Senators Introduce Resolution Recognizing LGBTQ Pride Month Because Trump Won’t

For the second year in a row, Senators have introduced a resolution recognizing Pride month amid continued silence from the Oval Office.

Forty-eight Senators—46 Democrats and two independents—signed on to a resolution commemorating June’s significance in the struggle for queer and trans equality. In a six-page document, lawmakers claim celebrating the annual LGBTQ observance is an “opportunity for all people in the United States to learn about the discrimination and inequality that the LGBTQ community endured and continues to endure.”

Given the White House’s refusal to put out a statement honoring Pride month as it rolls back LGBTQ rights, that statement could be read as more than a bit pointed.

In June 2017, President Donald Trump broke with tradition by failing to issue an official memorandum recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month for the first time in eight years. Bill Clinton was the first president to formally commemorate the month in 1999, but George W. Bush declined to do so during his two terms. Barack Obama re-established the custom after taking office in 2009.

Although Trump did not put out a Pride memorandum for the second year in a row, he did find time in June 2018 to recognize African-American Music Appreciation Month, Great Outdoors Month, National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, National Homeownership Month, and Ocean Month.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, who helped co-sponsor the resolution, stressed in a statement the importance of affirming the U.S. government’s commitment to furthering equality, even as the White House ignores LGBTQ issues.

“America is right to be proud of the progress we have made to pass on to the next generation a country that is more equal, not less,” said Baldwin, who is the first and only openly LGBTQ member of the U.S. Senate. “Every June, communities across America celebrate Pride Month and this resolution recognizes the march towards full equality in our country.”

“We have more work to do and I believe America is ready to take the next steps forward,” she continued.

Sherrod Brown, another cosponsor of the Pride Month resolution, affirmed in a press release that Senators “must always stand with our LGBTQ friends and neighbors—not just during the month of June, but year-round.”

Other Senators who signed onto cosponsor the resolution included Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey, Dianne Feinstein of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Doug Jones of Alabama, Chuck Schumer of New York, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Both Independents in the Senate—Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine—joined them.

The only Democrat who broke with his liberal colleagues by refusing to sponsor the LGBTQ Pride Month resolution was Joseph Manchin III of West Virginia. His office was not available for comment as to the reasons for his absence from the declaration.

Senators issued the resolution concurrently with a related letter from Democrats in the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Organized by Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown, liberal lawmakers demanded to know why the Pentagon is “backing away from supporting and celebrating” LGBTQ service members by refusing to issue its own memo recognizing Pride month.

Meanwhile, top leadership in the Department of Defense largely opted to skip the Pentagon’s annual Pride event this year.

“The absence of demonstrative support from DOD leadership at events like these can have the effect of isolating our LGBT service members and employees,” eight Democrats claimed in the letter sent to Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday.

Although Trump did not recognize Pride month, his daughter, Ivanka, tweeted in support of the LGBTQ community last June. She declined to do so this year.

Image via Getty

Montana Anti-Trans Ballot Measure Declared Dead

Anti-trans activists have failed to garner the signatures to bring an extreme bathroom referendum to the ballot, stunning many advocates who widely expected to see it come to a vote.

The Free & Fair Coalition, a group of organizations working to defeat the measure, has declared victory after the Montana Family Foundation fell dramatically short of the 25,468 signatures it needed to qualify.

Advocates estimate that measure fell below 10,000 signatures. On Friday, the Montana Secretary of State’s Office reported that they had tallied just 8,079 to a local reporter.

“Today we are celebrating,” said Shawn Reagor, Free & Fair Coalition Vice-Chair, in a statement.  “Our commitment to trans and non-binary Montanans is unwavering and we will continue showing up to defend against attacks on the dignity and privacy of our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.”

The measure, I-183, would have mandated sex-segregated bathrooms regardless of a trans person’s updated legal documents. It also granted people the right to sue the government if they encountered someone of the “opposite sex” in a bathroom.

The initiative had national significance. It would have been the first time that any state had voted on a bathroom measure and only the second time a state voted on trans rights, after Massachusetts considers repealing trans public accommodations protections this fall. A similar initiative failed at the ballot in Anchorage, AK earlier this year.

Advocates were so certain it would land on the ballot that they launched the Free & Fair Coalition in April 2018.

“Like other laws and ballot measures that have been proposed in various states and localities, I-183 is meant to capitalize on the fears and uncertainties of voters and punish Montana’s transgender and non-binary community,” said S.K. Rossi, FreeFair Coalition spokesperson, in a statement at the time.

Anti-trans activists pushed to get I-183 on the ballot by signature after they failed to do so via the legislature last spring. In that instance, the Montana Locker Room and Privacy Act didn’t even clear committee.

In recent days, the fate of I-183 appeared uncertain, however. A month ago, the Secretary of State’s Office told INTO that just a couple dozen had been turned in on the measure. The deadline for signature gathering came and went without an update from the Secretary of State’s Office. For more than a week, the office refused to release any information to INTO despite more than a dozen inquiries.

But coalition members were cautiously optimistic as reports from individual counties suggested that measure had failed.

“We are thrilled, although not surprised, to learn this harmful measure failed to qualify for the November ballot,” said Marina Connor, Free & Fair Coalition chairperson. “The work we have been engaged in for the last several months to organize our community and educate Montanans about this measure being inconsistent with our shared values has won the day,”

With Anchorage and Montana’s anti-trans measure’s defeated, all eyes turn to Massachusetts where organizers are feverishly working against the first statewide referendum on transgender rights. Despite the liberal bent of the Commonwealth, experts say the Massachusetts Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto Referendum has a 50 percent chance of success.

“I have been working in the movement for two decades as of this year,” said Kasey Suffredini, co-chair of Freedom for All Massachusetts, the campaign against the Massachusetts measure. “There has been no other fight that I have been part of that has felt so urgent because of the consequences of what’s to come based on what we’ve seen before.”

Why I Don’t Call Myself a Lesbian

I didn’t imagine midway through 2018, the year of Trans Lesbian Jesus, our Lord and savior, we would still be arguing about and policing the sexualities of other people. I sincerely had faith that the LGBTQIA+ community could come together and make realistic and progressive strides toward acknowledging and including its most vulnerable members. I don’t want to say I was naive and idealistic, but I absolutely should have prepared myself for the resurgence of the Discourse™.

Virulent and exclusionary talking points have been around in the community for ages. With things like racism, misogyn(y/noir), transphobia, transmisogn(y/noir), and other forms of oppression alive and well it’s hard to believe this is a community that stands for acceptance of any kind. I’ve witnessed, and experienced, so much lateral oppression from misguided queers for so long that I refused to identify as a part of the community. Until recently, I had never attended a formal pride celebration. It’s also why I refrain from calling myself a lesbian in most spaces, and even in my private life with the people I trust the most. Partly an intense case of Imposter Syndrome, but also partially — and equally — genuine fatigue borne from interacting and arguing with virulent cis lesbians.

All across major social media platforms, lesbian and ace discourse has risen from the ashes like the phoenix of legend. Breath searing hotter than a neutron star and an aura so powerful and unwelcoming that even gods falter. Despicably cruel people traumatizing questioning youth desperate for a community, and further marginalizing people who have searched their entire lives for a space to belong and feel safe in.

For the uninitiated and for those on the fence, the Discourse™ is, quite simply, utter exclusionary nonsense and should not have a place in any self-respecting queer person’s thoughts. Ace/aro people ARE queer, have a place in the community now and always have, and lack of sex and/or desire does not make someone less of a homosexual. Furthermore, trans women ARE women, lesbians who are attracted to/dating trans women are no less lesbians, and sexual lesbians are no more valid than asexual lesbians. These are truths that should not have to be reiterated daily, and yet no matter where I turn there’s more vitriol to wipe off my face.

For a community that “hates” having its identity policed, it is more than willing to be the queer police. Unsurprising, with the pushback of the Cis White Gayze™ and its insatiable desire to allow cops, in uniform and capacity, at Pride. As a nonbinary black trans lesbian — at least that’s what I would call myself if I were allowed to — I have felt completely alienated from and discarded by the community. I don’t feel welcome at Pride. How could I possibly?

Between exclusionists who think my partners, metamours, and friends are “special snowflakes” wanting a piece of that delicious oppression cake (it’s shit flavored, if you were wondering), and TERFs who want to make sure I know my place, when and where am I supposed to feel safe in this community? I don’t call myself a lesbian because I’m not allowed to. I don’t call myself a lesbian because a thousand and one people will and have attacked me. I don’t call myself a lesbian because the people who were supposed to keep me safe fed me to the wolves became the wolves.

If Pride is a celebration, then I ask what are we celebrating? If Pride month is for “our visibility” then who are “we” and why are we so unwelcome? If “love is love is love” and “coexist” are on every corner at Pride, then why do they feel like platitudes paying lip service to a broken ideal? Why is oppression running rampant in “a safe space”? Because it’s a lie. Corporations and cops roam the hallowed streets without consequence, but black queers are accosted and made to feel unwelcome.

It’s an oft-repeated adage that a system cannot be broken if it’s working as intended. The LGBTQIA+ community is a system and a weapon molded in the forge of treachery. Like everything that’s precious to vulnerable minorities, it was forcibly ripped from our hands and brandished on a flag that looms and taunts us.

We’re told to leave queer spaces for daring to attack the status quo that white supremacy has allowed to exist. Social media is alight with pictures of black queer protestors being led out of Pride by cops while white queers cheer on happily; numerous tweets and Facebook posts from black queers circulate, disavowing any desire to continue to participate in any future Pride celebrations.

TERFs dominate feminist message boards with their calls to action against a demographic with dwindling rights, while every day we hope to see the sunset without hearing about the loss of another sister. Our community is each other, the brigades of queer and trans black and non-black people of color alienated by swishing rainbows with no black stripes.

Cis white gays, and yes even some lesbians, wield their privileges like swords instead of shields and aim them inward at those of us with the least protection. Rigid stagnation and social capital have become the cornerstone of a community that was supposed to protect us. Your actual oppressors couldn’t kill you because we had your backs, and I sincerely hope you figure out which side you want to fight for.

You can kick us from the stages and ballrooms that we pioneered. You can take our language and miss the break harder than a misplaced comma. You can malign black bodies and the future we all fought and died for. You can #DropTheT from your Rainbow Capitalism endorsed #LGB posts all you want, because we’ll still be here surviving without you. We were before, we are now, and we absolutely will continue to be.

Montana Election Officials Stonewalling on Fate of Anti-Trans Ballot Measure

The fate of an estimated 2,700 transgender people hangs in the balance, but the Montana Secretary of State’s Office won’t say whether or not an anti-trans bathroom referendum has made it onto the ballot.

 

It’s now been a week since the Montana Family Foundation hit their deadline to turn in signatures on I-183, a measure that mandates sex segregated bathrooms regardless of a trans person’s updated legal documents.

 

But with the nation watching Montana, the Montana Secretary of State’s Office has stonewalled multiple press inquiries about whether or not the measure has gained the needed 25,468 to clear the ballot, not even responding to say whether or not they are in the process of certifying signatures.

 

The measure would mark the first time any state has voted on transgender bathroom rights and only the second time a state has faced a referendum on transgender rights after Massachusetts votes on whether or not to repeal public accommodations protections for trans people in November.

 

The Secretary of State’s Office did not respond to more than an a dozen inquiries on the fate of the measure over the course of five days.

 

At the end of last month, Montana Secretary of State Elections Specialist Alan Miller told INTO that only a couple dozen signatures had been turned in for I-183. It is not known if signature gatherers turned in petitions en masse since that time.

 

Free & Fair Montana, the coalition fighting the measure, told its Facebook followers last week that “our research indicates at this time that Montanans have not signed the Family Foundation request to get this initiative on the ballot,” but added that more would come.

Staffers in Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s Office had initially said that signatures could take up to a week to verify. In some cases, the office can take several weeks to process signatures, say advocates.

But on Friday, the office had not even responded to multiple calls and emails on whether or not additional ballots had been turned in or what the process for counting signatures would look like.

Shawn Reagor, vice-chair of Free & Fair Montana, said his initial calls last Friday showed positive signs for the campaign, but the following Monday, Free & Fair Montana “got completely stonewalled.”

 

“It’s really unfortunate when when when we’re talking about an initiative like this that affects so many Montanans,” said Reagor.  “It’s really important that we know that information as soon as possible to help relieve some of the anxiety that community members are facing.”

 

The push for a bathroom referendum comes after anti-trans activists failed to push the measure onto the ballot through the state legislature last spring where it failed in committee.

 

However, I-183 was widely expected to clear the threshold of signatures to make it to the ballot. LGBTQ advocates were so certain of its threat that they launched the Free & Fair Montana Coalition in April.

 

Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Laszloffy did not respond to an inquiry over early reports that his organization failed to garner the signatures needed to put I-183 on the ballot. However, the group has largely been mum about the measure on its social media accounts. The organization reminded petitioners to turn in their signatures, but there is no photo celebrating conclusion of petition gathering or any word on whether it hit the mark on signatures.

It’s not the first time that Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has had trouble with the media. Last year, he drew ire because he alleged voter fraud in the state during a special congressional election, a claim which he later attributed to being misquoted in the press. In January, his office sent an email to 130,000 people claiming there “is one huge problem with mainstream media in America.” The flap caused The Missoulian to brand him “Montana’s Mini-Trump.”

Massachusetts Advances Two Historic LGBTQ Rights Bills Within 24 Hours

Massachusetts inched closer this week to passing two historic LGBTQ rights bills.

 

One piece of legislation, known as H. 4664, would ban anti-gay conversion therapy from being performed on minors, while the other would allow trans people to list a gender-neutral marker on identification. Both proposals passed with overwhelming majorities within 24 hours of each other and await further debate in the Massachusetts Legislature before becoming law.

 

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts House approved H. 4664 in a decisive 137-14 vote that largely fell along party lines. Just one Democrat, Rep. James Dwyer of Woburn, voted against the bill.

 

The legislation forbids licensed medical practitioners from providing any treatment to LGBTQ people under the age of 18 “that attempts or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

H. 4664 does not apply to queer and trans adults or unlicensed religious counselors, like a priest, rabbi, or youth group leader.

 

Opponents of conversion therapy compared it to torture.

 

Rep. Kay Khan said orientation change efforts, which have been condemned by every leading U.S. medical association, can be “emotionally and psychologically traumatizing” for LGBTQ youth.

 

“There’s a broad consensus in the medical community that attempts to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity through conversion therapy are unnecessary, ineffective and harmful,” the Newton Democrat, who served as the bill’s sponsor, told colleagues during debate.

 

Fellow Democrat Rep. Jack Lewis called the practice “barbaric.”

 

The handful of opponents in the House, however, felt that passing the bill would curtail free speech among medical professionals, conservatives, and those opposed to LGBTQ rights. Rep. James Lyons, an Andover Republican, said it enforces “penalties for what some on the left don’t want to hear.”

 

“I think this is a dangerous road to go down,” Lyons said during debate.

 

Leading advocacy groups, though, have urged Massachusetts to become the 14th state to pass statewide legislation banning conversion therapy, following New England states like Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

 

“No child should be subjected to this abusive practice,” said Human Rights Campaign National Field Director Marty Rouse in a press release, which noted the bill’s bipartisan support in the Massachusetts House. “Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree on these critically important protections for Massachusetts’ LGBTQ youth.”

 

The bill now heads to the Massachusetts Senate, where it is likely to be embraced by the overwhelmingly blue chamber. Thirty-four of its 40 seats are held by Democrats.

 

Although Gov. Charlie Baker is a Republican, he is known as a moderate conservative with a long history of backing pro-equality legislation. In a statement, his spokesperson pledged Baker would “carefully review any legislation that reaches the [his] desk” but declined to state unequivocal support for H. 4664.

 

That legislation, however, will be just one of a pair of bills Baker is likely to weigh in on this year.

 

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate voted with near-unanimous accord to pass a law allowing for the designation of a third gender marker on all identification. Rather than just the dual options of “M” and “F,” trans and nonbinary people will have the opportunity to list an “X” on driver’s licenses and state IDs.

 

In addition, the proposal would bar officials at the DMV from asking for a doctor’s note or a court order before updating an individual’s identification to match their lived gender identity and presentation.

 

During a Thursday press conference, bill sponsor Sen. Karen Spilka said trans people deserve to live “the way they feel most comfortable.”

 

“For those who do not fit neatly into the traditional categories of ’male’ or ’female,’ a non-binary option is a simple way to ensure their ID matches their true lived gender identity,” the Democratic Senator claimed.

 

An estimated 25 to 35 percent of trans individuals identify outside the gender binary.

 

If passed, Massachusetts would become one of at least four states in the U.S. to allow transgender people to list a third option on state IDs, following California, Maine, and Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia. Although Washington State is often reported to have done the same, it has not at this time.

Minnesota United Soccer Player Collin Martin Comes Out As Gay

Everyone give a big gay welcome to Collin Martin, a midfielder for Major League Soccer team Minnesota United who has just come out of the closet. Martin came out via his personal Twitter account, stating that his team was having their pride night and that he wanted to announce his sexuality publicly.

In a screenshot of a statement in the tweet, Martin expanded his thought to say that he’s been out to his friends and family, including his teammates, for many years.

“I have received only kindness and acceptance from everyone in Major League Soccer and that has made the decision to come out publicly that much easier,” Martin wrote. “In light of my experience as a professional athlete, I want to take this moment to encourage others who play sports professionally or otherwise to have confidence that sport will welcome them wholeheartedly.”

 

According to Outsports, Martin is currently the only openly gay male player who is active in any major sports league in the United States. In addition, he is only the second openly gay player in MLS’s history. The first came out in 2013 — and did so while simultaneously announcing his retirement.

When we think about how far we’ve come with visibility, it’s good to be reminded that not every corner of our society is as progressive as we’d like and there are still stones to be turned.

Tessa Thompson Comes Out

Tessa Thompson just did something extremely brave. In a new interview with Net-A-Porter, the actress came out as queer and went into greater detail about her close relationship with singer Janelle Monae.

 

Thompson’s relationship with the “Pynk” singer has long been the subject of speculation since the duo played a couple in Monae’s Dirty Computer music videos. Speaking on their romance, Thompson said, “It’s tricky, because Janelle and I are just really private people and we’re both trying to navigate how you reconcile wanting to have that privacy and space, and also wanting to use your platform and influence.” She added, “That was something I was conscientious of in terms of this declaration around Janelle and myself,” she said.

 

The Westworld actress asked about her own social responsibility, as a public-facing queer person. “I want everyone else to have that freedom and support that I have from my loved ones,” she said, “But so many people don’t. So, do I have a responsibility to talk about that? Do I have a responsibility to say in a public space that this is my person?”

 

The answer is, it’s tricky, and it always will be until queerness is almost totally destigmatized. On one hand, it’s easy to say that celebrities have a moral and social responsibility to use their platform and influence, as Thompson described, to normalize queerness. However, as LGBTQ people are familiar with, making generalizations can be harmful—and making assumptions that all celebrities have a wholly easy, painless lifestyle that allows them to be out and safe is a myth. The truth is, we never know what’s going on in a person’s life, what their families are like, or what their journey to coming out was like, and it’s 100 percent unfair to demand a person come out, or to drag a person out of the closet—whether they’re public-facing or not.

 

But we always do this—the public has an affinity for, at best, pressuring, and at worst, forcing a celebrity to come out. Last month, singer Rita Ora was unfairly dragged out of the closet. After releasing a bi-friendly song about kissing girls, which was intended to be a wink-wink-nudge-nudge coming out moment for the singer, fans lambasted Ora for exploiting queerness, which resulted in the pop star having to make an official statement and declare her bisexuality.

 

Demi Lovato, too, faced public criticism for playing coy about her sexuality rather than overtly declaring herself as queer (even though, like Ora, she released a song about sleeping with women, “Cool For the Summer”). Eventually, Lovato came out on her own terms in her documentary Simply Complicated, following multiple public trials by reporters who argued that troubled LGBTQ youth deserved a coming out story from Lovato. That’s a lot of pressure to put on any one person, and we certainly wouldn’t ask anything like that of a non-celebrity.

 

But luckily, Thompson’s family is supportive of her queerness, which definitely allayed coming out for her. “I’m attracted to men and also to women,” she told Net-A-Porter. “If I bring a woman home, [or] a man, we don’t even have to have the discussion.” She admitted that her family’s unbridled support has made her “take things for granted,” knowing that other queer people aren’t always so fortunate.

 

You can read the full interview with Tessa Thompson here. As they say, welcome to the gayborhood—queerborhood?

Hungary’s State Opera Cancels Performances of ‘Billy Elliot’ After Op-Ed Calls it ‘Gay Propaganda’

Last week, Hungary’s State Opera house called off 15 performances of the musical Billy Elliot. It came after the publication of a June 1 op-ed in the Hungarian outlet Magyar Idok titled “Scandalous Performance At The Erkel Theater.” The outlet is allegedly closely aligned with conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s administration. In the op-ed, the musical was accused of promoting homosexuality to children.

The musical, set in the early 1980s, features a young boy from working class Britain who aspires to perform ballet instead of boxing.

In a statement on its website, the opera wrote that the decrease in shows was the result of low interest due to the negative publicity after the op-ed.

“If parents hear from one side that Billy Elliot is gay propaganda, while from the other that this is terribly homophobic, they may conclude that our production is at least problematic, while in fact it is not. Everyone is making a mountain out of a molehill,” the director of the opera house, Szilvester Okovacs said, according to the BBC.

In the op-ed, Zsofia N. Horvath, whose existence journalists have not been able to verify, writes that Billy Elliot is “gay propaganda.” Though Horvath argues that homosexuality is something to tolerate, the piece condemns the subject of boys in tutus as inappropriate for a young audience and says the show “could turn children gay.”

In line with Orban’s push for a more ethnic-Hungarian demographic, Horvath further states, “The propagation of homosexuality cannot be a national goal when the population is getting older and smaller and our country is threatened by invasion.”

“How can such an important national institution as the opera go against the objectives of the state and use a performance made for young people around 10, at their most fragile age, for such pointed and unrestrained gay propaganda?”

Ticket sales have halved since the op-ed was published, according to the Guardian.

The show has been performed at the opera house since 2016. At that time, the same publication that ran the homophobic op-ed published a review only discussing the performance.

“More than 100,000 people have already seen Billy Elliot in Hungary, which means that it has been a success,” Okovacs told the BBC.

Billy Elliot seems to still receive a warm reception from those who attend it. Laszlo Habja, a schoolteacher from Budapest, tells INTO in an email that the show on June 21 had a packed house: “The audience was in ecstasy, and rightly so since it’s a brilliant musical. There were kids as young as 10 and seniors as old as 70 by my estimation.”

The Hungarian version of the musical, though, still shies away from the original queerness of Billy Elliot, leaving out the part where Billy’s friend comes out to him.

In the Budapest performance, Habja says, “the mentions of cross-dressing and embracing a queer identity are replaced by a generic acceptance of being different.”

Melanie Smith is a researcher at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the mother of Levi, one of the boys who play the title role of Billy Elliot. Smith says that after the announcements, some of the shows have been selling better, but there’s still concern over the entire situation.

“The thing that worries me is that [the cancellations] may have planted a seed for homophobia in Hungary for people who may have not thought about it. This is what really scares me,” she says. Smith tells INTO that it seems to fit the pattern of the Hungarian government’s attitude toward vulnerable groups.

The boys who play Billy, including Levi who attends the Madách Dance School in Budapest, are taking the cancellations well. “I don’t really think they understand why [the queer representations] in Billy Elliot became an issue since the show has already been performed already,” she says. Her son was more upset at the lack of performances the boys will have, since preparing for the role took over a year.

Smith says that she was notified of the cancellation through a person who liaises with the child performers. They announced the cut the day Levi started his run as Billy.

However, she believes that the shows would be reinstated maybe in the fall not only due to the response of the crowd but also because of alleged legal action that some of the actors in the play may supposedly take.

“Now I think everyone knows what Billy Elliot is, but not for a good reason,” Smith tells INTO. “We really thought it was just a stupid article by someone who may not have existed.”

Orban’s government won a significant victory back in April solidifying another two-thirds majority, meaning his Fidesz political party can make constitutional changes relatively easily. With this, the Hungarian right has become more emboldened.

The government, for instance, recently passed laws this week preventing assistance to “illegal” asylum-seekers. Information passed to asylum-seekers could result in a year in prison.

“State-funded media has been reined in a long time ago by the Orban government, but cultural institutions such as the Opera House or the Museum of Literature (also attacked in Magyar Idok recently) have enjoyed relative freedom until recently,” Anita Komuves, a journalist with Atlatszo.hu, an investigative journalism nonprofit and publication, says in an email to INTO.

The attack on Billy Elliot shows a change is happening and cultural institutions may now have to “fall in line now and not diverge from the government’s message.”

“The method is also very telling: they send messages publicly, through their own media so that all other cultural leaders can notice that they should start to be cautious,” says Komuves.

Orban and his government have targeted educational institutions as well. The ongoing situation with the Central European University (CEU) may cause the university to move to Vienna, Austria because of pressure from the government. In the past, the Orban government has attacked CEU for its gender studies department.

Also last week, another right-wing publication, Figyelo, published the names of researchers at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences that happened to work on subjects involving marginalized groups, like Roma people in Hungary or LGBTQ populations. One of those researchers is Judit Takacs who studies gender and sexuality in Europe, with a focus on Hungary.

Currently in Sweden on a temporary assignment, Takacs calls the cancellation of Billy Elliot a self-censorship by the opera house and says that the performance cuts show the growing strength of the right in Hungary.

“I’m sure cancelling Billy Elliot was an ad hoc idea,” Takacs says. The Fidesz-led government’s positions of conservative attitudes may have played a hand in the decision. The opera house and its director, she says, possibly wanted to conform to the government’s position. “They [the Hungarian government] want to reproduce more white, Hungarian, heterosexual children. That’s the main goal.”

Last year, Orban opened up a conference sponsored by U.S.-based, International Organization for the Family, which has been called a hate group by LGBTQ rights organizations.

At the event he told the crowd, “It’s important to say that it’s a national interest to restore natural reproduction. Not one interest among others — but the only one. It’s a European interest, too. It is the European interest,” according to Buzzfeed.

The cancellation of the Billy Elliot performances due in part to a review arguing against supporting LGBTQ identities fits into the overall movement of Hungary’s right, says Takacs.  

“This is very similar to the attack on CEU and the recent attack on the scientists at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences,” she tells INTO. “It is obviously not a nice feeling to be singled out, but if you figure in the others, including CEU and my colleagues, I’m actually quite proud to be on this list.”

Takacs says that though these things are happening, there are still positive steps being made when it comes to LGBTQ visibility in Hungary. Recently, she says, a trans woman was reportedly given asylum in the country. It might be only one legal victory, but Takacs sees it still as a victory.

“We cannot say that everything is shut down and there is no way to achieve anything anymore and it’s all just bad and black and white. But it’s true that we have a strong pressure on us,” she says.

For Smith, who not only had Levi have some of his Billy Elliot performances canceled but had her colleagues at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences come under attack, the situations have just been building: “Your heart’s breaking for him and your heart’s breaking for society.”

Disclaimer: The author studied at CEU’s gender studies department for his M.A.

Hugh Grant Plays Gay in New Amazon Mini-Series Based on Jeremy Thorpe

For decades, Hugh Grant has stolen hearts as the glib British hunk in countless rom-coms. Now, he’s finally flipping the script—and while his English charm remains intact, this time, he’s playing gay.

 

The mini-series, entitled A Very English Scandal, is based on the real-life, absolutely bananas story about Jeremy Thorpe (Grant), a political leader of the Liberal Party who was charged with conspiring to murder his lover, Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw). In 1979, at the time of the scandal, homosexuality was not yet decriminalized in England, and with Thorpe gunning to become Prime Minister, his furtive relationship was actually quite controversial.

 

In a Q&A about the series, which is out today on Amazon Prime, Grant said that he was an 18-year old schoolboy at the time of the tabloid story that swept the nation, and he laments that the story, and thus Thorpe, were treated as the butt of numerous schoolyard jokes.

 

“It was like Monty Python,” the actor recalls, referencing a quote from Thorpe’s testimony about the first time he had anal sex. “Here’s a member of the establishment, ex-Oxford, ex-Eton, very well-connected, on trial with his lover saying, ‘Well then I had to bite the pillow…’” 

 

“There were thousands of jokes,” Grant added. “‘Join the Liberal Party and widen your circle!’” The Daily Beast reports that the greying actor cringed upon recounting such malicious jokes. “So that’s how he was really regarded, I’m afraid. Maybe that sad face [in the final scene] is knowing you’re really a figure of ridicule for the rest of your life.”

 

Actually, this isn’t the first time Grant has played gay, as queer cinephiles may recall his role as a gay man in queer classic Maurice (1987), or as the partner of a gay man who is dying of AIDS in 1991’s TV movie Our Sons.

 

30-odd years later, the British performer has delved into a more complex gay character. Grant spoke on the challenging dichotomy of Thorpe’s real life; he was constantly traversing between seeking the out, queer lifestyle, and doing whatever it takes to cover it up. “On the one hand, he never wanted to be openly exposed as being gay. He’d [sooner] shoot himself,” he said. “On the other hand, he was actually at it all the time. He was constantly at clubs, or pubs as they were in those days, picking up men left, right, and center. But he just felt the law would never touch [him].”

 

The politician ended up hiring a hitman to take out his lover, so as not to expose himself as gay—which is wild. Grant revealed that his mission in documenting Thorpe’s life was to find sympathy in his personhood. For him, that empathetic note took form in the utter sadness of Thorpe’s circumstances, and the results that being closeted and hiding one’s true self has on the human psyche.

 

“The other thing was the tragedy of being unable to express your own sexual nature,” he explains. “Especially not being able to love someone in that context. We hint at that, especially at the end of the series, that he probably was in love with Norman Scott back at the beginning. And because of the law and social mores, was unable to let that develop with him or anyone else in the rest of his lifetime.”

 

A Very English Scandal shows us passionate sex scenes too, according to Grant. He caustically describes a hot and heavy moment with his co-star Whishaw—the duo wasn’t given much direction for the steamy scene. So, like any great actor would, he improvised. “I was a bit lost. I remember once I pushed him on the bed and I thought, ‘I could go on kissing him, but they haven’t shouted ‘cut’ yet. I better do something else. I’ll lick his nipples’” (which he does).

 

The actor has become increasingly more interested in politics in the last few years, as outrageous political elections continue to shock and endanger nations like the U.S. and England. Grant has recently become an outspoken critic of the Murdoch family and the News International phone hacking scandal. “Having been someone who was not at all interested in politics before, in the last six years I’ve become very interested,” he said.

 

A Very English Scandal is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

 

#Shirtless, The Online Guide to World Cup Hunks, Is Back!

The World Cup is cool, soccer is fine, but we all know why we’re watching: to catch a close up glimpse of any of the hotties that you see in their cute uniforms. Well, thank god for technology.

 

The site #shirtless is here to make your thirsting much much easier. Divided by team, the site has highlighted available pictures for you to gawk at. A lot of them are shirtless, some are pulled from their Instagram feed, but all of them are nice pictures of the studs you’re looking for.

I did a little sampling of the technology, because you know, journalism. And I’d like to share the results. Everyone meet my new husbands: Raúl Jiménez, Shinji Okazaki, Dani Carvajal, and Marco Fabian.

The site makes it so easy. All you need to know is the team and the jersey number and then you’ll meet your dream man. But even if you don’t have a specific team or player in mind, browsing the site can come up with some promising prospects.

 

Visit #shirtless and happy thirsting!