, the score is .946. It’s not a drastic difference, but it does indicate a steady decline of gendered names.

So, bust out that Walgreens checkout book, consult your psychic, or draw inspiration from your favorite fictional character. We’re much less limited to the gender-specific monikers of our ancestors, which is great for a new generation that embraces gender fluidity.

New Website Allows LGBTQ People to Rate Employers

Thanks to the the Obama administration, LGBTQ rights have come a long way. But workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains legal in several states. And with the Make America Great Again movement steadily gaining traction, ignorance is commonly encouraged.

A new online service helps LGBTQ professionals hold their employers accountable. Similar to Glassdoor, OutBüro allows the queer community to rate their employers on general employee related issues as well as LGBTQ policies, benefits, culture, work-life balance, job security, CEO performance, and more. The service allows users to rate with a free-form text review, prompted pros and cons, and message to the CEO.

Founder Dennis Velco is the creator and moderator of LinkedIn’s largest LGBTQ professional group, which has 47k members worldwide. OutBüro utilizes a similar format, encouraging members to add their current and past employers, regardless of company size. Companies may also claim their listings in order to clarify the information provided.

Online platforms have proven indispensable to LGBTQ people. The HRC provides a similar service in its annualCorporate Equality Index, rating workplaces on their LGBTQ equality. Travel has also been at the forefront of LGBTQ resources, with popular sites likeGayCities. Most recently,Lighthouse has created a directory of LGBTQ-affirming health and wellness professionals.

Rate your employer now atOutBüro.

First Gay Couple Married At Sea Speaks Out On Bermuda Marriage Equality Repeal

Benjamin Gray and Francisco Vargas describe themselves as a “non-traditional” couple at least three times over the phone.

The pair, who became the first gay couple to get married at sea in a January ceremony, never actually proposed to each other. They discussed the subject as a practical matter. After a friend’s partner passed away, he was dispossessed by the deceased’s family. Because the two weren’t married, he wasn’t legally entitled to their property, and it left him with almost nothing.

Although their families are supportive of the relationship, Vargas wanted to ensure no one would be able to take away the life they share.

“It validates our relationship and our love for each other,” he claims. “It makes me feel better knowing that if something were to happen to me, Ben would be able to take advantage of everything we fulfilled together.”

They just wanted to have the “same rights as everyone else,” Vargas adds.

Fewer same-sex couples, however, will have the same opportunity to claim those protections after Bermuda rolled back marriage equality. In February, the small island country became the first nation to repeal same-sex unionswhich had been just legalized last Maywith the passage of the Domestic Partnerships Act of 2017.

Upon signing the law, Bermuda governor John Rankin claimed it’s intended to appease LGBTQ rights opponents by replacing same-sex marriages with “domestic partnerships.” He assured the two categories are “equivalent.”

But the bill’s passage has led to widespread calls to boycott Bermuda. On Twitter, celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Patricia Arquette encouraged travelers to book their vacations elsewhere. Jamison Firestone and his husband made headlines by cancelling their trip on Cunard Lines, which operates the Queen Mary 2.

“I simply do not feel comfortable taking a cruise on a ship registered in a jurisdiction that does not accept my marriage,” he wrote in an email to Cunard.

Although the company is owned by the U.K.-based Carnival House, it’s registered in Bermuda. That means gay couples will no longer be able to get married on its ocean liners after May 31, when the new law takes effect.

P and Princess Cruises, also registered in Bermuda, will likewise be impacted by the legislation.

Advocacy groups have also urged tourists to put pressure on these businesses by hitting them in their wallets. Nick Harding-McKay, director of the LGBTQ agency Travel Designers, told The Times newspaper that “companies do listen to money.”

“If P is not prepared to do something progressive about it, then it is as bad as the Bermudan government,” said Harding-McKay.

A boycott could have a profound impact on Bermuda’s economy, as the country of 60,000 relies heavily on tourism to generate revenue. Its second largest industry brought in $431 million last year from visitor spending. Nearly 200,000 people traveled to the island last year.

Given that they had gotten married just days before marriage equality was officially repealed in Bermuda, Gray and Vargas say the decision was a surprise. “It felt like we took a step back,” Gray claims.

Vargas agrees. “It brought me back for a moment to when we didn’t have rights,” he adds.

The couple describes their wedding as like “something out of a fairy tale.” They were married in a restaurant on the ship, exchanging vows against the backdrop of an enormous, ivory-colored rose as they were joined by family and friends. Vargas tried to hold back tears because he didn’t want his makeup to run, but he admits he did cry a little bit.

“Nothing prepares you for that moment,” Gray says. “It’s like you’re in a movie, but the movie is your life.”

The couple stresses that their marriage will not be impacted by the rollback of LGBTQ rights in Bermuda for two reasons. The first is that couples who tied the knot prior to the repeal of marriage equality will retain their relationship status. The second is that their cruise was registered in Malta, unlike many other ocean liners.

Celebrity Cruiseswhich is also Vargas worksbegan allowing same-sex couples to wed on its ships last year after the European country passed marriage equality by a landslide vote.

A representative for Celebrity Cruises confirms LGBTQ partners will still have the ability to get hitched on its vessels.

Despite their claims of unorthodoxy, Gray and Vargas say their hope is to show their marriage is no different than anyone else’s. In fact, the most radical thing about their love story is how average it is. They were introduced by mutual friends, and Vargas was immediately drawn in by Gray’s good looks and his love of the singer Sadé. After their meeting, he began hearing “Kiss of Life” everywhere they went.

“He checked all the boxes,” Gray agrees.

What are those boxes, exactly? He claims they’re the kind of people who “prefer flip-flops over Prada.” (They do live in South Florida, after all.)

The ability to lead relatively average lives of domestic bliss is a sign of progress, they say. Gray’s uncle is gay, and his longtime partner was referred to as his “roommate” for years. His hope is that by being on the frontlines of equality, generations who come after will never have to hide who they are.

“I feel like we shouldn’t have to say ‘We’re normal,’ but we are,” Vargas adds. “I think we are changing people’s hearts. It’s gradual, but it’s being done. And it gives me hope.”

Alaska Group Pushing Anti-Trans Bathroom Ordinance Drops ‘N-Word’ in Bizarre Email

As Anchorage inches closer to a final vote on its anti-trans bathroom ordinance, the anti-LGBTQ group Alaska Family Council sent out an email on Friday to its supporters reminding them to mail in their ballots. Voting on Proposition 1, which would force transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their original birth certificate, ends on Tuesday, April 4.

In a bizarre open letter comparing trans people to Nazis, a self-described “radical feminist” activist writing on behalf of the organization drops the “N-word.”

Kathleen Sloan, a former board member at the National Organization for Women, claims the movement for trans equality is “tyrannical” and “intolerant,” while alleging that transgender people are “brainwashing” the public into accepting them.

“The authoritarian transgender movement that has metastasized like a cancer was virtually non-existent until the 21st century,” she says. “Suddenly, laws are passing in cities and states all over the country that deny reality, science, biology, and genetics to demand that men be allowed to call themselves women and invade all personal, safe, and private spaces for females.”

Sloan claims policies which allow trans people to use public restrooms which correspond with their gender identitywhich have passed in more than 200 municipalities in the U.S.have declared an “open season on women.”

In fact, Sloan thinks that what’s happening in Alaska is a lot like Germany under the Third Reich. Anchorage passed a nondiscrimination ordinance in 2015 allowing trans people equal access in all public accommodationsincluding employment and housing. The city council voted 9 to 2 in favor of LGBTQ protections.

Sloan claims that law was “not about ‘inclusion’ but about indoctrination.” She warns: “Think Berlin 1933.”

But if likening transgender people to a political party that murdered six million Jewsas well as queer, trans, and gender nonconforming peopleweren’t enough, Sloan also manages to slip in a racial slur.

“I am not a Democrat,” she proclaims. “I am certainly not a Republican. I am not religious. I am not the T-word (‘terf’ trans exclusionary radical feminist) which should be as odious as the N-word (‘nigger’). I am a woman who cares passionately about the protection of the most vulnerable peoplefemalesin a patriarchal misogynist world where females of the species are forced to seek out spaces that are safe from violent male sexual predation.”

First coined in 2008 by writer Viv Smythe, “TERF” is a term frequently used to describe feminists who oppose the inclusion of trans women within the movement or women-only spaces. They believe that transgender people are the gender they were assigned at birth and do not view their identities as valid.

To wit: If an individual believes the “TERF” label is equivalent to a slur that has been tied to the dehumanization, marginalization, and killing of black Americans for centuries, it’s likely they are one.

The email is just the latest attack on the trans community as Anchorage voters make up their minds about Prop. 1.

In recent weeks, the “Yes on 1” campaign has released a series of advertisements warning of the dangers of trans inclusion. A video starring a woman named “Kate” describes an occasion where she was forced to share a locker room with a transgender person at a public pool. Another TV spot recalls an incident in which a trans woman was turned away from Downtown Hope Center, a homeless shelter in Anchorage.

No one was harmed in either instance.

Those videos, however, were widely criticized after their release for misleading voters. A report published by INTO revealed that Alaska Family Councilwhich is spearheading the “Yes” campaigndidn’t get permission from Hope Center before featuring them in the ad. It was published without the shelter’s knowledge.

INTO also uncovered the fact that “Kate” isn’t from Alaska. She lives in Minnesota, where she attempted to push an anti-trans bathroom bill in the state legislature.

Her interview was recycled from “Ask Me First,” a January 2017 campaign from the Colorado-based Family Policy Alliance. The series of videos also includes interviews with figures like Kara Dansky of the Women’s Liberation Front, a trans-exclusive radical feminist organization which the news site LGBTQ Nation claims is “fake” and a shill for right-wing anti-trans groups. Dansky’s interview is currently posted to the “Yes on 1” website.

True to form, Sloan isn’t from Alaska, either. The feminist activist lives in Connecticut.

‘Drag Race’ Contestant Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams Talks Lip Syncing Against Eureka

After twerking into our hearts in season 10’s first episode, Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams sashayed away on this week’s Drag Race. INTO caught up with her to discuss being a queen of size and having to dance against her best squirrel friends.

Hi Kalorie! I just want to say that I’m a big fan of yours both as a fellow Latinx person and a person of size. I’m wondering, how did it feel to have to lip sync against both your Latinx sister Vanessa and your BFF Eureka?

It was one of the hardest thing to do. Both girls were so close to me and its hard to compete with people that you feel a connection with.

You recently spoke up about the way some fans treated you for sending home Vanessa, who was a fan favorite. What frustrated you most about people’s reaction to you just doing your job on a competition show?

RuPaul had told me that I had to impress him so that’s what I did. Not trying to be malicious and send Vanessa home but at that point it was either her or me and at that point I had to make a decision.

You spoke a lot about being bullied for your weight in the past and how Kalorie helped you through tough times. Do you still find any difficulty in the drag community for being a queen of size?

Yes and no. Only because I feel that as a big girl there is more pressure put onto us and me being my size and type of brand, the pressure is even higher to prove that a big girl can be sexy.

The judges, specifically Ross, asked you to explain who you were. Do you think you had trouble selling your aesthetic to the judges or do you think they just didn’t get it?

I felt like they just didn’t get it but I also feel that I could have done a better job to show them.


Who are you rooting for of the leftover queens?

Eureka O’Hara, she is my fellow big girl sister, and Asia O’Hara because I have admired her for so long.

I know you said there aren’t too many other New Mexico queens, but is there anyone else from your local scene you’d want to see go on Drag Race?

From my scene would be Madison Eriks.

And, of course, obligatory question: who did you have prepared for the Snatch Game?

A Kim Kardashian who is obsessed with food.

But How Gay is ‘Ready Player One’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters nowincluding, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is Ready Player One? Steven Spielberg is not resting on his laurels late in his career. Just months after dropping Best Picture nominee The Post, he’s back with an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One. The film is set in a futurealthough not too distant a futurewhere humanity has given up on reality, and instead submerges itself in the digital world known as the Oasis. The Oasis was created by a man with a love of pop culture and maybe a bit too much time on his hands, James Halliday. He died a few years ago, but his death set in motion a worldwide quest for an Easter egg in the Oasis that, if found, would bequeath $500 billion and control of the Oasis to the winner.

To win, a player needs to find three keyswhich is exactly what 18-year-old Wade Watts is trying to do. In other words, it’s a fetch quest video game in movie form, jam-packed with references to other properties like The Iron Giant, Batman, Gundam, and more.

Who’s in it? Tye Sheridan plays Wade Watts, but you’re forgiven if you think it’s Miles Teller at first. Or Tom Holland. Or Timothée Chalamet. A lot of these twinks look the same, is what I’m saying. Olivia Cooke, who is absolutely wonderful in the now-in-theaters dark comedy Thoroughbreds, plays his hunting partner and love interest, known in the game as Artemis. Lena Waithe appears in a spoilery role, so we won’t give away her part in the proceedings. Ben Mendelsohn plays villainous corporate hunter Nolan Sorrento, who is referred to by full name an ungodly amount of times. Finally, you’ve got theatre legend Mark Rylance playing Halliday, in what I can only assume was a favor paid back to Spielberg for that Bridge of Spies Oscar.

Why should I see it? If you like reference-heavy films (think Deadpool or The Lego Movie), gaming, Spielberg, or vaguely familiar twinks, this is the movie for you. It is not, I’ll be frank, the movie for me, and thus I probably wouldn’t have vibed with it even if it was incredible. But Ready Player One is far from incredible. It’s some remarkably well-done scenes stringed together by a nonsensical plot, a bunch of ‘80s music cues that feel ripped out of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and some weak performances.

More than anything, though, what makes Ready Player One a mess is the tone. I’d liken it to cotton candy: It’s colorful, sugary, and light, but makes you feel kinda queasy. There’s too much real-world violence just skimmed over, and the deaths in the digital world have no stakes. (There’s some nonsense spouted about losing the funds and items you’ve collected, but this only seems to matter to one or two characters.) But Ready Player One would rather you focus on how fun and referential it is! Look at the giant Mecha-Godzilla! Aren’t we having a blast?

Reader, I did not have a blast.

But how gay is it? Though Waithe is always a welcome presence, her role in this film is something of a mixed bag, as the explicit queerness of the character from the book is not specified in the film. I don’t really know what else to say here that I haven’t already said in the past. Blockbusters won’t fall apart if you call a queer a queer, Hollywood. I promise. Not everything needs to be Love, Simon to have LGBTQ representation.

I’m confused by this twinks thing. What should I know Tye Sheridan from? If you’re a Terrence Malick fan, you recognize Sheridan from The Tree of Life. If you’re an X-Men fan, you know him as Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse. And if you’re a Lily Rabe fan, you recognize him from Miss Stevenswait, nope, that’s Chalamet. My bad. (But go watch Miss Stevens!)

What’s this backlash I keep hearing about? Honestly, it’s not worth the drama, but the short answer is that it’s all linked back to GamerGate. (Remember GamerGate? For your sake, I hope you don’t!) Vox has a terrific explainer about the ways in which Ready Player One enforces the same gatekeeper culture that GamerGate did. Again, though: Ready Player One is not a movie worth investing too much emotional energy in. It’s a mess, and there are far too many great movies out right now to waste time on this one.

One last question: Was Tye Sheridan in Manchester by the Sea? No, that was Lucas Hedges. The same twink from Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Good try, though!

Ready Player One is in theaters now.