Martine Wants You To Watch

On a cold rainy New York City night, I walked into Vanity Projects, a nail salon in Chinatown where my friend and renowned art curator Tim Goossens, invited me to view a curated series of music videos on display which patrons viewed while getting art deco designs painted onto acrylic talons. When the polish dried, we stood around, clawing plastic cups, sipping white wine while swimming in the nostalgia of a Cher video being projected on the wall.

Suddenly, the lights dimmed and the sounds streaming through surrounding speakers shifted from familiar to foreign. A sea of long, dark hair began emerging onto a carefully lit platform in the corner of the salon as a warm and tropical soundscape took over the room. A spell was cast upon us as Martine Gutierrez spun around enchanting us as each follicle of her jet black hair swung merely inches past our noses. She stared into us with a steady, somber gleam in her eyes as she slowly raised a microphone up to her lips. We were pulled even deeper into the mood as a soothing voice escaped her, a sound undulating between whisper and moan, and like a rising tide, she held us captive the rest of the night in metaphors of eager and idol love.

Discovering Martine and her majestic self-produced music was a breath of fresh air for me. I had been looking for an artist who represented what my label Park Side Records stood for, a ruthless creative who was independent in their ideas and passions, yet spoke directly to the hearts of listeners who may not realize what music beyond the mainstream could offer. I immediately felt a responsibility as well as a need to share the emotive beauty of her and her music with the world so I asked if I could re-release her debut EP, Blame The Rain. Much to my delight, she obliged, and this summer I also got to release two of her singles, “Head 2 Toe” and “Origin,” the latter of which I am featured on and whose video, directed by Martine as well, is part fantasy, part documentary as it contains footage of our first collaborative live performance art piece which took place on the streets of the Dallas Aurora Festival, also curated by Tim Goossens.

Martine is a force to be reckoned with, and getting to know her has felt similar to Alice falling deeper into Wonderland, where just when you thought you found your way out, behind the door is another endless pool of wonders.

For Martine, music is sort of a secondary effort when it comes to creative priorities. The first being her work as a photographer who focuses on conceptual self-portraiture. Here is where she really takes center stage, voicing her public opinion through the time-consuming details of her works. After her solo exhibition Indigenous Women, a self-produced 146 page glossy fashion magazine, debuted at the Ryan Lee Gallery this past September in New York City and was met with praise by the New York Times, she secured her spot as one of New York’s newest art elites while simultaneously proving she exists beyond labels and pronouns.

She’s a revolutionary artist who manages to boldly take ownership of her narrative while leaving herself open and vulnerable to prying eyes. She motions between innocence and mistress, empathy and revenge all while continuing to evolve as her own divine muse and once you dive in there’s no easy way out. So with fair warning, I dare you all to fall into Martine.

NOMI:  I refer to you as a multimedia artist. How would you describe yourself in a way that encompasses all the things that you do?


MARTINE: I’m a star. [laughs]


NOMI: Yes, you are!


MARTINE: I’m a star that just discovered herself opposed to waiting for that muse moment that every good movie with a makeover scene has where you know, the man finds her in the dark nightclub and he’s like “Wow, look at this potential!” I just beat him to the punch and I said: “Let me do it myself!” [laughs]

NOMI: Genius. So you take control of your own narrative. I feel like that’s a throughline through all your work, where you’re sort of like ‘This is something usually seen through the male gaze, but I’m gonna do this in a way where you’re seeing it through my perspective.”


MARTINE: I think making things has always been a huge conduit for me to discover how I want to identify and how I want to evolve as a person. And it just so happens that everyone’s watching right now. I’ve been doing this a long time, which is the gag, I guess, because right now everyone’s saying “How are these things so glossy? How are you doing everything yourself? How are you XYZ?” And it’s just time. It’s just taken a long time.


NOMI: Yes, actually I was going to ask you this later on but I think we’re on it now. In your work, you sort of objectify yourself in a way that feels really empowering because you’re taking control of something that is usually in the male gaze and you sort of use it to mix yourself with pop culture and what people usually consider to be mainstream. Is that sort of like an act of vengeance?


MARTINE: Oh my god, love vengeance! Love vengeance! I think that’s more your narrative than mine though. [laughs]


NOMI: [laughs] I love revenge!


MARTINE: You love a revenge. You love returning like a storm.


NOMI: Do you feel like you’re not allowed in mainstream spaces for whatever reasons? And so you create them yourself and, like you said, instead of waiting for someone to discover you, do you feel like you haven’t been allowed into certain venues but you took control of it?


MARTINE:  I used to think that I didn’t have access to those platforms until I guess I started modeling and I got to have my runway moment, I got to have you know, work with some like high-end fashion people and I guess that’s what I thought I wanted. I thought I wanted to work with the best of the best because that would make me feel better about myself. Or that would somehow validate me and it just made me feel so much more other. It made me feel, you know — it made me feel objectified because of my identity, if that makes sense. For minorities who sit at the often isolating crux of intersectionality, how do we ensure that our voices are not jeopardized by “opportunity.”  And how can we work against the very power structures that propagate beauty and normalcy to the masses, and I think in the pursuit of personal gain, we look at collaborations as positive opportunities, but for those of us who are minorities, we’re almost always objectified, tokenized, or used to diversify or assume allyship, and that’s how I was in the campaign, right? I was the check off the box — “Oh we have a Latin girl, oh we have a trans girl. Look at how open, look at how progressive we are? This brand, whoever they are.”

NOMI: It’s like they’re operating under a cloak of allyship. They’re like “OK, we’ve done this thing in the past where we objectify people so we’re going to diversify so we feel like we’re on the up and up, but we’re doing the same thing but through this idea of working as an ally, working with our community.” You’re like this is being done by men and the male gaze—


MARTINE: Absolutely, because the male gaze is at the center of everything. It’s part of why it’s almost always heteronormative, sexual — what would you call it? — narratives within advertising. It’s like the girl is sexualized within the narrative, but she’s not sexualized for girls to look at her. She’s sexualized for a dude to look at her. Does that make sense?


NOMI: I also sometimes feel like even queer people and even women — sometimes we’re approached by women or the queer community and it’s safer to be a part of these things, but they’re also operating in a way that they’re trying to use the male gaze as well.


MARTINE: Mhm. It’s hard because using it is also a tool to dismantle it because how else are you going to get to that audience if you don’t get their attention?

NOMI: I wanted to know — the video for “Origin,” which deals with gaze in a very different way from different perspectives. I feel like it touches on voyeurism and self-obsession when it comes to the video. So that being said, do you prefer being a voyeur or a subject?


MARTINE: I love being a voyeur. I love being a voyeur. I love watching. [laughs]


NOMI: [laughs] You’re a spy.


MARTINE: I’m a spy! I think that’s why I like being — I like changing my identity or changing my appearance because it means I get to have a certain amount of anonymity so I get to watch. I get to watch without being watched, which is so funny—


NOMI: Within that, you also like watching yourself.


MARTINE: I do. I mean, I love a mirror, as you well know.


NOMI: I mean, yes. There was a mirror literally on the bed—


MARTINE: There was a mirror that had to be on the bed, a double-sided mirror. Even our phones — a selfie is a mirror, in a way.


NOMI:  A selfie is a mirror. And I feel like the mirror in the middle kind of insinuates us also seeing ourselves within each other. Do you sort of feel like you’re drawn to people in ways where you see yourself in them?


MARTINE: Yeah, I think that was a huge part of—I mean, there’s the physicality of it, right, we both have dark hair, we both have brown eyes, we both have caramel skin, plump lips. But then there’s the other side where because of our backgrounds, whether that means we’re Latina or being exoticized for being, you know, mysteriously looking women, we have similar experiences, and so I think I’ve always looked to — I guess I’m always hoping to learn something about myself, like in someone else. I don’t know if that’s unhealthy or not.

NOMI: Right. It’s a little bit—I guess it’s different when you try to validate yourself instead of learning. There’s a difference. In the video, there’s a few dimensions where …. There’s us watching ourselves. It kind of turns into this whole cyber world. It kind of insinuates a little bit of sex in a way, or lust. Do you enjoy cybersex?


MARTINE: Oh, it’s sex talk? We’re having a sex talk?


NOMI: [laughs] How did that turn to — I feel like it started with a performance, and then you added, and it kind of turned voyeuristic into a very lustful place. So I feel like it turned very cyber-sexy.


MARTINE: Yeah, it’s very cyber-sexy. I feel like it’s nod to the platforms in which we meet people now. Whether it’s Tinder or What’s App or Grindr or, like, OKCupid or, I don’t know. What’s that elitist artsy one I wanna be on?


NOMI: Raya?


MARTINE: Someone invite me. Someone invite me on, because I’m curious!


NOMI: No, it’s bottles and models — you’re gonna hate it!


MARTINE: I still need to see. But I think because the performance started as this public exhibitionism of our own bodies and our own sensuality, right? Because yes we took footage and yes I edited it down to moments that I like the most, but people that were there weren’t extras — they were strangers; they were voyeurs. They were people who chose to stay and watch, chose to take pictures, chose to touch us, which was totally inappropriate and remember we had to leave and get ushered away. They got security. I think the second part of it was, you were also streaming onto Periscope.


NOMI: Periscope, yeah.


MARTINE: And that was the part I wanted to incorporate at the end, like this other side of the people that don’t have to come in real life and get to have — I don’t know if the experience then becomes more seedy, but it’s a much more ‘90s navigation of, like, porn for sure.


NOMI: Yeah, and I think it was interesting to show footage of people watching, logging in and watching something that becomes lusted for online, because that’s usually very private. And to actually see that perspective added this level of loneliness. I feel like we use the internet, not only to connect with people, but in reality, you’re alone and you’re just so isolated and not even connecting whatsoever.


MARTINE: Right, if anything, it’s a large opportunity to invent what it is that you’re interacting with. Whether you’re IMing with someone, sending pictures or Skyping, like, you can put more on that person or on that experience than is actually happening because you’re not actually there. Through our phones, it was a total fantasy, and yet, in the real space, people were drunk, people were — the bed was stopping and going because our weight wasn’t evenly distributed. [laughs]


NOMI: Oh my god, it was scandalous.


MARTINE: It was crazy.


NOMI: That moment on the bed you mention how someone tried to touch us and it got a little dangerous and I remember someone in the crowd was going around and telling other people that we were trans — they were also trans and they wanted the audience to somehow know that they were watching trans people because they themselves were actually living a stealth life and they wanted to sort of gauge people’s reactions to trans people for their own weird benefit. I don’t know. It was a strange thing that added a sense of danger that we were not aware was going to happen. It was just strange because the whole performance had nothing to do with gender or transformation. It was just like, for me, it was about we took voyeurism and self-obsession —


MARTINE: It was a social commentary as opposed to a commentary about our bodies as individuals, you know what I mean? And unfortunately once people know, they want it to be a thing, right? Because it makes them uncomfortable. So that’s what they focus on.


NOMI: Right. So do you find that you’re constantly pushed to present your art from an angle so that it makes a statement about gender or transition and that whole world even though the focus of the work at hand has nothing to do with that?


MARTINE: I think press — I think press pushes it to be the topic. I get to write the statement at this point because I’m not dead yet. [laughs] Like I’m still writing, like “This is what the work’s about.”

NOMI: So it’s not reinterpreted.


MARTINE: Right. Once I’m not around, who knows what they’re gonna say. But I already have this feeling my work is going to represent something that I didn’t intend for it because it already happens when I’m alive through press. I’m already a token.


NOMI: Yeah. Crazy. So music for you—was music something you fell into an extension of your art, or how did music come into play? Was it just a whole separate world for you or did it also come to pass as you were creating your photography and producing art?


MARTINE: It became like a skill I had to develop because I was making a lot of video and it was before the videos were kind of like taking on a music video structure or length. Some of them were really long, and it’s boring and it’s not like — it’s elevating to have sound or some kind of score.


NOMI: Engaging.


MARTINE: It brings everything to life. I was in a band in art school with two cuties and it kind of like fizzled out, which also gave me more time to take control — because I was just the vocalist. I wasn’t producing, I wasn’t coming up with really the melodies or the beats, and I realized “Oh, there’s so much to chosoe from. Why use those?” Why were we using those sounds when I like these sounds so much more?


NOMI: Again, you were taking control of your narrative.


MARTINE: Right, right. And then, yeah, I guess —


NOMI: What state of mind were you in when you were writing “Origin.”


MARTINE: Um, I was in the state of mind of Nomi Ruiz because we had, like, just met through Tim. Because he brought you to my show in China Town, and you were gagged and you were like “I’m gonna say hi to her.” You tell your side! I feel like Tim just told me “Nomi Ruiz is coming to your show.” And I was like “Cool, who’s that?”


NOMI: You were like “Who’s this bitch? Why do I care?”


MARTINE: “Why are you so gagged by her? I thought I was your star!” I’m like “She’s coming for me!” No, I didn’t think that. I thought, “Cool, I’m gonna meet a celebutante.” But also I was so nervous and anxious about the performance that honestly it didn’t really stay in my mind long. And after the show, the space was so small, that it was packed and I remember having to weave through people to even shake your hand and be like “Hello, nice to meet you!”


NOMI: I was just about to leave and I was like “I have to meet this girl.” Like it was the first time  — because I can be nervous and anxious and something just drew me to you. I was like “I have to know this person. We have to be in each other’s lives.” Tim introduced us and I was like “Hi, I’m a nerd, let’s know each other!”


MARTINE: And I was like “So great!” And later, Tim was like “That was Nomi.” And I was like “Oh, cool, oh I like her!”


NOMI: That’s what I love about watching the “Origin” video because I feel like it takes me back to that whole process — we got to know each other on such a deep level. It kind of forced us to spend more time together and really got to know what was behind your ideas and know you as an artist and as a friend. It brings me back to that time.


MARTINE: I remember once Tim told us that there was this performance and that he wanted us to perform together or like, he would love for us—it was posed as a question really. And we were like “Obviously, that would be amazing — what are we performing? We don’t have a song together.” And so it was obvious that I had to write one, I guess! So I remember going — remember, was it Williamsburg? I don’t remember where it was. We got, like, tea.


NOMI: We met in Williamsburg.


MARTINE: We sat at this cafe and I had like that little notepad and I was just writing down words. Writing down words when we were talking and it was like “Cats. Milk. Collars. Purring.” It made absolutely no sense and you were probably like “This girl is crazy.” But I remember being just so inspired by you and your energy and your confidence and your sexuality. You’re like oozing sexuality and feeling like this is — I have to do a song that will do her justice. I can’t have her — I can’t have some sad love song like I’m always singing. It has to be something sexy!


NOMI: I think you really blended the two, which is something I love and I also express in my music. There’s this sexy confidence and there’s this underlying sort of somber pessimistic idea of what love is.


MARTINE: Right, and it’s always just out of reach — at least for me. It’s always just around the river bend. [laughs]


NOMI: Right so, do you believe in love?


MARTINE: Um. [laughs] Dot dot dot. I want to believe in love. I believe in a deep, deep love, but I don’t think I’ve experienced it.

NOMI: So what is your perception of what love is?


MARTINE: I don’t know. I don’t know! Because in some ways I’ve never really seen a successful relationship, whether it was in my family or —


NOMI: So you think love is a successful relationship?


MARTINE: I think love is having passion for finding someone that is passionate about what you’re doing, who you are, and your passion for them circles this swirling magnificent energy of like acceptance and intimacy and laughter and, I don’t know — it’s funny because, in some ways, I’ve had that with really close friends, that openness and safety and intimacy, it’s just not sexual. And then I have the other side, which is like sooo sexual. It’s like just sex — it’s just about the physicality of the other person.


NOMI: Why can’t you have it all in one?


MARTINE: It’s like where’s that guy with the duality of both? I don’t know. And I don’t know if it’s like an age thing and the age that I’m at, the people around me are just immature, or, I don’t know.


NOMI:  I also feel like we’re pressured to have that in one person, and that’s not so realistic. For me, I’m in a phase where I”m starting to question why can’t I have love for my friends and sex from a lover and have all these different desires within me fulfilled and be OK with the fact that it comes from different places. Like why can’t that be a version of love?


MARTINE: It can. I guess that’s what life is—inventing the narrative that works for you. Like there is no normal, that’s the bottom line. There’s average. There’s the majority, and you can choose to be a lemming or you can make your own life.

I guess that’s what life is—inventing the narrative that works for you. Like there is no normal, that’s the bottom line. There’s average. There’s the majority, and you can choose to be a lemming or you can make your own life.

NOMI: How much of your songwriting is based on real-life experiences?


MARTINE: It’s hard because I honestly don’t know if I actually live in reality most of the time.


NOMI: That’s why I love you.


MARTINE: Oh, and I love you! Because you’re so willing to — I don’t know — to take the glamour of… I don’t know. It is invention. You’re fully on board, always! You’re always on board to be like — I don’t know, I can’t even explain it. When we’re together, whenever we hang out, it always becomes a cruise collection editorial video in like the strangest way where everything is paid for, everything is easy, everything is chic, there’s drugs everywhere!


NOMI: [laughs] I’m like whatever you want, whatever you desire, I’ll make it happen.


MARTINE: There’s boys everywhere. It’s just like beach and ocean and skin and late nights, late mornings. I don’t know! It’s just so luxurious, and it’s not real, which is why it’s like when you ask about making songs about reality, that was happening, but I don’t know if that’s actual reality—it was so dreamy.


NOMI: Yeah, totally. When you say in “Origin,” “Forget about my origin,” what are you saying?


MARTINE: I’m saying forget about — I guess, in some ways, it’s directly about me or any trans girl, really, if she, unfortunately, is straight and into cis men, it’s saying forget about the place I come from, forget about my beginnings.


NOMI: Like this is who I am now.


MARTINE: Like take me right now for what I am right now. And I think it could also speak to a greater social understanding of not putting pressure on or not finding so much importance in where people’s — how people’s bodies came together; formed.


NOMI: You also say what’s your flavor, what’s your type.


MARTINE: Isn’t that obvious what I’m saying?


NOMI: Yeah, but what’s your flavor, what’s your type?


MARTINE: Ohhh! Mmmm. Well, last night I had a good flavor. [laughs] And a good type. He was Serbian. He was a martial arts teacher in Queens, athletic build, scruffy with a buzzed head, gorgeous skin. There’s a celebrity he looks like, I just can’t put my finger on it. So handsome, smelled a little — had a little B.O. because he was coming from practice so in his sweats and a T-shirt — and you know, the sweats that kind of cling the right way. His cute little sneakers. He was checking me out, the L was down, so a bunch of people — it being so late, it was midnight — and I noticed him, he noticed me, and then I don’t know what it was. I was feeling my oats and I went over and started talking to him and he had this thick accent and I was like “You’re obviously not American.” Because he was like “Where you from?” I’m like “America. Obviously, you’re from somewhere else.”  But so hot, kind of shy but wouldn’t admit it. When we were on the train, for no reason at all, had to hold the rod across the ceiling with both hands so his arms were above his head and he kept swaying back and forth in and out of my space. Because of course once the train came, we stood next to each other and it was so awkward because everyone on the train could tell we had just met and we’re flirting.


NOMI: I love that when there’s an audience.


MARTINE: There was a real audience and there were like other guys that were interested in me just because of the proxy of this other dude. It really felt like I was hitting on him until halfway and then convinced him to get off at my spot and we went to a park — because we were gonna go dancing. He was like “I love the disco”— I was like “I love the disco. I love to disco.” He was like “Let’s find one.” I was like “It’s a Wednesday night.”


NOMI: I love it — a New York moment!


MARTINE: I was like “I’m so exhausted but you’re so cute.” And so we just went to a basketball park — what do you call it, a basketball park? Is it obvious I don’t play sports? I just watch them. A basketball court. And I was like ”Play me your favorite song” and he wouldn’t play me a song so he played like the number one song in Serbia or whatever, and it was this pumped girl—she was like Iggy Azalea of Serbia and I was like “You think she’s hot?” and he was like “yeah!” I was like “Oh my gosh, I look nothing like this girl.” And so I danced for him and he was mesmerized.

NOMI: You danced for him on a basketball court.


MARTINE: Couldn’t find a club and couldn’t get him to dance but he sat there and would kind of spin me around from his seat and then pulled me in and then stole a kiss and then…put his hands in between my thighs and then I was like “Oh wait, um, I forgot to tell you.”


NOMI: Oh shit.


MARTINE: I was like “Did you know? I’m trans.” Like “I’m trans” — like question mark? Now I’m confused too! And he was like “Yeah, oh yeah, I know!” But the language barrier — I was relieved for point one seconds until he was like “Nope. Actually I don’t know what that is,” and put his hand inside my skirt and then jumped and was like  “Are you kidding me?” “I’m not kidding you, no.” He was so confused and I was like “I thought you knew” and he was like “How would I know? How would I know?” Which I guess speaks to my own dysphoria about myself. I’m like isn’t it obvious? Isn’t it obvious? And I guess it’s not — not even under the terrible fluorescent lights of the J Train.


NOMI: Yeah there’s a weird disclosure thing going on these days where it’s like, when do I say something?


MARTINE: RIght, it’s like when do I say something? Because you build a moment and you build a mood — that is a total deflation of anything you’ve built.


NOMI: Yeah, it’s like how do I go there? When we’re riding the subway?


MARTINE: I’m always dealing with straight cis men that have never been with a trans girl before. I don’t know why this is becoming my type. I guess it’s cuz I’m fishy.


NOMI: It’s not a type, it’s a situation. It’s just like….I don’t know, it has to be addressed at some point and the thing for me is when is it safest — when is it safest in this scenario as a trans woman, building a mood?


MARTINE: In some ways I’m — my perception is like sheltered and an allusion because I’ve been lucky enough to hook up with guys where they don’t know, I tell them, and they’re just totally accepting and they’re into it, you know?

NOMI: Passing privilege.


MARTINE: Passing privilege, yeah. So they’re just like “Sure.” But the Serbian guy was not — he walked away. He got his backpack and walked away back to the J train.


NOMI: You’re lucky he didn’t go crazy.


MARTINE: Right because that’s the thing — he’s a martial arts teacher at one in the morning in an empty basketball court. What was I thinking?


NOMI: Oh my god, one in the morning?


MARTINE: We met at 12!


NOMI: I wanted to talk about the concept of chosen family. I feel like there’s this concept that exists in queer culture, gang culture, biker culture, etc. Do you feel you belong to a chosen family that you’ve sort of curated?


MARTINE: Absolutely, but I think I have several families. It’s not like Pose. [laughs]


NOMI: [laughs]


MARTINE: I’m just letting everyone know the trans narrative is not just like Pose. [laughs]


NOMI: Right, exactly.


MARTINE: You have several — I don’t have a house, I have several groups of friends that are, they’re all family in different ways. There’s some people I turn to — some communities can make me laugh, and there’s certain communities that I go to that I know will always lift me up, you know, and release my self-doubt. And then I think you are one of the categories and feeling like I have a mentor or can come to someone who has been there before. My sister, too, in a way. But it’s different. It’s the same as these newbie boys. Everybody has a different experience. It’s like how do you build a community for yourself where different people have that insight that you need to grow and survive?


NOMI: Yeah. Totally. I wanted to talk about your solo show where you displayed a 146-page glossy magazine called Indigenous Woman. In the letter from the editor, which is also written by you, you posed an interesting question that I wanted to ask back to you. You said, “As artists, how do we tell our own stories?” So how do we tell our own stories?


MARTINE: We have to make our own gags. It’s the same thing I was saying at the beginning. We have to be our own distributors, our own photographers, our own CEOs, you know? Make a magazine. Make a magazine, girl!


NOMI: Make a magazine, girl! [laughs] Oh my god, looking at that magazine stresses me out because I was thinking I know you did everything — produced the whole thing entirely on your own. What kind of work went into bringing Indigenous Woman to life?


MARTINE: What kind of work? That’s a crazy question. Every possible kind of work you can imagine. I had to learn InDesign, I had to download fonts, things that had never felt important to be before. I was looking at so many other publications to see what I was drawn to in terms of how they layout text, how you break up a page. It was crazy — I made so much work for myself because I wasn’t just contributing an image, I was contributing …. Like, I wanted to project different mental head spaces. I wanted to feel like they were different photographers and different models and different stylists and different writers. Like even the interview I’m doing with myself and I struggled at first to make I wasn’t just talking to myself. How do you create tonality that people can project “Oh this is a real interview between two people.” Not like a girl and her sis.


NOMI: I think work like this is so important, to talk about all the things that go into it because for so long as women and marginalized people we’re constantly — there’s this illusion that we have to wait to be discovered, or we have to wait to sort of prove that there’s sitting at the table we want to be a part of. I think we need to push each other and encourage each other to dismantle that narrative and take ownership of our own work and not wait around for someone to give us permission to exist as an artist. Just make your own shit.


MARTINE: Completely and I just saw A Star is Born.


NOMI: Me too, I saw it yesterday.


MARTINE: Oh my God, what’d you think?


NOMI: Is it a good movie? I enjoyed it. I feel like I was judging it because I saw the version with Barbara Streisand.


MARTINE: Oh, I haven’t seen that version — is it better?


NOMI: I mean, yes, it’s gorgeous. It’s flawless.


MARTINE: Maybe I’ll watch that.


NOMI: The pop moment kind of threw me off when she went full electro-pop. Because I thought it was going to stay in this rock singer-songwriter world.


MARTINE: Interesting. I had nothing to compare it to and I loved it. And I cried. I thought it was so good.


NOMI: Yeah, I cried!


MARTINE: I thought it was so good. But at first, I had trouble getting into Gaga’s acting, because I was just like “That’s Gaga — no you are not working for a catering business.” And then I don’t know, I guess her chemistry with what’s his face, I was like “Oh, I believe it. I believe it now. I see sparks of something.” And I could hold on to that. But I guess I brought it up because it’s the same narrative. It’s the same narrative! Like she is stuck until he pulls her out of the mud.


NOMI: Right, it’s like someone has to give her the opportunity, which does exist, but I feel like she should be empowered to take it.


MARTINE: Like cute as a representation of reality, but why not give us something that’s aspirational?


NOMI: Yeah, totally!


MARTINE: I guess in some ways they are like “It is aspirational! She wants to be a star! And she becomes one!” But no, let’s look at the way in which it happens.


NOMI: Right. She’s discovered. It’s that same narrative. Redoing it, brainwashing us again in a way.


MARTINE: What’s the actor’s name?


NOMI: Bradley Cooper.


MARTINE: Oh my god, imagine A Star is Born comes out and the twist is Bradley Cooper plays Gaga’s role and Gaga plays Bradley’s role. Gaga is already the famous rock drunk singer who comes into this drag bar and here’s this straight guy performing “La Vie En Rose” and she’s like “Gag, like, this guy has balls to be performing at a drag club.” And then she’s like “Come to my concert,” and he’s like “No, I have to take care of my mom.” It’d be major! It’d be major.


NOMI: It would be major, oh my god.


MARTINE: And then she props him up to become this star and then she kills herself. It would be such a gag!


NOMI: It would be a gag. I would watch that movie over and over again.


MARTINE: That’s the movie we should make now. Hollywood, open your ears, write it down.


NOMI: In Indigenous Woman, you make a few statements about white privilege. Like in the CovertGirl ad and the whitewash soap ad. As a biracial person whose father is Guatemalan and whose mother is white, do you feel you experience both ends of a spectrum privilege?

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MARTINE: I have passing privilege, but I don’t know about both ends. I guess I — if anything I feel more distant from both sides of my family because it’s polarizing to be something in between when you have a dozen cousins that are WASPy and a dozen cousins — more like two dozen cousins — who are full-on Guatemala City, speak very little English. I mean, the last time we hung out — it’s been so long now. I mean, ugh, maybe we don’t include this part. I don’t know what I want to say about it.


NOMI: For me, I often think about on the spectrum of people of color, we are viewed as more privileged because of the color of our skin, because we are sometimes viewed as racially ambiguous. For me, I think it’s harder to acknowledge that privilege in a wider scheme of when I talk about people of color in general and I think in order to dismantle classicism and racism I need to acknowledge that I’m operating from that perspective in certain situations, like “OK, this is not cool, I need to check others and check myself some of the time.” Do you know what I’m saying?


MARTINE: Totally. I believe we all negotiate who we are by trying on labels, and sometimes that means you fumble, you know?

NOMI: Yeah. Well, that’s what I loved about Indigenous Woman, because I felt like you were sort of using privilege as a way to make statements about being marginalized at the same time as you have this gorgeous ad and you make this whole statement of white privilege. It was being sort of used an image that could have been “Look at this gorgeous girl. Of course she’s a supermodel, I wish I could be one,” and at the same time, you’re doing this thing you don’t even realize at first — and then it’s like boom, it sits with you because your mind is right away like — just thinking about this beautiful person you created there.


MARTINE: And then you’re like, wait, is she white? Is she —?


NOMI: Then it moves to you and you’re saying “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s white privilege.” It really stayed with me and it really opened my eyes to that conversation. I thought it was well done.


MARTINE: Thanks, Mom!


NOMI: I love you. That’s all the questions I have.


Photos by Stevens Añazco

Arkansas — Yes, Arkansas — Quietly Begins Issuing Gender-Neutral IDs to Non-Binary People

An unlikely state has joined the wave of municipalities recognizing the identities of trans, non-binary, and intersex people: Arkansas.

At least two transgender people have been issued gender-neutral ID cards since the beginning of October. When Zach Miller saw that a friend, long-time trans organizer Beck Witt, successfully updated their state identification with an “X” marker on Oct. 8, Miller went down to the local DMV in Little Rock to do the same.

While the DMV representative was initially confused by the request, Miller described her as “receptive.”

“Hey, you learn new things every day,” the representative reportedly said when informed that Miller identifies as neither gender. In conversation with INTO, the nonbinary activist identified as “gendervoid” and requested that this story use neither male nor female pronouns when referring to Miller.

The request was processed immediately, Miller claimed. An updated ID was issued on Monday.

“It was very affirming to me,” said Miller, who serves on the board of the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition. “It makes it clear that we exist — that gender nonconforming, non-binary, intersex, and trans people exist.”

When INTO reached out to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the office confirmed the reports.

According to spokesperson Scott Hardin, that policy has been on the books for eight years. It was quietly rolled out in December 2010, when former Assistant Commissioner of Operations and Administration Mike Munns announced the change in an internal email shared with INTO.

“Our official policy is to allow a licensee to change their gender as requested, no questions asked, no documentation required,” he told staff. “Please see that this policy is followed.”

Munns could not confirm having sent the email. He passed away in Nov. 2011.

The change was implemented, however, without a formal announcement. The state of Arkansas has historically operated without a clear public policy as to changing gender markers on driver’s licenses and IDs.

Gillian Branstetter, media relations manager at the National Center for Transgender Equality, confirmed a policy shift for the state.

“Across the country, states and municipalities are finding solutions that respect the safety and privacy of every citizen, regardless of gender,” Branstetter said in an email. “Every state should have policies in place allowing their official documents to accurately reflect the diversity of its residents.”

Lambda Legal called the change in policy a “great step forward for people in Arkansas.”

“I think you will continue to see states move in this direction with regard to identity documents from state identification to birth certificates,” said Paul Castillo, a senior attorney for the nationwide LGBTQ advocacy group.

Just a handful of U.S. municipalities offer some form of recognition for nonbinary, trans, and intersex residents — or anyone who doesn’t wish to have a gender marker listed on their identification. Last June, Oregon was thought to be the first state issue non-binary ID cards. Since that time, California, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C. have all rolled out similar options.

In addition to pursuing non-binary state IDs, Lambda Legal has been pressing the Department of Justice to issue gender-neutral passports at the federal level.

In 2015, the organization filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Dana Zzyym, an intersex person who has claimed choosing between “male” and “female” gender markers would force them to lie. Zzyym won their suit in 2016, but the DOJ has failed to issue a nonbinary passport. The case was recently reopened.

But sources say allowing trans and nonbinary people to list a gender-neutral pronoun on their passports and IDs is more than just about accurately reflecting their sense of self. It’s also about safety.

Miller remembered being pulled over a few years ago with a headlight out and presenting a female ID card.

“The police officer wasn’t especially aggressive, but then when I showed him my ID, he had a second officer come up,” Miller recalled. “He had his hand on his weapon. They accused me of having a fake ID. Then even when I told them that I was transgender, they became more aggressive. I was very concerned for my safety.”

To avoid hostile interactions or unwanted questions, Miller learned to stealthily cover the gender marker with a thumb. Being outed as trans, though, remained a major risk — whether it’s applying for jobs or presenting an ID at the bar.

Miller looked forward to giving the information to other trans people to help them avoid those unfortunate — and potentially dangerous — situations.

The Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition plans to fund the cost of IDs for those members of the community who cannot afford to update their gender marker, said Miller. Although the DMV offers low-cost options based on financial need, trans people face staggering levels of poverty.  

The resources will be drawn from the group’s emergency funding pool, which is also available for those who cannot afford rent, food, or even bus passes.

Individuals in need will be able to apply through the organization’s website.

Image via Getty

Ten Essential ‘UNHhhh’ Episodes To Celebrate Trixie and Katya’s Return

At RuPaul’s DragCon 2018 in NYC, Drag Race stars Trixie Mattel and Katya announced that UNHhhh, their YouTube series on WOW Presents, would be returning on October 19th, almost a year after it ended its original run. Back then, Trixie and Katya were building so much momentum that they landed their own show, The Trixie and Katya Show, on the nascent Viceland channel, to replace UNHhhh.

After Katya took a mental health break from the Viceland show and drag in general  the show replaced her with Bob the Drag Queen. Though it’s still unclear what happened with their Viceland gig, Katya is back, and so is their YouTube show.

In celebration of UNHhhh’s return, we thought it would be a good idea to share some of the fundamental episodes from its first run. If you haven’t seen all of them, these are definitely the ones to watch:

“Jobs Before Drag” — Episode 46

Watching Katya and Trixie look back on the jobs that they had in adulthood before they were drag queens, from tea shops to make up, is hilarious to watch. But, this is also a perfect episode for people to watch because it requires zero knowledge of the queens or Drag Race in general.

“Halloweenie” — Episode 29

All of the holiday episodes, especially both of the Halloween episodes, are classics. Definitely required viewings for Halloween through New Year’s. In this installment, Katya and Trixie talk about how every day is Halloween for drag queens. Trixie also talks about one Halloween where her mom made her a costume out of a white box and said she was dice. Her response: “Thanks for the hookup, Val.” We also get a bit of a recurring joke in the series: Trixie scaring Katya.

“Death” — Episode 58

All right, you probably don’t want to watch a whole episode about the grave. But, watching Trixie and Katya discuss death, the process of dying (and dyeing fabrics), and the afterlife works because the queens’ two very different styles of comedy complement each other. It turns out the two bring out the best jokes in each other when they’re dealing with a really tense subject.  

“Space” — Episode 31

“Space” is where you can see the show’s iconic style starting to take shape. In addition to the running joke of Contact references, this episode also has the video editors going all out with the scenes and visuals that really showcase that they are the third necessary ingredient after the two headlining queens.

“Dating” — Episode 4

When people talk about UNHhhh, they often mention a lot of the later episodes because the show’s editing is really integral to the whole aesthetic. However, a lot of the earlier episodes are really solid and contain some of the most memorable jokes. The moment that always gets me is when Katya mentions that it’s been a long time since she’s been on a date and Trixie replies, “Yeah, when did your dad die?” Plus, it’s nice to see the roots of why this show is so successful and unique: Their chemistry is unmatched.

“Drinking” — Episode 62

Between their personal experiences and their nightlife jobs as drag performers, Trixie and Katya have a lot to say about alcohol. This episode is close to the end, right before they transitioned to Viceland, so they’ve definitely gotten in the groove. The two make each other laugh a lot and one of the most iconic parts of this episode is when Trixie accidentally says “Whose birthdays are it?” Kills me every time.

“RuPaul’s Drag Race #LipDub” — Episode 48

While Trixie and Katya garnered a lot of their success off the set of Drag Race, it is equally entertaining watching them look back at the show and make their own jokes. In this episode, the queens did redubbing of iconic scenes from the show and joked about some of their bitter loss experiences. “In today’s challenge, we’re going to catfish your boyfriend from freshman year of college.” If you’re a big fan of Drag Race and somehow haven’t seen this extracurricular video, you need to.

“Worst Hookup” — Episode 7

Rather than focusing on a single topic, Trixie spends the whole episode telling Katya about one of her worst hookup experiences. Everything else aside, you can really get a sense of their friendship and it’s cute.

“PornOh Honey” — Episode 49

Another common fan favorite! In this episode, the queens talk about their porn habits and also imitate a female porn star orgasm, which is iconic. Let’s face it, Katya and Trixie are at their best when they’re depraved, Linda.

“Hollywood” — Episode 35

In general, this episode has it all and is a good accumulation of everything that makes UNHhhh wonderful. It has solid banter over a random topic, a good running joke, and perfect editing.

Kanye and Kim Visited Brutal Ugandan Dictator Behind ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill

Kanye West is having a week.

After a much-publicized meeting with President Trump in which he claimed wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat makes him feel “like Superman,” West met with Uganda’s head of state on Monday. Accompanied by wife Kim Kardashian West and father Raymond West, he visited President Yoweri Museveni at the State House in Entebbe to discuss the country’s tourism industry.

According to Reuters, the 41-year-old rapper pledged to open a “world-class tourism school in the country,” saying it would become a “foundation of tourism not only in Uganda but the east Africa region in general.”

Calling Uganda his “second home,” he suggested the country model itself after the fictional amusement park from Jurassic Park.

The famous couple reportedly exchanged gifts during their conversation with Museveni. West gave the president a pair of autographed sneakers, while the leader blessed them with African names. West received the name “Kanyesigye,” which translates to “I trust.” Meanwhile, Kardashian West’s moniker, “Kemigisha,” reportedly means “the one with blessings from God.”

It’s not clear whether the rapper broached the subject of LGBTQ rights, despite the fact that Museveni is one of the most vocal opponents of equality in Africa.

In February 2014, he signed into law the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalized sexual activity “against the order of nature” with up to life in prison. When the legislation was first introduced in 2009, it mandated the death penalty for charges of “aggravated homosexuality.”

When he approved the “Kill the Gays” bill four years ago, Museveni called LGBTQ people “disgusting,” “terrible,” “abnormal,” and “unnatural.” He also compared queer and trans Ugandans to “prostitutes” and “mercenaries.”

The law was short lived. The Anti-Homosexuality Act was struck down later the same year by Uganda’s constitutional court on procedural grounds.

Museveni’s government, however, has continued to attack queer and trans Ugandans even after the law’s repeal. Last August health minister Simon Lokodo shut down Pride events after claiming “gay gathering and promotion” would not be permitted in the conservative nation. When LGBTQ activists announced the opening of Uganda’s first queer resource space, Lokodo called it “a criminal act.”

“They will have to take it somewhere else,” he told press. “They can’t open a center of LGBTQ activity here. Homosexuality is not allowed and completely unacceptable in Uganda,” he said. “We don’t and can’t allow it.”

“LGBTQ activities are already banned and criminalized in this country,” Lokodo added. “So popularizing it is only committing a crime.”

Given West’s previous critiques of homophobia in the music industry, there was a time when it might have been surprising to see the hip-hop artist supporting a brutal anti-gay dictator. But as West prepares to drop his second new record of 2018, Yandhi, inflammatory behavior is now part of his album release cycle.

Prior to meeting with President Trump last week, he called to abolish the 13th amendment, which made slavery illegal, on Twitter.

“This represents good and America becoming whole again,” West said on Sept. 30, tweeting a photo of himself in his pro-Trump red baseball cap. “We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment.”

Images via Getty

Trailblazing Trans Specialist in the UK Faces Sentencing For Online Clinic

For many transgender people in the UK, she has been a saving grace, the only path toward transition in a system bogged down in wait lists and red tape.

But Dr. Helen Webberley’s extraordinary approach to treating trans people across Britain has not been met with the same enthusiasm by government officials.

After three years of treating trans patients through a groundbreaking online system, Webberley’s web practice has been shuttered by authorities in Wales.

Webberley fills a unique if not odd role in the United Kingdom, where trans people looking to medically transition have historically relied on The National Health Service (NHS), the publicly-funded health system.  

Many patients and parents of trans kids have lamented long wait times in accessing trans treatment through NHS. In some cases, waits can be up to four years.

Webberley, a generalist family doctor, stumbled into treating thousands of trans patients almost accidentally after she moved to Wales a few years ago.

She was interested in the ways that the internet might make health care more accessible for people, and wanted to try treating patients online.

“It’s just silly, and so many things could just be a quick email to the doctor and a quick photo,” Webberley said. She was treating a handful of transgender people at the time. So, she listed transgender health care on her online clinic and clicked “publish.”

The next day, she awoke to a flood of inquiries.

“Every morning still, I can’t believe that we haven’t exhausted all the transgender people,” Webberley said.  

Webberley provides something almost unheard of: Using her online clinic, a transgender person can get hormones, therapy, and medical advice without ever leaving home. Patients can even get blood test kits sent to their homes. There is no physical examination, a major barrier for many transgender people in accessing health care.

Such practice is hard to come by, even in the U.S., where Webberley has looked for model standards for care for treating trans patients. One such practice, QueerMed in Atlanta and New York, operates a tele-med clinic for trans patients, but patients are still legally required to attend an in-person visit.  

That is life-saving work in the UK, where transgender people face discrimination in every facet of life. According to a report this year from UK LGBTQ advocacy organization Stonewall, 42 percent of trans people who would like to transition medically won’t because they fear consequences in their family lives. A staggering 44 percent of trans people avoid certain streets in the UK out of fear for their safety. And, most applicable to Webberley’s case, 41 percent said they avoided health care because physicians don’t understand trans health.

Webberley says it’s crucial to her work that patients don’t have to risk their safety to access care.

“What they have to do in Wales is they have to get on a train in a dress,” Webberley said.

But if this practice administering health care via the internet seems risky, that’s because it is.

Webberley has faced intense backlash in the media and from regulating medical bodies. The Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) has blocked her from administering practicing medicine online after concluding earlier this month that she illegally provided health care services without registering under the country’s Care Standards Act 2000.

“The Prosecution follows a period in which Dr. Webberley had refused to stop providing services to patients,” said a spokesperson for HIW in a statement to INTO. She will be sentenced on Nov. 2 and is expected to be fined.

Webberley contends that she tried to register the clinic with HIW two years ago, and then again last February. Webberley claims the Inspectorate could not decide how to classify the clinic and refused her requests to meet to before starting proceedings against her.

It’s the second time in as many years Webberley has faced troubles over her operation. Last year, she faced an investigation by the UK’s General Medical Council after she prescribed hormones to transgender 12-year-old. The move went against NHS recommendations, which suggest waiting until a child reaches 16 years of age. Webberley defended the move as life-saving and says both parent and youth were desperate for treatment that NHS would not provide.

“There was so much talk about self-harm and anguish that I wonder if that child would have been here if we had not done it,” she said.

Webberley claims that her legal troubles are the upshot of anti-trans discrimination and the proprietary nature of health care in the UK. Many NHS doctors supplement their incomes with private practices and critics in recent years have said that wait lists for trans health are in fact a money-maker for NHS doctors who practice on the side.

While she awaits a sentence from HIW, her husband Dr. Mike Webberley continues to keep the practice going. Webberley says the clinic currently treats between 1,100 and 1,200 transgender patients. Those patients still need services.

“Getting transgender care right saves lives,” she said. “Definitely. Full stop.”

Image via Twitter

Lady Gaga’s Oscar Chances Explained

With her starring role in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga has given the world so much already. The trailer — and the entire film — has been memed to death and the film’s characters, beats, and quirks have become a part of queer lexicon. (And, also, it’s already the subject of some pretty intense backlash, but more on that later.)

Gaga has been so generous with her adoring public this year that many people want to know: will she be getting anything in return, especially — oh, I don’t know — a hulking piece of gold hardware known as the Academy Award for Best Actress? Currently, Gaga shows up in 23 of the 24 Best Actress finalist lineups by Oscar experts on GoldDerby. Hell, she tops nine of the lists.

So, let’s assess the chances that we’ll be able to say “Academy Award Winner Lady Gaga” come February 24.


The film: A few detractors aside, A Star Is Born has garnered some pretty hefty critical acclaim. Critical acclaim will no doubt lead to critics’ awards, but on a basic level, it’s clear people love the film and want to reward it. The bigger question is: does that mean rewarding Gaga?

Box office:  OK, it’s important to understand that no awards show, and no award given out by an awards body, can be separated from the show’s politics and public persona. As evidenced by the Oscars’ ill-fated “Best Popular Film” category, the Oscars want to be Sally Field. They want you to like them, to really like them. Well, there’s no better way for the Oscars to show that they’re hip and young — hello, fellow kids! — than to heap awards on A Star Is Born, which earned $43 million in its first weekend alone, more than many Best Picture nominees will earn throughout their entire run.  

The performance: OK, all this other shit aside, let’s just call it what it is — Gaga is great as Ally. Though a lot of people are less forgiving to the film’s Jackson-heavy second half, Gaga wins every viewer’s heart in the first half. The camera loves her and she loves it. She completely delivers on creating a character that is completely different from her own public persona, and more than being a good actress, she’s also a completely watchable one that grabs your eye no matter the scene. There are plenty of actresses — Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon, for instance — who won not only for solid performances but for starring in a vehicle that used their star power to maximum effect.

The narrative: Often, just as important as the performance itself is the narrative that the win fulfills. Bullock was the “prom queen,” Julianne Moore was “overdue,” Jennifer Lawrence was the brand new Hollywood royalty. To paraphrase and mangle Ratatouille, Gaga’s performance dazzles because it’s not only a reminder that anyone can be a great actress, but that a great performance can come from anywhere. Even though she’s won a Golden Globe for American Horror Story: Hotel, A Star Is Born is Gaga’s first major foray into film acting (she had a small role in Machete Kills). Gaga definitely has the “She can act!?” narrative going for her.

The meta-performance: Gaga has been doing a sort of meta-performance of an actress during the festival circuit. She’s been playing the part of starlet very well and she’s become someone who voters want to root for. By playing the part of the star, she also makes voters feel like they’re giving the award to someone who respects Hollywood the institution (as opposed to last year’s winner, Frances McDormand, who eschews the whole kit-and-caboodle.)

The soundtrack: A Star Is Born is a musical and people love the soundtrack, which reached #1 on the Billboard 200, while “Shallow” has so far peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gaga does the best vocal singing and the best lyrical interpretation in the film. People will want to reward her.


The character: As much as Gaga gives a great performance, her performance does the job of having to elevate what is, in the end, a poorly-drawn character. There’s definitely a precedent for terrible female characters netting their actresses trophies, but some people may be hesitant to award Gaga for a character that doesn’t have a last name until she gets married.

Her early frontrunner status: The Oscar season is a marathon, not a sprint. And A Star Is Born has the dubious honor of being the first big Oscar film to debut in theaters. It got a lot of acclaim pretty quickly before people grew too cynical, and it avoided the December glut when people can hardly get around to seeing every award-worthy film. But, having to keep up the frontrunner status for a full four months is hard to pull off, especially when other performances will feel more fresh in voters’ minds.

Bradley Cooper and Sam Elliott: The Best Actress race is already sorely overcrowded, with Olivia Colman, Glenn Close, Melissa McCarthy, Viola Davis, Yalitza Aparicio and more trying to get their hands on some Oscar gold. That stands in stark opposition to the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories, which look mighty paltry in comparison. The Academy will want to reward Cooper, who has been nominated three times before in the category, and who delivered big time as the writer, director, and star of Born. And Sam Elliott already is dominating conversations about the sleepy Supporting Actor category. Only two films in history have won three acting awards: A Streetcar Named Desire and Network. Of those two, only Network won two statues in lead categories, meaning A Star Is Born would have to pull off something done only once before in Academy history. 

The soundtrack: Hey, the soundtrack was a strength — what gives? Well, the Academy may look to spread the love around and give Gaga a Best Song Oscar and give the award to another actress.

The backlash: It’d be easy to say a backlash for A Star Is Born is inevitable, but it’s not … it’s already here. The film and Gaga’s performance have already garnered a bit of criticism from the film community and who knows if the film’s mighty wall will be able to withstand four months of criticism. However, one PRO from that: there’s always backlash to the backlash, and the film has some pretty fierce defenders.

Image via Getty

Oct. 16, 2018: This story has been updated to reflect that Network also won three acting Academy Awards. 

Come Inside the ‘House of Mamis’: The Premiere of Our New Series About a Mexico City Vogue House

Filmmakers and co-directors Angela Jude and Lo Calsada’s House of Mamis docu-series premieres on INTO today, with our first episode of seven taking you inside the lives of the family members in a Mexico City-based voguing house. Calsada describes the Mamis as “a group of queer folks, bois, femmes, chicxs, womxn and everything in between.”

“I lived in Mexico City for a month shooting everything that inspired me, immersing myself in the queer scene there,” Jude said of discovering the House of Mamis. “While filming a small documentary about a trans woman opera singer with Lo, we ate lunch one evening and she spoke about houses in Mexico City.”

What drew me to the Mamis is their way of sustaining each other, loving each other and working together, whether it be voicing transphobia in a queer space or taking the midnight train. It is done together,” Calsada says. “House is Mamis is a family that happens to vogue.”

The debut episode invites you home to meet the Mamis, who introduce themselves and explain how they came to be part of this colorful chosen family.

Check back for new episodes every Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. PST.

Dearly Beloved, I Have Libido Without Love

In this week’s Dearly Beloved, the advice column from author Michael Arceneaux, our dear reader is reeling after the end of a five year relationship. He wants to find a release, but he is noticing some things won’t pick up without a particular feeling first. Bless his heart and his parts.

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 broke up with my boyfriend after five years. I try and use Grindr to meet people, but I find it difficult to get an erection with a stranger.

I’m only 27 and attractive. But, I can’t open up and get that feeling that I had with my ex. Has my sex drive died along with my ex’s relationship?


Dear K.,

I love that you wrote “I’m only 27 and attractive.” In my mind, you were laying across a couch with immaculate lighting — think Mariah Carey in the confessional reality show on E! that we like to pretend never happened, but for argument’s sake here, we’ll revisit. Please tell me that’s exactly how it went down; lie to me if you need to.

Anyhow, aww, aren’t you precious? Well, if Pimp C were writing this column, he’d call you a “simp.” However, you’re in luck because I am more like Bun B, and thus a wee bit more sympathetic to your plight.

Actually, my preferred scenario for a sexual eruption sounds a lot like what you have in mind. We’re basically the main theme of Ariana Grande’s catalog: do ho shit with heart. You want the lovey dovey to drive your sex drive. The connection matters most.

Here’s what I would suggest: if you truly need a release, I think you should try to step out of your comfort zone — but only at your own pace. I have worked to be better about not idealizing sex and it helped my dick become far less dusty. If that’s what you want, push it until you get it right (and then Google Tisha Campbell’s “Push” and honor your elders). You’re only used to getting an erection one way, but there are others, and don’t deprive yourself by trying to live up to some ideal.

That said, if you discover that ultimately you prefer sex with someone you are in love with, that is absolutely okay, but you have to adjust accordingly. I suggest you masturbate, meditate, and continue crying out to vintage Mariah Carey.



Subtle Homophobia Is The New Blatant Homophobia

A few weeks ago, I went to the library to return a dreadfully boring book. That’s when I encountered a group of the biggest, most ignorant jackasses in the world. No matter how hard I try to forget about those losers, their willful ignorance topped with their heavy New York accents is seared into my cerebellum, just like that awkward Pokémon Go porno.

There were four guys and two girls. They were talking about homophobia, only none of them appeared to be members of the LGBTQ community based on how ignorantly they spoke about the LGBTQ community. They spoke about homophobia as though they were victims of it — as if they understood it better than LGBTQ people. I was absolutely stunned when one of them, with a hideous green shirt on, said, “Homophobia isn’t real. Faggots just want free sympathy and free shit.”

While fags like me are guilty of enjoying free things — not because of my queer identity, but because I enjoy free things, homophobia remains a dark cloud that looms over my head. I wish I could cancel homophobia just as I cancel great singers when they’re exposed for being blatantly homophobic, but I can’t. I experience homophobia every day. So, what gives a cis-heterosexual person a right to cancel homophobia and deny my experiences?

Treating homophobia like a Wookie or the Loch Ness Monster is not helping; it is, however, a clear demonstration of how easily cishet people erase the struggles of queer lives. Either that or cishet people have a very unclear definition of what homophobia is. Homophobia is not always obvious hate crimes, ugly slurs, and blatant discrimination — more often than not, homophobia is subtle, microaggressive and promotes ugly stereotypes about our community.

Just a few years ago, I barely understood what homophobia was. I believed that it was similar to my fear of spiders; I am deathly afraid of spiders. I once threw out an entire bag of clothing because a spider crawled into it. Homophobia is nothing like that.

No one is afraid of queer people, not even the 36-year-old woman who admitted to me that she is “afraid of the LGBT community” because lesbians “always call her beautiful” and “try to grab her butt.”

The term “homophobia” has evolved since it was coined by Dr. George Weinberg, a cis-heterosexual man, in the 1960s. Weinberg coined the term after observing his colleagues’ behavior after he invited his lesbian friend to a party. “I coined the word homophobia to mean it was a phobia about homosexuals,” he said. “It was a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear, and it had led to great brutality, as fear always does.”

However, decades later, the LGBTQ community’s fight for visibility ultimately shaped — and continues to shape — what “homophobia” means now.

Homophobia isn’t always being called well-known slurs like “sissy” or “faggot.” It isn’t always being chased out of neighborhoods when we’re holding hands with our lovers. Homophobia isn’t always direct. Homophobia can be as microaggressive as a small, cancerous lump on someone’s breast. If we leave the small lump untreated, it can develop into something altogether deadly. We should apply this analogy to homophobia — ignoring those microaggressive forms of homophobia can transform it into something deadly or traumatic.

Homophobia can be harmful implications about our sexual morality. For example, I observe how my family members watch me around my younger male cousins as if I’m going to sexually assault them because of my queer identity.

Homophobia can be a harmful implication that I want to have sex with every male that I encounter.

I’ve observed how quickly my father sexualizes my friendships with women (so that he can make me uncomfortable). This is a form of homophobia.

I’ve observed how my aunt’s demeanor changes when she speaks to me (bending her wrist and talking in an overly dramatic feminine voice when speaking to me). This is a form of homophobia.

Whenever I catch a cold, people say I could be HIV positive. This is a form of homophobia. There are too many ways for someone to be homophobic without bringing up my sexuality or dropping the F-bomb.

Gay Illinois Candidate Depicted As Limp-Wristed Puppet in ‘Homophobic’ Attack Ad

A seemingly quiet race for an Illinois county board drew national attention last week following the release of an attack ad many claim is “homophobic.”

A mailer sent out to households in the 15th District on Thursday depicts Democratic challenger Kevin Morrison as a puppet controlled by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who is also a Democrat. Morrison — who is gay — took issue with the fact that he is depicted on his tiptoes with an exaggerated limp wrist.

In conversation with INTO, Morrison argued it was a coded attack on his sexual orientation.

“Everyone knows that, especially if you are a member of the LGBTQ community, a male with a limp wrist is just a classic, bigoted caricature of a gay man,” he claimed in a phone interview. “It’s used to offend our community and bring us down.”

“I saw that for exactly what it was,” Morrison added, noting the flier was mailed out on National Coming Out Day.

LGBTQ groups agreed the flier intentionally crossed a line. Annise Parker, President and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, claimed in a statement that Republicansknew exactly what they were doing.”

“For too long, openly LGBTQ candidates were defeated by opponents who appealed to homophobia in a desperate effort to win votes,” Parker claimed, “but I am confident this attack ad will backfire. […] Cook County voters are demanding leaders who unite their constituents, respect differences, and put forward positive solutions for the region.”

But the Illinois Republican Party, which mailed out the flier, has denied any allegations the illustration was intended to be anti-LGBTQ.

In a statement, Executive Director Travis Sterling told INTO the controversy is “nothing but a desperate attempt from Kevin Morrison to try and hide the fact that he takes his orders from Toni Preckwinkle and Mike Madigan.”

“The whole image paints the entire picture clearly,” Sterling asserted in an email.

In the full illustration, the mailer’s caption emphasizes that Madigan — the alleged puppet master controlling the marionette  — has Morrison “right where he wants him.”

Confusingly, the attack ad refers to Morrison by Madigan’s last name.

“Kevin ‘Madigan’ Morrison walks in lockstep with Mike Madigan and will take any opportunity to increase your property taxes,” the flier alleges. “Kevin ‘Madigan’ Morrison hasn’t paid property taxes but wants to raise our taxes.”

“Say ‘No’ to Kevin ‘Madigan’ Morrison’s plan to increase our property taxes,” it continues.

What the Illinois GOP neglected to mention, though, is that the mailer is extremely similar to a much-criticized attack ad in last year’s Fort Lauderdale mayoral race. In fliers mailed out by his opponent, openly gay mayoral candidate Dean Trantalis was depicted as a tuxedoed ventriloquist dummy in makeup.

Supporters of Trantalis’ campaign claimed the ad played on decades-old stereotypes of male effeminacy. The candidate, though, brushed off the attack, claiming he “would never be seen in” such an outfit.

Trantalis ultimately defeated his opponent, Bruce Roberts, by 29 points. In doing so, he became the Florida city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor.

Morrison believes Illinois’ 15th district is also poised to make history.

Representing the northwest suburbs of Chicago, the district has been held by the GOP for decades. Morrison, though, describes the area as politically “in transition.” Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won five out of the six counties in the Chicagoland area during the 2016 election. She took his district by 20 points.

Although Morrison wouldn’t cite specifics, he claimed early polling showed that he was ahead of Republican incumbent Timothy O. Schneider.

As a former bullied youth, Morrison said it’s been particularly heartening to see his candidacy be embraced by voters in the area. The candidate told INTO he “never thought [he] would one day be able to run in [his] home district,” let alone have a shot at winning in November.

“It has been overwhelmingly positive experience,” Morrison claimed. “People like my message, and the responses overall are incredibly positive, even when I’m talking to Republicans.”

If elected, he would be the first openly LGBTQ-identified commissioner on the Cook County Board.

As a commissioner for the 15th district, Morrison pledged to stand up for marginalized groups — whether LGBTQ people, women, or racial minorities — and ensure everyone has a seat at the table. He cited the Trump administration’s “negative attacks on every disenfranchised group you can imagine” as inspiring his run for office.

“I want to be a voice that pushes our county in a better direction,” Morrison said.