Azealia Banks Trades Twitter Barbs With Monet X Change, Criticizes ‘Drag Race’ Transmisogyny

Azealia Banks has had it … officially.

After successfully getting RuPaul’s track “Call Me Mother” removed from Spotify for claims of plagiarism, Banks tweeted on Monday evening, dissatisfied with the fact that the song, and its parent album American, were back on the streaming platform.

In a since-deleted tweet, Banks called RuPaul “scum” and added, “Fuck all yall hairy asscrack ass drag race bitches.” She said, “I don’t want to see any of y’all suffocated nutsack ass drag queens in a silk gown performing any of my music on that dumbass show ever again.”

Azealia Banks tweet

In response to Banks’ tweets, Season 10 queen Monet X Change wrote, “I will no longer perform my Azealia mix … EVER” calling the rapper “rotted trash.”

Banks responded by talking about Monet X Change’s “mildew ass girdle” while Monet X Change called Banks a “tired bitch with preschool reads.” Monet then went on to say that the LGBTQ community is the only reason Banks has a career.

After Banks and Monet finished tweeting each other, Banks tweeted out an essay about her own place in ballroom and queer cultures.

“Just because I’m queer doesn’t mean we walk step and step,” Banks tweeted. “The white gays always find a way to inject their selfish ass ideas about how queer people are supposed to be into EVERYTHING I do.”

She added, “Black queer women have a different fucking life from gay white men. Stop trying to police my queer experience and tell me how to be. You guys are honestly suffocating and I wish you would go away and stay away for good.”

Banks went on to call white gay men “tyrants.”


“I’ve been actively trying to live my best black queer female life and you keep trying to force me to consider you when you have absolutely no consideration for me. I just want you guys to go the fuck away,” she said.

Banks was previously highly critical of Drag Race in a series of Tweets on Sunday.

In a tweet on Sunday, Banks brought up RuPaul’s controversial remarks that trans women who had begun a physical transition would not be allowed to compete on Drag Race.

“Ru won’t let the trans girls in because she knows they will SLAY the house down,” Banks wrote. “If a woman wants to be a drag queen she can. I dunno what y’all boys keep tal[lking] bout–women can’t be drag queens. If women can’t be drag queens then neither can you. You can’t be a caricature of a woman and then try to dis[clude] her. Ridiculous.”

She added, “Y’all sit up here and beg for respect and inclusivity then turn around and tell others they can’t be included. You want your femininity to be respected but won’t allow an actual woman to participate in any gay male affairs. Makes no sense.”

To end her thoughts, Banks said she’s a fan of Violet Chachki, Aja, Shea Coulee and Sasha Velour — who she called “the bald one” — but separate from their participation in Drag Race.

Aja responded to the controversy on Twitter on Tuesday.

“I don’t need to curse anyone out, make a scene or break my character,” Aja wrote. “I think that bashing an entire part of the queer community while using queerness as a crutch is counterproductive and isn’t okay because it sends the same non-inclusive message about queerness into the world.”

‘Orange is the New Black’ Season 6 Gets a Release Date and Teaser

This morning, a brand-new teaser dropped for the new season of Orange is the New Black, and it’s…a whole lot of nothing! But exciting, nonetheless.

The trailer depicts dusty orange smoke floating through a dilapidated Litchfield prison, previous home to the characters in the first five seasons, with the mysterious legendary chicken clucking on a window sill.

“This is a whole new world,” coos the voice of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), as signage reads “To the max,” alluding to the sixth season, which will likely take place in a maximum security facility. Netflix tweeted out the teaser trailer, captioning the video “Bye bye, Litch.”

Last season, the show ended in a tense standoff between Litchfield inmates and riot police, who de-escalated a three-day prison riot. The fate of the lead inmates remains unclear, as many have been separated and shipped off to different facilities, while many of them are sure to face catastrophic punishments (especially because some were caught red-handed in the kidnapping of a guard).

We’re not sure what exactly Season 6 has in store, but Orange is the New Black has consistently made a point to center queerness in its LGBTQ characters, actors, and writers, as well as shining a light on social issues such as injustices in the American prison system. Adrienne C. Moore, the actress who plays Black Cindy, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the divide between lead characters on Season 5.

“Toward the end of Season 5, there were some people that were agreeing to stick together, and there were some people that were looking out for themselves,” she said, hinting, “We’ll see the repercussions of those decisions in this next season.”

The show’s creator Jenji Kohan hopes to sprinkle social commentary about Trump and the current fraught political climate into Season 6. 

“Season 5 is Season 5,” the showrunner says, “but for 6, I don’t think anyone can help but incorporate some of the feelings associated with what’s going on and the divisions and all that stuff.”

Season 6 of Netflix’s flagship dramedy starts streaming Friday, July 27th. The show has been renewed for a seventh season, although it’s unclear if Season 7 will be its last.

Mississippi’s First Openly Gay Candidate for U.S. Congress Weathers Death Threats to Make History

Tuesday is a moment of choice for the state of Mississippi.

Democrats Michael Aycox and Michael Evans will face off in the primary for Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District seat, which claims cities like Meridian, Natchez, Pearl, and Starkville.

Like characters ripped out of a Euripidean drama, the differences between the two candidates couldn’t be more stark: Evans, a state representative, voted in favor of Mississippi’s House Bill 1523, which allows religious businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people, but has claimed he isn’t sure if he would vote for the legislation if it came up again. The 42-year-old former volunteer firefighter believes that marriage is solely between one man and one woman.

Meanwhile, Aycox is the state’s first openly gay candidate for U.S. Congress, or any other major party seat in Mississippi. The 30-year-old Navy veteran married his husband in Central Park five years ago, before the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalized same-sex marriage in the Magnolia State.

Aycox, who announced his candidacy on March 1, didn’t initially highlight the historic potential of his run for the U.S. House of Representatives. While friends, family members, and locals in his town of Newton, MS knew about his sexual orientation, it hadn’t factored into his message on the campaign trail. In a phone conversation with INTO, he explained that the omission wasn’t a matter of being in the closet—he just didn’t want to be pigeonholed.

“I never have wanted to be the gay candidate—not because I’m hiding, not because of internal homophobia but because being gay does not define me,” he said. “It doesn’t define any of us.”

But when Aycox’s campaign was trailing early in the race, he approached his father—who is currently employed as his chief of staff—to confess something. If they lost, Aycox hadn’t accomplished the one thing that he set out to do in this race: to make change in a state that desperately needs it.

Even though the candidate had yet to speak publicly about his sexuality, LGBTQ people would often approach him at campaign events and claim they had heard whispers that he’s gay—what Aycox jokingly referred to as “locker room talk.” Many said they aren’t out to even those that are closest to them. Given that Mississippi has the nation’s harshest law targeting queer and trans people in nearly every facet of public life, it doesn’t feel like there’s space for them to be themselves in their home state.

The Democrat claimed the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was when he spoke to a transgender woman at a Human Rights Campaign event on Derby Day in May. As they discussed her struggles to be affirmed in her gender identity, Aycox started to get emotional and did again over the phone, holding back a pent-up sob. Before being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2016, he was part of the military class that ushered in Obama-era regulations paving the way for trans people to serve, which Donald Trump would attempt to overturn through his embattled ban.

“She told me about her service and the things that she’d done in her military career and she inspired me,” Aycox claimed. “I thought, ‘Mississippi has so much hate and yet you have these people who are living such a courageous life.’”

Days later Aycox officially came out in interviews with local press. When he spoke with INTO earlier this month, he had only been out publicly for two weeks.

While the declaration ignited national interest in Aycox’s campaign, being visible in the Deep South hasn’t been easy. The couple has received more than a dozen threats over the past month. A majority were sent to local news stations after USA Today ran a story on his candidacy, while others were posted to social media. His husband—who has largely stayed out of the limelight—was getting ready to deploy with the Air National Guard at the time.

After working as a police officer and an anti-terrorist specialist, Aycox wasn’t concerned by the threats, nor were they all that surprising. Mississippi is one of just two states in the U.S. where a majority of residents still oppose same-sex marriage. Starkville, one of the cities in Aycox’s district, voted to block an LGBTQ Pride Parade before that decision was overturned at the threat of a lawsuit.

But what was more startling was the opposition he received from local Democratic leaders. Bobby Moak, an officer in the State Executive Committee for the Mississippi Democratic Party, allegedly told Aycox the state would “never” have an openly gay Congressman and tried to stop him from running.

Aycox, who describes Mississippians as having a “rebellious streak,” remained true to that ethos by staying in the race. The Democrat welcomed the challenge.

“We’re still struggling pretty hard and fighting an uphill battle in a state that has legal discrimination laws for the LGBTQ community and I welcome that,” Aycox said. “I’m a fighter. I didn’t understand the gravity of my decision [to come out], to be quite honest. I would not do anything any different, except maybe come out sooner because then I would have more time… to be a beacon of hope for the many kids that have come out to our campaign.”

One of the most rewarding parts of Aycox’s campaign, he said, was the messages he’s gotten from LGBTQ people all over the world claiming his candidacy inspired them. A 70-year-old man who had been in the closet his entire life said Aycox gave him the “courage” to be himself.

“I didn’t do anything courageous in my eyes,” Aycox claimed. “I honestly didn’t. What I believed at the time and I do believe now was it was the right thing to do. It was something bigger than me.”

As an outsider with no political experience, the candidate faces a tough fight in Tuesday’s primaries against a representative who has sat in the Mississippi legislature since 2012—and then an even tougher one should he graduate to the 2018 general election. Incumbent Republican Gregg Harper beat Democratic challenger Dennis Quinn by more than 35 points in the 2016 race, amidst a presidential election where Donald Trump won the state by 18 points. Mississippi’s 3rd hasn’t had a Democratic representative since 1997.

But his state needs him. Following the passage of HB 1523 more than two years ago, Aycox said LGBTQ people have been forced into an environment similar to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If he’s out eating with his husband at a restaurant and someone suspects them of being gay, they could be forced to leave. If they call the police, the authorities can’t help them—technically they’d be breaking the law by staying.

Aycox said that fear is “a little different” for him having been shot at, but these painful realities get under his partner’s skin. Sometimes when the couple is out in public, Aycox’s husband worries they’ll draw too much attention to themselves and something will happen to them. It something that’s always in the back of their mind.

“If I win this primary and I’m on stage with a Republican, someone could try to tell me I can’t be on the [debate] stage because I’m gay,” he said. “That’s legal in this state.”

But as a lifelong Mississippian, Aycox claimed he’s ready to keep fighting against legalized anti-LGBTQ hate. By getting elected to U.S. Congress, he hopes to “destroy HB 1523 from within.” The candidate views himself as a “voice of reason”: someone who can not only have conversations with elected officials but personalize the issue for Gov. Phil Bryant, the Republican who signed the bill into law two years ago. The law would be a direct attack on Mississippi’s own elected representative to the national legislature.

“We definitely have the opportunity to kind of pull Mississippi out of the dark in a lot of ways,” Aycox said. “I love Mississippi, but we’re very well known to be behind in a lot of things—education, healthcare, social justice, and just in general. We tend to be falling a little bit behind.”

Trekking Bergen’s Vidden

You’re in Norway’s second largest city, Bergen, and you’re surrounded by seven mountains, the country’s longest and deepest fjord, and a coastline whose waters are surprisingly moderate despite the city’s northern latitude.

You check into your hostel near the center of town, because, tbh, the cost of traveling in Norway is as high as your grade school teacher’s pants; not only is the exchange rate stiff, but simple excursions like a trip to the grocery store are damaging. You’re looking for an activity in town that is classically Bergen—one that is free of cost but rich in experience.

It’s 21:30 but because it’s spring, the light lingers. As you look out the 8-person dorm room window from the the fourth floor of the Marken Guesthouse, you can see the city’s tallest mountain, Ulriken, ornamented by a spiky television tower. You can trace the hiking route you will take the following day that schleps itself across the mossy, boggy alpine to the city’s other famous mountain, Fløyen. This route, called Vidden, is one of the most popular hikes for locals and visitors alike, with good reason, there are vistas, waterfalls, tarns, and cute little cabins hiding in the rock outcroppings.

There are two beds left in your hostel’s room, a top bunk and a bottom bunk, this is a cheap joke but also the beginning of a choose your own adventure and somehow after deciding, against all odds, you fall asleep in your creaky bunk bed despite the snorting and night terrors (in Portugese) of one of your seven roommates. In a lull, your marvel over the snowy vistas ahead of you on your first Norwegian hike.


The morning is drizzly and grey and so the city’s brightest houses stick out like easter eggs in pastels of yellow, red, and key lime green. You notice them as you take the bus to the Montana station, a few kilometers southeast of the city’s center. On the way, there are no billboards— the city banned them years ago—and Visit Norway’s slogan “Powered By Nature” seems earnest. The only advertisements in Bergen are the flanks of its seven mountains and you were sold before you even arrived. You wouldn’t have made the trip all the way up here if you weren’t, right?

You alight from the bus, walk through more suburban neighborhoods roosted on the mountainside before you pick up the trail for Ulriken. There are many options but you decide to take the steepest. It is one of the most well-maintained trails you’ve ever walked in all your dearest adventures. There is a staircase made entirely of stone with erosion mitigation decorated on its side; a little creek tumbles down like a spa fountain.

At the top of Ulriken (2,110 feet) you mingle with a visiting Japanese family who took the cable car “Ulriksbanen”, grab a coffee from the restaurant, top off your water, and set off onto the Vidden trail that will shepherd you 15 kilometers (9 miles) across the golden plateau.

Since it’s spring, a decent amount of snow remains on the higher elevations clinging to the shoulders in thick drifts. In a few sections, the snowmass spills over the trail. Warmer days, rain, and the resulting runoff have already begun to morph the once frozen land of winter into ephemeral bogs, puddles, and mud pits and you are thankful you wore your seasoned shoes and thickest wool socks.

On the upper reaches of the hike there are 360 degree views of all of Bergen’s seven famous mountains— Fløyen, Løvstakken, Damsgårdsfjellet, Lyderhorn, Rundemanen, and Sandviksfjellet, and you are becoming quite fond of these words you’re having a difficult time pronouncing. Because the rain has cleared, you can see the far away Folgefonna Glacier. Vidden’s well marled single track path seamingly winds through the air and turns it’s ordinary trekkers like yourself into mythical skywalkers.

A little beyond halfway, you begin to thread between Øvre Jordalsvann Lake and the lofty waterfall cascading into Tarlebøvannet Lake. Plop, plop, plop—a swift runner and her boyfriend overtake you from behind and splash you with mud as they zip by on what appears to be a casual afternoon run they were able to squeeze in after a full day of work.

Not long after the trail runners, you collide with two backpackers heading to one of the many huts speckled across the golden plateau who tell you they are out for a two night trip. This is the beauty of Bergen you discern—the modern city of ~400,000, with delicious restaurants, craft beer culture, upscale boutiques, and a lone (but hopping) queer bar called Fincken that attracts a mixed crowd for serious dancing— also has wilderness and adventure accessible directly from town.

You being to imagine a life where you don’t even need a car to live in a city and outdoor oriented life. Perhaps you imagine spending the evening in one of those little red cabins (with that white trim) on the plateau with your friends, perhaps, even a lover. Them in their long johns, helping you make a fire in the stove as you sip on some potent akevitt. You imagine a little Bergen life where you can have it all.

When you summit Rundemanen (1,864) you can feel the long hike coming to an end, your knees have grown sore and more and more runners and mountain bikers take advantage of the late day sun, getting in their outdoor fix after a long and cold winter. You are forlorn to be leaving such grandiosity but excited for a hot shower, a meal, and a light Norwegian lager.

The ending point of Fløyen is the much busier endpoint of the Vidden trek and looks gloriously over the town, coastline, and far away islands. Here, Fløyen cradles Bergen’s greatest park where mellow trails weave through a dense forest with playgrounds decorated with trolls spook little Norwegians and picnic tables welcome picnics in warmer months.

At the end of the hike, your quads, hamstrings, and glutes are especially tired after such a trying traverse of muddy, challenging terrain, and your shorts and back are crusty with mud after taking a few nasty wipeouts on the slickest sections of the trek’s steepest terrain. Vidden: 1 Your Muddy, Messy Ass Self: 0. You are thankful for the 50 NOK ($6) funicular ride direct to the city center and that night you may dream of the possibilities the great backcountry of Norway has to offer beyond Bergen.


Azealia Banks Gets RuPaul’s ‘Call Me Mother’ Pulled from Spotify

RuPaul fans searching for the queen’s hit track “Call Me Mother” on Spotify over the weekend came up empty — and Azealia Banks says she’s the reason why.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, the singer revealed that she successfully petitioned the music platform to pull the 90s-house inspired dance track for taking a little too much inspiration from her single, “The Big Big Beat.”

“You will not step on my little black girl toes bitch,” Banks wrote. “You will take your razor bumps and pumps to the nearest laser hair removal clinic and seethe.”

According to a follow-up tweet, RuPaul reached out to Banks to settle the matter. Banks was not impressed.

“But where was that energy when you were stealing my work and using me as inspiration for your campy ass television show?” Banks said. “I’m disappointed in him first and foremost as a black person. He was supposed to have my back.”

Much like The Vixen did to Aquaria on Drag Race season 10, Banks shut down any talk of a “feud” or her being a villain in a later tweet.

“A feud? Lol the public is so obsessed with this idea of me being a villain,” Banks said. “They pretend to sigh and roll their eyes but they tune into everything I say with the type of excitement which makes them exaggerate and sensationalize it for themselves.”

If you haven’t heard the two songs side by side, here’s a sample:

Props to Banks on getting credit where it wasn’t given, but there’s also a question mark on whether this reckoning will have a larger effect on season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In the last three seasons — All Stars 2and 3 and Drag Race season 9 — the top 4 collaborated and wrote rhymes to accompany one of RuPaul’s tracks. Given the popularity of “Call Me Mother” — and all the other songs on American — will this affect season 10’s episodes?

June 4, 2018, 12:46 p.m.“Call Me Mother,” along with all of American, is back on Spotify. 

HBO and INTO Bring LGBTQ+ Installation to Provincetown This Summer

Pride Month may be kicking off now, but Provincetown is keeping it queer all summer long. Thanks to HBO, it’s the place to be this summer. In addition to the usual must-attend queer events like Bear Week and Girl Splash, the cable network is providing seven weeks of queer programming.

HBO’s The Studio is an immersive, creative experience that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community. The installation will serve as a cultural hub for art, entertainment, and creativity. Partnering with such queer media brands as OutThe TenthHello Mr., and INTO, programming includes workshops, classes, screenings, parties, art exhibits, and other fun activities (DIY costume and makeup bar, anyone?) Stars from some of our HBO favorites like InsecureWestworld, and High Maintenance will also be in attendance.

“We are thrilled to be creating space with partners we’ve admired and whose past partnerships have contributed greatly to our brand,” said Jackie Gagne, Vice President, Multicultural Marketing at HBO. “Storytelling is at the heart of HBO, and we are proud of our long legacy of LGBTQ narratives and inclusion. We couldn’t be more excited to explore the modern context of the art form with some of the most prominent and progressive voices in the community today.”

The Studio will celebrate Provincetown’s queer history and rich diversity. Local drag queens will host weekly trivia happy hours, as well as story time sessions during Family Week.

The events kick off July 2, running through August 19. See a tentative schedule of events below and find more info here.

July 2-8 (Independence Week):

• Tegan and Sara “Love Loud East” experience

• “Believer” screening

• OUT hosts live podcast recordings

July 9-15 (Bear Week):

• TBD ‘High Maintenance’ Talent

• “High Maintenance” screening

• GAYLETTER hosts bong making classes and a bear hug booth

July 16-22 (Girl Splash):

• TBD ‘Westworld’ Talent

• “Westworld” screening

• THE ADVOCATE hosts [TBD], Women of HBO trivia contest

July 23-29:

• Ben Cory Jones (Insecure writer) + TBD ‘Insecure’ Talent

• “Insecure” screening

• THE TENTH hosts ‘Cali to Cod’ Party

July 30-August 5 (Family Week):

• Sesame Street Costume Characters

• “Sesame Street” screening

• THEM hosts Meet the Sesame Street Costume Characters

August 6-12:

• TBD ‘Sharp Objects’ Talent

• “Sharp Objects” screening

• INTO hosts live podcast recordings of ‘Food 4 Thot’

Aug. 13-19 (Carnival Week):

• TBD ‘Big Little Lies’ Talent

***Please Note: Scheduled programming and talent is subject to change.***

• “Big Little Lies” screening

• HELLO MR. hosts [TBD]

Alok Vaid-Menon Tells Us What It’s Like To Be Femme In Public

“I hate it when people say that I’m brave,” says gender non-conforming poet Alok Vaid-Menon, whose new chapbook asks “what it could look like to celebrate transfemininity in public.”


Vaid-Menon’s work isn’t about asserting that trans people deserve rights. Rather, “Trans people are emotionally complex, confused, loving, hating, depressed, wonderful, explicit, boring.”

Femme in Public can be purchased via Alok Vaid-Menon’s site.



Who is ‘The Boys in the Band’ For Now?

I have not seen The Boys in the Band on Broadway, but not for lack of trying.

I’ve reached out to Polk & Co.—its PR manager—for press tickets, to no response. To date, the production has not been formally reviewed by any queer publication that I can find.

It’s Pride Month, in which we honor the enormous risks taken and sacrifices made by queer people, led by black trans women, in the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Despite the political strides made by LGBTQ+ people over the last 49 years, we remain more likely than our peers to live in poverty. We should be more concerned than ever about democratizing queer representation on stage, and yet, queer people are expected to blindly risk Broadway prices to gain entry to that conversation without the benefit of a queer perspective? I think not.

So I’ve decided to review the lack of access to queer theater, as embodied by this year’s production of The Boys in the Band, instead.

Out ran a piece on April 30 on gay contrarianism through the decades and The Boys in the Band in its “Queer Quibble” section, but it’s not a review, and it ran before the production opened. Les Fabian Brathwaite comes to his verdict on gays, who “can’t like anything,” on community reactions to the 1968 production of the play, its 1970 film adaptation, and various gay films over the last few years. He says, “the beauty of the times we live in is that we don’t have to choose,” pointing to the accessibility to, and variety of, queer films we enjoy in 2018 (to his examples: BPM is available to Hulu subscribers for $8.25/mo; Call Me By Your Name and A Fantastic Woman are $5.99 to stream on Amazon Prime; Love, Simoncosts $14.99 to buy on Amazon). But the cheapest available ticket I could find to Boys in the Band is $99, a difference in price by a factor of 10 from the average U.S. movie ticket price, and certainly much more expensive than streaming. Brathwaite’s argument, predicated on false equivalences and “benefit-of-the-doubt”-ism that has nothing to do with this production, is not to be taken seriously.

I’m not going to review the production, because the issue, as I see it, doesn’t have much to do with its playwright, its actors, its designers, its technical staff, or its director, who are all doing the necessary and courageous work of advancing a living, breathing piece of theater. (I would love to know how the production handles the racial dynamics around Emory and Bernard’s relationship in 2018, though I suppose I’ll never know.) Rather, I’d like to critique the moral turpitude of Broadway decision-makers who continually refuse to represent the most vulnerable people in the LGBTQ+ community on stage and de-democratize access to the people whose histories they exploit, and refuse to participate in critique by the queer press.

The Boys in the Band also uses the pink triangle, which was used to brand homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps, as its website’s faviconNike is currently under fire for similarly appropriating the symbol on a line of shoes—in response, ACT UP has asked Nike to donate to queer causes. As Jason Rosenberg, one of ACT UP’s co-facilitators has said, “We deserve better [than] to have our work be exploited by corporations that profiteer off grassroots resistance imagery.” Is The Boys in the Band donating any of its profits, gained by its exploitation of the symbol, to charity?

And, why this play? Why now? I can’t imagine that Ryan Murphy or David Stone struggle to pay their rent or feed themselves, which, by the way,one in four queer people did as recently as 2016. And, anyway, there’s a film adaptation from 1970, and it’s available to watch on YouTube. (Incidentally, it’s a fine piece—the film is painfully poignant, though it really is of its time.) Is it that producers simply don’t know there are more queer people becoming playwrights all the time? Have they never heard of Google? Or has theater in the United States, at its highest levels of production, become entirely drained of its capacity to shed light on new perspectives?

The people leading Broadway institutions, and the firms that market their engagements, are comfortable with excluding bodies of difference and dissent. If our choice, as queer people, is to either pay rent or see the same old stories reprised year after year, I know where my money’s going.

Images via Getty


LGBTQ Rights Groups See A Need for Improvement in Europe

In recent weeks, two transnational LGBTQ organizations in Europe have released reports examining the situation for LGBTQ citizens. The results aren’t the most uplifting, with both organizations calling for an end to stagnating progress on the rights of LGBTQ people.

The organizations, ILGA-Europe and Transgender Europe (TGEU), both came out with their respective annual Maps and Indexes showing the differences in LGBTQ rights across Europe on May 15 in time for 2018’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism, and Transphobia.

ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe package scores European countries between zero to 100 percent with the latter indicating full equality. The scores are based on legal protections and policies that affect the lives of LGBTQ people. It’s been released annually since 2009.

The 2018 Rainbow Europe Map and Index revealed that former higher scoring countries have fallen, including the Netherlands, while other countries we tend to think of as progressive were lacking any positive movement on LGBTQ rights.

Malta, however, has stayed atop the map for a third year in a row. Belgium and Norway followed with the next highest scores.

Even as Europe tends to have a reputation of being supportive of LGBTQ human rights, the growing populist movements across the continent have started to affect the lives of queer people. Only 16 of the 49 countries included in the analysis scored higher than 50 percent.

“We are working to counteract nationalist, populist sentiment in many different ways,” ILGA-Europe’s Senior Communications and Media Officer, Emma Cassidy, writes in an email to INTO.

To do this, the Brussels-based organization is seeking assistance across the political spectrum with the help of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTQ rights and other partners, she says.

However, the lowest scoring countries fall outside of the EU. The lowest three scores go to Turkey with nine percent, Armenia with seven, and Azerbaijan with five.

In the European Union, Latvia ranked the worst with 16 percent. Poland and Lithuania scored 18 and 21 percent respectively.

Cassidy explains that this lack of movement across Europe highlights “the political leadership gap and lack of progress on laws and policies for [LGBTQ] equality.”

In a statement, Evelyn Paradis, ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director said, “The incredible achievements of the past decade are at stake. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that we have achieved equality.”

“There are too many signs around us that many of the recent wins are fragile,” she said.

A positive example though is the continued recognition of trans rights in Europe.

On the same day as ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe release, Berlin-based TGEU revealed its Trans Rights Europe Maps and Index, noting that many countries that still force sterilize trans people and also require trans people to have a medical diagnosis before changing legal documents.

Fourteen countries still require sterilization even though in 2017 the European Court of Human Rights ruled it was not compatible with human rights. TGEU found that 34 European countries make trans people undergo a mental health diagnosis in order to obtain legal gender recognition.

TGEU said in a statement that such requirements violate the right of people to self-determine their gender identity, while it can further stigma, exclusion, and discrimination of trans people since it positions non-binary gender identities as a mental illness.

“It wasn’t fathomable that this was the reality in Europe,” Richard Koehler, Senior Policy Officer for TGEU, tells INTO, referring to the information on the map back in 2013. The map was “helpful to make [trans rights and more specifically the issue of sterilization of trans people] more visual.”

The attention is needed when trans issues are often sidelined. Koehler says that even now there is a “lack of understanding of what being trans means.”

The absence of hate crime laws across the continent is an example.

“The number of 13 [countries with hate crime laws] is for all of Europe, not just the EU,” Koehler says. “It shows an attitude towards trans people and a lack of understanding of the violence that the trans community is facing. It’s a lot of times forgotten.”

Koehler believes the low amount of hate crime laws signals a lack of protection for other minority groups, like Roma people or people living with a disability. He says that even people in perceived progressive countries “just aren’t ready to accept that that some groups in society need specific protections.”

“Trans rights is much more than gender recognition,” Koehler said, referring to the organization’s Index that covers various topics ranging from rights to asylum to anti-discrimination laws.

Koehler underlines that the report looks at the laws and not necessarily how it is in real life, which is why TGEU emphasizes the legal-focus of the Index and Map. At the end of the day these tools are meant to help the community on the ground.

“When we started in 2013, we had 24 countries that requested sterility, and it was a much lower number overall that had provisions in place so we have many more countries now that have gender recognition procedures.” This included seeing Hungry and Russia turn blue on the TGEU map—that is, they no longer require sterilization.

The maps and indexes allow the organizations to have accessible information available for policymakers that may not have a solid grasp of the situation for LGBTQ citizens in their countries.

In a meeting with a Cypriot official, Koehler recalls telling them Cyprus had no proper procedures: ‘We showed the map and said that it was the last EU country on it that didn’t have any proper gender recognition. To this, the official only asked “How many laws do we have to change…” There the map really works to help officials understand the issues trans people face.’”

“The Rainbow Europe Map is a real conversation starter with policymakers—and the fact that we officially unveil the results as part of the annual intergovernmental Forum to mark May 17 each year gives civil society a real opportunity to talk directly with politicians,” says Cassidy.

The organizations admit that the positive changes that you can see on the map aren’t just from their own work. It’s also coming from the activists and local groups that these international organizations support via programs year round.

“It’s a reflection of the work being done on the ground,” Koehler says.

Taylor Swift Gives Moving Speech in Support of Pride Month

Taylor Swift is one month deep in her Reputation Stadium Tour, having hit Arizona, California, Washington and Colorado. This weekend, she made a two-night stop in Chicago at the famed Soldier Field, amassing crowds of up to 104,000. Saturday night, she made a moving speech in support of Pride month, speaking directly to her LGBTQ fans.

After moving through her recent smash hits, such as “…Ready For It,” “Look What You Made Me Do,” and oldies like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me,” the 28-year old pop star decided to slow things down a bit. Before ascending in a glowing orb that traverses the stadium, she proclaimed, “It’s very brave to be vulnerable about your feelings in any situation, but it’s even more brave to be honest about your feelings and who you love when you know that it might be met with adversity from society.”

Referring to Pride Month, Swift added, “This month and every month I want to send my love and respect to everybody who has been brave enough to be honest about how they feel, to live their lives as they are, as they feel they should be, as they identify.”

“This is a month where I think we need to celebrate how far we’ve come, but I think we also need to acknowledge how far we have left to go,” the singer-songwriter insisted, elaborating, “I want to send my love and respect to everybody who hasn’t felt comfortable enough to come out yet … and may you do that on your own time and may we end up in a world where everyone can live and love equally and no one has to be afraid to all say how they feel.”

Nodding to the Reputation lullaby “Delicate,” which she performs each night floating above the crowd, she concluded, “When it comes to feelings and when it comes to love and searching for someone to spend your whole life with … it’s all just really, really delicate …. you know?”

Back in April, Swift voiced her support of lesbian singer Hayley Kiyoko, who accused music executives of homophobic bias after industry execs asked her, “You’re doing another music video about girls?” Kiyoko juxtaposed herself with Taylor Swift, noting, “Taylor Swift sings about men in every single song and video, and no one complains that she’s unoriginal.” 

Swift supported the artist, writing on her social media, “We should applaud artists who are brave enough to tell their honest romantic narrative through their art, and the fact is that I’ve never encountered homophobia and she has.” She added, “It’s her right to call out anyone who has double standards about gay vs straight love interests.”

The pop star has been significantly more vocal in issues of social justice within the last year, proving to her LGBTQ fans that she’s an ally and she’s here to stay.

The next leg of Taylor Swift’s tour will sweep through Europe. She’ll perform in Manchester, Dublin and London before returning to North America for the third leg of the Reputation Stadium Tour.