Catholic Leaders Blame Abuse Scandal on Gays

Catholic leaders want to talk about a crisis facing the church in the wake of the Pennsylvania sexual abuse report. Not the crisis of abuse — the crisis of homosexuality.

A smattering of Catholic publications, leaders, and commentators have responded to the heartrending grand jury report that 300 Roman Catholic Priests in Pennsylvania abused 1,000 survivors by blaming gay people.

“Most gay priests are not molesters, but most of the molesters have been gay,” wrote Bill Donohue, president of religious advocacy organization the Catholic League, in a document that attempts to “debunk” the Pennsylvania report.

Donohue’s remarks, both in his “debunking document” and on Twitter, have been roundly criticized.

Donohue goes to great lengths to discredit the grand jury’s report, arguing that the numbers are unsubstantiated and cannot be reasonably proven and that the victims were not raped.

“They were groped or otherwise abused, but not penetrated, which is what the word ‘rape’ means,” he wrote. “This is not a defense — it is meant to set the record straight and debunk the worst case scenarios attributed to the offenders.”

LGBTQ Nation took Donohue to task for suggesting that gay people are more likely to abuse than straight people.

“Of course, child abusers are more likely to abuse children they have access to, and in a gender-divided society, adult males spend more time around male children,” wrote Alex Bollinger. “Moreover, research for the past several decades has shown that gay people aren’t more likely to abuse children than straight people.”

But such comments were not limited to Donohue. In an interview with Catholic Action for Faith and Family, Cardinal Raymond Burke said that “most” of the incidents of abuse were homosexual acts.

“Now it seems clear in light of these recent terrible scandals that indeed there is a homosexual culture, not only among the clergy but even within the hierarchy, which needs to be purified at the root,” Burke said.

Burke attributes the abuse, in part, to the “anti-life” culture we live in, “namely the contraceptive culture that separates the sexual act from the conjugal union.”

“The sexual act has no meaning whatsoever except between a man and a woman in marriage since the conjugal act is by its very nature for procreation,” he states.

Catholic media site Church Militant concludes it’s just time to admit what many bishops recognized years ago, but have since backtracked on.

“In what is the single most comprehensive investigation ever into the homosexual priest sex abuse scandal in the United States, faithful Catholics across the country are now calling for an end to the ordination of gay men, saying the spiritual, financial and emotional costs are simply too great,” the site states.

The Institute on Religion and Public Life went so far as a to publish a first-person essay by Daniel C. Mattson, who has long sold a story about how he found true happiness by renouncing homosexuality and committing to God. Mattson actually suggests that as a gay man, he would have actually been among the abusers if he had become a priest.

“Like many same-sex attracted men, I have at times compulsively engaged in risky anonymous behavior with other men,” Mattson wrote. “If I had been a priest, my sin would have been compounded by committing a horrible abuse against someone for whom I should have been a spiritual father.”

Research has repeatedly shown over the last three-and-half decades that no link between homosexuality and pedophilia.

GLAAD Urges Senators to Demand Answers From Brett Kavanaugh About LGBTQ Rights Record

What the LGBTQ community doesn’t know can hurt us.

That was GLAAD’s message to U.S. Senators on Thursday when the group hand-delivered a statement urging them to press Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on LGBTQ rights. In a message to the 21 members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis noted that “much of Judge Kavanaugh’s record has not been made public.”

“[We urge] you to ask Judge Kavanaugh about his position on LGBTQ rights, given his public alignment with the historically anti-LGBTQ Justice Antonin Scalia and his endorsement by a variety of anti-LGBTQ organizations,” Ellis said in a letter delivered by campus ambassador Tony Hernandez.

After Kavanaugh was tapped by President Trump in July, observers noted the self-avowed “originalist” had no direct rulings on LGBTQ rights in his decade on the D.C. circuit court bench.

What LGBTQ advocates do know about Kavanaugh’s background, however, they find extremely concerning.

As GLAAD noted in yesterday’s statement, the 53-year-old was strongly endorsed by conservative groups like Family Research Council and the Federalist Society, both of which activists say are ardent opponents of LGBTQ rights.

The Family Research Council, which has been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group,” praised Kavanaugh’s “long and praiseworthy history of judging as an originalist.” That means he believes judges should rule in line with the original intent of the Founding Fathers when drafting the U.S. Constitution.

Headed by Trump advisor Tony Perkins, the D.C.-based lobby group also supports conversion therapy, opposes LGBTQ-inclusive hate crime legislation, and praised Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill as “upholding moral conduct.”

Kavanaugh’s nomination was further vetted by The Federalist Society, which fought against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and The Heritage Foundation, which predicted that legalizing same-sex unions would lead to “group marriage.” Ryan T. Anderson, a Heritage Foundation research fellow, is rumored to have been one of the key advisors on Trump’s trans military ban.

Meanwhile, Kavanaugh served as staff secretary to President George W. Bush as the former president’s administration backed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

While Kavanaugh’s records from the Bush White House have yet to be unsealed, GLAAD claimed his opinions on marriage equality are likely to be in line with the late arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who doggedly ruled against LGBTQ rights in his 30 years on the bench.

Lauding Scalia as a “hero” and a “role model,” Kavanaugh once praised Scalia’s Obergefell v. Hodges dissent, in which the former judge called the Supreme Court’s 2015 same-sex marriage ruling a “threat to American democracy.”

SCOTUS has “no legitimate role… in creating new rights not spelled out in the Constitution,” Kavanaugh stated in a 2016 speech.

“Judge Kavanaugh already has raised serious questions for advocates that he might not have LGBTQ Americans’ best interests at heart,” GLAAD concluded, arguing that such leanings would make him “not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.”

The letter was addressed to the 21 sitting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is set to hold hearings on Kavanaugh’s appointment next week. After listening to witnesses sound off on his record and questioning the nominee, the committee will then make its recommendation to the full Senate regarding whether or not the justice should be officially confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee include Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

In its message, GLAAD particularly urged federal lawmakers to ask Kavanaugh “whether he would uphold the Obergefell decision in favor of marriage equality as settled precedent” and if he believes “religious freedom also includes the freedom of women, LGBTQ people, and other minorities not to be unfairly harmed by another person’s personal faith.”

Other advocacy organizations have universally opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which would give conservatives a five-vote majority on the court.

Lambda Legal claimed his presence on the nation’s highest bench would “yank the court sharply to the extreme right,” arguing he would would guarantee 40 more years of Trump’s values on the Supreme Court.” Meanwhile, Equality California called him a “far-right extremist.”

But as LGBTQ groups call for accountability in the days leading up to Kavanaugh’s hearing, the judge has one staunch defender in his corner: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell claimed the criticism is merely “far left rhetoric.”

“The apocalypse never comes,” he told colleagues on the Senate floor in July, just hours before Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced. “Americans see beyond this far left mongering, this fear mongering that they have tried over and over again for 40 years. Senators should do the same.”

McConnell is widely credited with blocking Obama pick Merrick Garland’s nomination to the bench, leaving open a spot for far-right Justice Neil Gorsuch following Scalia’s death in February 2016.

The Crisis Grows: Two Transgender Women Murdered On the Same Day in Chicago, Louisiana

Dejanay Stanton was 24. Vontashia Bell was 18. On Thursday night, news of their deaths spread across social media, interrupting a month-long stretch without a reported transgender homicide.

Both transgender women were murdered August 30 in Chicago and Louisiana respectively.

“Was hoping we could get through the month of August without losing a single trans person, but unfortunately that is not going to be the case.” wrote transgender blogger Monica Roberts.

Dejanay Stanton

Dejanay Stanton hailed from Chicago’s South Side and lived most of her life as female, according to Lionel Riddle, her close friend. She enjoyed a close relationship with a family that supported her, including her mom and brother.

“She was a sweetheart,” said Riddle. “Everybody loved her. She had nothing bad to say. She was just that one person that was rooting for everybody. She never really got into it with too many people. She just stayed to herself.”

Kaylaa De’Asia Hall, who knew Stanton since childhood, remembered Stanton as a humble person who always put a smile on your face.

“She was a nice person,” said Hall.  “Such a sweetheart, a beautiful woman, always stayed to herself.”

Stanton dreamed of leaving Chicago, of departing the city’s South Side, where Black LGBTQ people face particular adversity in a city that remains intensely segregated and wracked by gun violence.

Chicago’s LGBTQ newspaper Windy City Times first broke the news of Stanton’s murder, noting that Dawn Valenti, a crisis responder with Chicago Survivors, had confirmed her identity before police.

On Friday, a Chicago Police Department spokesperson confirmed that Stanton had been shot at 40th Street and King Drive in Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago and rushed to John H. Stroger Hospital. She was initially identified as a female Jane Doe and later identified as Stanton. No arrests have been made. An investigation is ongoing.

Vontashia Bell

Less is known about the life about Vontashia Bell, an 18-year-old transgender woman killed in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Dogged community advocates identified Bell as transgender and corrected initial police and coroner’s reports of a male killed by a gunshot wound.  

According to a Shreveport Police Department statement, police responded to a shooting at 4:30 am at the 400 block of Harrison Street in the Cedar Grove neighborhood. The release, which misgenders Bell, reports that she was transported to University Health Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

It is not known if police knew that Bell may have been transgender. An investigation into her death is ongoing. No arrests have been made.

Rebecca Norris, president of Louisiana Transgender Advocates Shreveport, said information about Bell’s death trickled in on Thursday, while her organization rushed to track down Bell’s Facebook friends.

“We were able to determine that she was indeed transgender,” said Norris. “She has just recently come back out. Evidently she went back in the closet for quite a while, and she came about out the first of August, and that was verified.”

On August 29, Bell posted on her Facebook page that she felt like “being my old self again.”

The proclamation comes above a selfie. In it, she has long hair and sunglasses. Her hand is held in a defiant fist, and she’s smiling.

“And it ain’t the last,” she wrote. ‘just wait until next month going had vontashia back in business and in style.”

A national crisis

The murders of Stanton and Bell mark the 17th and 18th reported transgender homicides this year, putting 2018 on track to be the most violent against transgender people on record. Last year saw the highest number of transgender homicides ever reported at 28.

Louisiana, in particular, has seen an alarming number of transgender murders, according to data compiled by the national LGBTQ media organization GLAAD. Bell’s death marks the 9th transgender trans murder there in just three years. Stanton’s death brings the number for Illinois up for four since 2015.

In many of those cases, the victims have been initially misgendered by police and news outlets, delaying accurate reporting of their deaths.

“GLAAD calls on all media to accurately and respectfully report on the lives of transgender people — in life and in death,” said Sue Yacka-Bible, communications director at GLAAD. “With the crisis of deadly violence that transgender women of color in particular are facing, it is imperative that the media take the extra time to report accurately and show a full picture of lives lost.”

This is a breaking story. INTO will update as details become available.

Sina Grace Is Having Too Much Fun Queering ‘Iceman’

I spend a lot of my time reading comic books and looking for the buried queerness in the panels.

I can squeeze a juicy drop of queerness out of the most unyielding stone of genre fiction; in fact, I’ve made it my mission to glean the swish from the swashbuckler. When it comes to superheroes, the list of LGBTQ+ characters is unfortunately not a long one. Queer comic book fans often have to make do with subtext, which I’m all for, or turn to graphic novel memoirs like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home to find stories that they can relate to.

So when a queer character actually shows up in a superhero book, or even more rare, a queer character headlines their own solo series, I breathe a deep sigh of relief because that means I don’t have to do any mental gymnastics. My power of homosexual second sight can take the night off and I get to read a story about a character I can see some of myself in. Thus, my immense excitement in the return of Marvel’s Iceman series from queer writer Sina Grace.

Before we dig in, a quick recap of what’s happened so far.

Previously in Iceman: Bobby Drake (aka Iceman of the X-Men) was outed by time-displaced telepath Jean Grey. Since then he has tackled explaining his queer identity to ex-girlfriends, processed coming out to his conservative parents with the help of his younger self, and started (then ended) his first gay relationship.

Damn, and that’s just the non-superhero stuff.

Our “queero” also traded blows with the bigoted right-wing Purifier hate group, human battering ram Juggernaut, and saved the Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach from sleazy nightmare thot Daken.  When you’re a super-powered mutant living in a world that hates and fears you things can get complicated. Sound familiar?

Taking on the task of updating a beloved character that’s been around since 1963 is a tall order. Not only do you have to sift through nearly sixty years of continuity, but you have to deal with the fact that some comic book fans could be resistant to a gay storyline. Writer Brian Michael Bendis made the call to have Iceman come out while he was writing many of the X-Men titles in 2015 and there was a fair amount of uproar from conservative readers.

“When we first started working on Iceman, my editor and I were trying to be sensitive to how the book should still read like an X-Men comic, but one where the main character happens to be gay,” Grace says. “We were both approaching it as queer people who live in major coastal cities and though we weren’t trying to ‘play to the middle’ necessarily, we wanted to keep in mind that not everyone is going to be interested or ready to dive into the deep end of conversations that we might be having in New York or Los Angeles.”

Grace is no stranger to the graphic novel medium — he is the author and artist behind several autobiographical books (including Self-Obsessed and Not My Bag) and traces his interest in comics back to an early age.

“I’ve been interested in comic books since all the way back in elementary school. In high school, I was attending comic conventions and interning at a comic company called Top Cow Productions,” Grace says. “In college, I started self-publishing zines. Every time I learned something new I wanted to dive in deeper and as I got older I really began to appreciate the autonomy of the form.”

Much of Grace’s work draws on his own personal lived experience as a queer person and the issues that come along with that. Approaching Iceman was an exercise in mapping real-life emotional stakes onto a character who is opening a new chapter of their life — and also has the power to control ice.

“I was approaching the first Iceman run drawing from personal accounts and stories from my friends about the queer late bloomer effect,” Grace says. “The first series was a ‘coming out’ story and this new run is a ‘being out’ story. It’s more about living in your skin, finding balance, discovering your community, and deciding what you owe your community.”

Understanding the nuanced differences between those two types of queer narratives is sometimes lost on straight writers despite their best intentions.

The character of Iceman has gone through many changes since his debut in The X-Men #1 in 1963, and he has appeared in hundreds of comic books, mostly as comic relief. Through various time travel related shenanigans he’s met his younger self and discovered that in some future timeline he is destined to become an extremely powerful “ice wizard.” In this new limited series, Sina Grace looks to explore what Iceman can do when he’s not holding himself back.

“There is this larger notion with the character around ‘unfulfilled potential’ and in the continuity of X-Men comics he’s been told that he’s one of the most powerful mutants ever, an Omega Level Mutant, but his history doesn’t necessarily reflect that. We wanted to dig into that. Why hasn’t he blossomed?”

The initial Iceman solo series enjoyed critical success and explored exciting new storylines but the individual issues struggled on the market and the series was eventually canceled. The return of the series, according to Grace, is based almost entirely on capitalism.

Iceman coming back was such a huge surprise for me. A lot of books went on the chopping block at the same time and it’s always a matter of sales numbers,” Grace says. “Luckily, Marvel gave me the time and freedom to wrap up the first series with an 11th issue and I felt really taken care of. And then book sold really well in the collected trades on the book market and Marvel reached out.”

The comic book industry, in general, is seeing a steady decline in single issue sales and publishers are looking for new ways to approach a changing readership. The “direct market” sales approach and a monopoly held by Diamond Comics Distributors has led to comic book “floppies” only being sold in specialty shops and physical issues are now “non-returnable,” meaning if shops don’t sell the comics that they’ve ordered, they’re just stuck taking an L on profit.

“That’s the challenge of these type of books moving forward. Titles will be reaching out to a new type of consumer who doesn’t buy single issue floppies every month,” Grace says. “It’s tough to figure out who your readership is when modern readers don’t necessarily frequent comic book stores.”

Though physical book sales struggle, there is still hope. Genre fiction and comic books are where new advancements in narrative storytelling begin, and who’s writing these stories matters. Tapping into the experiences of marginalized people opens up new realms that are essential to understanding our own world.

“There is so much brilliant storytelling waiting to happen when you ask the question: How does someone that has everything working against them save the world?” Grace says. “That’s where the future of conflict narratives is going to come from.”

If we as queer people want to see our lives reflected in the media we take in, we need to create the stories we want to see and support queer artists. Where and how we spend our money speaks volumes.

“Some of our favorite drag queens have been inspired specifically by the X-Men. Comic books give you eye candy and they’re funny!” Grace insists. “Iceman is a funny book. If your ass can buy a David Sedaris book, your ass can buy an X-Men comic. Comics are cool again, Honey!”

Iceman #1 by Sina Grace and Nate Stockman will be available on Comixology and in stores on September 12th.

Eminem Calls Tyler, the Creator a ‘Fa**ot’ on His Latest Album ‘Kamikaze’

No, you’re not experiencing deja vu.

With the surprise release of his latest album Kamikaze on Thursday night, Eminem found himself at the center of another controversy. On the album’s track “Fall,” the rapper described out queer rapper Tyler, the Creator as a “faggot.”

“Tyler create nothin’, I see why you called yourself a faggot, bitch,” Eminem raps.

Though Eminem raps the lyric, the word is bleeped out on the song.

Many people expressed their disapproval of the lyric on social media.

Eminem’s diss comes after Tyler, the Creator dissed Eminem’s output on Twitter.

“I love you Marshall, you are my favorite rapper but dude ShadyXV is f-cking ASS hahaha why wont someone who loves him tell him NO,” Tyler wrote.  

This controversy follows a long string of charges of homophobia against the Oscar-winning rapper. Eminem denied being homophobic in a 2013 Rolling Stone exclusive.

Songwriter Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver, who appears on the track and co-wrote it, said on Twitter that he was unaware of the lyric when he recorded the song.

“Was not in the studio for the Eminem track… came from a session with BJ Burton and Mike Will,” Vernon wrote. “Not a fan of the message, it’s tired. Asked them to change the track, wouldn’t do it.”

Madonna Has Always Made Things About Her

I vowed to never watch the VMAs unless Beyoncé is performing. My followers’ live tweets tell me what I need to know about the night — who won awards, who performed, who looked a mess, and who embarrassed themselves — but no one can perfectly summarize a performance from the queen Bey.

But this year, when Madonna became the number one worldwide trend on Twitter, I assumed Madonna had used the n-word. I would not have been surprised — in 2014, the pop star caught fire for using it on Instagram. She captioned a photo of her son’s boxing training: “No one messes with dirty soap! Mama said knock you out! #DisNigga.” She responded to the backlash by saying, “There’s no way to defend the use of the word. It was all about intention. It was used as a term of endearment toward my son who is white. I appreciate that it’s a provocative word and I apologize if it gave people the wrong impression. Forgive me.”

During the VMAs, my timeline exploded with angry tweets about the pop star. While some of my followers reposted Madonna’s picture, accusing her of appropriating Amazigh culture, many of my followers expressed annoyance at her so-called Aretha Franklin tribute. In a less than a two-minute tribute, Madonna mentioned herself over 70 times and the late Aretha Franklin only four.

This is typical of Madonna, and imagining otherwise means you live under a rock or have not paid attention to her incessant antics. Here is a comprehensive list of five times Madonna made something, which had nothing to do with her, about herself:

Madonna’s message to LGBTQ people during pride month

This past Pride month, Madonna wrote a brief statement. She showed solidarity to the LGBTQ community by — SHOCKINGLY — talking about herself, her upcoming music, her experience navigating New York City, and how she bows down to all the gay men who helped her with self-love and with her career.  

On Instagram, the pop star expressed gratitude to the LGBTQ community. She captioned the video:

“Until I can share my music, I’m sending love from Lisbon! Missing NY and the fierceness of the LGBT community that gave me life from the moment I landed there. For me, Pride Month is every month! This [queen] bows down to every gay boy that taught me a new dance, how to dress, how to drag, [and] how to slay; to stand tall in the face of adversity, not to give up hope, to own my inner bitch and to love my flaws.”

“Learning from the master…….. lol”

On Instagram, the pop star posted a photoshopped picture of Beyoncé and Jay-Z — screen captured from the Carter’s Apesh*t Music Video — staring at cover art from her past albums, making their latest single about her. She captioned the photo, “Learning from the master…….lol #art #equals #freedom.”

While her intentions were most likely pure, she struck the nerve of many Beyoncé fans. Some accused Madonna of being racist. I doubt that Madonna is purposefully racist; however, I do believe that Madonna is incapable of not making everything about her, even the success of her counterparts.

Madonna Makes Racism and Homophobia about Her

During an interview with Rolling Stone, Madonna compared her experience with ageism to racism and homophobia, though she has never experienced racism or homophobia. “No one would dare to say a degrading remark about being black or dare to say a degrading remark on Instagram about someone being gay. But my age — anybody and everybody would say something degrading to me. And I always think to myself, why is that accepted? What’s the difference between that and racism, or any discrimination? They’re judging me by my age. I don’t understand. I’m trying to get my head around it,” she said.

Madonna’s self-serving comparison is dangerous for multiple reasons. For one thing, she’s speaking about racism and homophobia like it’s a dinosaur fossil — like it is a relic from the past. Secondly, Madonna has never experienced racism or homophobia; therefore, she cannot make those forms of systemic bigotry about her.

Madonna Makes the Civil Rights Movement About Her

Madonna’s 13th studio album, Rebel Heart, arrived with a mess of a rollout. The pop star posted a photoshopped picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, with wires across his face — similar to the wires she had on her face, in her cover art. People immediately took offense, stating that Madonna had compared herself to the late Dr. King. The pop star replied to the backlash on Facebook, writing: “”I’m sorry I’m not comparing my self to anyone. I’m admiring and acknowledging [their] Rebel Hearts. This is neither a crime or an insult or racist!” the 56-year-old wrote. “Also, did it with Michael Jackson and Frida Khalo and Marilyn Monroe. Am I saying I am them NO. I’m saying they are Rebel Hearts too.” In other words, she’s comparing their ‘rebellious hearts’ to hers… Which is, in fact, comparing them to her… But OK!

Madonna Makes Black Culture About Her, and Tells Us to Fuck Off  Because She’s Just Doing Her Job

Less than a year after Madonna apologized for using the N-word, people continued calling the pop star out for cultural appropriation. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Madonna told the critics to kiss her ass. “I’m not appropriating anything. I’m inspired and I’m referencing other cultures. That is my right as an artist. They said Elvis Presley stole African-American culture. That’s our job as artists, to turn the world upside down and make everyone feel bewildered and have to rethink everything.” In other words: “Your culture is mine to colonize whenever I want – because that’s my job.”

Michelle Tea Gets the Tea From … Sarah Galvin

Sarah Galvin wrote one of my favorite books of poetry, a gem called Ugly Time that you should get off your screen and purchase, like now. Ugly Time, and by extension Galvin, is perverse in the way children are perverse, like everything is silly and gross and sexy and there is no separation between your genitalia and gummy bears and the great sadness you feel when your feelings get hurt, and also, like, animals and the sky and the characters that populate our media-saturated lives. Ugly Time deals with sex and bodies and gentrification and loneliness and money and queerness, with cities and lovers and buildings. It is waiting for you to devour it.

Meanwhile, here are Sarah Galvin’s answers to my questions.

What is the most uncanny thing you’ve ever experienced?

Once I was exploring an abandoned house with a couple of friends, and one room of the house had nothing in it but washing machines that were all full of dry, old clothing. Like somebody was doing 12 loads of laundry at once and then disappeared. Also, my partner and I live in a building where a kid was murdered in the 1920s and they never found the murderer. One morning shortly after we moved in, we found a pair of bloody child-sized handprints on the wall by our door (OUTSIDE the door, thank god). No children live in the building.

What is in your bag right now?

Six dollars, a wallet, a book of matches that says “Honeyhole,” a pair of cameo cufflinks molded to look like the profiles of Alexander the Great and his wife.

What is the 15th photo on your phone?

How are you like your sun sign?

I don’t know much about astrology, but I know I am a typical Taurus: I love food and clothing and sex, I’m hedonistic to the point of being — well, have you ever fucked til you bled?

What are you reading right now? Watching? Listening to?

I am currently reading Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s forthcoming Sketchstasy about a genderqueer sex worker and drug addict in the mid-’90s and it’s AMAZING. (Pictured in my 15th phone photo.) Last show: Girls Season 6. Last song: “Utopia, Me Giorgio” by Giorgio Moroder.

What is the last meal you cooked?

The last meal I cooked was just stoned peanut butter and jelly toast, for me and my fiance. Yes, there was melted butter and crushed peanuts all over it. I am very serious about anything peanut butter goes on.

Where would you like to go on vacation right now?

If I could just go anywhere right now, either Cuba or India or Madagascar. Or Berlin, to live forever.

Tell me about getting to meet someone you idolize or admire.

I gave John Waters a copy of Ugly Time, my most recent poetry book, last winter, and he said I “turned out well.” Also, I got to interview my favorite comedian, Chris Fleming, last year and that was amazing.

What are you like when you’re sick?

I’m very emotionally vulnerable when I’m sick and want all the cuddles, from my fiance Mary Anne and my little cat, Loofah. I want to be held and fed soup while I read.

What are you obsessed with or inspired by right now?

I am obsessed with/inspired by Dina Martina’s song (perhaps it’s a cover, I’m not sure) “Pizzazz.”

What are you upset about right now?

I am upset about how late-stage capitalism is poisoning everything, and by how I have one leg shorter than the other and it ruins my shoes.

What is the last dream you remember?

The last dream I remember was of being fucked by the moon. It came closer and closer to earth until it pinned me down in this field and started vibrating. It was SO HOT.

Who are your queer ancestors?

Jean Genet, John Waters, Sylvester, that one probably trans pirate, Emily Dickinson, Kenneth Anger, Darby Crash.

What is your dream project?

My dream project is getting paid a living wage for any of the creative projects I’m already doing. I feel like I get to create something I care about, such as a poem, every day.

What are you doing this weekend?

This weekend I am GETTING MARRIED to the love of my life, visual artist, clothing designer and performance artist Mary Anne Carter.

Cole Escola is a Character

Cole Escola has played senile old ladies and gerontophiliac twinks on stage and screen since Jeffery & Cole Casserole, his lo-fi comedy project with collaborator Jeffery Self, found its way onto Logo in 2009. Having worked recently on At Home with Amy Sedaris, Mozart in the Jungle, and Difficult People, Escola is back at Joe’s Pub to present his newest solo sketch show, Quick! Pretend I’m Asleep, through Saturday, September 1.

INTO scooped Escola from a shoot for Amy Sedaris’ show on truTV to reflect on his near-decade of comedy in New York.

Who are you?

Oh, god. I’m another writer-performer type. That’s it — that’s who I am. I’m a writer-performer.

What’s different about your stage show from your work on TV?

My stage shows are solo sketch shows where I play multiple different characters. Most of them are female because that’s what I’d rather be playing.

How come?

Men are boring.

You play a lot of grandmas.

Yeah, yeah. I was very close with my grandmother as a child. I spent most of my free time with older women as a child, so I’m sure those all influenced my work now.

What’s your favorite character to play?

It changes based on how I’m feeling. Right now, I like playing Maven Crawford. She’s an old cabaret legend, sort of absent-minded, and she’s over 100 years old.

Your work isn’t “autobiographical,” but certainly, many artists do work through personal challenges in their creative work.

Well, there’s just no way that anything anyone creates is not autobiographical. Like, even a sketch where I play the Goblin Commuter of Hoboken asking her boss for a raise: I could look at it through like a therapist’s lens and go, “Oh, this is related to the way I feel when I’m asking for things that I want or the way I feel when I’m trying to flirt with someone.”

Is it therapeutic for you to bring those parts of yourself into your work that way?

Yeah, I think I do find it therapeutic. It’s not my only therapy — I’m also in therapy. But it is therapeutic, and I’m grateful that I have that as a form of coping. Being able to make myself laugh is something that I really am grateful for.

I know a lot of folks who find a lot of self-acceptance in taking the things they like the least about themselves and turning them into a persona — I think of characters like Paul Soileau’s Christeene Vale. Is that part of what you’re doing, too?

Yeah. Like, each of my characters has something about them that excites me and makes me want to play them. And I think it’s that they highlight a part of myself that wants to be seen, even if it’s as stupid as, like, Sharon Stone at her friend’s son’s graduation.

How do you see your work related to drag?

I guess I think of drag queens separately because what they do takes so much more skill. [laughs] I mean, the makeup, the work ethic… they’re just such better workers than I am. But I wouldn’t say what I do is not drag. But obviously, I would be extremely upset if I wanted to see a drag queen and then I showed up.

You do solo sketch work, you do TV work, and you’ve done collaboration work in the past. How are those processes different?

Writing alone is miserable. It’s one of the least fun… it’s just… it’s miserable. And every time I’m writing, I think to myself, about a hundred times, “I have to quit. [laughs] I have to quit the business. What am I doing? This is terrible. I am miserable. I’m never doing this again.” Like, every time I’m writing a new show… like, this the show, that I’m doing now, I thought to myself for the entire month and a half I was writing it, “Never do this again. Never, never, never, never agree to do a show ever again.”

But writing with a partner is much more fun. Writing with Jeffery [for Jeffery & Cole Casserole] was a lot of fun, because we would just try to make each other laugh, and then it was just like playing, and it was like hanging out, and then typing what we came up with, rather than writing alone, which feels like mining for diamonds in concrete on the West Side Highway.

And when it’s someone else’s script, then you literally just show up. Acting is the easiest thing in the world. [laughs] They literally come and get you from your house. They take you exactly to where you’re supposed to go. You have people telling you where to go, and leading you there, and getting you ready. All you have to do is just say words on the spot that they have marked on the floor for you. And then they take you home.

What’s pissing you off lately?

How much I am on my phone. That pisses me off. I just hate that I’m looking at it without even thinking of it.

What do you do on your phone?

I have no idea. I don’t know. Sometimes it’s like I come to, and I’m staring at a screen, and I’m scrolling, and I don’t know how I got there or where I am.

Are you someone who gets caught up in Twitter?

I get easily agitated. So I can probably read about four tweets before my heart rate increases to a degree that I have to stop. Or die.

So your strategy is just to disengage.

Yeah, yeah. I don’t really know what else to do. There’s probably healthier ways of engaging, but I don’t know what they are.

It bothers me when I let something get to me, like a mean tweet. Then I just get mad at myself. I’m like, “Oh, no! Now I let that make me upset.” But, actually, the mute feature has changed my life, because if I see someone saying something mean in my mentions, I’ll just mute them and the conversation, and then, a minute later, I can’t even remember their handle, and barely remember what they said. And it’s great.

What was it like moving to New York from Oregon?

It was hard. Yeah, it was really hard. It took four years before I like had any sense of safety and groundedness and a support system.

You moved here in 2005, and your career started to pick up around 2009, then?

Yeah. That’s when I sort of felt like this was my home.

Was there a make-or-break moment for you that happened around that?

That sort of happened in like in 2007, when I was attacked, twice. And it was very physically violent. People held a gun to my head while other guys kicked my teeth in. And it was… yeah.

Then I decided to move home after that because I wasn’t doing anything here. I wasn’t doing anything creative, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I assumed I wouldn’t perform, because I thought, “Oh, I’m just a gay guy who likes attention.” So I moved home, and then I was there for three months, and then I decided that I wanted to come back to New York. But I didn’t know why.

So then, when I came back, I started performing more or started performing, period.

I’m sorry that happened to you.

Oh, it’s… I mean, yeah, it sucked. But when I came back, I met Jeffery, and that’s when we started making videos and working together.

I accidentally started doing sex work, too.

What kind of sex work, if you don’t mind my asking?

Oh yeah. No, [it was] just classic Craigslist prostitution of the early aughts.

A lot of performers have stints in sex work.

That’s actually how [one of my performer friends and I] first became friends. Bridget Everett used to have this show called Side Show in the back room at The Ritz on Sunday nights, and I saw them perform there. This was like, maybe 2007, maybe 2008. And then we started talking about how we were both sex workers at the time.

How do you feel about that time in your life now?

I just think about where I was like personally, and I was very angry. But then, I was also very stupid about it, and it was exciting to me. And it was fun for a while, then it got miserable and it was depressing, and I felt trapped in it. I have a hundred feelings about it.

How did you recover?

After I was attacked, and I moved home, I was just working. I was working so much at this minimum wage job, and then had another two jobs on the side on top of that, and I didn’t have any time for anything creative whatsoever. So I was like, “If I go back to New York, I need to have time to perform and time to write and create. But I also need to make money.” So I knew a friend that was doing sex work. So I reached out to him and I was like, “Hey, where do I send my resume?”

It was miserable, but it really did allow me to have time to create. And if I didn’t have that time, I don’t know that I would have worked with Jeffery and created as much as we did, which then inspired me to pursue writing and performing as a career, which is why I’m here today. I did party way too much in those days as well. And that was a way of coping, I think, with all of it.

Did you know anyone growing up in Oregon who had fucked an animal?

No, I don’t think so. I mean, I’m sure I did, but I wasn’t made aware of it. There was an alpaca farm not far from us. It was owned by a family. I’m sure someone in that family had sex with an alpaca.

Why do you think that that happens?

I’m just thinking in terms of odds.

Cole Escola’s Quick! Pretend I’m Asleep completes its sold-out run at Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St New York, NY 10003, on Saturday, September 1 — see joespub.com for details. Escola hopes to take the show on a West Coast and Midwest tour sometime this fall or winter — follow him on Twitter or Instagram or visit coleescola.com for the latest news.

Propelled By Coverage of Expulsion Threat, Trans BYU Student Raises Money For Top Surgery

A week ago, Kris Irvin was counting on the steep cost to make the decision for them. Irvin, a transgender student at Brigham Young University, has been forced to choose between top surgery and expulsion.

Irvin made national headlines last week when news broke that their bishop would withhold the Ecclesiastical Endorsement Irvin needs to continue enrollment at BYU if they got gender-confirmation surgery.

But in truth, Irvin didn’t have the money. They were still raising the funds on GoFundMe.com, hoping to scrape enough together months from now.

“The one good thing is I still have to raise enough money to be able to afford the whole thing,” Irvin said of the choice they faced.

Irvin is just 30 credits shy of a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. They started pursuing a degree 14 years ago, only to stop and start again. At 31, they have just two-and-a-half semesters of school left.

On Tuesday, Irvin sat down to look at their GoFundMe page. Donations had been coming in all week — $25 here, $50 there. On Friday, The Washington Post published a story on Irvin. The next day, a a $1,000 anonymous donation hit Irvin’s fundraiser.

Still, Irvin was less than halfway to their $4,000 goal.

“I was just checking the page on Tuesday, and I didn’t expect to see any change or anything,” said Irvin. “It halfway loaded and the green bar was all the way to to the end, and I was like, ‘What? How is that possible? That must be some sort of glitch.’”

At the top of the donations, another anonymous gift appeared, this one for $2,080. It was the exact amount Irvin needed to hit their goal.

What if someone made a very large typo, and now they feel really bad? Irvin worried. But no, the donation seemed intentional.

And then Irvin read a note that came with the donation. “Am funding the remaining of what you have asked on behalf of every close minded bigot who has ever given you grief,” the anonymous donor wrote. “May they be forgiven of their atrocities and remembered by you no more. Go forward in peace and happiness and spread love in this world.”

Irvin’s path to transgender identity has not been simple or sunny.

“I’ve known I was trans since I was three, but I didn’t know the right word for it,” they said. “I basically grew up feeling like I was a freak of nature and alone and nobody else was like me. I just had to hide whatever I was.”

The Mormon Church considers it disobedient to act on same-sex attraction, but it doesn’t have an official transgender policy. In November 2015, a month after Irvin came out as trans, the church announced a new policy barring the kids of same-sex couples from blessings and baptisms.

Irvin, who is married to a cisgender man and has a son, felt like the policy might target families like theirs.

Irvin has transgender friends in the Mormon Church, but their trans male friends aren’t at BYU and haven’t been confronted with the unbearable decision of choosing between an education and a body that fits.

For Irvin, who planned on procrastinating on the decision to either transfer from BYU or face possible expulsion, the choice now becomes immediate. With money to fund to the surgery, Irvin is trying to navigate the joyous and complicated ways their life will quickly change.

“My goal was to have it done before I turned 35, and I’m 31 so I’m kind of redoing all the timelines in my head,” Irvin said.

Irvin recalls going to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi with a friend last year.

“I remember thinking, ‘I hope that by the time the 9th movie comes out I can go see it in the body that I want to be in,” Irvin said. “And it looks like that’s going to happen.”

The movie is due out in 2019. Irvin is eyeing January for surgery.

“I hope I can pay that forward someday,” Irvin said. Maybe that will mean anonymously funding someone’s gender-confirmation surgery, they hope.

Detox Finds ‘Drag Race’ To Now Be ‘Boring’

Even before acquiring international diva status thanks to stints on RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 5 and All Stars 2), Detox made a name for herself by appearing in music videos for Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Kesha. Her stunning looks, strong personality, and candid sense of humor made the Florida-born, Chicago-based queen one of the most memorable Ru girls. Who could forget that amazing all-silver runway, that lemon-yellow hair and set of brows in the confessionals, or that quivering lipsyncing chin?

In person, just as on TV, she looks to be from another planet. INTO had the chance to catch up with Detox during her recent visit to Buenos Aires. We find her in the dressing room minutes before going onstage to perform Roísín Murphy’s “Momma’s Place,” clad in white and silver, intermittently sequined from wig to toe. A few strands of hair intentionally cross her face. She is glittering and glowing like a celestial vision, and we had the chance to discuss her inspirations, bubble baths, her older sister and her trans sisters, Drag Race, and her passion for fashion. Because you know she’s gotta habit.   

Why do you think people like you so much?

[Laughs] I don’t know. I’m just me. I love what I do and I think that resonates with people. I’m also very approachable and I think that helps a lot. That goes to my longevity.

Who have been your inspirations?

Oh God, so many people. My sister. [Coughs] Excuse me — I’m not crying yet, it was just a cough. My sister first and foremost has always been my biggest inspiration, she’s been my rock since the day I was born. My friend Sassy Devine, Monica Monroe, CR Fox, my drag mother Mizz Kori. They are pioneers in the drag world in the States who have paved the way for me to be able to do what I do, do it well and with respect. Madonna is obviously one of my biggest influences, I love her. Roísín Murphy, who you’ll be hearing a lot of tonight.  

You always mention your sister — what role has she played in your life?
Because she was my big sister, I grew up admiring her and from the very beginning, she took me under her wing. She knew there was something special and different about me. So she always tried to protect and support me. Without her I wouldn’t really be doing what I’m doing because she’s always been so encouraging of it, of me being an artist and me just being myself. Plus she’s a fierce bitch. I remember just watching her get dressed. She was like my icon. She still is.

The first two times you visited Buenos Aires, serving Argentine first lady realness, you sang songs from the 1995 film Evita. What made you take interest in her, apart from the fact that she was played by Madonna?

I’ve always been drawn to strong women. To me, she was probably the strongest of that generation. I don’t know everything about her but I see how she brought the people together and what she did for the community. And she influenced pop culture not only in Argentina but in our part of the world as well. When she passed away, her death made front pages of newspapers across the globe. Clearly, she had a huge impact and her presence resonates still, over 60 years later. Obviously, I wouldn’t have gotten to know much about her had it not been for my infatuation with Madonna, but I’m lucky I did.


The song “I Like It Like That” is all about self-love and self-care. Have you always taken care of yourself?

I’ve always wanted to take care of myself. Now I have the means to do so in a better way. What I do and how much I travel affects my body and my psyche. In the past couple of years, I’ve learned self-care is a necessity. It’s important to take some time out for yourself to breathe. I try to make sure I’m in a good mental space and caring for my body and well-being. It gets difficult on the road but pampering yourself with simple things like a bubble bath are really good means of self-care. I also try to not push myself as hard as I used to.

Have you always loved yourself?

I feel like there’s always been a part of me that has. But it took a long time to get to the point where I truly understood and appreciated myself.

How did you get to that point?

I think it had to do with fully coming to come to terms with my sexuality, my individuality, and my being and learning to love myself through all the flaws and insecurities. And having a really great support system: my family, my sister, my nieces, and nephews, just surrounding myself with people who care for me. No matter how poorly I may feel I’m doing, I always have people around me to lift me up.

What makes you happy?

My family, being home, taking baths. My fans. A lot of things make me happy. I’m a pretty happy person.

What are your views on trans and cis women who do drag?

I think they’re amazing. I got my start with the support of my trans sisters in Florida. I wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for those girls! I think trans women are a larger part of the drag community than people give them credit for. As far as cis women go, Ru says it all the time: “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.” So I think when someone has a problem with cis women doing drag, that’s their own personal hang-up. I feel like we can’t fight for inclusivity if we’re not being inclusive of all types of people.  

Do you think drag provides a link between the gay and trans communities?

I like to think so, because that’s how I grew up. Like I said, it’s always been my trans sisters who supported me the most in my drag career. Such a crazy divide has formed between the trans, queer and drag communities in the past couple of years. I see it, for example, in the fact that there aren’t more openly trans competitors on Drag Race. It’s upsetting to me, but it also creates a huge dialogue for the topic. Trans people are such a part of American drag culture. You know, Stonewall wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for them. They were the first to throw the stones. They were the first to stand up and not take shit from the government and not be afraid and be activists.  

Speaking of Drag Race, what are your thoughts on the last season?

Uhh, it was boring. I think it was better than some of the later seasons but still boring. I wish it was back to being about the fundamentals of drag, the creative process, and the amazing talents that are on the show instead of winding up the girls to see what they can get them to do for laughter and applause, how they can get them to make good television.  

After Mayhem Miller went home, who were you rooting for? Were you team anyone from the top four?

Not really. I think they were all a decent representation of the show. Any of them could have taken the crown and I would have been fine with it. I wish Miz Cracker and Monet would have gone a little further. I really enjoy their characters and them as human beings and people.

You’ve got a passion for fashion — why do you enjoy it so much?  

Why not? Who doesn’t want to look and be beautiful? It’s something I’ve been in love with and fascinated by since I was a kid. Now that I’m older and more successful and able to treat myself to nice things, I try to do so as often as possible. I think it’s such a beautiful and entertaining world. I was just in Paris for the Dior Homme show and seeing Kim Jones and how amazing he is and how much of a collaborative effort it was to create that first iconic show was a really beautiful thing. The fashion world is much more of a tight-knit community than I think people realize. It’s similar to the drag world. People are supportive of each other, there’s a really strong bond, a kind of familiarity that’s interwoven between all of us although in a sense we’re all competitors. We still wanna see everybody doing really well.

What is the relationship between Matthew and Detox?

They are the same person. They are one and the same. Detox just has a lot better clothes than Matthew does at the moment.

Images courtesy Detox