Dating app Grindr has changed a controversial practice.
On Monday, news siteBuzzFeed published a report claiming that queer dating app Grindr had been sharing the HIV statuses that users had disclosed on their profiles, along with other information like email addresses, to two other companies. Grindr used the companies Apptimize and Localytics as app optimization services. (Disclosure: Grindr is INTO’s parent company.)
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Grindr’s chief technology officer Scott Chen said, “This information is always transmitted securely with encryption, and there are data retention policies in place to further protect our users’ privacy from disclosure.”
According to BuzzFeed, a researcher, Antoine Pultier, at Norwegian nonprofit SINTEF first identified the issue. Pultier said the “main issue” was that the HIV status was linked to other information.
“I think this is the incompetence of some developers that just send everything, including HIV status,” Pultier said.
James Krellenstein, a member of ACT UP New York, called Grindr’s previous practices “an egregious breach of basic standards” to BuzzFeed.
SINTEF’s analysis also showed that some data, including GPS position, sexuality, ethnicity, and phone ID, but not the HIV-status data, was shared via “plain text,” which can easily be hacked.
“It allows anybody who is running the network or who can monitor the network such as a hacker or a criminal with a little bit of tech knowledge, or your ISP or your government to see what your location is,” Cooper Quintin, senior staff technologist and security researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said to BuzzFeed.
On Monday evening, in an exclusive interview with news site Axios, Grindr said that it would stop sharing HIV status information with third parties.
In the interview with Axios, Grindr security chief Bryce Case said that Grindr had been “unfairly” singled out in the current news cycle about data security. “It’s conflating an issue and trying to put us in the same camp where we really don’t belong,” Case said.
Case told BuzzFeed that the data was shared with Apptimize as part of the rollout of its new opt-in feature that would remind users to get tested for HIV. According to BuzzFeed, Grindr stopped sharing the information once the feature had rolled out. Case shared that the second company, Localytics, is a software program for internal use only. Case said he would “not admit fault” regarding that data.
Case did not say whether the data shared with Localytics would be retroactively deleted.
Quintin told BuzzFeed that there was “no reason” for Grindr to share data with these companies in the first place. “Grindr should be taking extra steps to secure this sort of very personal data,” he said.
This week, Jay-Z is a guest on David Letterman’s new Netflix series, My Guest Needs No Introduction, and while we are still furious with him for cheating on Beyonce, he speaks openly and with so much love regarding his mother’s recent coming out, so.
“Imagine having lived your life for someone else,” he tells David Letterman. “And you think you’re protecting your kids. And for my mother to have to live as someone that she wasn’t and hide and like, protect her kids–and didn’t want to embarrass her kids, and you know, for all this time. And for her to sit in front of me and tell me I think I love someone. I mean, I really cried. That’s a real story. I cried because I was so happy for her that she was free.”
Jay revealed this coming out happened just about “eight months ago” when he was recording his last album, 4:44, which featured his mother, Gloria, on the track “Smile.”
“Like, she just told me,” Jay says. “I made the song the next day.”
He tells Letterman that he knew she was gay, but this was the first time his mother ever talked about it with him.
“This was the first time we had the conversation. And the first time I heard her say she loved her partner. Like, ‘I feel like I love somebody.’ She said ‘I feel like.’ She held that little bit back, still. She didn’t say ‘I’m in love,’ she said ‘I feel like I love someone.’ And I just, I cried. I don’t even believe in crying because you’re happy. I don’t even know what that is. What is that?”
Gloria Carter read a poem she wrote, “Living in the Shadows,” on “Smile,” which served as her public coming out as well as the first time Jay-Z acknowledged having a lesbian mom.
“Me and my son share a lot of information, so I was sitting there and I was telling him one day, I just finally started telling him who I was,” Carter told Rolling Stone. “Besides your mother, this is the person that I am, this is the life that I live. So my son actually started tearing, because he was like, ‘That had to be a horrible life, Ma.’ And I was like, ‘My life was never horrible, it was just different.’ So that made him want to do a song about it.”
She also told the music magazine why she had chosen to stay in the closet until recently.
“I was never ashamed of me, but my family, it was something that was never discussed,” she said. “Because everybody knows who I am, I don’t hide who I am I’m tired of all the mystery. I’m gonna give it to ’em. I don’t have to worry about anybody wondering whether I’m in the life or not–I’m gonna tell them. Now it’s time for me to be live my life and be happy, be free.”
Now I’m crying Jay-Z happy tears, which I think start out like this.
Just as Queering the Map had struck a chord with online queer communities, it had hit a nerve with conservatives. In early February, Queering the Map, a project from Montreal-based student and designerLucas LaRochelle, began to go viral and queer people worldwide participated. They dropped a pin anywhere in the world they had done something queer: came out, affirmed their gender pronouns or had sex, for example.
But not long after the project had its viral moment, MAGA-centric pro-Trump messages overran the site and LaRochelle shut it down.Throughout two interviews conducted in February and April, LaRochelle spoke to INTO about bouncing back from a targeted attack, what it means to “queer” a space and what it means to challenge the very idea of queer spaces.
You shut down recently because you were targeted by Trump supporters. What were some of the things they were saying and what did you think when this queer space was desecrated, so to say?
I mean, what was being posted, I presume by a Spambot, was just pop-ups that said, “Make America Great Again, Donald Trump best president!” These points were rapidly multiplying, so when you went on the site they would pop up. The first response was to take the website down to figure out a way to make it more secure against these kinds of attacks, but this was sort of beyond my ability, so I posted on the site asking if there was anyone that was able to help with their coding ability and there was a significant response and I received multiple emails either lending support for the project or emails willing to help out.
So, a group of people set up a github, a code repository where multiple people can work on code together, so we’ve been working together to get the site up and running.
How do you feel getting it back up?
I’m really excited for people to see all of the beautiful things have been posted and to have that place where people can kind of record their memories and their experiences of queer history as it happens.
On some level, what happened feels typical: non-queer people finding offense in queer people making queer space.
Yeah, that was an inevitable response I was hoping would not happen. But it makes the project all the more valuable in terms of making those spaces for sharing on the internet, for connectivity, to feel connected to other queer people.
When did the project launch?
It started about a year ago as a project that I started in a class and at that point it was just a map I could add my own memories to. But my interest from the beginning was figuring out a way to make interactive and try to explode it into something that was more plural. So then I continued it from a personal project and then recently–like six months ago–I received funding from a residency to continue it further and I made a book out of some of the additions.
Honestly, like three days ago, a friend of mine who is a DJ in Montreal and has a significant following shared it on Facebook and it went from 200 shares on Facebook to like 4,500 something in two days. I guess that’s the magic of the internet–it’s just endlessly extending.
What made you want to create this project?
I mean, I was biking home from school one day and I biked by this tree that I bike by every time I bike from school, and it was a tree where I met my first longterm partner. And then at that same tree, had a fight where I responded really negatively to him saying that he’s attracted to masc guys, and I’m a very femme person, and so my insecurity was poked and it exploded all over that tree. And so, I was interested in the feeling that every time I pass that tree. There’s a particular feeling of queerness that only exists for me and perhaps that partner. I wanted to figure out a way to make that legible. Because I started thinking of all the other locations in which some facet of queer experience has occurred. I was interested in what would happen if I could walk down the street and see a bench that I know some other queer person had made out on or fucked on or expressed preferred pronouns, but that I would obviously have no way of knowing otherwise.
On a top-level look, what do you think the map has to say about the nature of queer spaces?
I think that the biggest thing that it says for me, and through my research in terms of thinking about what queer space means is that queer space can’t necessarily be defined asof course, we have bars and bathhouses and various community centers, but rather, thinking about queerness of something that’s done as an action rather than as a fixed identity politic. I get to explode or call into question what or like, what actions can make a space queer and whether or not It’s necessary for there to be fixed geographical locations where a queer body knows that it’s comfortable or welcome, but it’s interesting to think about what kind of actions queer public spaces that are not necessarily built for that kind of expression.
I was just about to say that I think the map is interesting because we all know each town has their queer monuments and gay bars, but this map actually challenges the idea of a fixed amount of queer historical spots and says that queer spaces are everywhere.
I think it also can work to debunk the queer urban myth that all queer activity occurs in these particularly coded environments. Very much my socialization as a queer person in rural Ontario was through the internet and by seeing the fact that there were other queer people who experienced the world in similar ways even if I didn’t know them. But the idea was always that I had to move to a placeand, of course, it’s much more important to be in a lived community with other queer people. But to have that feeling or that understanding that queerness can occur everywhere, not just in urban environments. It expands the myth that queerness is only an urban phenomenon.
Aside form challenging the urban myth, it also challenges the notion of “gayborhoods” especially as those are becoming increasingly gentrified spaces.
Also, what kind of queerness! I mean, the importance of specific gay neighborhoods is very important but it also, it’s become sort of one mode of a commercialized queerness or a more commercialized gay politic.
What does it mean to you to “queer” a space? That means we assume that geographic spaces are inherently un-queer.
Yeah I mean, that’s the big question of queering the map, in that, I can sort of like, attempt to describe what I think that means, but that’s primary question. It’s the call to action on the website: whatever constitutes queering space counts. So, trying to intentionally leave it very open, but in my own experience, there’s obviously the very profound stealth experience of walking in to an environment and knowing there are other queer people. If I were to define it through my experience, I think a lot of it seems to be relational to another queer body.
Something you said that’s interesting about it being relational, a really big conversation right now is queer loneliness and how much of queerness is defined by feeling alone, but someone’s definition of being queer might be sitting in my apartment!
Totally, and that would count! Queer negativity and queer loneliness.
Queering the Map kind of argues that queer history is all around us and that you’re always making it.
And you’re a product of it! The reason half of those things on queering the map are possible is because of the work that has been done by other queer people. It’s a product of queer history and queer activism. It’s the only reason it can exist. It’s because people fought and died.
What do you think about the queering of Google Maps? I’m thinking about how Vincent Chevalier’s “Places Where I’ve Fucked.” It reminded me of using Google Maps to talk about places that hold significant queer value to you. Were you referencing him at all?
No, but you know what’s super funny is that, I hadn’t heard about that project, but Vincent did a residency at the same place where I did a residency for Queering the Map and part of the residency project is in the same space.
What about something like Grindr, which kind of de-heterosexualizes neutral spaces and only lets you see other queer people. How do you think your project speaks to something like that?
I was working with Chase Aunspach’s essay “From the Gay Bar to The Search Bar,” and he talks about how Grindr delinks queerness from material space or the necessity of material space because it allows you to feel queer people outside of a geographic or architectural context. There’s something that is exciting about that possibility.
What I love about your project, as opposed to a Grindr or Chevalier, is that the focus is so much larger than sex. I think sex is an essential part of queerness, but your project also has these sweet little moments about not getting calls back or coming out for the first time. Did you envision it to go beyond sex?
I mean, in some ways, I think the things that I’m more interested in and I don’t know, a lot of my, as I’m learning and having more sex, my introduction to queer culture was less about, because I grew up in a place with less queer people around and I was so identifiably queer, I wasn’t necessarily an object of desire. I was a phobic object. So queerness became much more of an identity or mode of expression than a sexuality. And I hope and I also, I think sex is an incredibly huge and important part of queer culture, but there are many things equally as important.
NOTE: Since this story was published, early results in the election show Prop. 1 being defeated by seven points.
“Do you want men in your little girl’s bathrooms in elementary schools?”
That’s the question a woman asked Erin LaDuke in July as she walked by at the Bear Paw Festival in Eagle River, Alaska, a yearly summer event with clowns, pageant queens, and a lively parade. The woman, who looked between 25 and 30 years old, was a jarring contrast from her lively environs: She was screaming and she was angry.
“People were walking 10 feet around her because she was just sitting on her stool screaming about how there were going to be men in the bathroom of our children’s elementary schools,” LaDuke recalls.
The woman was collecting signatures for Proposition 1, Anchorage’s anti-trans ballot measure that seeks to mandate that people must use the bathroom corresponding with the gender listed on their original birth certificate. Mail-in ballots are due on Tuesday, and if the initiative passes, even a trans woman with identification that reflected her gender identity would be forced into a men’s bathroom.
LaDuke claims, though, that the woman didn’t mention that. In fact, she didn’t say anything about transgender people at all.
“She was mostly just screaming about men being in the women’s bathroom,” she tells INTO over the phone. LaDuke says she assumed the ballot measure was an “anti-trans women issue” because it was the canvasser’s belief “that trans women are men, which of course we all know that they’re not.”
But for many people, it wasn’t clear what the canvassers petitioning on behalf of Prop. 1 were talking about.
For months, petitioners canvassed malls, churches, bookstores, and the local REI retailer, collecting the roughly 8,500 signatures that would put Prop. 1 on the ballot.
But critics say that canvassers would often neglect to tell people what the issue actually was: a debate about whether trans people have the right to use bathrooms which reflect their lived gender identity.
Nine sources tell INTO that canvassers presented the initiative as one of a series of issues: 1) a privacy measure, 2) a law which would prevent men from entering women’s bathrooms, or 3) a policy to protect little girls at school.
But crucial details were left out which would allow people to make an informed decision on the subjector know what they were signing at all.
“Backers of Proposition 1 have always used fear and intimidation to scare voters into repealing basic protections for transgender people in Anchorage,” says Kati Ward, campaign manager for Fair Anchorage, which is battling Prop. 1. “That’s true nowand it was no doubt true when they collected signatures last summer.”
Approximately 150 voters signed both the petition to put Prop. 1 on the ballot and the competing “decline to sign” initiative. The latter petition, which was circulated by the pro-LGBTQ Fair Anchorage campaign, essentially worked as a promise not to support the measure.
It is possible, although in most cases not likely, that a small number of the overlapping names can be attributed to two people in Anchorage having the same name. The city has about 170,000 registered voters.
The overlapping signatures raised concern within the campaign about how informed voters were when they signed the petitions. Around 2,300 signatures were thrown out by the clerk’s office when they appeared to be duplicates, but the remaining total was still enough to get the issue on the ballot.
Many tell INTO that phenomenon is common in signature gathering and isn’t necessarily reflective of the measure’s validity. But when the publication traveled to Anchorage in March to speak with local residents about Prop. 1, INTO went with one big question: Voters were sold a vacuum cleaner. Were they told they were being sold a vacuum cleaner?
Anchorage residents allege voters were not.
Lee Harrington, who also encountered a canvasser at Bear Paw Festival, tells INTO “the word ‘transgender’ was never mentioned” when representatives from the “Yes on 1” campaign approached him. The petitioners claimed the ballot proposal would protect women “against dangerous predators who could come into the bathroom” but did not specify the nameless boogeymen that they were warning against were trans people.
“Most people were just taking the clipboard, signing, and saying ‘thank you so much for this’ as they wandered by,” says Harrington, who was there to support Fair Anchorage.
Carolyn Dolan, who also observed petitioners interacting with Bear Paw attendees, also went to the event to protest the Prop. 1 campaign on behalf of Fair Anchorage. Because she says supporters of LGBTQ rights weren’t allowed within 10 feet of the opposition, Dolan stood with a sign urging Anchorage voters to reject transphobia. “Please Decline to Sign,” the poster read in giant letters.
The occasion was a momentous one for Dolan: She had never “stood up for anything” before, let alone picketed on the front lines of Alaska politics.
Her first experience as an activist was surreal, Dolan claims. She says canvassers petitioning for Prop. 1 would use extreme scare tactics to get locals to support the ballot initiative, asking attendees questions like: “Do you want your daughter to have to disrobe… get naked in front of a man?” and “Do you want your daughter to be raped in a bathroom?”
“I was really kind of flabbergasted,” she tells INTO. “I didn’t realize what people would say on the other side.”
When Dolan attempted to get closer to the petitions to see what information was being presented to voters, she claims she was blocked from doing so by a group of motorcyclists wearing “Bikers for God” leather jackets. They allegedly shoved her backward and said she wasn’t welcome in their space. Dolan says one member of the group said she “could expect issues if [she] wanted to continue.”
“It was kind of scary,” she claims.
Reports from the Bear Paw festival were extremely consistent in how they characterized the language being used by Prop. 1 supporters. Andrea Redeker, who was assigned by Fair Anchorage to follow one of the canvassers for several hours, says the petitioner told voters, “This is to keep teenage boys out of girls’ bathrooms in school.”
Although conservatives who oppose affirming trans bathroom access frequently use rhetoric invalidating the existence of trans people, Redeker says there was no indication that’s what they meant. A person who wasn’t already clued into the issues may have falsely believed the petitioner was decrying high school peeping tomsboys spying on their female classmates through a peephole.
“I would say to her, ‘Don’t lie to these people,’” Redeker tells INTO over the phone. “‘Tell them what it’s really about.’ She would not do that. She would use the same rhetoric.”
Many supporters of Prop. 1 did, in fact, disclose to voters that the issue they were canvassing for would impact transgender people. But sources claim some of those petitioners misrepresented which side the petition was on. Some were told the initiative would benefit trans people.
A group of voters approached Joan Blagg at Bear Paw and told her they had “signed to keep [her] rights intact.” Blagg claims she is “very obviously transgender” and was easy to pick out amongst the crowd.
But as she spoke with individuals who had signed on to support the ballot initiative, she says it was clear they didn’t know what they had done. They were told the measure “clarified” which bathroom transgender people should use, as if that were something positive for the LGBTQ community. They didn’t realize it would clarify that trans individuals would be forced into restrooms contrary to their gender identity.
Blagg says they were “manipulated.”
“When it was explained to them, a number of them agreed that they would rescind their signatures, but that is a long process,” she tells INTO. “I don’t know how many followed through on thatI suspect none.”
An additional source who asked not to be named on the recordin fear of being outed as trans at workconfirmed these accounts.
INTO called a cross-section of the voters who signed both measures to fact-check these claims. Only a handful were willing to talk. Largely those reached did not remember specifically signing the competing petitions or signing to put Prop 1 on the ballot. Many, however, did not express regret about doing so.
Amber Epps says she can’t clearly recall signing competing petitions.
“I was probably signing both of them thinking it was the same thing,” she tells INTO over the phone. “I wasn’t aware that they were opposite.” When asked if she remembers signing the Prop. 1 petition, Epps says, “It was probably a long time ago. I don’t recall it exactly.”
Asked if she recalls signing anything related to men in women’s rooms, Epps concedes she agrees with the conservative view on trans rights. She claims everyone should use the bathroom which corresponds with “what you were born with.”
“I just think it causes a lot of confusion,” Epps says.
Voter Tammy Duff also claims she had “no idea” she signed to put Prop. 1 on the ballot. But when pressed on whether someone had asked her about protecting women’s privacy in public facilities, she did recall signing such a petition outside the 5th Avenue Mall.
While Duff says she knows what Prop. 1 is and “has no problem with that,” Duff sounded a refrain INTO often heard when speaking with voters in Anchorage: Many of the individuals who signed onto both initiatives say all issues deserve to be debated and voted on by the general public, regardless of whether or not they have merit.
“I think sometimes you just sign those things just to get them on the ballot,” she says.
Another voter, Sheryl Chriest, says signing the petitions gave her an opportunity to learn more about the issueeven if she wasn’t properly informed at the time. She tells INTO that “everybody has the right to vote on every idea.”
“Whether I agree with that idea is not the issue,” Chriest says.
When reached by phone, another man contacted by INTO says his grandmother did sign both petitions but suffers from dementia, which may have explained the mix-up.
Jim Minnery, president of Alaska Family Action and the central figure pushing Prop. 1, says that canvassers absolutely represented the ballot measure honestly. To him, the issue is entirely about privacy and keeping men out of women’s restrooms.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Minnery says in a phone conversation with INTO. “There’s a lot of nuances but that’s the easiest way for people to get their head on straight on this issue.  There’s no interest in our side whatsoever in ever manipulating people. We have no interest in telling half-truths ever.”
He emphasizes the final word a second time: “Ever.”
Minnery also doesn’t believe it’s a misrepresentation to say Prop. 1 is good for transgender people. That’s because he believes Prop 1. benefits the LGBTQ community by cracking down on what he feels is a disorder.
“And the reason why I say that is because I am of the mindset that [being transgender] is disordered thinking,” he says.
Christina Eubanks had the opportunity to confront one of the petitioners who worked with the campaign. A young man wearing black sweatpants and a t-shirt was canvassing in her apartment complex in Government Hill, a military barracks converted into affordable housing. The August day was warm by Alaska standardsmeaning it was over 50 degrees.
The petitioner introduced himself as Nate. When Eubanks questioned Nate about the initiative, he claimed it was intended to “protect people in the bathroom.”
“From what?” she asked.
“Well, you just don’t want people coming in, you know, who don’t belong there,” the petitioner said.
“Absolutely, there’s already laws that cover that,” she told him.
“Well, I’d just like to point out this is about safety,” Nate responded. “That’s what they told us.”
At no point during their conversation did Nate say the issue was about trans people, she says. But because her husband is transgender, Eubanks is familiar enough with the conservative rhetoric used to push forward anti-trans bathroom bills in North Carolina (which passed) and Texas (which didn’t) to know what Nate was really getting at.
Eubanks wasn’t convinced, though, that Nate truly understood the issue.
She explained the impact Prop. 1 would have on their family if signed into law: A 2013 survey from UCLA’s The Williams Institute found that 70 percent of transgender people claim to have been harassed, attacked, or sexually assaulted when using a public facility. This ordinance could endanger the lives of her husband and children.
After debating the issue with Nate for over a half hourlong enough to make her late for picking up her children from day camphis defenses began to break down.
“I’m gay and I’ve been ostracized from my family,” he confessed.
The petitioner said he accepted a position with the campaign to put Prop. 1 on the ballot because he felt like he was out of options. His family had disowned him. He was kicked out of school. He has a lengthy rap sheet of minor to mid-level offenses, making it difficult for him to find steady employment that also pays a living wage.
Eubanks told him a nearby Subway location was hiring. It was a start.
“You can go get a job at another place,” she said. “But what you’re choosing to do is hurting other people, and you’re hurting people that I love. That’s not OK with me.”
Nate claimed he would quit the campaign and find other work.
Eubanks thought that would be the last her family heard from Nate. But weeks after quitting the campaign, he showed up at Identity Alaskaa local LGBTQ center where Eubanks’ husband, Samuel Ohana, serves as a board member. During a monthly support group for members of Anchorage’s trans community, Nate attempted to apologize for his involvement in Prop. 1.
He was not received well, says Ohana (who also works as part of the Fair Anchorage campaign). The city of Anchorage had officially announced that Prop. 1 would be scheduled for a public vote in April, and tensions were extremely high.
“Nate was there to try to make reparations,” he claims, adding: “But it was very, very rough.”
In an interview with INTO, Nate confirms Eubanks’ account of the August incident. He claims he “regrets” working for the Prop. 1 campaign. Petitioners had to collect around $80 worth of signatures before they could receive a check for their work, and after he got paid, Nate alleges he moved onto other employment.
“Did you mention to voters the ordinance was about transgender people?” INTO asks in a half-hour phone conversation.
Although Nate frequently talks around questions asked of him, as if he were engaged in a conversation with himself, he is extremely clear on this point. “Correct, I did not,” he says with an almost staccato precision.
Nate claims the “primary words” he used to sway voters were “business” and “privacy.” When approaching a potential supporter of the Prop. 1 campaign, he says he would tell them: ‘This is an initiative to protect businesses’ privacy in the event that a lawsuit is brought against a business.”
The former canvasser claims he didn’t receive much direction from Alaska Family Council, which is spearheading the Prop. 1 effort, on how to talk to voters about the issue.
No one told him it was his duty to make it clear the issue was about trans people.
“I do think it is the responsibility of the initiative to educate the voter on the entire issue, providing proper information to the voterpro and con,” Nate says. “Giving the voter the choice to look at the entire debate on the issue would be great.”
Arenza Thigpen, who left the Prop. 1 campaign to work for the other side, says he didn’t coordinate with Alaska Family Council on how to present the measure to Anchorage voters. He told people it was “about the church’s view on male and female bathrooms.” Thigpen says he was never instructed to lie to residentsand doesn’t believe he didbut there wasn’t a rulebook for how to present the issue honestly.
Thigpen, a seasoned canvasser who has worked on campaigns in many states, says that canvassers often present what the issue means to them. That may not reflect the reality of the proposal, especially if they are given little direction.
“They’re not going to talk about the effects of what the petition does,” he explains to INTO over the phone.
Thigpen says that it’s common for the people who put forward ballot measures not to tell their petitioners “what the issues are about.” He is currently in the process of stepping down from an initiative in California over concerns that canvassers aren’t being fully informed about the bill’s intent.
When asked if he felt it was “possible” that voters were misled in Alaska, Thigpen nods.
“I don’t know the other canvassers who were working on that project,” he claims. “But theoretically, it’s very possible for that to have happened.”
But when it comes to Prop. 1, Thigpen claims he didn’t leave the campaign because he felt he was being lied to. He says he was confronted with the impact the measure would have on Alaska’s LGBTQ community when a transgender woman approached him outside an Anchorage grocery store.
In a recording obtained by INTO, the woman (who asked not to have her name included in this story) details Prop. 1’s actual impact.
“What this is doing is it makes the city say, ‘Hey, if you’re a trans man, you have to go in the women’s room,” she says. “That’s what they’re saying. If you have a beard but you were born a woman, you have to go in the women’s room. So we’re going to have all these guys go in the ladies room.”
“They’re not guys,” Thigpen responds.
“They have beards,” she shoots back. “You understand that? There’s going to be guys with beards going into the women’s rooms. This is going to make them do that. You understand that?”
“I understand what you’re saying,” he claims.
“That’s what you’re trying to do,” she asserts. “It says that you have to have the sex that’s on your birth certificate originally. So someone could have a penis and a beard and be forced to go into the women’s room.”
“Oh,” he says, adding after a pause. “When you put it that way.”
As someone who was born in Alabama during the 1970s, Thigpen claims their conversation struck a chord with him. Growing up in the shadow of Brown v. Board of Education, he says he’s very familiar with discrimination and inequality.
He says Prop. 1 would send Alaska “back to the dark ages of the south.”
“Every time I’m doing a petition anywhere around the country I always think about that one person who gave me a rundown of what their life was like,” Thigpen claims. “I don’t want anybody to go through that.”
It’s doubtful that if the numerous allegations against the Prop. 1 campaign are true, what groups like “Yes on 1” and the Alaska Family Council have done is explicitly illegal. In a state known for its libertarian, anti-government ethos, Anchorage doesn’t appear to have very stringent laws on ballot referendums or what proponents of a measure are required to tell voters when gathering signatures.
After telephoning a number of different agencies looking for clarity on what those guidelines entail, it was difficult to ascertain a clear answer.
“Any description of the true intent of this discriminatory initiativeto prevent transgender individuals from using public facilities that correspond with their gender identityis entirely absent from the ballot statement,” said Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the ACLU of Montana, in a statement.
In September, the Supreme Court of Montana ruled in favor of that challenge.
Kasey Suffredini, co-chair of Freedom for All Massachusetts, the campaign against the Massachusetts measure, says anti-trans activists are purposeful in preying on the American public’s lack of familiarity with transgender people.
“[Opponents] are in a race against time to capitalize on the fact that Americans don’t yet know who transgender people are in order to enshrine discrimination against us before people realize that we are their friends and their family members and neighbors,” Suffredini says.
According to 2016 findings from the Pew Research Center, 87 percent of Americans know a gay person, and only 30 percent know someone who is trans.
When INTO asked Nate why he feels groups pushing anti-trans legislation might misrepresent their position, he says they might not pass otherwise.
“It’s fielded in a way to gain voter support through ignorance,” he claims. Nate adds that while the public has the right to be properly educated on the issues, he doesn’t believe that would be “an objective for someone who would want to make a law like this.”
“If they told people why they were actually doing this, people would understand that it’s flat-out discrimination,” she says. “These people want transgender people erased from their communities.”
Note: “Nate” is referred to by his first name throughout the piece due to privacy concerns.
Progressive candidate Carlos Alvarado Quesada won the country’s volatile presidential election in a surprisingly decisive vote. Alvarado Quesada, a former labor minister and successful novelist, defeated declared frontrunner Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz (who shares a surname with the president-elect) with 61 percent of ballots cast. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the conservative candidate finished with just 39 percent.
Polling prior to Monday’s vote showed Alvarado Muñoz, an evangelical preacher and singer, would prevail in the race. The Christian fundamentalist experienced a surge in support following the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ January ruling paving the way for same-sex marriage in more than 20 countries.
Prior to the IACHR decision, Alvarado Muñoz hovered at around three percent. But he shocked the nation by taking the first round in the election after claiming he would reject the ruling and remove Costa Rica from the court’s jurisdiction.
The right-winger also vowed to oppose women’s reproductive rights and what he termed as the teaching of “gender ideology” in schools.
In his victory speech, the leftist candidate claimed the vote was a referendum on the issues which had divided Costa Rica in recent weeks. Alvarado Quesada said the election “has put a mirror up to us as a country” and that his upset win “delivered a beautiful democratic message.”
“My duty will be to unite this republic,” he pledged, ”and build a better country for everyone.”
But the soon-to-be president, who will take office in May, has his work cut out for him. Polls conducted prior to voting showed that 70 percent of voters oppose same-sex marriage at a time in which hate crimes against the LGBTQ community have skyrocketed. In March, INTOreported that at least 30 queer and trans people claimed to have experienced bias or harassment since the conservative’s first-round win.
That number is likely to have increased in the weeks since.
In addition, Alvarado Quesada will be tasked with ruling over a legislature in which his opponent’s party claims more seats. The Citizen Action Party boasts just 10 of the 57 seats in the Legislative Assembly, while Alvarado Muñoz’s National Restoration Party has 14.
Fabricio Alvarado conceded victory following the significant defeat. The conservative sounded a hopeful note, however, saying his campaign fought for “principles and values” and “touched the country’s deepest nerves.”
“We are not sad,” he claimed, “because we made history.”
The 43-year-old president-elect, who ran on a campaign slogan of “I Choose the Future,” stands to be the youngest Commander-in-Chief in Costa Rica’s history. His running mate, Epsy Campbell, will also the country’s first Afro-Latina vice presidentas well as the first black female vice president in Latin America’s history.
Thirty years ago yesterday, Tracy Chapman released “Fast Car.” The song starts out with a now-recognizable acoustic strum before leading into Chapman’s signature alto storytelling.
You got a fast car I want a ticket to anywhere Maybe we make a deal Maybe together we can get somewhere Anyplace is better Starting from zero got nothing to lose Maybe we’ll make something Me, myself I got nothing to prove
The song was the lead single from her eponymous debut album, but it wasn’t until June that it became a radio hit after Chapman performed it live during Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium in London. The then-24-year-old famously performed twice that night, after Stevie Wonder walked out, giving the young artist some much needed visibility. Her album sold 1,750,000 more copies in two weeks. “Fast Car” reached #6 on the Billboard charts and received two Grammy nods (Record of the Year and Song of the Year).
“Fast Car” was praised for its working class theme; its folk-pop POV from a Black woman artist who defied tired genre tropes; its timeless transcendence. Somehow it also became a lesbian anthem; one of those campfire singalongs that begs for a join-in on the chorus and a natural choice for a road trip playlist.
You got a fast car I got a plan to get us out of here I been working at the convenience store Managed to save just a little bit of money Won’t have to drive too far Just ‘cross the border and into the city You and I can both get jobs And finally see what it means to be living
Tracy Chapman has never went on record about being a lesbian, or bi, or queer, but her lovers have outed her (Alice Walker, among the most well-known), as have well-meaning LGBTQ organizations who celebrate her under the assumption she’s both out and proud. But Chapman’s stories are relegated to her songwriting; she rarely speaks to the press and when she does, she’s noticeably reticent to speak about anything personal.
So how did “Fast Car” become such a huge facet of lesbian culture?
For one, it was the theme. The way Chapman sings about a genderless couple leaving town to find a home in a city nearby is something all queer people can relate to. We’ve always felt the need to relocate if we wanted to find other gay people―San Francisco, New York, Chicago. The nearest metropolis was deemed safer somehow, or at least provided more options for solidarity and community than, perhaps, Cleveland, Ohio where Chapman was raised.
Yet that feeling of wanting to leave an undesirable situation isn’t necessarily lesbian-specific.
“I had so many people come up to me and say that they felt it was their song,” Chapman told the BBC in 2010, “and someone told me at one point that they thought I’ve been reading their mail, they were saying ‘You seem to know my story,’ and people would come up and tell me about a car relationship and some detail that they felt was in the song that represented something that happened in their lives.”
Chapman said she was inspired in part by coming from a blue collar background: “Raised by single mom, I was just watching people, being in a community of people who were struggling. So everyone was really just 1. Working hard 2. hoping that things would get better.”
But “Fast Car” wasn’t autobiographical.
“I never had a ‘fast car,'” she said. “It’s just a story about a couple, how they are trying to make a life together and they face challenges.”
Still, to so many lesbians in the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s, “Fast Car” was full of Sapphic symbolism. Perhaps it was the lack of pronouns used for her lover coupled with her genderqueer swag, the way she accepted her Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance Female wearing a black leather jacket, an androgynous swagger, and a smile.
Is Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car about two lesbians who loved to the city? Or just one lesbian and her like, good guy friend?
Chapman was also a product of her time, coming into popularity at the same time as The Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, and Michelle Shocked. (It’s worth noting that lang wouldn’t come out until 1992, Etheridge in 1993, and Shocked would eventually reneg on her homosexuality altogether.) Chapman played Lilith Fair, preferred pants, and presented as an androgynous and soulful human with songs about real shit.
And because we read her as queer, lesbians felt a kind of ownership over “Fast Car,” a song that is well-loved by people of many identities and has been coveredbyseveralartists since. Most lists of “Best Lesbian Songs” include “Fast Car” (Time Out even put it at number one) just like they include Etheridge’s thinly veiled early hits that were clearly about other women but also neglected to make it explicit.
But back in 1988, queerness was still shrouded in subtext, and so even if Chapman didn’t intend for “Fast Car” to be the story of two young women hitting the road and trying to find a better existence somewhere outside of the place they met, it was adopted as a hopeful anthem for the oftentimes hopeless; for the lovers who feel like getting out of small town America is their only shot. And that mainly had to do not just with the imagery, but Chapman’s masc-of-center vibe and vocals, a delivery that was was and always has been different from most pop or soul artists. Chapman was more Gladys Bentley than Chaka Khan; more Bessie Smith than Kate Bush. She’s an icon to many communities who feel ownership over her music, which is how Chapman has always wanted it.
“Fast Car” is unofficially official in the way that so much of lesbian culture has been; unvalidated until some fateful day when just maybe someone like Tracy Chapman will say “This one was at least a little bit for you.”
But even if that day doesn’t come, we can still adopt it for our very own. We already have.
So remember when we were driving Driving in your car Speed so fast felt like I was drunk City lights lay out before us And your arms felt nice wrapped around my shoulders and I-I had a feeling that I belonged And I-I had a feeling I could be someone (be someone)
I feel I should have seen it coming. Since early childhood, my child loved playing in dirt and climbing trees. As she got a bit older, there were scores of Transformers, dinosaur toys, and Legos strewn across our living room. She hated wearing the dresses I’d occasionally trot out of the wardrobe. Ponytails and hair clips? Forget it. My daughter wanted short hair, no fuss.
In her persistence to play hardand stubbornly eschew dolls and tea partiesI saw a strong young woman in the making. My husband and I were happy to see our little one developing her own interests.
But at the age of 10, she changed. Seemingly overnight, my bright and vivacious child turned inwarddark and morose. She was angry, often hiding in her room; she wore hooded sweatshirts to cover her head, and hair hung limply over her eyes. As her behaviors became more alarming, I could feel my daughter wanted to disappearand I had no idea why. No counseling, parenting classes, playgroups, or mommy-and-me get-togethers had prepared me for what was about to happen.
One day I saw an email from school addressing my child as “Michael.”
“What does this mean?” I asked my daughter, my heart pounding. I remember the feeling of time standing still. When she spoke these words, I felt as though the world had simply stopped. Willing myself to remain outwardly calm, I asked my child why she felt this way. Everything in me wanted to reject what I heard: that for years she’d felt male because she is a boy.
That began our family’s transformation. No longer did our family of four include a boy and a girlwe had two boys. Old photos were taken down and put away. We slowly told members of our extended family. Each day brought different challenges as we grew to learn and accept our son’s identity.
The town we live in, Anchorage, Alaska, has experienced a similar journey. Two years ago the Anchorage Assembly extended protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and access to public facilities to people regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. After the defeat by public vote of an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law in 2012, this moment represented major progress. Just two assembly members of the 11-person board voted against the proposal.
Tomorrow that landmark decision could be undone. On Tuesday, April 3, mail-in ballots are due on Proposition 1, a ballot measure that would force trans people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender listed on their original birth certificate. Prop. 1 redefines one’s sex to be an immutable biological condition defined at one’s birth. Because the law is unenforceable by local law enforcement agencies, it enables vigilante citizens to uphold the law if they think a trans person is in the wrong bathroom. They could threaten them, force them out of the bathroom, or worse.
Anyone could harass my sonor me for that matterif this proposition passes, and that is truly frightening. It’s nearly incomprehensible that my hometown is prepared to accept or reject my son’s basic human rights. I grew up here and chose to raise my family here.
Hundreds of Anchorage citizens, businesses, community leaders, and faith groups have formally opposed Prop. 1. My family and I have been thrust into a public eye as we share our story. I have been on panels, at fundraisers, and have canvassed city streets. I’ve spoken at the Women’s Republican Clubwhere I stood face-to-face with Jim Minnery, the man who started the proposition that will directly affect my son. I’ve written letters, and have done my best to encourage, strengthen, and support my transgender community members and their allies. I hope it is enough.
I believe that most people want to do what’s right. If people can learn to understand the stories of transgender residents who will be impacted by this law, they will agree that non-discrimination protections are vital to the health of our city and state.
For my people like my son, it could be a life or death situation.
My son, who eight years earlier was dangerously depressed and unhappy, is today someone who demonstrates self-confidence, compassion, and ambition. Now a senior in high school, he is well-adjusted, poised to graduate with honors, and ready to attend college this fall. He’s a recipient of a merit-based scholarship and scored in the top percentiles on his ACT exams. He’s recognized in his school for being a leader and community builder.
I am in awe of the young man we see before us and know his success would be impossible without a community and a city which supports his right to be who he is, without gendered limitations and expectations.
When Anchorage debated its nondiscrimination ordinance in 2015, the session ran well into the night. The crowd overflowed in the theatre next door, where the proceedings were projected onto a movie screen. People against the ordinance wore red to show their opposition to LGBTQ rights, and even young children were in red, dressed by their parents for the occasion. When anyone testified in favor of the ordinance, the audience booed and hissed. Some shouted hurtful slurs.
I testified before the assembly with only three or four minutes to share my story. It seemed barely enough time to state my name, and I felt as though I was drowning in a sea of scarlet hate.
We had a part in making history, but it was sobering to witness how much hatred surrounded us.
My sonthen just 15had to sit with the overflow audience. Later I found a draft of a school paper my son wrote about that night. “Tonight was the first night I can remember being afraid for my life, just for being who I am,” he wrote. “I was afraid to go to the bathroom because I was worried someone might follow me in and hurt me.”
But it was the first time my son realized how easily his life could be made vulnerable to that discrimination.
This issue, as much as conservatives say it is about “safety and privacy,” is about my son’s right to health and safetyas well as his right to claim his place in the world. It is about his right to continue thriving, even when so many people want to take that away from him. I hope with everything in me that we defeat Proposition 1, ensuring that my child and others will be safeguarded and nurtured in the community they call home. But even if Prop. 1 passes, I know that we are on the right path and the right side of historyjust with more work ahead of us.
We will continue to advocate, educate, and stand up for the rights of transgender Alaskans. Our family’s future depends on it.
This is precisely a question wrestling fans have found themselves grappling with as New Japan Pro Wrestling’s explosively popular tag team, The Golden Lovers, has become an unlikely breakout. Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi, the flirtatious duo who comprise the team, must now wrestle with with the responsibility of queer identity.
The Golden Lovers formed in 2008 while both Omega and Ibushi competed in Japan’s more comedic league, Dramatic Dream Team Pro-Wrestling (DDT). With striking good looks and increasingly frisky homo-social contact, the two played with queerness by smooching in the ring to taunt opponents–in between gorgeously synchronized aerial attacks. While the couple never confirmed nor denied a romantic connection, the overt queerness of the pairing became blatantly obvious as Kenny and Kota moved on to New Japan Pro Wrestling, the country’s most prominent federation.
Gaining fame for their solo endeavors, the Lovers broke up in 2014–only to be reunited in January of this year after Omega was ousted as the leader of the nefarious Bullet Club (with Kota romantically rescuing Kenny from a mutiny by his underlings).
The delineation between a wrestler’s real life and their alter-ego is a blurry one, with some fabricating entirely new personalities for the ring and others staying truer to themselves during fights. Since the wrestling business writ large has traditionally kept the industry’s secrets under wraps, it’s sometimes hard to tell who is doing exactly what.
This bizarre dynamic plays into the controversy surrounding The Golden Lovers:Kenny Omega has come out as bisexual, and while Kota Ibushi has not discussed his IRL sexuality in public,fans continue to debate his proclivities. Is Kenny (the real person) or Kenny (the fictional character) queer?
“Let people think what they want to think,” Omega recently told Yahoo Sports. “If LGBT people can identify with our story, if they think ‘the Golden Lovers are my team,’ I’m good with that. It’s the story of two wrestlers who shared dreams on their way up, who became fast friends, who are now reuniting at the top of their game.”
“I think it’s important to show in the 21st century that if you’re gay, lesbian, trans, whatever, that you should feel just as welcome to be a wrestling fan as anyone else. You’re welcome in the space,” Omega said. “I do get some stupid messages on Twitter from homophobic people and they’re usually WWE fans, which kind of drives things home. In WWE, a gay person is usually portrayed like some sort of comedy act to be mocked and laughed at. The world’s not like that anymore. Everyone should feel welcome to the show.”
In Hollywood, actors and actresses who receive overwhelming accolades for “playing gay” have become the subjects of criticism–is the Golden Lovers situation that much different?
On the one hand, Omega and Ibushi are clearly coming to the issue with good faith and respect, and both stars deserve a modicum of privacy when it comes to their personal lives. On the other hand, it seems suspicious (at best) or exploitative (at worst) to pile heaps of praise and adoration (as fans have been doing) to people who profit off queer identity while actual out queer people continue to struggle to break through in the same industry.
The extent to which Kenny and Kota use ambivalent statements about their sexualities to deflect criticism remains a larger question about the ethics of the gimmick. It’s certainly unclear if they’d lose fans by taking a stance one way or the other on the matter.
The perception and popularity of The Golden Lovers as a specifically Japanese phenomenon is also curious, adding another layer of complexity to the situation is Japan’s idiosyncratic relationship to homosexuality. Homosexual activity is legal in Japan, however gay marriage is not. Laws on domestic partnerships vary from province to province. Legal protections from discrimination do not exist for queer people, either.
And yet despite the prominence of LGBTQ characters in many forms of Japanese popular media, considerable social stigma still exists for queer Japanese people, especially outside of major metropolitan areas like Tokyo. That is to say: the exuberance with which Japanese audiences have accepted The Golden Lovers does not necessarily reflect a certain kind of cultural tolerance which does not exist in America.
And yet, The Golden Lovers story line continues to grow. With American wrestler Cody Rhodes (ironically, the little brother of a legendary wrestler who notoriously dressed in drag to stir the audience’s ire) becoming increasingly involved in a bizarre love triangle with both Kenny and Kota, the are-they-or-aren’t-they sub-plot of NJPW grows ever more complex.
It would be too easy to take a hard line stance on The Golden Lovers situation by either dismissing them as cynically profiteering off diversity politics or unequivocally celebrating them as bastions of queer progress. Instead, it makes more sense to consider the questions this conundrum raises: Should we give well-meaning allies or semi-closeted queers a pass when it comes to representing LGBTQ people in sectors where acceptance does not come so easily? Do performers who play queer characters have some kind of social responsibility to be honest about their private sexualities? Is playful ambiguity acceptable when it comes to queer storylines, especially in a socio-political climate growing more hostile to openly gay people?
In this week’s Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer, a reader writes in with some suspicions that will have your hairs standing up on the back of your neck.
He’s in love with a boy and wants to move in with him. But lately things have been feeling weird…and he’s showing signs that Papi believes are not so good for our dear reader.
He sees the flags BUT love has his heart strings and he’s all confused. You know who is not? Papi.
If you want his advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start out your letter with Hola Papi!
I’m in a tight spot right now with my boyfriend. We’ve been dating for about nine months, and it’s been going great. We’re both in college and we’re even thinking about moving in together next fall. I’m really falling for him, and I’ve never been so excited for something.
There’s something going on though. There have been a couple of odd things happening over the last month or so, and I’m not sure if I should be worried, concerned, or upset. He takes two or three phone calls per day, and never in front of me. The other night I walked into his bathroom and he was taking nudes in the mirror (he was super embarrassed and tried to hide it when I walked in!).
About a week ago, I cooked dinner for us because he had a big presentation in one of his classes and when he got home, he got mad at me for cooking, telling me that he was tired after a long day – he ended up yelling at me and leaving to go back to his apartment for the night. He gets mad a lot more than usual. Little things like not responding to a text leave him not talking to me for the rest of the day.
This is so unlike him. I’ve never seen this side of him before. We started out without any problems and now I feel like he’s trying to derail us. I’m worried that he’s up to something bad, but whenever I try to talk to him about anything, he finds a way out of it.
I know that this is a bad cliché, but this is one of my longest relationships, and I really think I love him. I just don’t know what to do to get to him.
What should I do?
Sincerely, Worried Lover
Just in case you don’t read the rest of this letter, I’ll start here: Don’t move in with him. That’s a recipe for disaster at this point.
The worst situation is you end up living with someone who gets mad at you when you cook for him (what?) or you don’t text back fast enough. Living with someone is a huge commitment and will provide plenty of stressors that it doesn’t sound like he’s capable of handling: Who bought the toilet paper last time? Whose dirty dishes are these? Why didn’t you tell me you were having guests over?
Girl! It’s just not realistic.
Now, since he’s not communicating what’s going on with him and thus has left us in the dark, I can only speculate on what’s happening here, so bear in mind that the following is just an educated guess.
He’s engaging in self-destructive behavior in his relationship because he doesn’t know what he wants and he’s hoping to push you into deciding. It sounds like he wants space from you, and perhaps the prospect of moving in together is making him feel smothered, but at the same time wants you to answer him promptly when he texts you.
The nudes thing, hmm, I can see why it would arouse your suspicion, especially paired with the private phone calls, but we can’t assume. Again, we lack sufficient data because he is unwilling to provide it. That’s an even worse sign, and you need to let him know that one of your needs in this relationship is honesty about what’s bothering him when it starts to affect you and your dynamic.
If he can’t do that, then you don’t need to be with him at all, and you should feel free to make that clear when you have “the talk” with him. It’s an altogether healthy and necessary boundary to have, unless you just love how he yells at you out of nowhere sometimes because you made him food and then he leaves you guessing as to why.
I don’t think you should move in with him either way, but if he is able to open up and tell you what’s really bugging him, then it could be something you could work through togetherlike his fear of commitment, or his need for space, or his struggles with vulnerability.
Or maybe he’s going through something really personal and tough right now! It’d be great if you could be there for him through that. But he has to let you.
This smells like emotional immaturity that takes time to grow out of and you don’t need to be sharing house keys with that in your college years.
Ruby Rose has confirmed that she and her now ex-girlfriend, Jess Origliasso, have broken up.
The Australian actress confirmed the split on April 1st, which had many speculating that the announcement was an April Fools Day prank. But, Rose took to social media to shut down those rumors.
“I understand it’s ‘April 1st’ but I would never use something so personal as an April fools joke,” she tweeted. In her official statement Sunday, the 32-year old Orange is the New Black alum wrote, “I’ve shared the past two years learning and sharing my life with an amazing human being. An experience for which I am very blessed.” She continued, “Breakups are always incredibly hard on the people involved but I can only be grateful for the experiences we shared. It’s with a heavy heart to share that Jess and I parted ways a few months ago. We still love each other very much and I will always support her and be her biggest advocate.”
The duo started dating again in 2016, after first romancing in 2008. Origliasso is one-half of the Australian pop rock twin duo The Veronicas. Ruby Rose both directed and appeared in The Veronicas’ “On Your Side” music video, which depicted her and Jess in a drug-addled love affair.
Rose has also been publicly linked to fashion designer Phoebe Dahl. The pair were engaged in 2014 but split the following year.