Bebe Rexha Calls ‘Drag Race’ Girls Cold — and Aquaria Responds

America’s Next Drag Superstar Aquaria is the hottest name in the drag world right now — but to Bebe Rexha, she’s a bit cold.

On Twitter, Rexha — who refused to name names — said she met some of the Drag Race girls this week but that she “wasn’t in hair and makeup” so they didn’t recognize her. In a follow-up tweet, she called the girls “cold” and said, “they didn’t talk to anyone like they were the shit.”

(The Drag Race girls and Rexha were both recently at VH1’s Trailblazer Honors, where Rexha performed, so it was most likely at this event, though neither artist’s tweets mentioned the venue.) 

Aquaria, who recently spoke to INTO about her crowning, played nice at first and congratulated Rexha on her performance, then changed tone when Rexha called them cold.

“We’re really just artists who were being swept through a crazy week in our lives where we nearly had a second to take things in,” Aquaria said. “I don’t think any of us would intend to be rude or shady to any other performer and if people knew anything about us it’s that we are far more humble and real than anyone else would expect. Instead of being grateful and enjoying the night. We’re now on twitter complaining about the same thing everyone always tries to pit on drag queens that we’re stuck up bitches who don’t have time for the people who enjoy our work. We were all so impressed with the performances at the trailblazers and so grateful to be included.”

Aquaria also referenced Nicki Minaj’s song “Chun Li” and said that Rexha is trying to go online and make drag queens out to be the villains.

Aquaria learning to deconstruct media narratives — The Vixen’s influence truly lives on.

 

Amber Heard Tweets and Deletes Something Racist About an ICE Checkpoint

Out bisexual actress Amber Heard is under fire for a racist tweet regarding an ICE checkpoint near her house in Hollywood. Around midnight on Tuesday, the Magic Mike XXL actress tweeted, “Just heard there’s an ICE checkpoint in [H]ollywood, a few blocks from where I live. Everyone better give their housekeepers, nannies and landscapers a ride home tonight.” Yikes.

The backlash was almost immediate, leading Heard to delete the incendiary tweet and write something less, well, outright racist. She wrote, “Checkpoints on your home streets…. Is this the ‘great’ America we’re aiming for? Raids, fences and police-state like checkpoints don’t feel like the ‘land of the free’ our immigrant ancestors built.”

Although her original tweet was inarguably brimming with harmful racial stereotypes, I think she meant well, in a skewed white-lady-using-her-privilege-to-protect-POC kind of way. The 32-year old actress is an outspoken activist — last week, along with a group of other celebrities, Heard traveled to the border to protest outside the Tornillo detention center in Texas. So while her heart might have been in the right place in asking white people to use their privilege for good, it’s important that people called her out on using offensive language to do so.

And call her out they did—one user replied to the actress’s original tweet, writing, “I can see where you were going but somewhere along the way you took a wrong turn. Delete this sis.”

Tuesday morning, Heard addressed the Twitter mishap again, writing, “With this human rights crisis being so politicized, it is hard to make a simple statement w/out it being used to distract from the real issues. It’s hard for everyone to not be negatively affected by this subject n some way.”

Law is meant to protect and defend justice, not destroy it.

A post shared by Amber Heard (@amberheard) on

It’s important that privileged women like Amber Heard continue using their platform to speak out on important issues—but let’s cut the White Lady Nonsense and start listening to POC more.

Image via Getty

The Forgotten LGBTQ Victims of Colombia’s Civil War

It was the late ‘90s when a 14-year-old boy was taken from a quiet street in San Luis, Colombia and recruited into a guerrilla group named Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).

Pushed into a car moments after playing with friends, Darla Cristina González Arias’s capture is not uncommon. Many teenage boys in her area were also taken. But as she grew older, she knew her case was rare: She had to escape the militant group because she needed to transition.

In Colombia, it was the decade of drug lord Pablo Escobar’s death—as well as the decade in which an earthquake killed over 1,900 people in one of Colombia’s most economically important cities, Armenia. And it was the 30th year of the conflict between the Colombian army and guerrilla groups such as the FARC.

It was the turn of the 21st century when González, then 15, plotted her escape from the FARC. Being LGBTQ was forbidden in the group, and she had witnessed cruel punishments inflicted upon militants who were discovered to be lesbians.

“The lesbians were forced to dig trenches until they passed out from exhaustion — and then they were separated,” González told INTO.

González always knew she was transgender, but it was also sexual abuse that pushed her to risk death and leave the militant group. Her time with the group became insufferable after she was raped by a FARC commander. She knew she was trapped inside the camp with her abuser, so she began to plot her escape.

Leaving the camp was not an easy task. Being caught would result in a punishment of death. González had one chance to get it right, so she began planning to win the confidence of her commanders by becoming a model recruit.

It only took a few weeks before González was placed with an opportunity to break free — and she seized it. “They trusted me and sent me to a place [on my own] so I took another course and I managed to flee,” González explained.

González is just one of 1,859 registered LGBTQ victims of Colombia’s armed conflict. Run by the Colombian Victims Unit, the registry is used by victims of the conflict to record acts inflicted on them by members of illegal groups. However, critics say the number of affected people is in reality much higher — because many victims are afraid to speak out about their sexuality and gender identity.

A peace deal was signed in 2016 to end violence between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas. The deal was the first of its kind to include details of the persecution of minority groups, such as LGBTQ people, in its negotiations.

Of the LGBTQ victims, the most reported cases are forced displacement (73.3 percent), threats (14.2 percent), homicides (5.3 percent) and sexual violence (2.4 percent), according to a 2017 report by Colombia Diversa.

After her successful escape from FARC, González had to move between homes frequently to prevent being caught. After months on the road, she eventually settled in Cali, a city in south-west Colombia. During her travels, she passed through a state named Argelia and the villages of San Francisco, San Luis, and the city of Medellin.

Life in Cali in the early aughts wasn’t much easier for González than inside the camp. She arrived in the city, which is known as the home of Colombian salsa and for the infamous Cali drugs cartel, knowing only one distant acquaintance. On the run from the group of militants, she turned up on his doorstep with only a small rucksack. The acquaintance told González to ask for work at the local marketplace.

“I still had an athletic physique from the FARC, so I was given a job unloading trucks that transported food,” González said. “But I felt like I was facing prejudice as a gay man, so it was very hard.”

After several months of working in the marketplace, González was visited by a relative. “I was told my parents and my sister had been detained by the FARC [because of my escape] and I was scared they would find me, so I left,” she explained. González traveled to Buenaventura, a city in the department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia, and began working in a park selling Bon Ice ice lollies.

Not long after she moved to Buenaventura, González’s family members were released by the FARC. “The army had moved into the FARC’s territory and lots of people were displaced, so my family were released and they decided to join me in Buenaventura,” she said.

The family was struggling for income, so González searched for a second job. “I saw an advert in the paper, which advertised that it wanted people for male services, so from the ages 17 to 19 I started working as a male prostitute inside a dating house,” she said.

Then at age 19, González began her transition.

Wilson Castañeda Castro is the chief executive of the LGBTQ Colombian charity Caribe Afirmativo. He works with queer and transgender victims of the conflict across the Caribbean coast regions of Colombia.

In 2010 Castañeda spearheaded an initiative called “Houses of Peace,” (in Spanish “Casas de Paz”). Two years ago the project was officially completed and four houses were converted into safe houses to support LGBTQ victims of the conflict. Around 200 people permanently use them for support, with an additional 50 to 100 people using them on a temporary basis.

Castañeda’s charity started the project after seeing how the conflict was affecting the LGBTQ community and began the task of identifying the areas of the country that impacted LGBTQ people the most and how.

During his research, he found two constants.

“The first was that the war left many LGBTQ people internally displaced as they were not allowed to live freely in their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he told INTO. “And the second was that the conflict naturalized violence, so the violence towards the LGBTQ community was lost in the magnitude of the other existing violence.”

After identifying the effects of the armed conflict, Castañeda wanted to create something that would contribute to the construction of peace.

“And so the idea of a house of peace was born,” he explained. “We built these houses to become pedagogical centers, where LGBT citizens are invited to build anything from artistic expressions and cultural contributions to reconciliation.”

Overall the houses have four tasks—the first of which is to strengthen LGBTQ community relations, by creating queer and trans community leaders in the territories where they were once affected. The second is to offer cultural and artistic actions, such as art therapy and music lessons, to help channel creative solutions to the construction of peace. The third is that the houses communicate with other population groups within the community. And the fourth, to be a space where civil society can monitor the peacekeeping process.

The houses are based in Cienaga in the department of Magdalena, Maico in La Guajira, Soledad in Atlantico, and Carmen in Bolivar. They serve as training facilities and teach victims displaced from rural communities how to establish income, as many lost their farmland—their primary source of livelihood—during the conflict. Classes include training in entrepreneurship, the basics of using computers and how to start their own business using the trade and skills that they have. The centers also have psychological and legal counseling available for victims.

One user of the La Guajira house, a gay man who wished to remain anonymous, told INTO he was forced to flee from his family home after militants found out about his sexuality.

“I was scared that I would be killed or sexually abused, so I left everything behind,” he said.

The house allowed him to gain a new sense of family and belonging, alongside the much-needed mental health support, he said.

Similar stories of LGBTQ people fleeing persecution in the conflict are documented in a 2017 study released by the advocacy group Colombia Diversa, which explored anti-LGBTQ violence during the war.

The victims’ names in the stories have been changed to help ensure their anonymity. According to the study, at the time of the reported discrimination, the area of Vistahermosa was under the territorial and social power of the militant group FARC. The guerrillas settled family issues, boundaries, land, community problems, and neighbor disputes.

In April 2000, two transgender women named Verónica and Jenny were sleeping in their house in Vistahermosa. They were suddenly awoken by Verónica’s sister, who asked them if they were in trouble. That’s when they discovered that the walls and doors of the house had been vandalized with graffiti. Around six of those surfaces were painted a message: “Verónica has AIDS.”

A day after finding the graffiti, a militant — who went by the alias Smurf — forced the women to write a list of all the LGBTQ people in the area, displaying the names on a public poster in the main village square. This included people who were “in the closet” and all of the people they had had sex with. Verónica said the militants “wanted to have control over the whole LGBTQ population.”

Verónica and Jenny were given three days to get tested for HIV, and the rest of the LGBTQ people in the area were also subjected to HIV testing. As a result, Verónica and Jenny were forced to flee.

Another testimony from the report exposed how a trans woman and several gay men became a public spectacle. “In 2003, in San Onofre, Sucre, the Montes de María Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, led by Marco Tulio Pérez Guzmán, alias el Oso, forced several gay men and a trans woman, to participate against their will in a boxing match.”

The conflict claimed the lives of over 220,000 people and left approximately 7.2 million people internally displaced, according to a 2017 report on Global Displacement.

After beginning her transition, González said she had been coming out to her family slowly, by growing her hair out and shaving her eyebrows: “They told me they didn’t understand why I was becoming more effeminate. They are from a poor farming community—they didn’t know what transgender was.” The rejection forced her to support herself, and she said as a trans woman she had two options of employment: hairdressing or sex work.

From the ages of 19 to 28, González worked on the streets as a prostitute. And again she began to travel through different Colombian cities and villages, in hopes of securing a better life. She went through Armenia, Manizales, Pereira, Cartago, Tuluá, Buga, Cali, and eventually settled in Pasto, the closest Colombian city to its border with Ecuador.

It was in Pasto that González witnessed some of the most destitute conditions of the job, “I saw many girls die in the corners where we worked, it was a very dangerous job but we had no other option,” she said. González said sex workers like herself would also suffer at the hands of the police. It was continual beatings by the police that motivated her to begin campaigning and fighting for her rights, she explained.

Since the conflict, a government advisory LGBTQ victims committee has formed to discuss the wrongdoings towards the queer and trans community.

Colombia is a country divided by many things, be it geographical, political or cultural. But despite its disagreements and battles, it’s one of the happiest countries in the world. And in a display of defiance against the criminal acts inflicted upon them, Colombia’s LGBTQ victims are telling their stories with courage and with strength.

Now 32, González spent years establishing herself as an activist in the sex worker and LGBTQ community in Pasto. “I had been a victim for almost 15 years, but I did not know there were spaces for participation or leadership. As I had been in other meetings and was a visible person, I was elected as a representative of the LGBTQ community in the 2013-2015 Board,” she said.

González’s years of activism while working on the streets included organizing Pasto’s first gay pride parade and campaigning for safer conditions to prevent HIV within sex work. She was later elected as coordinator of the council for Pasto council’s board for 2015 through 2017 and remains the first and only trans woman to have held the position.

González said she decided to enter politics so she can continue to expose the true stories of LGBTQ victims of the conflict. Her family members are now her biggest supporters.

Images via Getty and Facebook

U.K. Pledges Conversion Therapy Ban After Survey Reveals Pervasive Anti-Gay Discrimination

The United Kingdom has vowed to ban conversion therapy after a government survey revealed sweeping discrimination against LGBTQ Britons.

In a survey of more than 108,000 queer and transgender people, two percent of respondents claimed to be survivors of the discredited “gay cure” treatment, while five percent of individuals say they have been offered conversion therapy at some point in their lives.

The report stated that orientation change efforts, also known as reparative therapy, “can range from pseudo-psychological treatments to, in extreme cases, surgical interventions and ‘corrective’ rape.”

Ruth Hunt, CEO of the U.K. advocacy group Stonewall, claimed in a statement that these findings are not surprising.

“Some people will be shocked by the findings,” Hunt claimed. “But for anyone who is LGBTQ, or has a family member or friend who is, these results will be sadly recognizable. Laws have improved and attitudes have changed but our society still treats LGBT people like second-class citizens.”

The U.K. government claimed in response that it would work to draft “legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy,” as well as introduce an action plan on LGBTQ equality.

“No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May in a press release. “This LGBTQ action plan will set out concrete steps to deliver real and lasting change across society, from health and education to tackling discrimination and addressing the burning injustices that LGBTQ people face.”

May added that she was “struck by just how many respondents said they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or avoid holding hands with their partner in public for fear of a negative reaction.”

The survey also discovered that despite recent progress, LGBTQ people continue to face challenges in nearly every aspect of their lives.

Forty percent of respondents claim to have experienced harassment and abuse or been the victim of a hate crime at some point in their lives, while nine out of 10 people say they did not report these incidents to authorities. Nearly one in four individuals report experiencing bias in the workplace.

Hunt said that May’s intention to push for national legislation to address these issues is “an important first step” but must be accompanied by “tangible change.”

Just a handful of countries—including Argentina, Malta, and Taiwan—have moved to ban conversion therapy at the national level. Meanwhile, 13 states in the U.S. have passed statewide laws outlawing the practice, which has been condemned by every leading medical association as dangerous and ineffective.

“‘Reparative’ or ‘conversion therapies’ have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2010.

The U.K. announced its intention to combat school bullying and address LGBTQ mental health but did not specify its plan to eradicate conversion therapy.

Image via Getty

Dearly Beloved, I Want My Straight Friend

In this week’s Dearly Beloved, the advice column from author Michael Arceneaux, a reader has crossed the line with his friend who identifies as straight but has nonetheless had some sexual eruptions with his gay homeboy. Look, it happens. Many of us have been there; some of us still take field trips there even though we oughta know better at our ages. If you feel a way about a select portion of that statement, take yourself to the nearest vet, hit dog.

 

After showing his straight friend what that mouth do, our dear reader has caught feelings. Stop rolling your eyes. Life happens. What do you when you develop romantic feelings for your straight platonic friend you have done sexual things with? Turn on some Anita Baker and cry through it, sure, but can anything else be done? There’s really only one other option and he sure better give it the best that he’s got (baby). Question is: will he do it and face whatever comes next head on?

 

If you want Michael’s advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start your letter with Dearly Beloved!

 

It’s a thing.

 

Dearly Beloved,

 

I’m friends with this guy who happens to be straight. We have been friends for a while now and I love him in a platonic way. However, recently we’ve been getting physically intimate with each other (but no proper sex involved). But the thing is, we’ve done things to each other that I personally consider to be exclusive for a committed relationship.

 

So my question is how do I deal with developing romantic feelings for a straight guy who currently reciprocates back my affection?

 

Sincerely,

Straight Chaser

 

Dear Straight Chaser,

 

So what you’re saying is you got a new boy and that [redacted] trade? May Magnolia Shorty continue to rest in peace, and his forced Houston accent aside, shout out to fine ass Drake for keeping her memory alive on Scorpion. Now back to you and this vintage talk show predicament you have found yourself in.

 

While I understand that you may feel that the two of you have done things to each other that you believe are exclusive to a committed relationship, you’re not in one with him now — yet those acts have happened all the same. That suggests he may not feel the same way as you about what the performing of such acts signifies. As I once explained to my friends about someone who overstated his value, “He was a mouth.” And maybe you’re not as hung up on doing certain things in committed settings as you think you are — which would be more than fine (enjoy yourself).

 

Meanwhile, though he may indeed be reciprocal with you in terms of expressing affection, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is capable of developing romantic feelings for you — or even interested in trying. After all, he identifies as straight. Even if you tip him in one direction on the Kinsey scale, that doesn’t mean he has any interest in being biddy-da-dum, boo’d up with you, beloved. Yes, some relationships start off with two people as friends, but they tend not to be a gay dude and a straight man.

 

I would love it if you wrote back and said this straight man has decided to be bae so I can immediately encourage you to cue up “Blow” and skip to the part where Beyoncé and Timbaland talk about turning that cherry out, but this is giving me more “Me, Myself & I” vibes.

 

So yeah, chances are slim (not slim thick, just slim) that he will want to explore the romantic side with you, but I suppose one never knows. Maybe he dares to try something even newer with you. Maybe he will hear what you confess and decide that he wants to keep the friendship with the new meal plan as it stands. Or maybe he will want to go back to being totally platonic. There is no confirmation without conversation. You need to go ahead and have it now because the longer you wait, the deeper you will fall and it’s not clear at all how that will impact you and your friendship with him. Unfortunately, the two of you have crossed a line that only one of you may be willing to continue walking past.

 

To that end, before you do talk, truly prepare yourself for all possible scenarios. You say you love him in a platonic way, so the question is does that platonic love supersede these newer romantic feelings that have developed in light of you two becoming physical? If so, this friendship can be salvaged. If he can’t do that, run, bitch, run. It would hurt in the interim, but as the reality stars often say, at the end of the day it would be what’s best for you.

 

Regardless, you need to have romantic feelings for someone who can return the favor. We all deserve that. In the future, though, keep your mouth off of your friends, especially the straight ones. There are other dicks and cheeks in the sea.

 

Signed,

Beloved!

Guy Pearce Says Kevin Spacey Was ‘Handsy’ On The Set of ‘L.A. Confidential’

Last year, Anthony Rapp came forward to accuse Kevin Spacey of touching him inappropriately when Rapp was 14. In a clear attempt to divert attention, Spacey abruptly came out of the closet as a gay man.

Now, Australian actor Guy Pearce has revealed in an interview with Australian TV host Andrew Denton that he had an experience with Spacey that he described as “handsy.” Pearce didn’t go into detail about the incident, but we know the actors worked together on the 1997 film L.A. Confidential. Denton brought Spacey up in a segment of the show where Pearce was asked to talk about his feelings of working with different people that Denton listed. 

“Tough one to talk about at the moment,” Pearce said when Spacey was brought up. “Incredible actor. Slightly difficult time with Kevin, yeah. He’s a handsy guy.”

“Thankfully I was 29 and not 14,” Pearce added.

There have been more allegations against Spacey since Rapp originally came forward. The Old Vic theater in London had 20 people come forward with allegations when Spacey was the artistic director for the theater.

One of the allegations against Spacey is currently under review as of December 2017. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced that this specific case involves another adult male in 1992 in West Hollywood.

Scarlett Johansson to Star as Transmasculine Person in New Film from ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Director

Scarlett Johansson, having already tackled yellowface, has decided to pivot to a brand new acting challenge: transface!

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Johansson will star in the new film Rub & Tug as Dante “Tex” Gill, a trans man who ran a massage parlor and sex work business in the 1970s and 1980s in Pittsburgh. However, when THR and other publications first reported the news, they described Gill as a woman dressing as a man and not as a transmasculine person, as first reported by Screen Crush.

Though some of the writing about Gill refers to Gill as “she,” Gill’s obituary makes reference to the beginnings of medical transition and wanting to be known as “Mr. Gill.”

“[Gill] may even have undergone the initial stages of a sex change that made her appear masculine,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote. One scholar who wrote about Gill at the University of Arizona saying he was a “queer anti-hero whose criminal history was made inseparable from his gender.”

Transface is still a big problem for many Hollywood films. Matt Bomer recently stirred controversy for his portrayal of a trans woman in Anything. And Rachel Weisz will play transmasculine Dr. James Barry in an upcoming biopic as well. However, Weisz in on the record saying it’s “not really a trans story.”

Johansson caught flack in the past for starring as a Japanese woman in Ghost in the Shell. Filmmakers even reportedly tested technology to make Johansson look more Asian in the role rather than casting an Asian actress. The film was a box office failure.

Ranking Every Single Released By ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 10 Queens

Season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race has finally ended and a winner has been chosen, but it’s still not the Age of Aquaria just yet. Although the young NYC queen snatched the crown on screen, her fellow competitors continue to vie for success beyond Drag Race, most notably in the world of music.

So far, eight of the fourteen queens who competed in Season 10 have already released singles of their own, so start your engines and join us as we find out which songs slay and which ones fall to the stage like a crumpled butterfly. From sponges and ankhs to cookies and the big girls who eat them, here are the nine singles released by Season 10 contestants that could still make winners of them yet.

 

9. Yuhua Hamasaki feat. DJ Mitch Ferrino – “The Ankh Song” 

Best Lyric: “Do you have an ankh now? Ankh-solutely!”

Gimmicks are par for the course in singles released by Drag Race stars, capitalizing on standout moments from the show, but Yuhua Hamasaki didn’t have many to speak of in the first place. Because of this, she instead spun something out of the “ankh” look that Michelle Visage critiqued while snatching references from both nursery rhymes and other queens along the way. Old McDonald is shook right now.

 

8. Asia O’Hara – “Queen For Tonight”

Best Lyric: “Ultraviolet caviar/ Intergalactic traveler/ Your queen for tonight”

Once again, Asia O’Hara deserves points for originality, but just like her butterfly reveal in the Season 10 finale, this single is DOA. The lyrics themselves are rather inspiring, drawing upon the kind of impassioned sentiment that came to define her personality in later weeks. It’s just a shame that the song itself lacks focus, playing out over an ambiguous tribal beat that still washes over you after a few listens. Hopefully, Asia will return soon with a more soulful track to ensure she remains a beloved queen for far longer than just one night.

 

7. Dusty Ray Bottoms – “Neva Lavd Yah!”

Best Lyric: “I cross my fingers, and blow a big kiss/ Then I forget you, ’cause I don’t need this”

With her debut single, “Neva Lavd Yah!”, Dusty Ray Bottoms veers away from her musical theater background and dives headfirst into this ode to the pop-punk wave of yesteryear. The song itself is fun enough and wouldn’t feel out of place on a classic album from Blink 182 or Simple Plan, but we expected something more dotty and left-field from the quirky queen.

 

6. Blair St. Clair – “Call My Life”

Best Lyric: “In a world where it’s only me, disconnected/ Take a screenshot with my mind inside/ I’ve been craving something real”

Blair St. Clair won over fans with her sweet southern charm during her time on the show and continues to do so now with the title track from her debut album, “Call My Life,” which explores the perils of fame. Unlike most of the singles ranked on this list, “Call My Life” avoids quick-fire raps in favor of powerhouse vocals that help Blair open up even more about some of the turmoil she previously discussed on air. When watching the video, also keep an eye out for cameos from Drag Race alum Eureka, Mayhem Miller, Manila Luzon, Pandora Boxx and JuJuBee, because drag is a family and families support each other.

 

5. Monét X Change feat. Bob The Drag Queen – “Soak It Up” 

Best Lyric: “Listen, when the girls come at you, honey/ You gotta be a sponge, you…/ Soak it up, turn it out, rinse it out, sweep the floor”

Defying the Drag Race judges with a fierce pussycat wig, Monét X Change serves house realness in her debut single, soaking up the applause and a whole lot more with a song that brings back her signature sponge look from the show. Spongebob The Drag Queen drops by for a guest verse too, guiding Monét away from her opera training into a pop disco frenzy that fully suits her savvy personality.

 

4. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo – “I’m Vanjie”

Best Lyric: “These cookies, bitch/ Get these cookies, bitch/ Want these cookies, bitch?”

As if we needed reminding, the fan favorite queen Vanessa Vanjie Mateo has released a single called “I’m Vanjie,” which is surprisingly strong for someone who left the competition in the first round. This isn’t the first time that Vanjie has defied expectation, though. While the song hardly breaks new ground musically, it’s a catchy house track that brings exactly the kind of camp that fans would expect from the house of Mateo, ensuring that gays across the land will continue screaming the name “Vanjie” for years to come.

 

3. Aquaria – “Burn Rubber”

Best Lyric: “Rolling through the metal party/ Got a Lamborghini body/ Uh, lace and latex on Ferrari”

Newly crowned winner Aquaria looks to the past for her debut single, “Burn Rubber,” channeling the intense, macabre energy of her drag mother, Sharon Needles. In case you’re wondering, the dance anthem was co-written by Jesse Saint John, who previously penned songs for Britney Spears, Camila Cabello, and Charli XCX, so the queer credentials remain intact. As long as the young drag star continues releasing songs in this lane, there’s no telling when the Age of Aquaria will end.

 

2. Eureka O’Hara – “The Big Girl”

Best Lyric: “Thick thighs make your dick rise/ Big gut make you nut (Oh, hey!)”

Fans disappointed that “The Big Girl’ didn’t win Season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race can find solace in the fact that she continues to champion body positivity in her career beyond the show. In fact, Eureka O’Hara devours the competition with her new anthem, reminding listeners that large girls can have a fierce sexual appetite. The self-proclaimed “elephant queen” slays with her signature high kicks in the video as well, backed up by a team of dancers who “proportionize” along with Eureka throughout. Although Bob The Drag Queen doesn’t appear in the flesh, some of his signature sass can clearly be heard in the lyrics that he co-wrote with Eureka, making this one of the funniest and most memorable Drag Race singles heard in some time.

 

1. Blair St. Clair – “Now or Never”

Best Lyric: “I’ve come undone but now/ I’ve pulled myself together/ And I’m breaking free to fly”

Despite leaving the competition early on, Blair St. Clair was quick to put her theater trained vocals to good use, releasing the club-ready hit “Now or Never” to great success on the dance charts. More importantly, though, the lead single from Blair’s debut album also contains a surprising amount of depth, balancing the kitsch glam of a ‘60s housewife fantasy with heartfelt lyrics that are genuinely empowering to hear, much like sad pop classics from the likes of Robyn and Lykke Li. Just like her character in the video, Blair’s voice soars throughout with a real sincerity that demands repeat listens. Forget Glamazonian Airways. It won’t be long now until queens worldwide exclusively ride with Blair St. Air instead.

HIV Rates in Indonesia Five Times Higher Following Anti-LGBTQ Crackdown

The crackdown on Indonesia’s LGBTQ community in recent years is fueling skyrocketing HIV rates in the world’s largest Muslim democracy.

 

Between the years of 2007 and 2015, data from Human Rights Watch shows that the rate of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSMs) has shot up from five percent to 25 percent—a fivefold increase. This figure is more than twice as high as neighboring Thailand, where nine percent of gay and bisexual men test positive for the virus.

 

The differences between the two countries throw Indonesia’s HIV crisis into starker relief.

 

Whereas over 90 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand know their status, an estimated one in three Indonesians who are positive for HIV have been tested for the virus. Seven in 10 HIV-positive individuals in Thailand regularly take antiviral medications to control its spread, but just 12 percent of Indonesians do.

 

An estimated 48,000 Indonesians—both queer and heterosexual—contract HIV every year. While straight men are most likely to report new HIV diagnoses, more than a third of this population are MSMs.

 

The international human rights group claimed this problem has been fueled by the recent wave of “moral panic” in Indonesia targeting the LGBTQ community.

 

Although Indonesia was once known as one of the most tolerant countries in southeast Asia, Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono said that began to change in 2016. Conservative leaders claimed that “homosexuality was contagious, that it might affect children, [and] that it is more dangerous than nuclear war,” he stated in an HRW report released Sunday.

 

In January 2016, Education Minister Muhammad Nasir called for queer and trans students to be banned from universities, while politician Nasir Djamil referred to the LGBTQ community as a “serious threat to the nation.”

 

Those comments triggered a wave of raids on LGBTQ spaces in the nation of 230 million people. More than 300 individuals were arrested in the year 2017 alone, as police targeted gay saunas, apartments, and private events to detain anyone suspected of being queer or transgender. During a raid on Jakarta’s Atlantis Spa last May, 141 people were apprehended in a single evening.

 

Approximately 40 individuals were formally charged as a result of those raids.

 

Following these attacks, HIV/AIDS advocates say it’s more difficult to provide resources to a vulnerable community. Clinics offering outreach to people with HIV have been shut down, in addition to gay nightclubs where advocates could find potential clients.

 

“LGBTQ people’s access to condoms, to counseling and to HIV education is disappearing,” said Harsono, who co-authored the report. “It’s becoming more and more difficult for HIV education groups to access these communities. The situation is alarming and rates of HIV infections are increasing in Indonesia.”

 

Others claimed that LGBTQ people are too “scared of being beaten up” to seek out medication, treatment, or testing. Dimas Alphareza, an HIV/AIDS services coordinator, claimed healthcare workers are often stood up by the populations they serve.

 

“[W]e make an appointment through social media to meet, arrange a time and a place, but when we get there the person doesn’t show up,” he told HRW.

 

The impact on outreach to the country’s LGBTQ community has been dramatic, according to Harsono. He said that organizations engaged in HIV/AIDS outreach which might have offered services to 700 clients a month before the crackdown now service around 250—a 64 percent drop.

 

Harsono predicted that current levels of HIV transmission would “bring Indonesia 20-30 years back to the 1980s when the HIV/AIDS virus was still new.”

 

“This is going to be very damaging for Indonesia,” he claimed.

 

Kyle Knight, an LGBTQ rights researcher and coauthor of the report, alleged in a statement that the problem will continue “unless certain steps are taken to dial back on these raids, to create safe spaces for those to gather to gain information, [and] to get safety, sense of dignity, community and privacy.”

 

“What’s shifted in the last two years is that the government and police have made it abundantly clear that it’s perfectly okay to hate LGBTQ people and to act on it,” Knight said.

 

But for now, the crackdown on queer and trans lives in Indonesia doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

 

A proposed revision to the Indonesia Criminal Code introduced in parliament earlier this year would introduce harsh penalties for sex outside of marriage. Although homosexuality is currently legal everywhere in Indonesia outside the Sharia-governed independent province of Aceh, the change would serve to criminalize sodomy in a country where same-sex marriage remains illegal.

 

That proposal was condemned by the United Nations as “inherently discriminatory” but has remained on the table since being introduced in January. A month after that draft bill was put forward, the Health Ministry responded to international backlash by declaring homosexuality a “mental disorder.”

 

Things have deteriorated most sharply, however, in Aceh—where two men were flogged 83 times in 2016 after being accused of same-sex intercourse.

 

In January, a dozen transgender women were apprehended while working their day jobs as hairdressers at salons in the ultra-conservative region. Their hair was reportedly cut off and the women were forced into undergo training seminars where they would be reeducated to “make them masculine.”

 

You can read the report in its entirety here.

Here’s All The New Music We’re INTO

INTO’s roundup of the month’s best new releases swears to remain purposefully intersectional in highlighting the best emerging queer and femme talent in music.

 

Major moments in queer music this June included Karin & Olof Dreijer reuniting on a remix for Wanna Sip, SOPHIE releasing their long-awaited debut studio album, and an album release from nonbinary Spaniard fav King Jedet to name a few highlights.

 

Listen and subscribe to our playlist of the best new releases in queer music below.

 

Photo: @boychoy