Trans, Queer-Themed Web Series ‘the T’ Drops Official Trailer

It’s no secret that there’s a lack of trans and black queer representation in the media. Here to answer the call for more nuanced depictions of the queer community is the T, a series from Bea Cordelia and Daniel Kyri, both writers-in-residence for the city of Chicago. The series, produced and developed by Full Spectrum Features and OTV/Open Television, centers on the stories of Chicago residents Jo, a white trans woman looking for intimacy and Carter, a queer Black man facing a conservative upbringing.

The series’ official trailer drops today, exclusively premiering onINTO.Along with the trailer, we spoke to Bea Cordelia and Daniel Kyri about the series and its implications for queer and trans people, including black queer people.

Can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of the T? Where did the idea for the series come from and how did all the principal players fall into place?

Bea Cordelia (Creator, Writer, Director, Producer, “Jo”): the T was originally inspired by my relationship with the last boyfriend I had before coming out as trans. In the years since then, our relationship has grown into an intimate best friendship that has singularly taught me more about the human capacity for love than anything else. It’s an odd thing that I’ve seen more predominantly in queer communities: exes genuinely becoming friends after even pretty devastating heartbreak.

Some months after I’d written a pilot for the show and forgotten about it, Daniel approached me about creating a web series together, about a trans woman and queer Black man who are best friends. I told him I had already written it, and sent him the script. He loved it, and came onboard. The script changed immensely and only for the better once we started collaborating. The series became much more of an even two-hander between the two friends, rather than more skewed from Jo’s perspective.

Did you have and Daniel have a strong friendship prior to creating this together? How much of that friendship makes its way into the show?

BC: Not a strong one, no. We initially met at 17 when we were both doing After School Matters programs at Gallery 37–ironically, a mutual friend set us up–and reconnected years later at Salonathon, after college. We were more colleagues by the time we began working on the T, but in the year and a half of writing sessions and grant applications and rewriting sessions and meetings with lawyers and a lit birthday trip to Denver and pre-production and filming and now finally post-production, we’ve become best friends in our own right–and our work is stronger for it, too.

One of the things I love about the trailer is that it shows that the show will not shy away from probing the complicated relationships between queer men and trans women in the LGBTQ community. What do you think the show has to say about this community relationship through this particular friendship?

BC: A running theme throughout the show is the power and potential of intersectionality. Our characters are not-so-loosely autobiographical in that regard. Like Jo, I am a white trans woman from the North Side of Chicago. Like Carter, Daniel is a queer Black man from the South Side of Chicago. Although they and we have all these supposed oppositions in terms of identity, they nevertheless share a wealth of common language and experience. And they’re so much happier for it! They have someone who understands them intimately and on whom they can lean when shit gets tough (which is often). The show asks us to acknowledge and celebrate our differences, but without dividing ourselves along those lines. The contours of our humanity may look and sound different, and come with vastly distinct histories, but that doesn’t have to stop us from creating community in the present.

What was it like creating a story collaboratively in this way? Did you alternate who wrote certain scenes? Did you give each other notes?

BC: So Daniel and I are cosmic twins: we were born within 24 hours of each other, both in Chicago. We’re Libras. We’ve found that we work unreasonably well together. When it comes to writing, we each get first and final say on each of our respective character’s scenes and storylines (we are the experts on our own stories, after all). However, we both workshop all of the scenes, sometimes together, sometimes independently, and sometimes with other actors. We write our joint scenes together. Having each other’s discerning eye to balance out our own personal visions (see: Libras) has been the biggest gift. We check and push and encourage each other; we dream up things together that neither of us could have on our own.

In your Kickstarter, you explicitly bring up the state of trans storytelling in television and, frankly, how underserved the population is in media. What about the storytelling in the T excites you to bring into the world?

BC: Oh goodness, so much. Jo’s main arc in the series deals with this guy Robin who she starts seeing. Using the series to explore the complicated relationships between trans women and cis men was always at the top of my list. So many cis men out there love trans women, but so few of them would ever admit that to anyone in their lives besides the women ourselves, which leaves us in a constant state of being asked to stay invisible. There’s also the sisterhood that Jo forms with Emerie, a Latina trans woman, and the ways they uniquely understand and uplift each other. And then of course there’s Carter’s whole side of the series, which looks at a queer Black man experiencing a pointed sense of placelessness on account of how his identities interact with his various surroundings.

There are certainly a lack of black queer characters on screen, as well. What was important about bringing Carter’s character to the screen?

Daniel Kyri (Creator, Writer, Director, Producer, “Carter”): The important thing about bringing Carter to screen is the increase in visibility it provides for a process of authentic representation. Carter isn’t a queer/gay man who just happens to Black, but rather he is a Black man who happens to be queer. The majority of his worldly experiences are dictated by that thing which is most visible: his Blackness. So the ways in which he navigates predominately white spaces differ from how he moves through spaces closer to his home on the South Side. There can be a kind of social survival that audiences observe through his point of view. A large part of Carter’s journey can be credited to my own experiences of having to adapt or acclimate or “code-switch.” That story is one that isn’t often told.

What has it been like to finance a show through Kickstarter? What practical advice would you give to other queer people looking to get their own projects off the ground?

BC: Most of our funding has come from a grueling, constant stream of grant applications. The Kickstarter is helping us get this last leg of funding we need. But for advice I would say to buckle down. It’s difficult work, and especially at the beginning when there’s so little promise of seeing the thing come to life. You have to be insanely dedicated to realize something of this scope at a DIY level. I dreamed up an early version of this show over two years ago. So know what you’re making, really WANT to make it, and surround yourself with community/collaborators you heavily fuck with and who are gonna show up as hard as you will.

What does it mean to you to create queer television characters and have people invite them into their lives?

BC: To be honest, I have so few cishet friends at this point [laughs] that it just feels like a natural extension of my life. The characters are complex and flawed and beautiful, and their queerness forms an inextricable part of that. As for inviting people into their lives, there’s a term I’ve coined for this idea, it’s called weaponized vulnerability. It’s the idea that marginalized people can best enact social change by publicly owning their own raw truth, rather than succumb to the tempting shouting matches in the comment sections and on the talk shows. So we appear onscreen in all our naked hope and grief and joy and rage and love, and let that do the work to change people’s hearts about LGBTQ folks. And from my extensive career as a solo performance artist, I can attest to how well it works.

You and Daniel are both artists in residence for the city of Chicago, who helped contribute to making The T a reality. Can you talk quickly about what it means to create a queer narrative centered around Chicago, especially when most shows center in other cities like New York or Los Angeles?

BC: Chicago is the most segregated city in the county, and has been. It’s the perfect setting for a story about the transformational power of intersectionality. Plus, Chicago queers also show up hard for each other. We carve community and space for ourselves when the rest of our reality isn’t as welcoming. Chicago’s a big city, but it’s still in the Midwest. So the city offers an inherent sense of urgency and survival for our communities. We’re honored to be Chicago’s Filmmakers-in-Residence this year to create the T; we want to do the city justice in our representation.

Both Carter and Jo’s parents are shown in the trailer. How does this show deal with biological family versus alternative family?

BC: Jo has an awesome relationship with her family; Carter doesn’t, but is working on it. It was important for us to show a range of what blood family can look like for LGBTQ folks, and lean away from the sole narrative of those relationships being irreparably broken. Of course, even Jo’s supportive blood family has their limits, because her transness and queerness is something they don’t know. Which is why we really elevate alternative family, too. Those are often the most sustaining relationships that keep us as queer and trans people going.

No, Michelle Wolf Didn’t Make A ‘Lesbian Softball’ Joke About Sarah Huckabee Sanders

As you likely already know, comedian Michelle Wolf hosted this weekend’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner. The yearly is simultaneously a large public platform in which to garner new fans and a stage set to scrutinize politicians who will inevitably be roasted from the podium. Wolf, a former Daily Show correspondent whose Netflix series will debut later this month, delivered a 19-minute set filled with barbs that reached across both sides of the aisle; she also called out the mainstream media for helping Donald Trump get elected and subsequently profiting off of his Presidency.

But most complaintswhich were lobbied by conservatives and liberals alikeabout her scorched-earth monologue were not about her digs at Trump and the press corps, however. The discussion largely had to do with the comic’s treatment of Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanderswhat some deemed as Wolf lambasting her physical appearance.

“I actually really like Sarah,” Wolf said at the dinner. “I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

She went on: “Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited, because I’m not really sure what we’re going to geta press briefing, a bunch of lies, or divided into softball teams.”

While others focused on Wolf’s calling attention to Sanders’ “smoky eye,” GOP strategist Liz Mair went on MSNBC to criticize Wolf’s softball joke about Sanders. She said the comments were clearly “about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s looks.”

“[I]t’s not a compliment,”Mair said. “It’s extremely hypocritical that we’re hearing from somebody of the left, [these] sort of lesbian, fat lesbian jokes when supposedly we’re not even supposed to be making those.”

“If you’re supposed to be writing a good comedy routine you better write jokes that people can understand and don’t think that you’re calling somebody a fat lesbian,” she later wrote.

But when did Wolf ever make a “fat lesbian” joke? The truth is, she didn’t. The only possible “lesbian” joke that Mair is referencing is the bit about softball, and that’s because some people see softball solely as a reference to lesbianism. As a lesbian who played softball in my adolescence, I consider myself an expert. And uponhearing the joke, I didn’t find it to be explicitly lesbian-centric. Outside of Mair and her conservative crew, Ionly saw one lesbian-identified person on Twitter who seemed to share that limitedview.

But without mentioning Sanders’ lookseven the “smoky eye” line was a comment on her politics, not her cosmeticsit appears as if the “fat lesbian” idea was something inferred by viewers who inserted that meaning themselves. There wasn’t any comment on size or sexuality but simply, softball.

So why is softball equated with lesbianism?

Well, it isn’t all of the timeand shouldn’t be, considering lesbians (sadly!) do not have the monopoly on women’s athletics as stereotypes might insinuate. For some reason, heterosexuals insist playing softball has a direct link to a woman’s sexual identity. In 2010, Associate Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan fell victim to speculation about her sexual identity simply based on the fact she used to enjoy playing softball. (Kagan identifies as heterosexual.)

The stereotype, however, has a long history.

In the 1940s, women were allowed the opportunity to play organized sports for the first time, and softball was the summertime game of choice. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball Leagueon which A League of Their Own is basedran from 1943 until 1954, following the end of World War II. At the time, a rise in other “other forms of recreation and entertainment and the advent of televised major league games” led to its demise, as the AAGPBL explains.

But women everywhere still wanted to play ball. In the book Breaking the Wave: Women, Their Organizations, and Feminism, 1945–1985, sports historian Susan Cahn says that “from at least the 1940s on, sport provided space for lesbians to gather and build a shared culture.” Softball and other team sports allowed for women to spend time together, building relationships that weren’t necessarily romantic, but that also had the potential to be.”

In the 1960s, Midwestern cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., Chicago, Il., and Detroit, Mich. were home to lesbian-specific teams that utilized the civic spaces and public parks to build community outside of the bars. In her book Finding the Movement: Sexuality, Contested Space, and Feminist Activism, Finn Enke writes, “Prior to the 1970s, a women’s softball culture thrived as a civic ‘lesbian institution’ in public space in part because lesbian athletes played by the ‘don’t say it’ rule. Self-censorship allowed women’s public self-promotion as norm breakers.”

The ’70s saw lesbian-feminist softball teams began forming all over America, including the Mary Vazquez Softball League in Northampton, Mass., The Wilder Ones in Minneapolis, Minn., and The ALFA Omegas in Atlanta, Ga., as well as other city leagues in Washington, D.C., Lexington, Ky., and San Francisco, Calif.

Breaking the Wave quotes early Vazquez players on the leagues’ popularity. One participant says that “prior to the gay and lesbian liberation movement, softball provided a visible arena of lesbian community when other arenas were hidden, exclusive, or absent.” Meanwhile, former player Jean Grossholz said she appreciated that the league was “a place for people to get together and you didn’t have to be drinking, or anything, or smoking, or anything like that.

Grossholz added that players “didn’t have to be on the make,” meaning that a desire to hook up wasn’t a prerequisite for participation.

The softball leagues provided a safe space in the years that followed closely behind Stonewall, though at that time, many leagues were unofficially lesbian. Although some players were not publicly out at the jobs or to their families, others were openly and proudly lesbian (including The Wilder Ones). Continuing into the 1980s and ’90s when gay and lesbian bars became more popular and started to sponsor teams, some athletes found it easier to be outat least on the diamonddue to rising societal acceptance.

The idea that lesbians would be using civic spaces and public parks was continually radical, challenging heteronormative norms as well as second-wave feminist ideals. For all of these reasons, the phrase “softball player” (or, in this Wolf vs. Sanders case, “softball coach”) became synonymous with “lesbian.” For both out and closeted lesbians, it was a symbolic stand-in so community members didn’t have to say the L word.

The evolution of a niche subset of a larger community into a universally applied stereotype has been frustrating for both straight and gay women alike. What’s sometimes referred to as a “joke” is often understood to be an insulta way to mock and demean women for not upholding heteronormative ideals of femininity.

In recent years, professional softball player Laura Lappin has been forced to discuss how her lesbianism factors into her gameplaywhich is to say, it doesn’t.

“[Being gay] was always talked about in a pretty negative way, I would say,” Lappin told ESPN. “I never really heard a lot of parents talking about it, but with teammates there were comments made, and I think that contributed to prolonging my ability to come to terms with my sexuality and be open about it. Hearing people talk about gay people or lesbians in a negative connotation was something that was pretty regular throughout high school and even in college.”

“Looking back, I think it was more of just the stereotype that all softball players are lesbians had something to do with it,” she added. “I think a lot of people either felt the need to defend their sexuality or to figure out other people’s sexuality.”

That stigma has been reinforced by pop culture. Films, television shows, and stand-up comics have made countless jokes about gay softball players over the years, and most of them are truly tired by now. Shows like Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Family Guy all poked fun at lesbians in softball-themed episodes.

There’s no right way to make a “lesbian softball” joke, but some attempts are better than others. Recently on Late Night With Seth Meyers, the segment “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” had host Meyers starting out with the set-up: “A Catholic school in Michigan recently fired their lesbian softball coach.” Out lesbian writer Jenny Hagel delivered the punchline: “I got news for that schoolyou replaced her with a lesbian softball coach.”

The joke was not in the joke itself, but in the fact that Meyers, a straight white man, can’t tell that joke, but Hagel, as a lesbian, can.

In a memorable 2017 episode of Fresh Off The Boat, the local lesbian bar hosts a softball team; the moment also serves as the opportunity for one of the sitcom’s characters, Nicole (Luna Blaise), to come out to her father (Ray Wise). The show, created by out lesbian Nahnatchka Khan, doesn’t fall into tropes for easy laughs, nor does it do anything but champion the queer women at the centerincluding the teenage girl who is loved for who she is.

In fact, the show illustrates how hurtful stereotypes can be. Nicole’s father makes a joke about “playing for their team” that upsets his daughter; he insinuates that it’s OK for his daughter to play softball, so long as she isn’t a lesbian (wink wink). He apologizes for when he realizes it was offensive, explaining he doesn’t share the sentiment the joke ultimately expressed.

As far as I can tell, Michelle Wolf is not a lesbian, and I don’t think she was making a softball lesbian joke about Sarah Huckabee Sanders. That would be too lazy, and also insinuating being a lesbian was a bad thing. Instead, it appears that the pervasiveness of softball sometimes equalling “lesbian” in popular culture has created a limited view of both lesbians and softball for some people looking to be outraged by the woman comic chosen to host the White House Correspondents Dinner.

“I was talking about her personality, and I think it says a lot about our society that you would immediately think I was talking about her looks rather than her personality,” Wolf told NPR this morning. “Because I think if it was a man, you wouldn’t have jumped to those conclusions. If I was talking about a man you would’ve been like, ‘She’s talking about his abilities,’ but because I was talking about a woman you’re like, ‘She’s talking about her looks.'”

Thus, if you assumed that Wolf called Sanders a “fat lesbian,” it maybe says more about you than it does the comedian who made a softball joke.

A Gay Man in Heels Will Be the Next Mayor of a Texas Border Town

UPDATE (5/6/2018):

Since this story was originally published, Bruno Lozano was elected with 62 percent of the vote, as theDel Rio News-Heraldreports. The title has been updated to reflect his landslide victory.

ORIGINAL (4/30/2018):

The next mayor of a Texas border town just might be a proud, openly gay man in heels.

Bruno Lozano, known as “Ralphy” to friends, is challenging incumbent Robert Garza in Del Rio’s May 5 electoral race. The two candidates couldn’t be more different. Although Garza has only served in office since 2014, he has been involved in Texas politics since the 1980s. He previously served as a city attorney and a councilman.

Ramiro Guzman, former secretary of the county’s Democratic Party, says Garza has a “very traditional way of approaching things.”

Although Guzman tells INTO over the phone that the current mayor “has a lot of history and perspective on the city,” he approaches his job like an attorney. Thus, city council meetings are typically run “like arguments in a courtroom than necessarily a group of people coming together to solve a problem.”

In contrast, Lozano is a former security forces patrolman in the U.S. military and first-time politician. If elected, the 35-year-old would be the city’s first openly gay official, as well as the youngest person to ever hold the title of mayor.

Over the phone, Lozano tells INTO his platform is “about unifying the city.”

“I’ve gained a huge following ever since I put my name in the hat,” he claims. “The Baby Boomers have been running the government over the last 20 to 30 years. Del Rio needs investment and infrastructure, flood prevention, and then they also need economic growth.”

His candidacy was fueled by a demand for change, he says. Although Lozano was born in Del Rio and has long been active in the city of 40,000 people, he didn’t consider running until his 15-year high school reunion in 2016.

The occasion was a unique one. Customarily, alumni meet for 10- and 20-year reunions, but Lozano thought it would be fun to throw a quinceañera-inspired gathering as a nod to the city’s deep roots in Tejano culture. Quinceañeras are a Latinx tradition in which a party is held on a young woman’s 15th birthday to symbolize her transition to womanhood.

That evening was a coming-of-age for Lozano as well, in which his former classmates “planted the seed” of his historic run.

They impressed that his town needs him. While the Del Rio’s Laughlin Air Force Base has long provided steady employment for the city, job growth outside the government sector has stagnated for yearseven while neighboring Eagle Pass is comparatively booming. As the economy continues to flatline, many locals feel disconnected from city government and resentful of the current leadership.

“My classmates really believed in what I stand for and who I am,” Lozano says.

Lozano, who is well-known in the town for his efforts to clean up local waterways, says Del Rio has the potential to be a positive example for America’s Latino population under the Trump presidency.

When Lozano was very young, retirees would travel to the city from places like Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota to escape the bitter winters of the northern U.S.bringing with them disposable income. But the hotels, once packed with what the locals refer to “snowbirds,” now stand largely empty.

The mayoral hopeful says there’s a missed opportunity in losing that businessaside from the obvious economic benefit of tourist revenue. The current administration occupying the White House demonizes Latinos as “rapists” and paints border towns as dangerous places where “caravans” of immigrants are flooding into the United States from Mexico.

Lozano feels that towns like Del Rio have the ability to “educate” Northerners on what daily life is actually like along the border. In many ways, it’s a lot like theirs.

“We don’t have this war zone going on,” he says. “It’s beautiful down here.”

The panorama of Del Rio will be familiar to anyone who has lived in a small town. It’s the kind of place where you have exactly one of everything. There’s one high school, where all the students know each other. The town is defined by a single stretch of road that residents cruise for entertainment, a throwback to an era when the vast expanse of American life took place within the confines of a two-door Cadillac.

Lisa Martinez, a longtime activist who also grew up in Del Rio, says the little variety breeds a certain conformity in such a tight-knit, family-driven community.

“We’re not exposed to a lot of diversity,” she tells INTO over the phone. “We don’t have a lot of different cultures, and everyone’s kind of the same. It’s a massive Hispanic population, very Catholic, and those are the default.”

Queer and trans people have long struggled to carve out space for themselves in Del Rio’s religious monoculture. The closest gay bar is a nearly three-hour drive, and the town lacks a dedicated resource center where LGBTQ locals can meet, organize, or get access to services dedicated to their particular needs.

Kitana Sanchez, a trans activist born in Del Rio, had to move away in order to become the person she wanted to be. For many trans people, transitioning means relocating to San Antonio and Houston, in order to have access to affirming health care.

“There’s nothing really there for LGBTQ people,” says Sanchez, who serves as vice president of Corpus Christi LGBT. “Del Rio isn’t necessarily a place to be out and open.”

Martinez, who graduated from Del Rio High School, stayed in the closet during her teenage years because she was afraid she wouldn’t be accepted. She recalls that there was one male cheerleader in school who stuck out for being “very feminine” and faced extreme bullying as a result.

“I can picture his face crying in the halls of the school,” Martinez remembers, although she notes that he thrived after high school when he started performing drag and “totally owned” his sexuality.

Lozano tells a very different story of growing up in Del Rio. After coming out at 18 years old to a family who loved him “unconditionally no matter what,” he would later serve as the president of his class reunion planning board. A majority of his friends, he claims, knew about his sexual orientation and didn’t have a problem with it.

In fact, Lozano claims that he was far from alone among his classmates; he estimates there were around 20 LGBTQ students at the school.

“I think that it says a lot that people are very open-minded, despite what you hear in the media,” he says. “People are not afraid to accept people that are different from themselves.”

Taken at face value, the anecdote strains credibility. Lozano graduated in 2001, just three years after Will and Grace debuted and two years before the premiere of Queer Eye from the Straight Guy. Anderson Cooper and Neil Patrick Harris were still in the closet, and Ellen Degeneresnot yet the heir to Oprah’s daytime thronewas mired in the period of her career when coming out appeared a liability.

Lozano’s seeming revisionist history may be the case of a politician wanting to put a good spin on his community to win votes, but it’s next to impossible not to believe in him. While life may have been difficult for queer people 17 years ago, his mile-a-minute optimism could win over even the most determined homophobe.

That can-do spirit is reflected in Lozano’s unapologetic, almost defiant approach to his queerness.

When Lozano marched in last year’s veterans parade, he did so in a pair of high heels. He frequently wears women’s shoes when he travels and brought his most patriotic pumps to march in. While he expected the “worst-case scenario,” the candidate says women and high school girls came up to him, hugged him, and thanked him for his bravery.

Lozano takes pride in his ability to change hearts and minds in his hometown.

“In the ‘90s and 2000s, [LGBTQ people] started moving away to safe zones in cities like Lakeview in Chicago, Chelsea in New York, or the Castro in San Francisco,” he claims. “But now we’ve started to go back to our communities and be part of it. I think it’s such an amazing opportunity to show that we are equal.”

Everyone interviewed for this story agreed that Lozano has been very widely embraced by the city of Del Rio since announcing his candidacy in February.

Martinez claims it’s a reflection of Lozano’s seemingly boundless energy, calling the candidate a “super active, happy-go-lucky guy.” Guzman argues it’s because the newcomer’s collaborative approach differs so greatly from his opponent’s. He refers to Lozano as the type of leader “who is very open to input and coming together to find solutions to problems.”

But seeing a man in heels out on the campaign trail has been met with its share of criticism. A meme of Lozano circulated on Facebook featuring two pictures of him in heels and a tutu. It called him a “faggot” with AIDS, he claims.

Lozano, unfazed, views the attack as the cost of being visible. When he served in the military, he was tasked with the enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” meaning he had to notify gay service members when they were discharged. The responsibility of sending home troops who just wanted their partners to be able to visit them at the base was “heartbreaking,” he claims.

“I am not ashamed of who I am, so I chose not to reenlist,” Lozano says. “I kept going. I moved on with my life.”

“Stonewall happened because drag queens and a minority group stood up to animosity, and I had to go back in the closet because of that same hatred,” he adds. “I know what that was like, and it translates to today’s campaign. I’m not going to bow down. I am who I am. Accept me or not.”

Lozano’s chances of winning will likely come down to whether the widespread enthusiasm for his campaign extends to millennials actually turning out to the polls. His candidacy has motivated a younger constituency who leave frequent messages of support on his Facebook page, but a majority of voters in Del Rio’s municipal elections are over 65.

That population may be inclined to favor a traditionalist over the charismatic outsider as initial ballots are cast. Early voting in the race began on April 23 and will extend all the way to May 1. Four days later, Del Rio will tally its final votes.

But no matter the result, supporters predict that the impact of Lozano’s trailblazing candidacy will extend well beyond this year’s race.

“It’s really powerful that he’s just being himself,” Martinez explains. “He hasn’t been hiding any aspect of his personality. I think that’s going to show other people that are maybe a little timid about their sexuality that it’s OK. You can be successful, and you can still live a great life.”

Gays Off The Grid: Why This Couple Got Rid of Their Cell Phones

Even in an age when sharing mundane details online is standard, it’s easier than ever to control the way others see usuntil, as people often say on social media, someone’s been “exposed.” Welcome to Exposed, amonthly columnwhere author and activist Chris Stedman invites you to get a little more vulnerable.

“Let’s just burn them,” Oliver called out to his husband Will with a laugh, punctuating a conversation about how stressed out their cell phones were making them.

Oliver was joking, but Willwho was sitting in the living room after dinner, looking at his phone while Oliver cleaned up in the kitchensat perfectly still, suddenly transfixed by the mental image of both of their phones ablaze. He imagined them emitting beautiful, toxic smoke, their screens cracking and their rounded black edges twisting and curling together toward the sky, and smiled.

That’s it, he thought. We really should. So he put his phone down, got up from the couch, walked into the kitchen to give Oliver a kiss on the cheek, and went to their computer to begin researching options for getting rid of their phones.

Three months later they installed a landline, called their cell phone provider, and canceled their plans.

In the months between these eventsas they started actively discussing the pros and cons, and whether or not this was something they could realistically do in 2018they talked to just about everyone they knew about the fact that they were entertaining the idea. And the response, almost without exception, was a variation of the same double-take: “Why?!”

Two main concerns inevitably emerged in each conversation: 1) their friends would have to actually talk to them on the phone, and 2) they wanted to know what Oliver and Will would do in the case of an emergency. People would often ask why they needed to get rid of their phones anyway, asking if the couple could just try a flip phone or an app to manage their social media use. They suggested reduction instead of removal.

I admit, as one of the people Will and Oliver discussed this idea with, my initial reaction was similar. I was a bit taken aback. I’m what you might call “very online,” and I use my phone constantly. I’m also constantly overwhelmed by it, so I could sympathize with their desire to cut back. But getting rid of it altogether? I struggled to imagine what that would even look like.

Oliver and Will could understand where I and others were coming from; when they first met, they could never have suspected they’d someday end up ditching their phones.

Eight years before going off the grid, Will and Oliver were coworkers at a coffee shop when they discovered a mutual attraction and fell in love. A few months into dating, Oliver moved an hour and a half away, and the majority of their first year together was spent just far enough apart that they only got to see each other a couple times a month. And Oliver, who had graduated from a conservative Christian college, was only selectively out to a small group of close friends. His cell phone gave him the privacy and discretion he needed as he and Will began dating.

Thus, for the beginning of their relationship, much of their getting to know one another happened via text messaging, playing Words With Friends together, or the occasional evening phone call.

Even outside of their relationship, phones and social media had long been significant parts of their lives. Oliver had gotten his cell phone during his sophomore year of college. Terrified of being outed by a classmate he might have confided in, the phone and internet became the only ways he could explore that piece of his identity with some sense of privacy and without fear of moral judgment. Even after graduating, he still used the internet to navigate being gayin fact, Oliver and I first met when he reached out to me over Twitter and confided that he was gay and hadn’t told many of his friends or family members.

But with Will’s support, Oliver came out to his parents a year into their relationship. After doing so, they decided to come out about their relationship on Facebook by changing their statuses. They talked about it at length beforehand: about their excitement to share their relationship with more people in their lives, but also about Oliver’s fears of what people he wasn’t yet out toespecially people from his conservative religious communitywould think. But when they eventually did it, the response from their loved ones was almost universally celebratory.

In 2013, the celebration continued when they got married in a simple and intimate ceremony, and soon after they moved to Chicago, where Oliver had gotten a job as a chaplain. They settled into their new community, using their phones and social media as they always hadto communicate and make plans with new friends and with one another.

But last fall, Will told his therapist how much anxiety he was feeling about being constantly exposed to current events at every turn. The incessant barrage of bad news that he felt helpless to avoid made the anxiety he had worked for years to manage worse. As a result of discussions with his therapist, he decided to cut himself off from politics unless he was proactively seeking it out himself. He deleted his Facebook account, and saw an immediate improval in his mental health.

Oliver, too, was assessing his social media and phone use. After he and Will discussed how much of it seemed to be driven by fearfear of missing out, fear of the news, and fear of the unknown (like when you check your email just to see what’s there, knowing you won’t actually respond to it)he decided to cut back as well.

Yet even as they decreased their technology use, they continued to wrestle with a feeling of dependence on their phonesand with the sense that people expected them to be reachable at any time. Their relationship with their devices felt increasingly defined by a sense of urgency and anxiety, as well as a feeling of constantly being beholden to the world. And so, earlier this year, they decided to ditch them altogether.

It wasn’t an easy decision; as they discussed the idea, a number of fears arose. They worried about missing out on news, about not being able to look something up at any given moment, and about being forgotten in a world where so much of our communication happens via social media.

But ultimately they decided they didn’t want fear to drive their decision.

Initially, many of the people around them didn’t understand Oliver and Will’s decision“I’ve fantasized about doing that, but I could never” was a common refrainand I was one of them. Though I grew up in a world without cell phones, I got my first smartphone in my early 20s, and since then, it has become almost attached to my right hand. Whenever I feel bored or anxious, I know I can turn to my phone for distraction or comfort.

Surely, a lot of good has come out of my social media use, but the idea of going without my phone feels terrifyingperhaps in large part because without it I would be forced to confront the uncomfortable thoughts that arise in the boredom I use my phone to avoid.

Since getting rid of their phones, Will and Oliver have noticed similarly uncomfortable thoughts arising, but overall the experience has been much more positive than negative. In fact, one of their favorite things about being cell phone-free so far has been how, instead of making it harder for them to connect with others, it’s actually helped deepen their connections.

When they were preparing to get rid of their cell phones, Oliver went through his contactsmore than 1500 of themone afternoon to figure out who he needed to notify that he was getting rid of it. Over the course of several hours he narrowed the list down to 500, and ultimately notified 250 people by email or text message (for the people whose email address he didn’t have). Will also alerted loved ones, and both of them heard back from many people, most of whom expressed curiosity and shared some of the same sentiments they expressed in their reasoning for the decision.

Since announcing to their friends and family that they had gotten a landline and were getting rid of their phones, Oliver and Will have gotten at least one call every day, including from people they hadn’t exchanged more than an Instagram “like” with in years.

But the benefits have been more than just interpersonal. They also feel more awake, more aware of the world around them, and of their own thoughts. While some of this is challengingthey can’t use their phones to distract themselves from worries or boredom anymoreit’s frequently been helpful. Will finds himself more attuned to the world around him, like noticing buildings he had never seen in five years of doing the same commute and becoming more appreciative of beauty. Meanwhile, Oliver has grown more aware of his interior world, noticing thoughts and feelings and having the energy to address them.

In general, they feel like there’s a big difference in the pacing of livesthings have slowed down considerably, and they no longer feel like they need to be doing something at every moment. It seems like there’s more room in their days now that they’re not being constantly compelled to focus on their phones.

More than anything, they’ve been surprised that the transition hasn’t been harder. The biggest challenges are concrete, daily things, like getting to places and making plans with friends or with one another. In the age of “let’s text about it later and figure it out,” there’s going to be a learning curve. But they’re adjusting, and their friends are, too.

They do worry a bit about missing out on impulsive plans, and they’ve already experienced this a couple timeslike when they recently came home late from a night out in Chicago to a voicemail from a friend proposing an impromptu get together that night. But they’re more concerned about the benefits of living intentionally, which they’ve found smartphones make more difficult for them. Their lives are full enough, and they want to spend less time focused on their phones and more on one another.

To them, this decision wasn’t ultimately about their phonesit was about rejecting the fear-driven feeling that hyper-connection is necessary.

A few weeks in, most of Oliver and Will’s friends are supportive of their decision. Some still ask them if this is just an experiment, and if they think they might go back. While they acknowledge that as a possibility, for now, they’re just enjoying a world with fewer interruptions and intrusions, a world with more time to cookand clean uptogether, without distraction.

Image via Getty

Want to get exposed? Email Chris at[email protected]with a short description of a time when you felt truly vulnerablein either a positive or a painful way (or both).

Want more? Check outthe previous installment of Exposed.

Lance Bass Thanks LGBTQ Fans As NSYNC Gets Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame

Earlier today, *NSYNC received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In a speech, Lance Bass addressed his LGBTQ fans with some tear-jerking but heartwarming words.

“The other thing I need to say today is something I’ve been trying to put into words maybe my whole life,” the singer said to a sea of fans. “Growing up in Mississippi in a southern Baptist church, in a town where everybody knows your business, I had a secret. I was gay,” prompting the crowd to erupt in cheers, and band member Joey Fatone to joke, “What? You’re gay?!”

“At the time I never thought I’d be able to tell anyone,” Bass continued, “because not only was I terrified of the lasting rejectionI was certain that would happenbut more than that, I didn’t want to jeopardize the careers of these guys up here, much less the hundreds of amazing people who worked tirelessly to bring *NSYNC to the world. I thought I’d come out, *NSYNC would be over, so out of fear, I kept my secret, and our wildest dreams were coming true, and I was so incredibly thankful, and I still am.”

The 38-year-old was closeted during his time in the band, but came out years later in a now-infamous 2006 People cover story, and married his husband, actor Michael Turchin, in 2014.

“So many nights on stage, I’d see young gay fans singing their hearts out,”Bass said. “And I wanted so badly to let you know I was you. I just didn’t have the strength then, but I do today.”

Bass alleged that the community has given him the strength and courage to embrace who he is, saying:“So let me say loud and proud to all my LGBT brothers and sisters who embrace me and show me the way to be who I am, thank you so much.”

Bass thanked his parents, in-laws, and his “gorgeous” husband Michael. And before handing he mic off to Justin Timberlake, he had one final inspirational message for queer fans.

“A star on this boulevard is more than just an honor, it’s a lasting reminder of all the artists from all the colors of the rainbow that your voice matters,” he said, “and I am truly humbled and honored to be a part of that legacy in some small way.”

Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Leave Kehlani Alone

Last week, Kehlani came under fire for a series of tweets about her sexuality and labels. The singer, who was already out, reiterated that she identifies as “queer,” which engendered a firestorm of fan interactions that led her to delete the tweets. The negative attention Kehlani received from such fans wasn’t necessarily deserved, and though she handled it like a pro, resolving the issue with grace and open communication, she was treated rather unfairly for a stringent champion of the LGBTQ community. So, LEAVE KEHLANI ALONE.

The 23-year old first said she was queer in an interview with Complex in 2015.

“Regardless of whether or not you accept it, I am not afraid to tell you how it is,” she told the magazine. “I think it’s important that there is a voice for that right now. I wouldn’t even necessarily say I’m bisexualI like who I like. I’ve dated both men and women. Sex is biological, but gender is mental. I’ve been with people who aren’t what they’re born into. You fall in love with a person’s mind, you fall in love with a person’s soul, not with whatever’s down there.”

In the last year, she’s brought her now ex-girlfriend to red carpets and award shows, and released a Sapphic-themed music video to accompany her WLW love song “Honey” in 2017. That song, she wrote on Instagram, were “inspired by an androgynous woman,” which is why she cast a masculine-of-center love interest for the video.

She doesn’t shy away from sexual identity, but rather chooses to center it, both in her art and in her online presence. Her tour with Demi Lovato recently concluded with Kehlani surprising Demi on stage where the two shared an impromptu kiss.

Kehlani has garnered almost half a million followers on Twitter, and over five million fans on Instagram. Since becoming a public-facing musician, she has decided to use her platform for good, making a habit of speaking her mind on social media. The Oakland native constantly chooses standing up and speaking out for what’s right, so why the heat?

Kehlani wrote in a now-deleted thread of tweets, “cuz I keep geddin asked, I’m queer,” she said, elaborating, “Not bi, not straight. I’m attracted to women, men, REALLY attracted to queer men, non binary people, intersex people, trans people. lil poly pansexual papa hello good morning. Does that answer your questions?”

She followed up with a caustic dig at straight men, adding, “and since we on that I’m the LEAST attracted to straight men, y’all really adorable sometimes tho. Bisexual men really are little gifts from god tho.” Then, the backlash sparked. First, a fan asked why she considers herself queer instead of gay, to which the “Honey” singer responded, “I felt gay always insisted there was still a line drawn as to which ‘label’ of human I was attracted when I really jus be walking around thinking ERRYBODY FINE.”

Afterward, she deleted the series of tweets, explaining that she wants to be careful about offending people, proclaiming, “I retracted my queer tweet because i am being corrected about the way in which i listed the gender spectrum and i’m super super sensitive to being offensive especially when i’m only trying to appreciate. point is, i love love, and that love lies in every gender there is.”

Upon further digging on why she deleted the tweets, the singer added that she “always [wants] to be corrected & educated when [she] is wrong,” because she has a “massive responsibility by having a platform,” which is true. But Kehlani uses social media responsibly as compared to most celebrities and musicianscough cough, Kanye West. She actively has open and honest conversations with her fans, as displayed here. Unfortunately, some thought it wasn’t enough, and accused the artist of being transphobic and ignorant.

“my indentifying [sic] as queer wasn’t the issue, it was the singling out of trans & intersex which sounded transphobic, ignorant and to some, sounding like fetishization. which is completely wrong, not my intention, and something to say sorry about,” she wrote.

“u can identify however u want ofc but when you say things like “not bi” then describe exactly the attraction a bi person feels it can make people who don’t really kno wht bi means think that nb and intersex people arent included in tht attraction,” Twitter user @Linawilso said. The fan also corrected Kehlani’s language in describing LGBTQ folk, writing, “also the addition of attraction to trans people sugggests that they’re in a separate category than their gender (same problem w intersex ppl) and that…. leaves a bad taste even tho i know that was not your point i think the wording in this comes off poorly.”

Kehlani responded, “ahhhh that makes HELLA SENSE!!!! i totally get it. wasn’t my intention at all but it’s so important! thank you for this!”

This is why we stan Kehlani. We live in an age where people are lambasted on Twitter every day for something that’s usually deserved. Many who come under fire respond with red-faced, indignant, defensive fury, rather than being open to criticism and apologizing. Kehlani has brought representation to the pop and R landscapes for QWOC, and chooses to advocate for the LGBTQ community time and time again. For that reason, I believe Twitter was a little harsh.

Of course, it’s important to correct and enlighten people when they’re wrong in order to push the conversation forward in a positive and progressive way. But sometimes, we treat people who are consistently good and make daily efforts to raise up marginalized folk, like they’re some Mike Pence-looking homophobic trash monsters. I think it’s pretty clear that it was not Kehlani’s intention to be transphobic or exclusive in her tweets, in fact, it seems like she was trying to make a point about quite the opposite. And to be frank, someone as pure and good-intentioned as Kehlani deserves some leeway.

The singer-songwriter moved on to the next fight for justice and chose to stand up for victims of abuse. The same day, Kelis came forward with allegations of physical and mental abuse against her ex, Nas. Obviously, Nas’s fans were shocked. Kehlani took to Twitter and wrote, “to deny a victim of her abuse is the continuation of the abuse and it’s the worst thing you could possibly ever do. it’s not even salt in the wound it’s a new wound in the wound.” She added, “& for the ‘why speak up way later’ mufuckas in the back… i pray you never have to experience your power, choices, body, control over your body being stripped away from you to empathize and understand. shit not no walk in the park. smh.”

So, let’s cut the singer some slack. She uses more inclusive language than any other major pop, R or rap artist in the spotlight. She just shared a track on lesbian pop star Hayley Kiyoko’s album, as well as Cardi B’s. She stands up for victims of abuse, women of color, and the LGBTQ community every day, and opens her heart and ears to her fans, ready to listen and learn rather than fight back. Nobody’s perfect, but we stan a legend. Leave Kehlani alone.

Photo by Natt Lim/Getty Images for Coachella

Singer Anne-Marie Says Everyone is Bisexual, And So Is She

Singer-songwriter Anne-Marie opened up about her sexuality last week and confirmed something we’ve all long suspected to be true: everyone is kinda gay.

The “Rockabye” singer sat down with The Line of Best Fit and said she’s attracted to both men and women. “I’ve never ever just been attracted to men,” she said. “I’ve never just been attracted to women. I’ve never felt the need to tell anyone that I’m bisexual.”

However, she doesn’t necessarily define herself as bisexual, saying:“I don’t feel like I am. I just feel like I’m attracted to who I like.”

“I honestly feel like everyone is like that,” she added.

Anne-Marie’s song “Perfect” reflects these beliefs. She says she wrote the LGBTQ-friendly song as a means to normalize same-sex love, with lyrics that read, “And I’ll love who I want to love, ’cause this love is gender-free.” She hopes the song inspires body-confidence and embracing gender-less romance.

The 27-year old is the third singer-songwriter in a week to declare herself as queer, along with Janelle Monae and Kehlani, who came out last year but adjusted her label this week. Anne-Marie is joined by an already long list of out queer pop stars, like Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Lauren Jauregui, Halsey, Lady Gaga, Kesha, Tove Lo and moreproving that no one is 100 percent straightor at least in pop music.

Anne-Marie’s debut album Speak Your Mind, released April 27, features her queer-positive anthem “Perfect” and a collaboration with Marshmello called “FRIENDS.”

Photo by Jo Hale/Redferns

Rachel Weisz Compares Lesbian Drama ‘Disobedience’ to ‘Shape of Water’

Lesbians and fishcan you name a better pair?

Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz compared her new lesbian drama Disobedience to best picture winner The Shape of Water in a new interview, the Toronto Sun reports.

“There’s drama because Rachel McAdams’ character and my character are not free to love who they want to love,” Weisz said. “[It’s] kinda the same way as like The Shape of Water–different genre, fantasy, period, but it’s like, how can you be free to love who you want [to love].”

In an interview with INTO, director Guillermo del Toro said that he took it as a compliment that people read The Shape of Water, which depicts a heterosexual interspecies romance, as queer.

“I think that the beauty of the movie is that the love presented in the movie is completely plural and encompassing,” del Toro said. “Part of the joy of the movie for me is to show ‘the other’ as the very thing that we need to cherish and treasure. I think that was first and foremost in my mind in creating the story and crafting the script.”
In addition, at the time that The Shape of Water won Best Picture, INTO called it a “great queer best picture successor to Moonlight.”

Though it is certainly correct to say that The Shape of Water is a queer narrative, something definitely seems off about comparing a relationship between two Orthodox Jewish (OK, one former) women to a fantastical relationship between a woman and a fish. Maybe it boils down to the difference between queer people finding queerness in a non-queer narrative versus a heterosexual person comparing queer love to interspecies love.

Weisz also produced Disobedience and said she brought the film to the screen because it centered on a relationship between two women.

“I really wanted to tell a story about two women in relation to each other,” she said. “It could have been about a female friendship, and so I was reading lots of books about female friendship, and it always ended up being–I mean, there may be some books that I didn’t find – but it always ended up the women getting into fights over a guy, and I was like, ‘No, this isn’t the story that I was looking for.’”

“So I ended up finding lesbian love stories,” she added, “women in relation to one another as lovers.”

Sebastián Lelio, known for his Oscar-nominated film A Fantastic Woman, about a transgender woman living in Chile, directed Disobedience.

Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage

Jackie Chan’s Lesbian Daughter Says She’s Homeless Because of Her Homophobic Parents

Etta Ng, the lesbian daughter of movie star Jackie Chan, made a video alleging that she is homeless due to her unaccepting parents.

Ng came out as a lesbian last October in a rainbow-clad Instagram post. The 18-year-old has previously declared that she does not consider Chan her father, as he wasn’t involved in her upbringing. But now, the estranged daughter and her 30-year-old girlfriend posted a video to YouTube proclaiming that they have been homeless for over a month due to her homophobic parents.

“We’ve been homeless for a month, due to homophobic parents,” Ng says in the video, reading off a piece of paper. “We’ve pretty much slept other a bridge and other things. I don’t even understand what is going on because we’ve gone to the police, we’ve gone to the hospital, the food banks, LGBTQ community shelters, and all of them just don’t give a shit.” The couple then pleads for help. “So that’s why we’re making this video, because we don’t know what to do at this point.”

Ng was declared missing in February, when her mother Elaine filed a missing person report. The couple has apparently been living in Canada, but Etta hasn’t been seen in school or at work for months. Her mother, who had an affair with Chan in 1998, has previously stated that her daughter has “emotional problems.”

Before the video, the couple was spotted a couple days ago for the first time since February at a service station, where Ng reportedly told the cashier, “I want to find my dad.”

Both homelessness and issues in mental health as a result of homophobia are very real and pervasive issues amongst LGBTQ youth. A 2012 study showed that up to 1.8 million young Americans experience homelessness every year, and 40 percent of them identify as LGBTQ. Thirty-two percent of LGBTQ youth have faced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse at home, while almost half report running away because their family rejected their sexual or gender identitythe other half were forced out.

Apparently, Elaine Ng believes the couple should find jobs if they need money. “Many people in Hong Kong get paid low wages, but they still go to work,” she said. “If they don’t have work, then they’ll film these videos to complain about their parents? How many of these videos would we see in a day then?”

Ng’s mother also condemned her daughter for name-dropping Chan.

“They shouldn’t film a clip telling others they are broke and who Etta’s father is,” she said. “People all over the world work hard and don’t rely on someone else’s fame to get money.”

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Villain Thanos Is the Internet’s New Daddy

Spoiler Alert: Thanos is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best dad. And the internet is not afraid to say “Thank you, daddy Thanos.”

Over the weekend, Avengers: Infinity War landed the biggest box office opening of all time. But it was another opening that has people talkingthe opening in our hearts to daddy Thanos.

After seeing the film, several people tweeted that they would be down to get physical with the Marvel uber-villain.

The internet has certainly slapped the label “thicc” on the wrong personwe’re looking at you, James McAvoybefore. But this time, they’re certainly correct.

Geeks have had quite a moment for thicc dad types lately. Just last week, Kratos from God of War was getting everyone hot and bothered. I wonder where they fall on the Super Smash Bros top/bottom matrix?