Joe Manchin’s Cousin is at the Center of Trans Bathroom Dispute

The ACLU is taking on a West Virginia school for the alleged bullying of a transgender student in its bathroom, and the superintendent at the heart of the controversy has a familiar last name.

Harris County Schools Superintendent Mark Manchin is handling the fallout after a transgender high student alleged his assistant principal bullied him in the bathroom last month. Manchin is the cousin of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who has famously waffled on support for LGBTQ rights, historically opposing marriage equality but recently supporting transgender military inclusion.

The controversy in West Virginia revolves around Liberty High School sophomore Michael Critchfield, who alleges that on Nov. 27, Assistant Principal Lee Livengood followed him into an otherwise empty bathroom and challenged him to prove he was male, stating “Come out here and use the urinal.”

Livengood blocked Critchfield from leaving, loudly berating him within earshot of his classmates, according to a letter the ACLU sent to Mark Manchin. The letter claims Livengood repeatedly misgendered the student and then said, “I’m not going to lie: You freak me out.”

The ACLU is calling on the school to implement its own anti-discrimination policies, train its staff on trans issues, and discipline Livengood.

“At the end of the day, all I want is to feel welcome and safe in my school,” said Michael Critchfield in a statement. “Mr. Livengood’s behavior in the bathroom that day was terrifying and no student deserves that kind of treatment. I’m telling my story so that high school doesn’t have to be a scary place for kids like me.”

Harris County Schools and Mark Manchin did not respond to requests from INTO to comment.

But Manchin did confirm the incident to MetroNewsTalkline” and said Livengood conceded he had “acted inappropriately.”

“We need to address it and we will address it,” Manchin said. “Mr. Livengood was contrite. He understood the severity, that it’s a hot button issue, how we need to handle this, he was aware, and unfortunately, we didn’t handle it well. He was contrite in understanding that what he did was incorrect so we addressed it.”

The story goes on to say that the Board of Education is expected to vote Tuesday on recommendations that Livengood be suspended with pay until after the holiday break, a response that the ACLU called “insufficient.”

“The fact that this not only occurred on school property, but was perpetrated by a principal at the school is reprehensible,” said Joseph Cohen, executive director at ACLU of West Virginia in a statement. “We trust West Virginia schools to care for and educate our children and because of that, they must be held to a higher standard than what Michael experienced.”

Senator Joe Manchin’s press team did not respond to a request for comment.

Senator Manchin was the lone Democrat to vote against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which barred queer people from serving openly in the military. The Human Rights Campaign gives him a score of 30 percent out of 100 on their Congressional scorecard.

Images via Michael Critchfield

Not Everything is a ‘Harmful Trope’

Social media has launched many of the most important conversations of the last decade, including #YesAllWomen, #MeToo, and #BlackLivesMatter. But we know how the internet works: There’s a new thing to yell about every day, and within 48 hours, we find another story to scrutinize.

It’s fickle and exhausting. The nature of a website like Twitter, where people effortlessly post and repost contentious takes, can easily create a snowball effect, conducive to creating a culture of preachy wokeness that, to be frank, extends beyond what is fair or realistic to ask of people. Life is not black and white, but the Internet is.

Last Friday, when news broke that Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan would play lovers in an upcoming period film called Ammonite, queer women on Twitter were divided: Some were excited, but many disparaged it as being “problematic,” claiming that age gaps in lesbian movies represent a “harmful trope” that must be stopped. For that reason, I think it’s time we reexamine what exactly a “harmful trope” is.

I’m a gay film and TV critic. I’m not exactly forecasting Oscar winners, but I spend all day, every day watching queer movies and TV shows and culling them for noteworthy stories, tired stereotypes, and groundbreaking sex scenes. In short, I’m about as familiar as one can be with oft-repeated tropes and harmful portrayals of LGBTQ people in media. And trust me, the pool of clichés to be furious about is overflowing. But sometimes I have to admit that I grow frustrated with what we choose to lambast on social media. So when the announcement of Winslet and Ronan’s cinematic romance was met with severe criticism from queer women on Twitter, I was irked.

Many users immediately slammed Ammonite for being “another” lesbian romance movie with a significant age gap. This feels so trivial and unimportant. A trope is defined as “a common or overused theme or device”; a cliché. The word itself doesn’t necessarily imply “harm,” but at very least, tropes carry negative connotations. If a theme or character trait is dubbed a “trope,” we understand that it’s a lazy, perpetual stereotype that we’ve grown tired of seeing.

In queer film and TV, there are dozens of common tropes: Bury Your Gays, in which queer characters are carelessly disposed of and killed off; All Gays are Pedophiles, self-explanatory and flat-out incorrect; or The Predatory Lesbian, also self-explanatory, in which lesbians make their straight friends feel uncomfortable by aggressively hitting on them, something borrowed from toxic masculinity. These are examples of harmful tropes: They’re misleading, inaccurate stereotypes we’ve seen repeated about LGBTQ people in media, and they perpetuate negative perceptions of us in real life. That’s why they’re harmful—because they affect how cis-het people view our community, and the ways in which we internalize homophobia ourselves. There are real-life repercussions to such negative depictions.

There are tropes that aren’t harmful, but still ubiquitous in representations of queer people in film and TV. For example, we’ve seen dozens of coming out stories, and fans and critics often express their frustration with how many coming out stories there are, as opposed to stories about out queer people just living their lives as out, happy gay people. But the facts are that every queer person comes out, and many times, it’s a life-altering moment. Those kinds of memories are worth writing about. So, we have a lot of coming out stories because there are a lot of storytellers who have come out. But just because a significant amount of people have done a thing doesn’t necessarily make the thing a “trope”— it just makes it a shared experience and natural occurrence that happens in real life. Just like couples with age gaps.

That’s why I’m vexed by the Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan squabble. For background, the duo is set to play lovers in a UK coastal town in the 1840s, and the story will follow a romance between them, a paleontologist and London woman, to whom the former becomes a nursemaid. First of all, there aren’t that many lesbian movies to begin with, compared to gay male movies, especially compared to straight movies, or as they’re called in mainstream media: movies.

Second, there really aren’t even that many films about female couples with significant age gaps. Of course, the one that immediately comes to mind is Carol, the 2015 Oscar-nominated film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. There’s also a smattering of “Schoolgirl and Teacher” indie movies, like Loving Annabelle, Bloomington, and Cracks. Honestly, there are way more lesbian romance movies with couples who are close in age.

But my question is: Why is it bad to have age gaps in lesbian movies? There are plenty of real-life lesbian couples who differ in age, like Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor, for one. And not for nothing—but how many fucking movies are there about old men with hot, young girlfriends? Straight people aren’t dissecting the ramifications of heterosexual age gaps in media. They’re not calling that a trope—even if it is ubiquitous. Movies like Carol and Ammonite aren’t harming anyone—as in, there’s no real-life harmful repercussions on the LGBTQ community as a result of movie lesbians who differ in age. Ammonite will not cause an outbreak of old lesbians preying on the young and bicurious like a pack of horny zombies.

Personally, I think Lesbian Age Gap Movies—the few there are—are fucking hot. I definitely have some weird mom fetishes, and I enjoy watching a twenty-something actress being taken to bed by Academy Award-winning actresses named Kate (or Cate). I want more representation for lesbians with weird mommy shit. I would love to date a woman twice my age who wags a cigarette in my face as she talks about the lives she’s lived. My point is: Age gaps aren’t a harmful trope—they’re just a natural occurrence being depicted in pop culture.

Because the lesbian community is so used to being underrepresented, overlooked and mistreated in media, we’re always quick to call out something that rubs us the wrong way—because, sincerely, many things do. That cumbersome pang is an emotional response to such mistreatment. The size of the reaction is usually equal to the size of the wound—and with such cavernous wounds, of course we’re going to lash out when we see repetition in our stories. But just because you haven’t experienced something, or it doesn’t represent you and your corner of lesbianism, doesn’t mean that it won’t resonate with other queer people, and make them feel represented.

The same can be argued for tons of lesbian jokes we’ve seen time and time again in film and TV: lesbians wear plaid, we drive Subarus, we U-Haul, we love cats, we watch The L Word, we play sports, we love Fleetwood Mac… Sure, these things aren’t true for all queer women, the same as being a hot girl who falls for a nerdy underdog isn’t true of all straight women. But the fact is these things are true for a lot of lesbians, including me, and that’s OK—as long as it comes from a sincere place, one that isn’t cruel and defamatory. Perspective is everything.

We can’t be petty about what kinds of movies we’re “allowed” to make. It’s OK if literally 100 movies about queer female couples with big differences in age are made, because the same exists for heterosexual couples. I understand the want for variation in storytelling, but we need to reexamine what kinds of things we “call out” or slam as being “problematic.” Just because we’ve seen it before, doesn’t mean we can’t see it again—as long as we’re not perpetuating negative and false stereotypes about LGBTQ people.

There are conversations we absolutely must be having—like, we need more representation for queer women of color, both on-screen and off. We need trans actors to play trans characters. We need to stop portraying queer women as predatory. We need queer people writing and directing these films, instead of cisgender white men. Let’s focus on what’s important and what changes we really need to see, and stop getting up caught up in calling repetition in storytelling “harmful.” There is natural repetition in life; let there be. *glares in Sarah Paulson*

Header image via Getty

A Conservative Senator Could Keep The EEOC From Operating Because of One Lesbian’s Job

A Republican senator from Utah is about to halt the work of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, yanking workplace protections away from millions of Americans, all in the name of preventing a single queer woman from keeping her job.

Openly gay Chai Feldblum has served as a commissioner for the EEOC since 2010, when she was appointed by then-President Barack Obama and was re-nominated this year by Donald Trump, along with two other Republicans. Her current term is scheduled to end on December 31, 2018, and with two of the five seats on the commission already empty, if Feldblum is not confirmed by the end of the year, the commission will lack a quorum and will be unable to issue decisions.

Feldblum’s nomination should be relatively uncontroversial. Usually, the party that controls the White House gets to nominate three commissioners and the party out of power gets to name two. In the past, nominees have breezed through Congress. But because Feldblum supports equal rights for LGBTQ workers, right-wing activists have hounded elected officials to oppose her nomination.

Those activists found a sympathetic ally in Utah Senator Mike Lee. He’s vowed to hold up her nomination, which would essentially leave vulnerable workers like women, queer people, minorities, and people with disabilities without an agency that can protect them from unscrupulous and exploitative employers.

Lee’s justification is that Feldblum is “a threat to marriage,” a fabricated claim with no basis in fact.

In a statement released earlier this year, Lee imagined that Feldblum wants to “undermine our nation’s founding principles” by “curtailing the rights” of “you, your family, and your neighbors.” Lee didn’t specifically say how Feldblum might curtail any rights, simply that she wants to “stamp out traditional marriage supporters.”

It’s hard to say what exactly Lee thinks will happen if Feldblum is allowed to continue the job she has held for the better part of the last decade, but his vague ramblings echo the less veiled homophobia of groups like The Family Research Council, the Catholic League, and the National Organization for Marriage.

In one bulletin, the American Family Association called Feldblum “a menace to society,” “the dragon-queen,” and “a one-woman Spanish inquisition.”

To be clear, Feldblum’s qualifications for the job are extensive, even beyond the fact that she’s held it for the last eight years. She graduated from Harvard Law; clerked at the Supreme Court; helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act; and founded various organizations at Georgetown University Law Center to improve access to employment for disadvantaged groups, among many other accomplishments.

Feldblum is also the daughter of a rabbi who survived the Holocaust and has expressed respect for religious freedom.

“The government should respect a statement by a religious person that complying with a non-discrimination law or some other law will place a burden on that person’s religious beliefs,” she wrote in a recent essay, adding that “respect for religion is a paramount and lifelong value for me.”

But Feldblum’s religious respect apparently isn’t sufficient to satisfy Mike Lee, a Mormon with a long history of attacking queer Americans.

Lee’s anti-equality agenda has permeated much of his political work. He opposed marriage equality and tried to pass a bill that would give religious individuals the right to deny equal treatment to same-sex couples. He supported Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the firing of openly queer service members.

And as far back as 2012, he sought to protect employers who fire workers for being queer.

For now, Lee may get his wish. By holding up Feldblum’s nomination, Lee can bring much of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s work to a halt — not just on behalf of LGBTQ people, but for anyone who needs help accessing workplace protections.

But his move could ultimately backfire.

Without a quorum in place, the EEOC will be unable to take certain actions against employers who discriminate against employees — including religious employees. If allegations were to arise that an employer was engaging in systemic discrimination against, just for example, Mormon job applicants, the EEOC would be unable to file suit against that employer. They would be unable to hire expert witnesses, file briefs, or issue guidance.

And beyond that, Lee’s stalling tactics have meant that the Senate has been unable to confirm two other Trump nominees, both Republicans. If Congressional Republicans had simply allowed Feldblum to continue serving, the Trump nominees could have sailed through with her and the EEOC would have been controlled by Republicans. But because Lee held up the process, Democrats currently on the commission have been able to continue serving.

And with the Senate remaining under Republican control in 2019, there will be little incentive for Senate leaders to call for a vote once the EEOC’s ability to function is curtailed. If Lee doesn’t back down, restoring the commission might have to wait until the 2020 election.

Image via Getty

Barry Jenkins’ ‘Beale Street’ Is A Beautiful Follow-Up to ‘Moonlight’

We take the love of Fonny and Tish at face value when we first meet the two characters in the lush, lovely opening scene of Barry Jenkins’ third feature, If Beale Street Could Talk — his follow-up to the unforgettable breakthrough Moonlight. It’s the way the lovers look at each other. It’s the music on the soundtrack. It’s their clothes: They’re in subtly matching yellow and blue. It doesn’t hurt that Tish and Fonny (played by KiKi Layne and Stephan James, respectively) have such chemistry that it aches to see them separated moments later by thick glass.

Beale Street is adapted from the 1974 novel by James Baldwin, whose unmistakable voice surges through the despairing proceedings of this superlative adaptation. Guided by Baldwin’s dramatic urgency, the story’s stakes skyrocket almost immediately. Fonny is behind bars — at first, we don’t know why — and Tish, just 19, is pregnant. In a long scene, Tish breaks the news to her supportive family, who raise glasses to her in a warm-hearted toast. “We are drinking to new life,” says her mother Sharon (Regina King).

They invite Fonny’s family over with a certain hesitation, which we soon see was well-founded. In the conflict between these two families, we find rich, devastating context for the rest of the film. And we know that it will be up to Tish and Sharon, and no one else, to vindicate Fonny and bring the young couple back together. All the while, we slip backwards in time to watch Fonny and Tish’s romance in full flower.

It’s exquisite material, replete with emotional and political intrigue, and Jenkins’ craft reaches new heights here. Perhaps even more so than Moonlight, Beale Street is a whopping directorial achievement. With the help of an exuberant score by Nicholas Britell and an intelligently curated selection of popular songs, Beale Street would make you swoon before you even open your eyes. The cool blue-greys of Moonlight are replaced with warm reds and greens, a palette which situates us vaguely in the mid-’70s and envelops us in sensual pictorial pleasure. (The film is photographed by James Laxton, a regular Jenkins collaborator.)

Jenkins explodes the formal rigor of Moonlight’s three acts and deploys a more fluid narrative structure that effortlessly segues between the two parallel stories, each of which makes the other more powerful. The sweet, blushing love story of a young black couple is rendered melancholy because we know what will come. And the story of a young woman hoping to rescue the man she loves, who has been charged with rape under questionable circumstances, generates deep sympathy because we’ve seen Layne and James joined as cinematic soulmates.

After the success of Moonlight, Jenkins could likely have taken his pick of movie stars, but he has instead coaxed exquisite work from untapped newcomers and character actors. KiKi Layne, in her first feature film, is an astonishing screen presence. The camera loves her; she is a remarkable beauty with wide-open, expressive eyes. Occasionally, she seems a bit nervous, but Jenkins uses her tremulous hesitation to the film’s advantage. Her unease becomes the palpable fear of a young woman moving towards an uncertain future, and she becomes a heroine with each step.

The supporting players are impeccable, particularly Brian Tyree Henry as a traumatized friend from Fonny’s past and Aunjanue Ellis in her one indelible scene as Fonny’s devout mother. This is a screenplay of immense generosity: everyone has something memorable to do and a multi-dimensional character to inhabit, however briefly. From the shopkeeper on the corner to Diego Luna’s chummy waiter, the company adds up to a wholly convincing American community. Beale Street even gives Dave Franco a chance to shine as a kind-hearted landlord.

But it is Regina King who walks away with the movie. In the film’s third act, Sharon must travel to Puerto Rico to plead with Fonny’s accuser (the sublime Emily Rios) to return to America and exonerate him. Long one of Hollywood’s great character actresses, King has never had such a juicy role in a feature film, but she imbues even the unlikeliest moments with knowing nuance. In her hotel room, as she prepares to meet her son-in-law’s accuser, she agonizes in the mirror over her appearance, twice changing her mind about whether or not to wear a short wig.

But we know that’s not what’s really on her mind. Because Jenkins has masterfully sewn in ambiguity throughout, Sharon and the audience are both fretting over the facts of Fonny’s case, listing off silent, painful what-ifs: What if this doesn’t work? What if we’re lying to ourselves? What if she is telling the truth? What if I am causing even more damage?

By the end of Beale Street, all is answered, but not resolved. The film tells us nothing new about the American justice system, nor the people who are subjugated when it pulls its levers. But with all the craft of a practiced bard, Jenkins elevates those people’s stories to the level of classical elegy, sung with unsentimental grace. Perhaps Jenkins’ greatest gift is his ability to discover improbable optimism and make it resonate wordlessly. (Remember the final shot of Moonlight? I will never forget it.) The coda of Beale Street ends on a similar tender note, and it is a hushed Bressonian flourish which underscores Jenkins’ position among the great American filmmakers of our turbulent moment.

If Beale Street Could Talk is open in select theaters now.

Trump Administration Stripping Disciplinary Protections for LGBTQ Students

The U.S. Department of Education is moving to strip policy that shielded LGBTQ students from being disproportionately punished in schools.

On Tuesday, the Department’s Federal Commission on School Safety recommended axing Obama-era guidance that aims to prevent discrimination in discipline against marginalized students.

The “Rethink Discipline” guidance was launched as part of Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to tackle disparities facing young men of color. Specifically, it sought to address the disparities in punishment facing students of color, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities.

But in March, the Trump Administration created the Federal Commission on School Safety in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The Commission is comprised of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

Their Tuesday report argues that the Obama guidance on discipline “offends basic principles of federalism and the need to preserve state and local control over education.”

“By telling schools that they were subject to investigation, and threatening to cut federal funding because of different suspension rates for members of different racial groups, the Guidance gave schools a perverse incentive to make discipline rates proportional to enrollment figures, regardless of the appropriateness of discipline for any specific instance of misconduct,” it argues.

The report explicitly argues against increased gun regulation, concluding that because young people often take guns from their family members to commit mass shootings, increasing the minimum age for firearm purchase is unlikely to reduce violence.

But what combatting discrimination in schools and gun violence have to do with one another is less clear from the 180-page report. The report suggests that the guidelines made teachers reticent to deal with problematic students, but does not explain what research suggests that tackling bias in punishment increased risk of school violence.

The report cites only anecdotal examples. For example, it mentions the Texas School and Firearm Safety Action Plan, which notes that “when the individual disciplinary decisions of teachers are frequently questioned, teachers may pull back on removing potentially dangerous students from class.”

The Department of Education did not respond to a request from INTO to explain how gun violence was tied to preventing discrimination against marginalized students.

A blistering media release from national LGBTQ organizations slammed the Commission’s recommendations, arguing that the move made schools more, not less, dangerous.

“By undoing guidance designed to improve school climate and support our most vulnerable students, the Commission is both dismantling effective policy and failing to address the issue of school safety,” said Eliza Byard, executive director of LGBTQ education organization GLSEN.

The Trump administration, however, has wasted no time in removing the Obama-era guidance. The full report on “Rethink Discipline” has been scrubbed from the White House website and now goes to a dead link.

According to GLSEN, nearly 63 percent of LGBTQ students reported in 2015 that they were disciplined compared to just 46 percent for their heterosexual counterparts.

The Obama Administration noted in 2016 that federal data from 2013-2014 showed that black students were nearly four times more likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions than white students.

“This problem is compounded for LGBTQ students of color who often are often unfairly targeted by punitive school policies as a result of their intersectional identities,” said David J. Johns, National Black Justice Coalition executive director, in a statement. “The Department’s guidance will only serve to set us back as a nation, ensuring that the majority of the nation’s public school students are locked out of opportunities to develop the skills, credentials, and relationships necessary to succeed in the global 21st-century labor-market or ensure our national security.”  

Image via Getty

Penny Marshall Was a Lesbian Icon, Even If She Wasn’t Gay

Writer, director, and actor Penny Marshall has died at the age of 75. While anyone who has ever enjoyed her work is now suffering a great loss, queer women, in particular, will be missing a longtime ally.

Most famous for her 1992 all-star comedy A League of Her Own, Marshall’s take on the real-life all-women’s baseball league of the 1950s put a large ensemble cast of largely women at the center. Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Tom Hanks joined now openly gay actresses Rosie O’Donnell, Megan Cavanagh, and Anne Ramsay in the beloved feminist story. (In attendance at the premiere: Melissa Etheridge, as well as a drag queen named Queerdonna.)

Penny Marshall with Lori Petty

Marshall’s other work as a director includes several episodes of Laverne & Shirley, of which she was one of the stars; Jumpin’ Jack Flash, starring Whoopi Goldberg; Big, her first film with Hanks; Renaissance Man; The Preacher’s Wife, with Whitney Houston; Riding in Cars with Boys; and select episodes of The United States of Tara and According to Jim. She also helmed a forthcoming documentary about Dennis Rodman titled Rodman.

Marshall worked as an actor for most of her life, stealing scenes with her specific knack for high-comedy in historic series like Happy Days, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Odd Couple, and Mork & Mindy, a sister show to Laverne & Shirley. She would often pop up with guest appearances on friends’ shows or for special appearances on the likes of Frasier, The Simpsons, and Entourage, where she played a hilarious and heightened version of herself.  She sometimes stopped by SNL, and later, Fred Armisen would lovingly spoof Marshall.

Although she was married to men twice and had one daughter, Tracy, late-in-life lesbian rumors swirled about Marshall, most of which she seemed to take as a compliment. (Often, she was said to have been involved with the late Carrie Fisher, a close friend. In 2002, Fisher told Out she had a National Enquirer piece about the rumored relationship hanging on her fridge along with the quote: “We’re not lesbians, we’re loonies!”)

A role as Lorraine Bracco’s partner on the short-lived show Mulaney could have been a wink to those who were hopeful, or simply a nod to her LGBTQ fans, to whom she always showed support. 

A League of Their Own didn’t have any explicit lesbianism, but the relationships between the women were enough to pass the Bechdel Test and then some. The added bonus of women playing sports and queer actresses playing parts based on real queer athletes reached out to an underserved audience looking for any hint of representation on screen, and Marshall’s take expertly exhibited the intricacies and emotions of the central characters who had much larger problems and concerns than any men they took as lovers (or left as husbands back home). It also helped that to get parts in the film, the actors had to be able to play baseball, something Marshall and O’Donnell spoke about on O’Donnell’s OWN talk show in 2012.

A few decades prior, Laverne and Shirley were often read as lesbians by queer women looking for any kind of visibility on TV. Their close friendship could pass for a Boston marriage at times, especially when the roommates aired their grievances about men. Then there was the kiss they shared before they assumed they’d be going down in a plane crash.

Even the theme song could be seen as a thinly veiled ode to lesbianism: “We’re gonna make our dream come true./And we’ll do it our way, yes our way./Make all our dreams come true/And do it our way, yes our way/Make all our dreams come true/For me and you. Girl.” 

Marshall, along with her late brother Garry Marshall, created pieces of beloved pop culture that were somehow able to speak to several eras of Americans. In her 2012 memoir My Mother Was Nuts, she fondly recalls performing with her mom in the Village for what was “a party of lesbians,” she writes.

“My mother ushered us through a club full of women, whispering to us, ‘Keep close. Keep close,'” she said, later writing: “But I don’t think my mother cared who was in the audience as long as we got to perform.”

O’Donnell and Marshall maintained a close friendship, and the former celebrated her friend with a sweet tweet today that included a 1996 Kmart commercial they starred in during the height of O’Donnell’s talk show fame. “Simply heartbroken. #RIPPenny,” the comic wrote.

The ad was one of a few that year, another of which had the two looking for a tennis bracelet. As Advertising Age once noted:

Now tennis is sort of a stereotypical lesbian sport, with Martina Navratilova and that sort of thing, and some other historic stars who are lesbian, and they’re looking at it and Penny says–this is sort of the K-mart line–“K-Mart, who knew?” and Rosie says “I knew,” and she goes “You never said anything,” and then Rosie says “There are lots of things I don’t tell you.” Then Penny says, “What, that thing from last year?” and so it just leaves the viewer going “Well, what is that about, what are they talking about?”

Openly gay 9-to-5 filmmaker Patricia Resnick also remembered Marshall, recalling a fun double birthday party she shared with Carrie Fisher.

Marshall may not have been queer, but some of her best work will always be hailed by the queer community — especially women — who saw her as a much-needed ally inside the Hollywood machine. She will be dearly missed, but never forgotten. 

Images via Getty

When Will Queer Actresses of Color Get The Roles and Get Paid?

Gina Rodriguez, who has been praised by the LGBTQ community for her transparency when addressing her bisexuality, has faced understandable backlash from a recent mishap that’s brought up some important conversations about pay disparity in entertainment amongst minorities, and how to address the problem. Nearly always missing from the discussion, however, is the lack of leading roles offered to queer actors of color. 

A few weeks ago, during a Net A Porter panel, actresses including Gina Rodriguez, Ellen Pompeo, Gabrielle Union, and Emma Roberts discussed how they communicate when it comes to what they are paid for projects, particularly when it involves actresses of color who are often considered for the same roles. Gina Rodriguez made a comment we’ll presume was well-meaning but instead came off in the worst way possible.

“I get so petrified in this space talking about equal pay especially when you look at the intersectional aspect of it, right?” said Rodriguez. “Where white women get paid more than black women, black women get paid more than Asian women, Asian women get paid more than Latina women, and it’s like a very scary space to step into.”

While the presumed intent is to be the representative voice of all Latinas, the actress’s sentiment falls flat, as it turns a conversation about inclusivity into one about how much worse off one minority group is than the other, thereby creating antagonists where there shouldn’t be any. Additionally, her facts are somewhat skewed.  

According to Economic Policy Institute, Latinas do make less than Black and Asian women, though Asian women earn 88 cents on the dollar, while Black women earn 65 cents on the dollar, and Latinas only 59 cents on the dollar. Within the scope of the entertainment business, however, the stats are noticeably different, as Black and Afro-Latinx actors are paid marginally less than white and light skin Latinx actors.

According to Forbes, Colombian actress Sofia Vergara has been the highest paid actress seven years in a row, while Scandal’s Kerry Washington came in eighth on the list. Though nearly half of Vergara’s income comes from endorsements, that still leaves twice as much as Washington’s income with her own endorsements included.

Factoring in queer actors of color, the numbers are even more concerning.

In 2017, Variety released a list of TV actors and their salaries, showing their earnings per episode, from highest paid to lowest; the list is not only very white, but undeniably straight. While out gay actor Jim Parsons is at the very top of the comedy list with a whopping $900,000 per episode, the only queer actor of color on the list is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Tituss Burgess, and he is all the way at the bottom, with just $90,000 pay per episode.

The film world isn’t exactly bursting with queer POC representation, either. This year alone, The Favourite, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and Green Book are all films expected to take home some prestigious awards, but only Green Book features a queer person of color, and they are all films with queer protagonists played by heterosexual actors.

Though it’s slow-coming, there is some progress being made in television. Starz’s Vida is one production working toward expanding inclusion by casting trans and queer Latinx actors in some roles. Trans actor Ser Anzoategui plays Eddy in the series, and Roberta Colindrez has joined the cast for Season 2. Admittedly, this has plenty to do with the fact that show creator, Tanya Saracho, is a queer Latinx, but this is a perfect example of using one’s influence to cast a wider net of representation and, hopefully, it extends to their paychecks as well.

The CW’s Jane The Virgin, of which Rodriguez is the star, and which has been praised for its predominantly Latinx cast, has also featured queer characters from the very beginning of the series. However, they could work on their inclusion when it comes to casting. Their more recent queer storyline features Petra, played by Yael Groblas, and Jane Ramos, played by Rosario Dawson, who came out as bisexual during Pride month this year. Though Groblas is straight, given that this particular storyline was written as a gift to the fans who perceived Petra as queer, we’ll let that one slide, but Yara Martinez and Bridget Regan have played Julia and Rose, respectively, since the show’s first season; the two characters were always intended to be involved romantically, and both actresses are straight.

There is a pay disparity problem in Hollywood, and definitely one that needs to be addressed by those with the power to make changes. Gina Rodriguez herself played a lesbian earlier this year in Annihilation and has personally campaigned to play a love interest for Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz), Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s bisexual character. As someone who has talked about her own fluidity in interviews and tweets, she should use her influence to encourage productions to provide more roles for queer actors of color, and not to counter-attack the success of other women of color with “What about me?” arguments.

According to GLAAD, the number of queer characters between 2017 and 2018 on TV was 58 out of 901, and out of those 58 characters, 31 are queer characters of color. Considering that’s only about 3.4 percent of employment availability, perhaps the discussion to be had is about how little opportunity is given to queer actors of color and what can be done so they, too, can get paid what they are worth.

Arizona Governor Appoints Anti-LGBTQ Losing Candidate Martha McSally to U.S. Senate

On Tuesday, Arizona governor Doug Ducey announced his decision to appoint Republican Rep. Martha McSally to the vacant senate seat left behind by John McCain, who died in August.

The decision came as a surprise to voters who watched McSally lose her own senate campaign this November, with openly bisexual Kyrsten Sinema beating McSally to become the state’s first LGBTQ senator — and only the second LGBTQ person in the U.S. Senate after Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin. Sinema’s win successfully flipped what had been a Republican seat held by retiring senator Jeff Flake.

The move is highly unusual on several counts; not only does it position the rival candidates to serve together — Arizona only has two senate seats, after all — but they are also the first women to ever serve as the senators from Arizona. That makes Arizona one of the only states in the nation to have women-only representation in the U.S. Senate.

In a biting statement on Tuesday, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSSC) spokesperson Lauren Passalacqua summarized the bizarre quality of Ducey’s decision to appoint the losing candidate.

“Why appoint a loser when you could find a fresh face with a better shot in 2020?” said Passalacqua. “That’s the question that will haunt Governor Ducey and the Washington Republicans who installed Martha McSally to a seat she couldn’t earn.”

That race was closely-watched not only because Democrats were hoping to rebalance the senate, but also because it pitted an LGBTQ candidate directly against one known for her stance against same-sex marriage and her pro-discrimination votes in congress. Most notably, McSally was slammed by LGBTQ advocacy groups for her 2016 votes supporting an amendment to a military spending bill that created a discrimination loophole allowing for sweeping anti-LGBTQ discrimination at all federal agencies.

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorsed Sinema in her winning campaign against McSally, hopes that McSally’s loss this fall might serve as a wake-up call to the Republican, indicating that she should evolve her stance on LGBTQ rights.

“It is unfortunate that Governor Ducey would appoint an anti-LGBTQ person who voters rejected just over a month ago in favor of an openly bisexual woman,” Elliot Imse, Senior Director of Communications for LGBTQ Victory Fund, told INTO on Tuesday. “One hopes that McSally takes the recent election of Kyrsten Sinema to heart and understands that a majority of Arizonans are opposed to policies and legislation that further marginalize LGBTQ people.”

McSally’s opposition to marriage equality is longstanding. In 2012, she told voters she supported amending the U.S. Constitution to ban marriage rights for same-sex couples. After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, McSally argued that the decision should have been left to the states to decide.

At a tense town hall with constituents in February 2017, McSally was booed by the crowd after saying she supported the Trump administration’s withdrawal of nondiscrimination protections for transgender children in schools, saying the move to discriminate against trans students “needed to be done.”

Drew Anderson, Director of Campaigns and Rapid Response at GLAAD, told INTO that McSally’s views “have no place in the U.S. Senate.”

“Appointing someone who was rejected by Arizona voters just a month ago is not only a slap in the face to Arizonans, but a deliberate and direct attack on LGBTQ people, who have been in Martha McSally’s crosshairs for years,” said Anderson in a statement on Tuesday. “Arizonans will remember Martha McSally for a lot of things, and morphing herself to be a sheer clone of the anti-LGBTQ Donald Trump will be on the top of that list.”

On social media, rumors swirled around whether McSally would be sworn in before Sinema in a sneaky move to give her senior senator status. But at a news conference on Tuesday, Ducey shot those rumors down.

“I’m also going to respect the will of voters,” Ducey said. “Senator-elect Sinema was elected to the office and she’s going to be sworn in first.”

10 Extraordinary Queer Performances By Out Movie Actors In 2018

Hollywood has made billions by marginalizing the LGBTQ community through tragic storylines and stereotypical characters. Even when things began to improve with films like Carol and Call Me By Your Name, concerns were still raised by queer audiences who felt that their stories weren’t being told with authenticity.

In a perfect world, anyone should be able to play the part that’s right for them, but we’re not in a perfect world just yet. Queer actors are still sidelined in favor of their straight counterparts and it’s more vital than ever that the LGBTQ community plays a role in telling our own stories.

Amidst the controversy faced by Scarlett Johansson and Jack Whitehall this year, progress is slowly being made by a number of films that have started to cast queer actors in queer roles. As #20GayTeen draws to a close, INTO is celebrating 10 of the very best LGBTQ performances by out movie actors in 2018. Let’s just hope that next year’s list will be twice as long.

Cory Michael Smith in 1985

Best known for playing the Riddler on Gotham, Cory Michael Smith dials down his supervillain persona here to tell the story of a young man hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, conveying the pain of an entire generation through his quiet but no less haunting performance.  

Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation

With the character of Anya Thorensen, Rodriguez hones the funny bone she developed on Jane The Virgin to create a swaggering action star who provides dark moments of comic relief. Unrecognizable from her role as Jane, the sexually fluid star annihilates competition from other worthy performers like Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson.

Zachary Booth in The Revival

Zachary Booth is perhaps best known to queer audiences for his turn in Keep The Lights On, but here he transforms what could have been a rather one-dimensional role into something with genuine substance, forcing us to care about his meth-using drifter and what lies in store for the doomed relationship he shares with a repressed gay preacher.

Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman

Although A Fantastic Woman first became prominent on the festival circuit last year, it was officially released in 2018, which means that we can still sing the praises of this truly fantastic lady once again. Daniela Vega’s star-making turn in the lead proves exactly why it’s so important to cast trans actors in trans roles and honestly, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else inhabit Marina’s skin in the way she does.

Matt Bomer in Papi Chulo

Although it’s easy to dismiss Matt Bomer as just a set of perfect teeth and abs, the Magic Mike star has quietly given us impressive performance after performance in the last few years, culminating with this heartbreaking turn in Papi Chulo. Both awkward and sweet in equal measure, Bomer puts his heart on his sleeve here in a role that will disarm even the most cynical of critics.

Rupert Everett in The Happy Prince

Talented, misunderstood, just a tad unbalanced… Oscar Wilde and Rupert Everett share plenty in common, so it’s no wonder that Everett plays the controversial writer so well in his directorial debut. Whatever you think of the film itself, it’s impossible to deny how committed Everett is to the role, elevating what could have been a rather average biopic into something worthy of Wilde himself.

Alia Shawkat in Duck Butter

The basic premise of Duck Butter revolves around a 24-hour sex experiment that could have just been a messy tangle of limbs and not much else. Fortunately, Shawkat channels the star charisma she developed on Arrested Development to create a fully rounded character in Naima, a role she helped create as a co-writer on the script too.

Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased

While the name of the film might suggest otherwise, it’s almost impossible to erase Lucas Hedges and his performance from your mind. His face fills up the screen throughout, barely containing the rage and self-contempt that torment those who are forced to hate the very thing that defines them. Although director Joel Edgerton is straight, Hedges channels his own sexual fluidity to bring some much-needed authenticity to the story of Jared Eamons as he learns to accept himself for who he is.

Ellen Page in My Days of Mercy

Criminally overlooked by distributors, My Days of Mercy includes a career-best performance from Ellen Page that deserves to be seen by wider audiences and no, not just because of the salacious sex scenes either. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Oscar-nominated actress commit so fully to a role, and she’s never felt more natural on screen.

Janne Puustinen and Boodi Kabbani in A Moment In The Reeds

Sure, we‘re cheating a bit here, but the relationship shared by Puustinen and Kabbani in this Weekend-inspired gem is absolutely key to the film’s success and it’s impossible to imagine one without the other. Both performers worked alongside queer director Mikko Makela to create their characters together, developing powerful back stories that draw upon their own personal experiences. While Puustinen imbues his part with a quiet yet endearing intensity, Kabbani officially made history by becoming the first out Syrian actor to play a queer Syrian character in cinema. After the credits have rolled, you’ll find that just a moment in the reeds with these two still isn’t enough.

We Need to Talk About The Lesbian Looks of 2018

In 2018, I discovered that I’m extremely single-minded. I only have one interest, and that’s Lesbian Outfits.

When I was young, I had hobbies—like soccer, or playing the guitar, or having cyber-sex with strangers in AOL chatrooms. But no one, not even me, could’ve portended the person I’d become in my late twenties—a super-lesbian with tunnel vision on actresses over 30 wearing tailored suits. #20GayTeen did a number on me, as I somehow emerged gayer than I was last December, and that’s all thanks to the trenches of lesbian Twitter, which is sort of like Santa’s workshop, except trade the elves for a bunch of queer women hunched over their devices, furiously posting stolen paparazzi photos of Cate Blanchett.

I’ve witnessed some incredible ‘fits this year, many of which I’ve written about in pedantic detail. So, to honor the gayest year in modern history, I’d like to recount my favorite Lesbian Outfits of 2018.

Lena Waithe’s “Homophobia is Over Now” Met Gala Cape

Lena Waithe showed up to the Met Gala guns-a-blazin’ this year, sporting a dapper tux draped with a rainbow flag cape. She marched right into Anna Wintour’s lair and said, “Your bob is homophobic.” Every innocent heterosexual pedestrian had to shield their eyes from the glare of her lesbian pride. Somewhere in a dark cave under Los Angeles, Mel Gibson choked on his spam sandwich. A cab blasting Creed drove by and exploded, colliding with Lena’s homophobia force field. Rihanna walked by and said “Sorry,” and meant it.

Gillian Anderson’s Fashion Line Which is Just a Lesbian Advent Calendar

It’s hard to pick just one fave from Gillian Anderson’s new fashion line, which I wrote about in August. It includes: The Dapper Death Eater Trench-Cloak, The Bitchy Fictional Magazine Editor Wool Coat, The White Silk Blouse with a Mysterious Drop of Blood on It, and The “Why The Fuck Do You Think You Have Permission to Look at My Neck?” Turtleneck. But let’s go with the first one. I would let Gillian Anderson do a lot of things to me—I’m talking weird shit. Foot stuff? Sure. Lost & Delirious cosplay? Why not. Eat Apple Jacks off my nubile body? If that’s your thing. But when I see her in this Slytherin ass coat, I want her to end my life. Rob of me of my last dying breath, Gillian. Lobotomize me, queen.

Blake Lively’s Serial Killer Gloves in A Simple Favor

What are these red gloves? What sick lesbian mastermind breathed life into this idea? I have spent dozens of waking hours lying in bed staring at the ceiling, thinking about these magnificent magenta gloves. They’re not gloves for use; they’re fashion gloves. As we know, gloves are lesbian, and that is canon—or at least it became canon after Cate Blanchett asked Rooney Mara to lunch over a fucking singular glove in Carol. Is Blake Lively’s glove from A Simple Favor a nod to Carol? Probably. There are no coincidences—just derivative works of Carol.

Anne Hathaway’s “People Don’t Hate Me Anymore” Dapper Suit

Remember when America collectively hopped on the Anne Hathaway Sucks bandwagon for no reason, but then decided she was cool again after her performance in Ocean’s 8? Well fuck all of you, I’ve been a loyal Hathanator since she pwned Mandy Moore in The Princess Diaries. Anne Hathaway is a national treasure. How DARE you.

Right, the suit. Anne attended the 50th anniversary Ralph Lauren show at Fashion Week in this Coming Out as a Beloved Actress Again Suit. The shirt’s angular collar says, “I will cut you,” while her velvet, floral black blazer says, “Seriously, I sliced Hugh Jackman during production on Les Mis because I was bored and I will not spare you either. Good day.”

Awkwafina’s Dragonbreath Orange Suit

God bless the Ocean’s 8 press tour but also god bless everything Awkwafina does, like attending a screening of her movie Crazy Rich Asians in Atlanta. Eck-fuckin-scuse me?

The Gaze / The Gays / The Gayz Suits

Who could forget The Great Gay Gaze of 2018? This year, Cannes was legendary, not only because its jury was majority female, but because Cate Blanchett headed that jury alongside Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux. They left a trail of loose suits littering the coastal French town like a school of dead, washed up fish on a toxic beach. Cate’s pale pink suit and Kristen’s textured baby blue suit were two of my favorite gay outfits of the year, and then they went ahead and stood next to each other and did THIS. I mean, who amongst us hasn’t gay gazed at Cate Blanchett? Kristen Stewart was just caught in the act. Wouldn’t you carpe the diem if you had one shot to gaze at Blanchett up close??

Keira Knightley’s Sexy Bar Mitzvah Boy Velvet Tux

I’m not sure what about this outfit screams “bar mitzvah” to me—maybe its navy-blue shimmer with a stark white contrast, which reminds me of a tallit—but I can just picture Vanessa Bayer’s Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy character growing up to be a sexy as fuck Jew and wearing this exact outfit. As a Jew, I was never bat mitzvahed, but maybe I would’ve wanted to be if I knew I could grow up and wear this pearly white-trimmed suit jacket on Late Night with Seth Meyers, like Keira Knightley did on her Colette press tour. P.S., I love how a bunch of straight actresses who starred in queer movies decided to Gay their press tours this year. It was the right thing to do, ladies.

Janelle Monae’s Red “No” Suit

Do me a favor and don’t even look Janelle Monae in the eye. You don’t deserve her. Have some goddamn respect for your pansexual queen. This lurid red tuxedo-dress says “no” so you don’t have to. It’s perfect for walking into a room of men who want to explain things to you, like Amazon’s business model or what populism is, and before they even open their unworthy mouths to spew their nonsense, your suit says “not today, pal,” for you. Look the fuck away. My suit is red. No.

Cate Blanchett’s “The Sun Shines Out of My Asshole” Yellow Cannes Suit

I said what I said.

Lady Gaga’s “I’m for Lesbians Too Now” Jet Black Suit

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Lady Gaga has been doing a significant amount of outreach to the lesbian community this year. She’s always been Mother Monster to gay men, but in 2018, Gaga decided she was actually for queer women too. On the red carpet for Variety’s Actors on Actors event, she sported a perfectly tailored all-black suit, including a black dress shirt, midnight tie, and a loose up-do. Her outfit says, “I challenge Cate Blanchett to an Extreme Suit-Off” while her hair says, “Yeah, I played sports in college, fuck you.”

At Elle’s Women of Hollywood event, where Gaga also wore a power suit, the singer said, “I tried on dress after dress today getting ready for this event, one tight corset after another, one heel after another, a diamond, a feather, thousands of beaded fabrics and the most beautiful silks in the world. To be honest, I felt sick to my stomach.” She added, “This was an oversized men’s suit made for a woman. Not a gown. And then I began to cry. In this suit, I felt like me today. In this suit, I felt the truth of who I am well up in my gut.” How many queer women have been there? 2018 was the year women said “enough,” and broke free from the chains of the patriarchy to wear whatever the fuck they wanted.

Cara Delevingne’s Baberaham Lincoln Hat

Speaking of which, bisexual model and actress Cara Delevingne wore a top hat, cummerbund and coattails to a royal wedding—a uniform British men traditionally sport as formal wear. All I can say is: Abe Lincoln is fucking bald. I don’t think I’m being dramatic or radically revisionist at all in saying Cara did top hats first, Abe. So, fuck right off.

Rachel Weisz’s Suck My Musket Menswear

Rachel Weisz starred in two lesbian movies this year, one being Yorgos Lanthimos’ queer period film The Favourite. While lodged in the heart of a lesbian love triangle with Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her distant cousin Abigail (Emma Stone), Lady Sarah (Weisz) threw on some traditionally British menswear, a feathered hat, and shot a musket in a British accent. This movie was jam-packed with paralyzingly lesbian outfits, which I detailed at length back in October. I swear to god, if the last thing I ever saw was a crusty wooden musket in the delicately gloved grip of Rachel Weisz, I would die a happy lesbian.

Blake Lively’s Lime Green Mucinex Promo Suit

This suit split gay Twitter in two: Is it perfect, or is it terrible? The answer is both, which is exactly why I adored it. I want something that simultaneously repulses me and paralyzes me, something that elicits a visceral reaction similar to vertigo—something that makes my vision go blurry because it’s just so outrageous. That’s this suit. I want it dead, and yet I want it on me. It’s like Blake saw a stunt double in a green morphsuit and was like, “Perfect—now make it fashion.”

Cate Blanchett’s Three-Piece Emerald Suit from Ocean’s 8

This year, I wrote about how every outfit Cate Blanchett wore in Ocean’s 8 made me gayer—the pale blue suit, the chef’s whites, the gay vest, the gorgeous waterfalling coats, the disco jumpsuit with unzippable cleavage, the Avril Lavigne Lesbian ties… But one outfit will be branded in the back of my skull until the day that I die. I’ve stored it where I store every embarrassing thing I’ve ever said or done which I spiral about in the dark of night. It’s the storied three-piece emerald suit.

I would say I want this image tattooed on my face, but it wouldn’t be enough. It wouldn’t accurately depict just how much I care about this outfit. The vest, the flare pant, The L Word tie, the scarf from your grandfather’s closet that smells like soup—This suit will plague me forevermore. On my wedding day, there will be a brief pause when my future wife is waiting for me to say “I do,” and I’ll be biting my lip and surreptitiously looking at the floor, kicking my feet and wondering—I can’t marry a suit, right? Jill, you’re being crazy. And then I’ll say “I do,” but I won’t mean it. I will hold out for this suit, because that’s what you do for true love: You hold a candle for your soulmate.

And shoutout to literally everything Dua Lipa wore in 2018. She looks like trap Sporty Spice and I’m here for it.

Images via Getty