Stop Elevating Straight People as LGBTQ Heroes Over Queer People

Niall Horan did a nice thing. During a meet and greet at the Clarkston, Michigan stop on his Flicker World Tour, the former One Direction band member posed for a photo with a gay fan. In the photo the fan posted, he and Horan are holding hands.

One look at the fan’s profile — on which his display name has been changed to “Garrett MET NIALL,” and the photo in question now serves as his avatar — tells you that this meeting was a massive deal for him. And it’s a small gesture, but holding the fan’s hand is a sweet action that just years ago would likely have been difficult to fathom coming from a straight male pop star.

Of course, someone had to take a small act of kindness and turn it into a whole production. Breathe Heavy, a pop music site with a decidedly queer bent, tweeted out the story with what could generously be described as an eye-catching bit of copy: “Our newly-crowned LGBTQ king is for holding a gay fan’s hand during a M&G. We salute you.”

This would be exhausting enough as-is, as it quite enthusiastically celebrates a straight celebrity for, effectively, not being a homophobe and doing a nice thing. We as a culture have a tendency to do this; see also, every time Armie Hammer said anything even slightly gay-friendly on the Call Me By Your Name press tour.

But there’s an amplifying factor here: This tweet was posted on Thursday. The very next day, Troye Sivan released his newest album, Bloom. And he wasn’t the only one. For example, genderfluid one-person band Tash Sultana released their critically acclaimed newest album, Flow State, this week as well. So there were multiple options to lift up an artist who actually identifies as some part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum this week. But instead, the “newly-crowned LGBTQ king” is Horan. For doing a nice thing for a gay fan.

None of this is meant to bash Horan — again, he showed someone kindness, and that’s a good thing. But I’d imagine even he’d be embarrassed to be wildly heralded for such a small act, particularly at the expense of queer artists. Because what he did, sweet as it may have been, doesn’t make him an LGBTQ king, and it certainly doesn’t make him one over actual queer people.

There will be plenty of future debate about how much we hold up straight people for being allies, or even just not being our enemies. Some will say we need to encourage such behavior as much as we can. Others will say it’s juvenile to give them gold stars just for showing human decency. But hopefully, we can all agree on this basic point: Elevating straight people as royalty of LGBTQ+ communities over actual queer and trans people is embarrassing. We can, and should, do better than that.

Images via Getty

New Music We Are INTO This September

INTO’s roundup of our favorite new releases vows to remain purposefully intersectional in highlighting the best in queer music, both emerging and established. Because when things take a turn and you need a lift in spirits or just a distraction, music continues to serve as one of the most practical forms of self care.

Our queer musical intake in August was hearty and fortified. Haters will say it wasn’t the impact of Leo season. With their latest album, Resolutionself-released this month, Shamir brings us one of the most important rock songs of the year with “I Can’t Breathe,” in remembrance of the murders of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. Yves Tumor continues to explore new sounds in their second track release this year, “Licking An Orchid,” paired with a haunting visual. Blood Orange released Negro Swan, narrated throughout by Janet Mock. Global popstar on the rise Rina Sawayama came out as pansexual this month in her song “Cherry,” referencing a girl gaze. Cherry emoji Twitter, rejoice.

Hayley Kiyoko won a VMA and shouted out queer women of color. Troye Sivan’s second album Bloom hit airwaves, and its pure pop ambient bliss portrays queer love in broad, defiant strokes. Pabllo Vittar snapped when she gave us a look at what inflitrating Elon Musk’s estate might look like in a new video for her song, “Problema Seu,” complete with a Naruto-style shinobi-run at 1:48. Finally, Brooke Candy continues this recent trend of queer supergroup tracks enlisting Mykki Blanco, MNDR and Pussy Riot in “My Sex” which looks like really glossy imvu porn.

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

Biking With The Buddha

The first thing you’ll notice after landing in Sukhothai, a near $60, hourlong flight from Bangkok, is that the northern Thailand province’s airport is a zoo.

Yes, after stepping onto the humid tarmac, you’ll see zebras grazing beside white fences. As you board the trolley that takes you to the open air terminal, you’ll find giraffes stretching their long legs in the warm Thai sun. Tortoises not far from baggage claim. Pied tamarins bickering as customers ask for a first class upgrade. Wallabies just a few hops from security.

I wasn’t able to find out why this airport exhibited exotic animals while I was there, but after looking into it, the answer seems to be why not? The private airport (and free zoo for flyers) is owned by Bangkok Airways,  and the small collection of exotic animals on well kept, spacious grounds ornamented by 13th-century ruins, makes the airport one of the most unique I’ve come across in all of my travels.

This is how you’re welcomed to Sukhothai, a gem off the beaten path, just beyond the reach of the typical traveler’s radar. Located 256 miles north of Bangkok and 190 south of Chiang Mai, Sukhothai is a place of respite for the backpacker overwhelmed by busy and bustling capital and the tourist stricken islands of Thailand’s southern arm that flexes into the country’s famous turquoise seas.

The region’s historic capital, also named Sukhothai, dates back to the 13th century and was the first province of independence from the Khmers. The historic city was the first capital of the Kingdom of Siam; Sukhothai aptly and poetically means “the dawn of happiness.” Here, find freedom, sunshine, peace, and the first day of the rest of your life.

Among the gently sloped mountains giving way to peaceful pastoral flatlands, the area is well known for two historic parks: Sukhothai Historic Park and Si Satchanalai Historical Park.

At these expansive parks, the 800-year-old ruins of temples, relics, walls, and Buddhas sun themselves beside tranquil waterways, forests, and electric green lawns. Si Satchanalai is certainly the quieter of the two parks, as it rests 60 miles from the town center of New Sukhothai and, as a result, is visited primarily by locals. However, the layout of Sukhothai Historic Park still allows great solitude. During our day, we didn’t see more than fifty tourists. The two parks are smaller, lesser visited Angkor Wats, but with a more attainable and personalized grandeur.

What makes them primarily unique, besides the solitude from the masses and the freedom of self-guided exploration, is the amount of space both parks claim, making their exploration by bike not only practical but charming.

It is not often we get to double up and experience two activities at once. Here, biking and sightseeing.

Here, hundreds of years of history and the blend of Khmer/Thai architecture, a stunning scenery of palm, ponds decorated by lotus, and miles of bike and walking paths to pedal, glide, and cruise. It is in places like Sukhothai that we remember the finest and simplest things in life: an afternoon at a park with nothing but a bicycle is happiness. Sukhothai is sublime.

The group I traveled with in Sukhothai spent our first afternoon at Si Satchanalai, before recharging and spending our second day at Sukhothai Historical Park.

That morning, a bright one full of songbirds and Thai iced coffees, we rented our bikes from K Shop for about 30 baht a day (nearly $1 USD). We came prepared for the hot day before us, a humid 80-degree bluebird stunner. We wore light, shoulder-covering linens. We slathered sunscreen and sipped coconut water. We chose our bikes from a fleet of beach cruisers, adjusted our seats, and were off to see the 193 preserved ruins of the park.

What made the experience particularly pleasant as we hopped from temple to pagoda to stupa to shrine was the ease of the biking. The ground was so flat and the trails were so smoothly paved that even those who struggled with biking re-fell in love with the activity.

It was a moment to remember and become reacquainted with the joy we first felt when we took our first ride without training wheels. The land at the park is as flat and spacious as the land you learned how to ride a bike on as a young’un: your neighborhood’s car-free cul-de-sac, your elementary school’s empty parking lot, the long, forbidden, smooth as butter driveway of next-door-neighbor.

Throughout the afternoon, we stopped at Wat Mahathat (the temple of the great relic), the park’s biggest and most impressive structure, center-pieced by a calm, seated Buddha. Behind him, equidistant, were two more Buddhas, but these ones were standing. 

As we curved around the park into the heart of Traphang-Trakuan Lake to see another temple, Wat Si Sam, we came across something even more unexpected to me than standing Buddhas: a walking Buddha! Untroubled, this Buddha appeared to be floating across the grass with his left hand held out before him, which a scarlet-backed flowerpecker landed on, and roosted momentarily, before flying across the lake.

The afternoon by bike was one of the warmest of my recent trip to Thailand. Thailand proved its well-deserved nickname, the land of smiles. Towards the end of our afternoon, as I was gliding by another standing Buddha, I felt a cooling Thai breeze. As I passed him, I looked back.

It was as if this Buddha with his hand stretched out was balancing my training wheel-less bike, striding along beside me with his hands on my shoulders, pushing me forward, like a parent releasing their child onto open pavements. I was like a boy full of smiles peering over his shoulder, realizing he is no longer being balanced. I was cruising across the pathway a little bit closer into the present.

The Snugs

While in Sukhothai, be sure to stay at the Sriwilai, a gorgeous queer-friendly property only 10 minutes from the historical park. Besides the hotel’s stunning views of rice fields filled with feeding egrets and rainbows and gentle mountains, the property sits beside one of the 800-year-old pagodas, adding a historic, timeless aesthetic contrasted to the modern, minimalistic design of the 4-star property’s rooms. There is even a gorgeous infinity pool. Rooms from $91.

George is Tired…Of ‘Good’ White People

John McCain. The American Hero.

The one who voted five times to keep Martin Luther King Jr. Day from being a national holiday. The one who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1990. The one who was vehemently against Marriage Equality. The same senator who voted 83% of the time with Trump, who everyone mistakenly claims that he opposed. And Sarah Fucking Palin, cause yes, he brought her brand of nationalism to the world stage.

John McCain walked so Donald Trump could fly.

John McCain will be forever remembered as one of “The Good White People,” a status that many Black civil rights icons and pundits have already granted him. Despite him being just another oppressor. It takes a lot for me to continue to watch folk matching my reflection unbreak the conditions in which we have been taught to find “humanity” in those who have caused us harm. Find the “goodness” in white folk that have never seemed to find it in us — unless they’re playing politics that allow them to keep the bag they’ve secured. Yes, we see that shit and aren’t fooled.

As a Black person, I’ve dealt with good white people my entire life. They were my teachers who taught me that Thomas Jefferson was one of our greatest Presidents. Never telling us about the heinous nature of his violence towards Blacks — in particular, Sally Hemings. Or that I should be thankful and grateful to Abraham Lincoln for ending slavery, even though his race is responsible for starting it and we all know he ain’t really end it. 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that these “good” white people are how we got here. The fact that white supremacy has harmed my community because so many “good” white people were unwilling to challenge their own kind. They say they understand us and get our plight — but are never ready to do the work to really end it.

For instance, Afropunk. For that matter, any predominantly Black space being occupied by white people. First of all, Black folk are some of the most forgiving people on this planet. And even to our detriment, we let folks into the cookout that have no business even peeking through a window. But when “good” white folks have the audacity to come into the place, AND rock Black Lives Matter attire and whatever else to let us know how For Us they are, I have a problem.

You see, if you were really concerned about our lives mattering, then you would say so around your aunties and cousins at the Thanksgiving table who voted for Le Orange in Chief. I don’t need you to tell me that you think my life matters as much as I need it to show in your actions. I think it’s great that folk make it clear where they stand, but only if they are doing it in the spaces where their privilege can actually make some change. Doing it in the spaces that I occupy doesn’t fix it. It just reminds me that your “goodness” ends when you leave the venue and feel you did a deed by letting us know you care.

I also see this occurring at Black Pride events. Every year someone from the white gay community makes complaints about feeling excluded despite them “not being one of those type of white gays.” It’s a foolishness I like to call “the centering of allyship.” When you are an ally and claim that you are for my community, it needs to show outside of my community. Meaning that you aren’t fighting for me while standing behind me, or even to the side of me depending on the context. It means that you are in front of me, often fighting your own—willing to sacrifice privilege and supremacy to give equity to those with less than you. Not to let me know that you are willing to share, but that you’re willing to fight and take from your others and redistribute.

This whole notion of “good” white people has never meant safety for my community. It has always led to us being harmed in some way, and it’s tiring. It’s very similar to the “good” cops talk, which is a wash. There may be cops who are less harmful than others, but let’s face it, working for the state and anti-blackness will, in turn, make you anti-black in some way. No matter how “good” you might be.

Suffice it to say, “good” whites are those who think that they are helping Blacks and queers and other marginalized populations because they give us a seat at the table. But what that really means when you are a good white, is that my seat is usually worn. Where you have a plate and utensils I have none. Yet you get the honor of patting yourself on the back and having a legacy that you did something that helped in my life.

So, to all the “good” white people out there, here is a message. You don’t get to live in pieces. You don’t get to have a revisionist history because every now and then you did something out of your norm for a minority or were on the right side of history once out of every ten times you had a chance. If you want to be a “good” white person, give up that power and privilege. And know that it still may never be enough.

Image via Getty

Kiss My Astro: Your September Horoscopes

September is here, and it’s time to heave a sigh of relief that the eclipses and retrogrades of August are over, get cozy, and start ironing out all those snags in your love life that crept up over the summer. We’re moving from a few months of high highs and low lows to a time of deepening, softening, and clarifying. Stay patient with what’s still up in the air, but use this time to relax into what will help your life feel more clear, less cluttered, and more aligned with your real needs.

Find me for readings this month if you want some personalized insights, and as always use these for what they can give you, and discard anything you don’t need. Enjoy the sweetness and slowness of this month!

Aries

You’re done with the heartbreak, even if it isn’t done with you. You’ve been bent out of shape too long already, and it’s time to spring back. Don’t just expect to return to your earlier shape, though—you’ve been changed by this journey and it will show. Let yourself transform. Trust that you’ve learned enough from the harder parts to make better choices moving forward. Let that wiser self be more visible.

Taurus

This is your time to celebrate and revel in the sheer hedonism of living. Surround yourself in beauty as much as you can (flowers, fabrics, humans, etc.) and trust that beauty isn’t something scarce or easy to lose as we all age—rather, spend this time appreciating the distinct beauties of the unexpected, the well-loved, the time-worn, the familiar, the intimate. No matter what else is going on right now, take some time for this practice of gratitude. It will open up a gate to all kinds of other joys.

Gemini

You are stepping into your full power and glorious beauty this month, and it’s your responsibility to wield these powers for good! Above all, this means staying true to what helps you feel aligned with what is best in you. What would it be like to lead with your absolute confidence in what is miraculous about you? So stop stressing about how you might be seen or ignored, appreciated or misunderstood, and start cherishing this heart and body and mind you get to share with the world.

Cancer

What would it be like to set aside whatever the current crisis is and let your muscles unclench a little this month? Remember to welcome the kinds of changes that can totally reorient you. Your life is full of positive changes this month, but even good change can signal stress response if you’re moving too fast. Let yourself slow down and really savor what’s happening. Let yourself deeply release any anxieties or control patterns that come up when you get freaked out about change. This is a month for pleasure and and playfulness.

Leo

Even a force as fabulous as you are in the world could use a little downtime, a little behind-the-scenes sewing on of lost sequins and reapplying of makeup. You’ve been really shining brightly for some time now, and this month reminds you that you won’t be forgotten about if you take a step back for awhile. Let yourself relax into the relationships that don’t ask you to prove yourself, to turn on the charm, to put on a show. If you need a little TLC right now, it’s okay to ask for it. Find that someone who can love you even when you’re not trying to make a good impression.

Virgo

You can see through everyone’s nonsense right now, and you don’t have the patience to pretend you don’t. This is not the time for you to roll your eyes and smile and nod—there’s something you’ve got to add to the conversation. You’re in the spotlight this month, and the way you see things matters more than you might think. More than just calling out jerks or shutting up bores, this month calls on you to redirect the conversation to what you find fascinating—you’ll have a willing audience.

Libra

If you’re looking for stability, you’ll be a little happier this month than you have been for the last few. Even so, the sand is still shifting under your feet. Don’t go planning the rest of your life with anyone you’ve met fairly recently (in the last year, let’s say). You’ve still got some reckoning to do with the past—exes or family members with unresolved issues. Doing that will help you really lay the groundwork for the kind of security you’re looking for in the future.

Scorpio

How sweet is this month for you? Please don’t waste it hiding away or judging everyone over the edge of your drink. This month is practically begging you to show the world some of that sparkle that you keep hidden most of the time. Choose the right people to connect with, though—you don’t want to waste this opportunity on someone who doesn’t deserve to see what’s most true and beautiful about you. You know yourself better than you ever have—find someone who’s able to really know you, too.

Sagittarius

Expect a few pleasant surprises this month. Your crush may be requited, or someone absolutely new may pop up on your radar. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, and keep your cynicism firmly under control. There is more available for you than you currently realize. Trust in the future.

Capricorn

Loneliness doesn’t look good on you right now, so get off that high horse you ride when you think you’ve got to go it alone. You are connected to others, and not just in the sense that you have to rescue them from their messes. If no one else is taking on the responsibilities you do, that means it’s time to drop what you’re holding and see who picks it up. You get to be done with any dynamic that’s merely reinforcing the story that you are alone. Hold out for a real partner who can meet you at your level, as a friend or a lover. 

Aquarius

You’re almost out of the woods, but there’s still some recovery you’ve got to do from recent emotional difficulties. This is a perfect time to seek out a little more time for inner reflection and planning the way forward. You’re learning a lot right now and you’ll want the time and space to concentrate. Only seek out the kinds of connections that won’t disrupt your internal processes right now.

Pisces

Seeing the bigger picture can be hard, especially because of how deeply you encounter each person you care about. You can get lost in one relationship, in how much you take on of another person’s joys and fears. This month asks you to pull back and see how all your relationships fit together, how they affect each other, how you are connected to larger networks. When you do this, you may find yourself ready to make really different decisions about love.