Ada Vox Sent Home on ‘American Idol,’ Some Fans Cry Homophobia

America has spokenand drag queen Ada Vox will not be continuing on American Idol.

This week’s American Idol was Disney-themed and despite a great performance of “Circle of LIfe” from The Lion King, America came to finish the job that Katy Perry and judges delayed a week ago when they saved Ada from elimination.

Viewers thinned the pack of ten down to a pack of seven, and they didn’t believe that Ada Vox deserved her spot.

“Although America might not be ready for people like those of us who are a little bit different,” Vox said to the Huffington Post, “I think it’s very important that our talents be recognized.”

Vox, whose non-drag name is Adam Sanders, was the first drag queen to advance to Idol’s top 10. Some Idol fans were not happy to see Vox go. A lot of fans chalked Vox’s elimination up to good ole homophobia.

You can watch Ada Vox’s swan song performance below.

Billboard Warns Illinois Lawmakers Are ‘Forcing’ Schools to Teach LGBTQ History

Opposition to a groundbreaking bill which would mandate the inclusion of LGBTQ history in Illinois schools had been fairly muted until earlier this week.

A mysterious billboard appeared on Highway 143 outside of Carbondale warning that the state’s Senate “is considering a plan to force schools to teach LGBT [sic] history to your children.” The words “LGBT history” and “children” are accentuated with bold red lettering for maximum impact.

“Is that something you want?” the billboard cautions.

The advertisement claims to have been sponsored by the “Church Without Walls,” which shares a name with a religious denomination located in Rockville. It’s unlikely the two entities are related. The central Illinois city is a more than five-hour drive from Carbondale, a college town located at the very southern tip of the state.

No group has taken responsibility for the billboard, which was discovered after a member of Equality Illinois’ community advisory group snapped a photo of it during a Tuesday drive.

Executive Director Brian Johnson tells INTO he was “floored” by the message.

“We’d been talking a lot about the inclusion curriculum bill with stakeholders across the state, coalition partners, state lawmakers, and even the governor,” Johnson claims in a phone conversation. “To find a group that we’d never heard of start putting up opposition language against it was something we weren’t expecting.”

Thus far, the bill has been embraced by the state legislature. It passed the House Education Committee by a 10 to 4 vote and the Senate Education Committee by a 9 to 2 vote, the latter of which included the support of two Republican Senators.

Next the Illinois Inclusive Curriculum Billknown as SB 3249 in the Senate and HB 5596 in the Housewill head to the full chambers of each body for a vote.

If passed, the legislation sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) would compel elementary and high schools to teach “the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State.”

The specifics of what and how much LGBTQ history is taught would be up to individual districts to determine.

Lessons could include Bayard Rustin, the openly gay civil rights activist who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington; Sally Ride, the first woman in space who wasn’t publicly known as a lesbian until her death; and Jane Addams, the Nobel-Prize-winning social worker who had a decades-long relationship with another woman.

Steans claimed learning about queer pioneers is important for LGBTQ youth. After sponsoring the legislation, she told colleagues, “People need to see their history to understand that they are a part of our society.”

Johnson agrees.

“For the LGBTQ community, we’re not a community that’s born into ourselves,” he says. “We can’t easily pass down our own history from one generation to the next.”

“Because of that, we learn about LGBTQ people through the public square,” Johnson continues. “When LGBTQ identity is erased from school curricula, we are denied the opportunity to learn about our role models and our predecessors in the movement. That’s naturally damaging for us.”

To date, just one other stateCaliforniahas voted in favor a bill mandating LGBTQ inclusion in school curricula.

But after its passage in 2011, the implementation of the FAIR Education Act faced challenges. Partially due to opposition by conservative groups, California wouldn’t finalize the updated textbooks that would be circulated to K-8 classrooms for another six years.

Illinois’ bill has been widely embraced thus far.

Equality Illinois reports that over 40 organizations have come out in support for the progressive legislationincluding the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Chicago History Museum.

But Johnson says there has been a “small but fierce” backlash from right-wing organizations in the state. Laurie Higgins, a cultural analyst for the Illinois Family Institute, has called for equal time for anti-LGBTQ groupssaying the new textbooks should include dissenting voices from those who oppose “the homosexual movement.”

“The left’s motive is what it always is: it is to normalize homosexuality,” Higgins told the Associated Press.

Other critics felt the bill would force religious students to learn about subjects and themes which are antithetical to the core tenets of their faiths. Illinois Family Institute lobbyist Ralph Rivera claimed there’s no “protection for students and parents who have a religious belief” in the proposed legislation.

“[T]his is not a new, avant-garde thing that they find this behavior to be against their religious beliefs and their churches’ or synagogues’ beliefs,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “No one seems to be mindful of that. They don’t care.”

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) says this isn’t the first time supporters of the Illinois Inclusive Curriculum Bill have heard from the legislation’s detractors.

On April 12, the openly gay lawmaker posted a photo on Facebook of a lobby sheet authored by the Illinois Family Institute which had been making its way around the General Assembly. The document warned that if the legislation passed, students would be learning about “the life style [sic] of 3.8 percent while infringing on the constitution [sic] rights of the 96 percent.”

“The 96 percent are being discriminated against!” it concludes.

The bizarre one-sheet goes onto claim that queer and transgender people should not be granted equal protection on the basis of “preference or identity” because homosexuality was illegal when the 14th Amendment was passed. The subject of nondiscrimination protections, however, is in no way addressed in the curriculum bill.

Harris tells INTO the argument willfully misses the point.

“It’s past time for American history books to reflect the true and complete history of our nation including an accurate depiction of the many amazing contributions of LGBTQ people,” he says in an email. “That flier is eloquent testimony of how dangerous to our civic life it is when people are either ignorant of our history or intentionally misrepresenting it.”

Although attacks against the Illinois Inclusive Curriculum Bill have increased in recent weeks, advocates say momentum continues to grow. Johnson says the more groups like Equality Illinois sit down with legislators and “explain what this bill tries to do,” the more they are willing to support it.

He says these conversations have been “incredibly positive.”

“We believe the ground is fertile to take this all the way to the governor’s desk this year,” Johnson claims.

Police Have Identified Man Who Shot Trans Woman in the Face

Police in Connecticut say they have identified the man they think shot a transgender woman in the face Wednesday in Bridgeport, Conn.

The woman, whose identity has not been released by authorities, was shot multiple times in her own apartment, according to Av Harris, spokesperson for the Bridgeport Police Department.

The shooting occurred at 1 pm, and Harris says it appears the woman knew her assailant.

The victim suffered at least one gunshot wound to the jaw, rendering her unable to speak. She also suffered gunshot wounds to the arms.

She was transported to the hospital in serious but stable condition.

“She’s very lucky to be alive,” Harris tells INTO. “It will probably be a long road to recovery. Injuries were pretty serious.”

Harris said the department has yet to determine if the shooting was motivated by anti-transgender bias.

“I don’t want to say we don’t know why this happened because obviously interviews are being conducted, facts are being gathered, evidence is being examined,” Harris says. “It may turn out to be that it does prompt hate crime charges, but it’s just too early to say.”

Harris would not say whether the alleged assailant was in custody but confirmed that charges have not been filed in the case.

He said the trans woman is well-known in the neighborhood.

A friend of the victim’s told 12 News Connecticut she couldn’t believe her friend was a target.

“A lot of people know her here in Bridgeport, she has been living in Bridgeport for a long time, I don’t see where she has a problem with anyone,” Alexandra Molina said.

The shooting comes when transgender homicides have hit all-time reported high in the U.S. Last year was the deadliest year ever recorded for transgender people, with transgender women making up the overwhelming majority of transgender murder victims. Twenty-eight transgender murders were recorded in 2017.

Dying to Live: What is Justice for a Trans Woman Killed by Silicone Pumping?

Brenisha Hall looks up from her mother’s arm in the form of a tattoo as the woman she fought and died to become.

It’s a place where, even in death, Hall is celebrated and recognized as her identified gender, her face feminine, her hair long.

Her mother, Lessie Hall, buried her in men’s clothing. God sent Lessie a boy, she says. So she sent God a boy back.

It’s been four years since Brenisha Hall died in New Orleans from silicone pumping, a dangerous practice often undertaken by many trans women that involves injecting silicone, sometimes mixed with substances like Fix-a-Flat as a lower-cost alternative to plastic surgery.

Earlier this month, Armani Nicole Davenport, the trans woman who injected Hall, was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to negligent homicide for her death.

The sentence is unusual in such cases, which historically end in murder convictions with prison sentences. Last month, a Dallas salon worker was convicted of murder after a woman she injected with silicone died. In 2017, a Florida woman was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for killing an Atlanta drag performer with injections. The same year Hall died, a transgender woman from Mississippi was sentenced to life in prison for administering fatal injections.

But in only one of those cases (Florida) was the deceased a trans woman, and in that case, she was light skinned or white. In the Mississippi case, the woman convicted of administering injections was a trans woman.

Lessie Hall feels that if her child were white, the outcome of the case would have been different.

In Hall’s case, Criminal District Court Judge Paul Bonin told Davenport he felt sending her to prison would serve little purpose, the New Orleans Advocate reported.

“I am trying not to diminish that somebody’s life was lost through your actions, but I am satisfied that your actions were not intentional,” he said. “You did not mean to kill. And that’s a huge difference.”

“I didn’t even stay in the courtroom to hear the sentence,” says Lessie Hall. “I did not get justice.”

For Lessie Hall, the sentence was a slap in the face. Her child, desperate to transition, was injected by someone who had no business or authority treating anybody.

Doctors do use silicone, but in those cases, it is typically contained or injected in very small doses. Silicone, when injected loose into the body in a large quantity, can have devastating consequences. Infections can require hospitalization, but more serious, the silicone can travel to the heart, lungs or brain.

Lyon-Martin Health Serves serves the LGBTQ community in San Francisco and puts out some of the only information on pumping. The health center notes that when silicone travels and causes Acute Silicone Syndrome, 25 percent of patients treated in the hospital die.

More alarmingly, one study in San Francisco found that one in six trans women had pumped somewhere on their body. But many hospitals are so unfamiliar with the practice, that Lyon-Martin recommends that patients experiencing the symptoms of Acute Silicone Syndrome bring their flier on silicone pumping to the hospital for doctors.

Nick Gorton, an ER doctor and a primary care physician at Lyon-Martin, sees complexity in cases like Hall’s where transgender people are literally dying to become themselves.

“I feel horrible for the woman who died, and I feel horrible for her family, but I also feel horrible for the woman who did [the injection],” says Gorton.

Insurers increasingly cover transition-related medical procedures like mammoplasties, facial feminization, and implants. And the Affordable Care Act has increased the number of insured people in the U.S. Consequently, fewer have turned to pumping.

But for the uninsured or those whose plans don’t cover procedures, the choice can look like pumping or non-existence, since the thought of not transitioning is unbearable.

“I don’t know how to do an appendectomy,” says Gorton. “I’m an ER doctor. That’s just not my thing. If you took me and my husband and put us down in Antarctica, and there aren’t other doctors there, and he had appendicitis, I’d read a book and YouTube it, and try to figure out a way to do it because I wouldn’t want him to die.”

But for many, the dangers are not even apparent when deciding to pump. They weren’t for Vixen Marcille who paid $100 for injections in a basement in Newark, NJ when she 16. Another trans woman, Marcille’s “gay mother” at the time administered them.

“There was no conversation,” says Marcille. “They were just saying if you get this done to your face, you’re going to look more feminine. In my head, I thought, ‘okay wow.’ She kept telling me, ‘you’re going to look like me,’ and she was so beautiful.”

She wasn’t wrong. The effects were pretty immediate.

“It gave me a lot of confidence,” says Marcille. “It really did. For a couple of years, before I noticed anything.”

But then someone pointed out to her that her face was uneven. She realized the silicone on her right cheek had slid.

Over time, Marcille watched her gay mother starting to have her own silicone removed, and she started to understand it was dangerous. That was 14 years ago. Marcille is still saving up the money to get her own removed.

By the time Brenisha Hall was rushed to the hospital, her kidneys failing, her left side headed to paralysis, her body was full of silicone, says Lessie. She spent 14 days in a coma and a month in the hospital before she died.

When she did, Lessie buried Brenisha in men’s clothing, against Brenisha’s stated wishes. The tattoo Lessie got of Brenisha, while it shows her after transition, also bears her male-assigned birth name. Since Brenisha died, Lessie has reverted back to using male pronouns for Brenisha.

“He’s never going to know that because once you’re deceased, you’re in a deep sleep,” Lessie says.

The contradiction here, that Brenisha died to transition but could not escape her assigned gender, is not lost on Lessie.

“I can only imagine what he went through in his mind,” Lessie says. “It damned near tore him apart. You know, you’re in a body that you don’t want to be in.”

Lessie struggled when Brenisha started identifying as a girl at age 10, but she called Brenisha by her name in life and tried to help her transition. She had no idea Brenisha was pumping, that her friends were pumping.

“They were all out there dancing and popping and stuff,” Lessie says. “They were hurting on the inside. That stuff is deadly.”

If preventing deaths like Brenisha’s looks like increasing access to transition-related medical care, it also means rethinking transition entirely, says Marcille.

“It’s a lot of work,” she says. “Name change. Change the sex. And then you got to go to all the places that have your old name and transfer all that over. You have to really be on and be willing to go through all these things.”

Cutting through the red tape to access surgery is overwhelming for many already living on the margins. Silicone is cheap, accessible, and its effects immediate. That’s a stark difference from the hours women spend standing in lines and sitting in doctors’ office waiting rooms.

“They really want to be a girl or the girl or the star,” says Marcille. “It is life or death for some girls.”

Oklahoma Sends Bill Allowing Adoption Agencies to Turn Away Gay Couples to Governor’s Desk

UPDATE (5/3/2018):

Oklahoma’s anti-LGBTQ adoption bill has officially passed the Oklahoma House and Senate.

Although the original version of State Bill 1140 claimed that adoption and foster care centers which receive federal funding would not be permitted to discriminate, that amendment was removed in Wednesday’s conference committee hearings.

LGBTQ advocacy organizations call the legislation a “potent license to discriminate.”

“This dangerous legislation hurts some of the most vulnerable kids in Oklahomathose who desperately need a loving family,” said Freedom for All Americans CEO Kasey Suffredini in a statement.

“Child welfare agencies should focus on one thing: supporting and advancing the best interests of the youth in their care,” he continued. “This bill will block parents and families who are ready to open their homes and their hearts to children in the child welfare system, and it could even jeopardize the well-being of LGBTQ kids in the state’s care.”

Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson added that the bill is a disgrace.

“Leadership of both houses forced an unneeded, unwanted, and un-American bill onto the Governor’s desk,” Stevenson said in a press release. “This measure does nothing but keep Oklahoma’s most vulnerable youth out of loving and committed homes.”

Now that the Oklahoma Legislature has agreed on a final version of the bill, the final call will be left to Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.

Critics urged her to veto the legislation.

“The people of Oklahoma can see right through this unnecessary and politically motivated measure to discriminate against children and families,” said Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at GLAAD, in a statement. “The state’s business and community leaders must stand up to ensure a climate of fairness, equality and acceptance, and demand that Governor Fallin veto this attempt to write discrimination into Oklahoma law.”

According to Freedom for All Americans, more than 15,000 have sent letters to the governor asking her to reject SB 1140.

ORIGINAL (4/30/2018):

An Oklahoma bill allowing faith-based adoption and foster care centers to turn away same-sex couples could soon be headed to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 1140, which is also known as the “Adoption Protection Act,” received vigorous approval in the state’s House of Representatives on Thursdaypassing by a massive 34 vote margin. Sixty lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, while just 26 opposed the legislation.

Sponsored by Rep. Travis Dunlap (R-Oklahoma City), SB 1140 states that foster care and adoption agencies are not required to “participate in any placement of a child when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.” The proposal, however, does not apply to agencies which receive state or federal funding.

Advocates warned the legislation could be used to target not only LGBTQ couples but also single parents and people of non-Christian faiths.

Calling SB 1140 “discriminatory, harmful to youth, and completely unnecessary,” Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson claimed in a press release that LGBTQ groups in the state will “fight against it becoming law, we will fight it in the court of public opinion, and we will fight it in court if necessary.”

Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at GLAAD, argued that the bill is more than hurtful. He called it “un-American.”

“No qualified parent should be turned away from adoption or foster agencies simply because they are LGBTQ,” Stokes said in a statement, adding that SB 1140 represents an “attempt to write anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law at the expense of the state’s youth in need of loving and supportive homes.”

The bill’s sponsor, though, dismissed concerns of anti-LGBTQ bias by claiming people of faith were the ones who faced discrimination.

“Some could argue this bill actually protects organizations who believe they should place children [with LGBTQ people] because they have the religious obligation,” Dunlap told colleagues.

But prospective same-sex parents in the state say the conservative’s remarks don’t reflect the fear they feel when seeking out adoption and foster care providers. Chris Williamswho has adopted a child with her partner, Rebekah Wilsonsaid LGBTQ couples “worry about judgment.”

“You want everything to be perfect because you know they’re going to be hyper-vigilant about finding some kind of mistake,” she told the local news station KOKH-TV, arguing the bill sends the message same-sex parents are “unfit.”

Wilson added that SB 1140 is “particularly disturbing.”

“To shut down an avenue for creating a family is incredibly destructive and sends a horrible message about our values,” she claimed.

As the bill already sailed through the Oklahoma Senate in March, it now awaits a verdict from governor Mary Fallin following deliberations in conference committee. Fallin, a Republican who has persistently fought against LGBTQ equality since taking office in 2010, is very likely to sign the bill into law.

The conservative has opposed nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, while also lobbying in favor of a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. In 2013, Fallin blocked LGBTQ servicemembers in the National Guard from receiving same-sex partner benefits, defying a directive from the Pentagon.

Nonetheless, groups like the Human Rights Campaign have urged Fallin to veto the anti-LGBTQ legislation.

“We should be making it easiernot harderfor children to find loving homes, and limiting the pool of parents for discriminatory reasons harms the very children these lawmakers are entrusted to protect,” said HRC Executive Director Chad Griffin in a statement. “If SB 1140 becomes law, it could prove catastrophic for Oklahoma’s economy and reputation.”

To date, seven states have passed laws permitting adoption and foster care agencies to cite religious beliefs as a reason to refuse placement to same-sex couplesincluding Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, and Texas.

Colorado and Kansas are considering similar legislation.

Image via Getty

Laura Aguilar Created Much-Needed Visibility For Latina Lesbians

There’s no one else like Laura Aguilar.

The late image-maker, who passed away at the age of 58 last week, was known for her documentary photography of Latina lesbians and for her self-portrait body work set in the desert.

Aguilar utilized her gaze as a photographer in the ‘90s on queer, brown, working-class people that weren’t being given a space to be visible. Her work was never a photograph solely for the sake of a photographshe was an incredibly talented photographer who showed the sentimental, tender, and intimate side of queer brown bodies, both her own and others.

The first piece by Aguilar that I came to know and love was “Plush Pony,” a series named after a working-class Latina lesbian bar in El Sereno that she frequented. In the beautiful black and white photo series, the queer women she photographs are full-bodied, masculine, feminine, brown, and confident in their bodies. Though they are posing for Aguilar, who set up a makeshift studio in the bar, they are not camera-shy. Through Laura’s lens, they appear regal and unafraid, looking directly into the camera, comfortable embracing their full authentic selves to Aguilar.

If photography is about capturing a moment in time and keeping it forever, Aguilar did us all a favor. In 2018 it’s still a challenge to find representation of queer Latinx people in the LGBT media world. Through her photography, she provided a space of potentiality.

In her artist statement for “Show and Tell,” her exhibition at Vincent Price Museum in Los Angeles, Aguilar wrote about this lack of representation. “What I am trying to do is to provide a better understanding of what it’s like to be a Latina and a Lesbian,” wrote Aguilar. “Within the Lesbian and Gay community of Los Angeles, people of color are yet another hidden subculture; we are present, but remain unseen.”

The revolutionary streak in Aguilar’s work was that she was working outside of what the culture at the time was thinking, whether that was the mainstream white art world, or other Latinx artists, or the Latinx community, or anyone.

Aguilar showed queer Latinx women experiencing joy, experiencing tender moments of recognition, experiencing intimate moments of self-reflection, experiencing what it feels like to hold a woman you love, or the woman you met that night.

And if you don’t grow up seeing those visuals reflected, you may start to feel as if it’s not possible for you. Her work is a reminder that, yes, it is possible, and, yes, you are worth it. Her own worked for her in this way.

“Every time the depression comes up, I can look at the artwork and say, ‘you feel content there, you feel comfortable there,’” she wrote in an artist statement for “Show and Tell.” “I’m trying to convince myself I’m not what I always thought of myself: ‘I’m ugly, I’m fat, I’m not worth living. I am these things, too: I am a kind person, a funny person, a compassionate person. In the photographs I’m beautiful. I’m kind to myself.”

In “Latina Lesbians,” a series where Aguilar interviewed queer women on how they identify, I recognized the questions that Laura was asking, questions that I needed reassurance on when I first came out. I also wanted answers from other Latinx queer women. I needed to know how they got to the other side, how they grew comfortable existing in their own bodies, how they grew to love the reflection staring back at them each day, how they grew to understand that their intersecting identitiesqueer and Latinxare never either/or but rather fully connected.

And the women told her. Not only was Laura’s image-making about bringing visibility to the lives of queer Latinx women, but it was also about creating community around the work that came out of those interviews. A testament to why her work is still getting talked about today and why it will continue to be studied and appreciated.

Aguilar wanted to be in conversation with other artists, with everyday people she admired, and she used her art as a medium to have those conversations, to ask those difficult questions. Her art gave her a reason, but her answers were always artfulboth when she put the lens on others, but most when she did it on herself: the person she knew best, the person she grew to understand more and more with each photo.

In her body landscape series, there’s a complete transformation from her early work. It was in Joshua Tree where she let everything go, resembling a sculpture, blending in as a part of the landscape surrounding her. She’s not the “child-like, naive” (as she calls herself) woman in cargo shorts and a cowboy hat reflecting on how she became more comfortable with the word “Laura” than with the word “lesbian” because she’s no longer worried about labels. Once she was able to grow comfortable with being 100 percent “Laura,” she fully blossomed and existed in Laura’s world, a world that we were lucky to be let into.

When an artist creates from their personal experience they must define themselves for themselves first. When Laura took us all through her journey, from her earliest works of documenting the Latina lesbian community to her later work when she embraced every part of her self and blended in so well with the desert landscape that it seemed like it was always a part of her, she showed that she was able to answer all those early questions for herself that she used to ask other women about. She didn’t need to interview other people anymore; she knew just who she was on her own terms.

Aguilar’s work reminds me of one of my favorite poems, “won’t you celebrate with me,” by Lucille Clifton. In it she writes, “won’t you celebrate with me / what I have shaped / into a kind of life? / i had no model.”

Laura may be gone but her work will never be forgotten. It can’t. There’s no one else like her.

Katy Perry Met Pope Francis On 10 Year Anniversary of ‘I Kissed A Girl’

Katy Perry marked the 10 year anniversary of her breakout single ‘I Kissed a Girl’ on Saturday by meeting none other than the leader of the Catholic church: Pope Francis.

The pop star was preparing to speak at an international conference in Vatican City focusing on finding the cure for cancer alongside her boyfriend Orlando Bloom when the religious leader approached her before taking the stage.

While the meeting was reportedly a surprise for the pop star, the symbolism around the anniversary of her queer anthem and the meeting with a major figure who has recently helped change the ways in which Catholics engage with LGBTQ communities ironic to say the least.

When her song that arguable made her a household namewas released, it caused global controversy from many communities. Many either didn’t agree with her liberal discussions on sexual exploration or felt that she was encouraging behaviors that many — including the Catholic church — felt were immoral.

Last year, Perry spoke about this time after accepting an LGBTQ leadership award from the Human Rights Campaign about how the song was incredible personal to her own identity.

“What I did know is that I was curious, and even then, I knew sexuality wasn’t as black and white as this dress,” Perry said. “And honestly, I haven’t gotten all of it right, but in 2008, when that song came out, I knew that I had started a conversation that a lot of the world seemed curious enough to sing along to.”

Earlier this week, INTO spoke with Perry’s manager about an interview around this anniversary and were told she would not be making a comment about this day at the time.

INTO has reached out to the Vatican for comment on the significance of this meeting and will update here if they respond.

Joy Reid Apologizes for Anti-Gay Blog Posts, Says She ‘Genuinely Believes’ She Didn’t Write Them

On Saturday morning, MSNBC host Joy Reid issued an apology to the LGBTQ community for anti-gay blog posts that circulated earlier this week appearing to have been from her old blog.

Reid called the posts “homophobic, discriminatory and outright weird.”

“I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me,” Reid said. “But I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted, have written in the past, why some people don’t believe me. For that, I am truly, truly sorry.”

She added, “I have not been exempt from being dumb or cruel or hurtful to the very people I want to advocate for. I own that. I get it. And for that I am truly, truly sorry.”

During her apology, Reid admitted that she had been made aware of these old posts and hired cyber security experts to find out where they came from.

“The reality is they have not been able to prove it,” said Reid. Though Reid maintains she doesn’t think she wrote those words, she did say that it made sense that people would think that given other things she has said.

“I look back at the ways I talked casually about people and gender identity and sexual orientation and I wonder who that even was,” she added.

After apologizing to the trans community and Ann Coulter for using transphobic language to discuss the far-right commentator, Reid pivoted to speaking about her own upbringing in a home that was conservative on LGBTQ issues and her own growth.

Reid also shared a personal story. A male friend of hers came out as gay to her freshman year of college and her knee-jerk reaction was to express sadness for all the women he could have been in a relationship with.

“I can only say that the person I am now is not the person I was then. I like to think I have gotten better as a person over time, that I am still growing, that I’m not the same person I was 10 or five or even one year ago. and I know that my goal is to try to be a better person and a better ally,” said Reid.

After Reid claimed that her blog was hacked, the FBI began an investigation into Reid’s personal accounts.

Donald Trump’s Homophobic Secretary of State Will Be a Disaster For LGBTQ People

The United States has a new Secretary of State, and he doesn’t like queer people. The U.S. Senate voted 57 to 43 to confirm former CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the nation’s chief diplomat. Five Democratic Senators voted to confirm Pompeo despite protests from LGBTQ rights groups that his virulent homophobia and transphobia should disqualify him from the job.

Pompeo’s confirmation is undoubtedly a disappointment for LGBTQ Americans, but it’s a potentially fatal blow to LGBTQ people around the globe, who look to the United States to put pressure on their governments not to imprison, torture, or even kill them.
Pompeo could be the worst thing to happen to the global fight for LGBTQ rights since Donald Trump himself.

Since President Trump took office last year, the State Department and U.S. diplomats have been less strident in supporting LGBTQ rights as human rights than they were under former president Barack Obama. Trump’s first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson “didn’t really go after the LGBTQ portion of foreign policy,” Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch told NBC News earlier this month. “Now you’re going to see someone who is explicitly anti-LGBTQ, and I think you’re going to see reversals in policy. It’s very dangerous.”

That’s putting it mildly. There has already been a noticeable change in tone and tenor from this administration. Last year, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley voted against a resolution condemning the executions of LGBTQ people simply for their sexual orientation or gender identity. This was intended to keep from undermining the use of the death penalty by foreign nations, but previous administrations had abstained from similar votes rather than vote with the likes of the Saudi Arabian and Ugandan governments.

With Mike Pompeo at the helm of American foreign policy, this looks likely to become the norm. Pompeo has long had close ties with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Perkins, who has compared queer people to pedophiles, adulterers, alcoholics, and Nazis, complained that the Obama administration “openly demonized other countries that refused to recognize homosexuality as an international ‘human right.’”

Instead, he hopes to see the State Department ignore LGBTQ rights under Pompeo.
Writing for Fox News, Perkins said he expects Pompeo to focus on promoting “religious freedom” around the world, something the far-right uses as a dog-whistle to mean “anti-LGBTQ.” When former Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed his state’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law, “religious freedom” meant allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Perkins points to the example of Egypt, where ISIS killed nearly 50 Coptic Christians in a series of church bombings last year, as a country where Pompeo can focus on promoting “religious freedom.”

That noble cause, however, fails to include the Egyptian LGBTQ community. Queer and transgender Egyptians are facing a massive crackdown on their rights from the Egyptian government, which has imprisoned hundreds of LGBTQ people since Abdel el-Sisi became president in 2014. Although sodomy isn’t illegal, law enforcement officials target those accused of same-sex behavior under its defunct “debauchery” laws. A proposed law though could change that by criminalizing homosexuality with a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Perkins and the Family Research Council are unlikely to care about the plight of LGBTQ Egyptians. This is the same group that supported Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill (which mandated the death penalty for homosexuality) and lobbied against a U.S. Congressional resolution against it.

The question, now, is whether Mike Pompeo shares this point of view.

All evidence suggests he does. Pompeo had a notoriously anti-LGBTQ voting record as a U.S. Congressman. Pompeo scored a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign during his time in the House of Representatives, where he voted against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. During his confirmation, he stated he still opposes same-sex marriage but refused to answer whether he considers same-sex attraction a “perversion,” as he insinuated in a 2015 speech.

Despite his tough words on Iran and even Russiaa rarity for this administrationnone of this suggests that fighting for equality in these countries will be a priority for the new Secretary of State. If anything, Pompeo looks set to continue the steady rollback of LGBTQ rights. Randy Berrythe former LGBTQ rights envoy at the State Departmentended his tenure last November, and according to the government agency’s website, the position remains vacant. It’s hard to fathom that Pompeo will fill it anytime soon.

That’s concerning because the Trump administration has largely ignored LGBTQ rights abuses around the world. Despite continued crackdowns in Chechnya, Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Indonesia, the White House has remained silent. While Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, did raise concerns about the execution of gay men in Chechnya with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, he was hardly forceful in his condemnation.

Human rights abuses against gay Chechens still continue more than a year after the detentions began, on which the State Department has continued its record of silence.

If Pompeo does continue on this trajectory, it will have tangible and dangerous consequences for LGBTQ people. He will be responsible for programs overseeing LGBTQ asylum seekers in the U.S. and policies that tie foreign aid and investment to protecting LGBTQ rights. Curtailing these programs could see the tide of homophobia and transphobia rise even higher in places where queer people are already suffering immensely.

During his confirmation, Pompeo sought to alleviate these concerns. Under intense questioning from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), he insisted he would continue to promote LGBTQ human rights around the world.

“I deeply believe that LGBTQ persons have every right that every other person in the world would have,” he said.

If Pompeo’s support for the Family Research Council is any indication, though, LGBTQ people around the world shouldn’t expect the U.S. State Department to be an ally for much longer. For countless queer people across the globe, it could be the difference between life and death. But while we wait and see what becomes of his tenure, let’s hold out hope Pompeo will embrace the words of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: LGBTQ rights are human rights.