Trump’s New Attorney General Pick Believes LGBTQ Rights ‘Led to America’s Decline’

Just like his old one, President Donald Trump’s new choice for Attorney General is no friend to the LGBTQ community.

The POTUS nominated William Barr to replace the outgoing Jeff Sessions, who resigned earlier this year at Trump’s request. In comments delivered to reporters on the White House lawn, he referred to Barr as a “highly respected lawyer” and a “terrific man.”

“He was my first choice from day one, respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats,” Trump said of Barr, who previously served as Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. “He will be nominated for the U.S. attorney general and hopefully that process will go very quickly, and I think it will go very quickly.”

The 68-year-old’s decades-long record in public life includes working on domestic policy under the Reagan administration and serving in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel under Bush. Barr quickly rose the ranks to the DOJ’s top position.

But while supporters of the nomination lauded it as a comparatively “mature” pick for the president, critics noted Barr’s well-documented history of anti-LGBTQ remarks.

During a May 1992 speech at a dinner thrown by Agudath Israel of America, Barr lamented a “steady assault” on “the moral values that have sustained this country” since the mid-1960s, which he believes has “led to America’s decline.”

“We have lived through 25 years of permissiveness, sexual revolution, and the drug culture,” he claimed while accepting the group’s humanitarian award. “People have been encouraged to cast off conventional morality and old-fashioned restraints. The emphasis has been on individual fulfillment and the unbridled pursuit of pleasure.”

“Moral tradition has given way to moral relativism,” Barr continued, calling it a “doctrine which… [gives] full leeway to the pursuit of individual appetites.”

While the former CIA official didn’t specifically name the LGBTQ community in that address, compare those to comments he made in an October 2017 journal article penned for The Catholic Lawyer. He bemoaned a 1987 decision from U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia compelling Georgetown University to “treat homosexual activist groups like any other student group.”

Barr used the same language as before—on the “moral relativist viewpoint”—to condemn that ruling. He claimed granting equal footing on campus to LGBTQ student organizations “dissolves any form of moral consensus in society.”

In a subsequent passage lamenting that fellow Catholics do not follow “traditional morality,” Barr again harped on his criticism of the so-called “homosexual movement.”

“If the Catholic faithful do not take the hierarchy seriously, why should anybody else in the political structure?” he wrote. “It is no accident that the homosexual movement, at one or two percent of the population, gets treated with such solicitude while the Catholic population, which is over a quarter of the country, is given the back of the hand.”

“How has that come to be?” Barr continued. “We need to go back to basics and reassemble the flock. We may be frittering away our limited moral capital on a host of agenda items.”

The watchdog group GLAAD suggested his comments should immediately disqualify him from the position of Attorney General.

“William Barr… is the latest in a long line of replacements who President Trump has appointed to his Cabinet who are just as anti-LGBTQ as their predecessors,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, its president and CEO. “If confirmed, there’s little doubt that William Barr would continue the Trump Administration’s objective of erasing LGBTQ Americans from the fabric of this nation.”

DNC Chair Tom Perez also issued a statement in response to the nomination:

“Our next attorney general must be able to stand up to the president and act as an independent law enforcement official. Trump has consistently shown a corrupt disregard for the rule of law and used his office to undermine civil rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and voting rights.

“William Barr must assure the American people that he will resist any attempt by the president to interfere in law enforcement matters, and he must unequivocally commit to protecting the special counsel’s investigation and defending our constitutional rights.”

Human Rights Campaign’s Director of Government Affairs David Stacy also released a statement:

“The Trump-Pence White House and the Justice Department have been pursuing a policy agenda to undermine the legal rights of LGBTQ people since day one. From his views around HIV/AIDS during his tenure as attorney general to his more recent writing promoting extreme views around religious exemptions, William Barr looks ill suited to be our country’s top law enforcement officer. The Senate has a solemn responsibility to advise and consent on this important nomination and his troubling views on LGBTQ equality and the law must be thoroughly vetted.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Barr would seemingly fall in line with his predecessors in the DOJ.

While Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions fought to keep an LGBTQ conference from meeting at the University of Alabama. During his nearly two-year stint in the Trump administration, his DOJ argued Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect workers from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

Shortly before tendering his resignation, Sessions’ office also argued that trans employees aren’t protected under federal civil rights law.

After the former Alabama Senator announced he would be stepping down from the DOJ in November, Sessions was replaced by Matthew Whitaker. As U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, he allegedly persecuted openly gay Iowa State Sen. Matt McCoy because of his pro-LGBTQ activism.

While Senate Democrats could choose to oppose yet another anti-LGBTQ pick to the DOJ, it’s unlikely they would have the votes to do so. They will be outnumbered 53 to 47 when Congress reconvenes in the new year.

People Are Campaigning to Get PewDiePie More Subscribers Because Straight Men Have Too Much Time on Their Hands

I’m not saying people shouldn’t be straight, I just don’t need their culture shoved in my face all the time. Lately, I’ve been inundated with some PewDiePie nonsense and I just can’t deal anymore, folks. Apparently PewDiePie, the most highly-subscribed YouTuber, is in the news this week because he might soon be losing that title. Even more hilarious is that PewDiePie might lose his title to an Indian music company called T-Series. To fight back against losing his throne, PewDiePie has started a campaign to keep himself the most highly-subscribed person on YouTube.

If you’ve been delightfully unaware of Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg up until this point, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. His YouTube channel originally gained a lot of success from his comedic videos about gaming. The funny video game genre of YouTube video is wildly popular today among straight nerd fan boys and that is partially because of the mark that PewDiePie has left on the platform.

Unsurprisingly, Kjellberg’s fame and success have not come without controversy — aka racism and Nazi imagery. According to the Wall Street Journal, nine videos between August 2016 and February 2017 had Nazi or anti-Semitic content. In one video, Kjellberg hired people from a freelance site to hold up a sign that said, “Death to all Jews,” so you know, that’s something. Because of these videos, Kjellberg ended up losing a partnership with the Disney-owned Maker Studios. But it didn’t stop there. Later in 2017, Kjellberg got called out for yelling the n-word at an enemy during a stream of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

But of course, his straight gamer fans immediately came to his defense, claiming that he was just stressed or frustrated. As with most of the content creators in his section of the internet, when they do something offensive, no matter who in the world responds negatively to it, their mostly male audiences will do pretty much nothing.

PewDiePie has always been an interesting symbol for a larger conversation taking place online. Because PewDiePie isn’t owned by a network or a media company, there is kind of nothing to stop him. YouTube has proven time and time again with some of their biggest channels like PewDiePie and Logan Paul that little will be done to punish them when they do something offensive or inappropriate. The only people who can hold him accountable are his fans, and because majority of the people in his community are straight white men, that won’t be happening any time soon.

It would be one thing for PewDiePie to simply exist on YouTube, but he still, after all of this, remains completely supported. And not just by fans, but by other creators in the community. Just in this campaign, gaming YouTubers Jacksepticeye and Markiplier (who also started this really bad clothing brand together) encouraged people to subscribe to PewDiePie. Markiplier specifically had a livestream titled “I Literally Won’t Shut Up Until You Subscribe To PewDiePie” where he — with an admittedly sexy voice — ranted about the battle between these channels for nearly 50 minutes.

Something that I’ll give PewDiePie credit for is that during this campaign, some people were making racist remarks to T-Series, the Indian music channel, and in response, PewDiePie encouraged his fans to donate to Child Rights and You, a non-profit organization fighting against child labor in India.

PewDiePie said that he found these comments to be distasteful and unnecessary, but followed that up with saying “I’ve obviously made Indian jokes and stuff like that, but I do that of all countries and this is not what I’m about.” It’s hard to grasp that people, in 2018, still try to make a fine distinction between racist “jokes” and racist comments. Sorry friend, if you’re making fun of other countries and their people, you kind of have to take responsibility when your audience does the same.

With everything going on in the world, it’s more than slightly upsetting that this is what is taking up space. Like damn, is that what it’s like to not be marginalized? Is this the dumb stuff you get to spend time on? Sign me up. I have to admit, I would be thrilled if PewDiePie, with his racist history, was de-ranked by a bunch of brown people. It would prove that karma was very real and it was time for him to cash in. In short: Go subscribe to T-Series on YouTube.

Poland and Hungary Veto Statement of Support For LGBTQ Youth in EU Policy

Poland and Hungary reportedly rejected a declaration of support for LGBTQ youth in a European Union policy on creating internet safe spaces for young people.

On Thursday, the two countries were the lone holdouts in a vote on a joint statement on “gender equality, youth, and digitalization” authored by ministers with the EU’s employment and social affairs bureaus. As Politico was first to report, the proposed policy was “intended to promote gender equity in the digital era.”

However, Poland and Hungary rejected references in the document to the LGBTQ community.

The original version of the text referred to “young people of low socioeconomic status, young people from ethnic minorities including Roma, young persons with disabilities, young people in rural areas, young people with a migrant background, and young LGBTQ persons” as vulnerable minorities in the digital age.

In the United States, research from GLSEN has consistently shown that LGBTQ youth are three times as likely as their cisgender and heterosexual peers to be harassed, bullied, or targeted online.

A compromise declaration put forward by the Austrian delegation to the EU, however, replaced mention of this marginalized group with a reference to “sexual orientation.”

The watered-down proposal enumerated characteristics like “age,” “color,” “disability,” “ethnic or social origin,” “genetic features,” “language,” “membership of a national minority,” “political or any other opinion,” “property,” “race,” “religion or belief,” and “sexual orientation” as protected characteristics under the EU’s digital policy.

However, that list of characteristics does not include “gender identity.”

References to LGBTQ individuals were eventually included in the final version of the document, although with a symbolic asterisk placed next to them. Protection on the basis of LGBTQ identity was designated as a “presidential conclusion.”

That status doesn’t “carry the legal weight of formal council conclusions,” according to Politico.

The erasure of queer and transgender people from EU policy was met with widespread condemnation from member states that have long been supportive of LGBTQ equality. Wouter Koolmees, the Dutch minister for social affairs and employment, claimed “inclusion and equality are core values” of the EU.

We will never compromise our principles,” he said in a statement. “This is not up for discussion and should have never been an issue for any member state.”

Regina Doherty, Ireland’s Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, noted this week’s controversy is a reminder that the EU cannot “be too complacent” when it comes to furthering LGBTQ rights among the 28 nations joined to the interstate partnership.

“[M]ore effort needs to be done to address the marginalisation and wellbeing of LGBTQ persons and to ensure that vulnerable groups are not left behind,” she said in a statement.

In response to the compromise declaration, 19 EU member states put forward their own statement in support of equality. Spearheaded by Malta, the document calls upon the European Commission to draft a comprehensive plan safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ individuals within the next two years.

That entreaty was signed by Belgium, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain, among others.

Following backlash, Poland and Hungary have maintained the decision to remove queer- and trans-inclusive language was intended to reflect majoritarian values in societies which have yet to fully embrace equality. According to ILGA Europe, the two countries rank 38th and 20th on LGBTQ rights in Europe, respectively.

Two months ago, Poland courted similar controversy after torpedoing Europe’s Fundamental Rights Charter over LGBTQ rights provisions.

But How Gay is ‘Mary Queen of Scots’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now — including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is Mary Queen of Scots? It’s a biographical film about…who else? Queen Elizabeth I. I kid, I kid, although she is there. It’s actually about the Scottish queen Mary, who returns to her home country from France with a hefty claim to the English throne. Elizabeth decidedly does not stan that, and thus tries repeatedly to delegitimize Mary, from attempting to get her to marry Elizabeth’s lover, to inciting rebellion in Scotland against her. Ultimately, the two do bond, but it’s too late: The men who have manipulated them against each other take power, and they cannot save each other.

There’s also a lot of great costumes. If you’re just here for that. Which is totally understandable.

Who’s in it? Saoirse Ronan plays Mary, and while she’s formidable, I’ll admit it’s not the finest work of her career. Both Lady Bird and Brooklyn are a better showcase for her; they’re both period pieces, but not in the way we normally think of period, with the gigantic dresses and the hefty accents. All the accoutrements weigh down the perfectly quiet, precise work that Ronan is known for.

Faring much better is Margot Robbie as Elizabeth, who thrives in Elizabeth’s heavy makeup and gigantic gowns. Her performance is assisted by the fact that she’s on screen less, making every scene more impactful. When she’s not there, you spend most of the time wishing she would return. Guy Pearce, Joe Alwyn, and David Tennant round out the ensemble, alongside, somewhat surprisingly, some actors of color (Adrian Lester, Gemma Chan, and Ismael Cruz Córdova). The choice to cast anachronistically and diversify the ensemble is only odd because so many period pieces don’t — though we’d much prefer if this becomes the norm. It’s a surprise, and a refreshing one.

Why should I see it? Do you love a big ol’ period piece? You’ll love this! Mary Queen of Scots is a spectacle first and foremost, though director Josie Rourke and writer Beau Willimon do effectively tell a story about the ways in which powerful, intelligent women were ruined by the idiotic choices of men around them. It’s a bit deeper than you’d expect, although the script itself is a little too wonky (Willimon’s House of Cards experience shines through in all the wrong ways) to be that effective.

But how gay is it? Mary Queen of Scots may not be a very good movie, but credit where it’s due: It’s a pretty gay one! Córdova plays David Riccio, a friend and counselor of Mary’s who enjoys dressing up in drag and the company of other men. He also winds up in bed with — spoiler alert for, uh, history — Mary’s second husband, Lord Darnley. Which apparently has basis in fact! Mary is generally very cool with all this. LGBTQ+ ally Mary Queen of Scots! Who knew!

Will this movie get any major Oscar play? I’d bet on Costume Design and Hair/Makeup nominations, but that’s about it. It largely skipped the festival circuit this fall, only finally debuting at AFI Fest in Los Angeles (where I saw it in November). Occasionally, a movie can debut that late and still make a splash. Black Swan did in 2010! But it’s rare, and Mary Queen of Scots isn’t nearly as impressive as Black Swan, to say the least.

Mary Queen of Scots is in theaters now.

Schools Should Be Able to Expel Students For Being Transgender, Says Former Australia Deputy PM

Former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce ignited national controversy this week after saying religious schools should be able to expel students for being transgender.

In comments made to Sky News, the National Party lawmaker claimed that cisgender students shouldn’t be burdened with being forced to use the restroom or locker room with children that identify as trans or gender nonconforming.

“If I send my child to an all-girls’ school, I don’t want the complication and the possibility… that if someone turns up and says, ‘I want to identify was a woman, I want to identify as a girl, I want to go into your bathrooms, [and] I want to go into your change rooms,’” Joyce told the U.K.-based news channel.

“That might be that person’s right and wish, but everybody else says, ‘Well, that’s an affront on our rights and we want that issue dealt with,’” he continued.

Joyce added that this scenario is “unfair” to cisgender students and their parents.

“You cannot send a student whose genetic makeup is XY … to a school established for people who are XX,” he claimed. “It is not fair on the larger school unit that they have to change and accept all because of the desires of one.”

To the parents of trans students, the conservative had a message: They can just “choose a different school” for their kids.

Joyce’s remarks were made in response to a debate in the Australia Parliament over whether faith-based schools should be permitted to remove LGBTQ students from schools. The discussion was triggered by a leaked report showing the government intended to strengthen “religious freedom” protections for private institutions.

Following widespread backlash over the federal proposal, current PM Scott Morrison claimed the plan was mischaracterized by media. He claimed Parliament would introduce legislation to clear up “confusion and anxiety for parents and students.”

“I will be taking action to ensure amendments are introduced as soon as practicable to make it clear that no student of a non-state school should be expelled on the basis of their sexuality,” said the evangelical Christian, who declined to vote in favor of a same-sex marriage bill following last year’s marriage equality referendum.

But under current law, religious schools do have the ability to discriminate against students “on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationship status.”

Legislation to address potential discrimination against LGBTQ students, though, has stalled in Parliament. According to The Guardian, Labour Party Senator Jacinta Collins voiced concern that a proposal put forward by the Australia Greens does not sufficiently recognize “the right of religious schools to be run in accordance with their beliefs.”

Collins claimed the government must “respect the ethos, values, and principles” of faith-based institutions.

But as the national legislature continues to come to a consensus on the issue, the parents of transgender students warned the contentious dialogue is scapegoating some of Australia’s most marginalized youth.

Jo Hirst, author of The Gender Fairy and parent of a trans student, claimed Joyce is “publicly insulting children” in a tweet.

“Barnaby Joyce has shown zero understanding or compassion for transgender students,” she added in an interview with the Australian website The New Daily. “When a parent and a school support a trans child, it is on the advice of that child’s doctors and psychologists.”

Hirst further called on the former deputy PM to resign from Parliament over his comments.

“When we have a federal minister blatantly flouting the recommendations of our health professionals, and publicly shaming and disparaging our vulnerable kids, I think it’s time for our Prime Minister to step in and say enough is enough,” she said. “These children deserve better than this. He should be asked for his resignation.”

Joyce, though, is unlikely to step down amid the near-universal backlash.

When criticized by the mother of a transgender seven-year-old who informed Joyce that “what is in her pants is nobody’s business,” the politician told Tom Elliott of the 3AW Drive radio program that a child knowing they’re trans is “blatantly absurd.”

“At seven they’ve decided they’re transgender?” he asked. “Are you for real?”

South Africa Advances Bill to Prevent Kim Davis-Style Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples

South Africa is one step closer to protecting same-sex couples against Kim Davis-style discrimination following approval in the lower house of its parliament.

On Thursday, the National Assembly passed the Civil Union Amendment Bill, which closes a loophole in South Africa’s 2006 civil unions bill allowing officiants to refuse to solemnize same-sex weddings. Under Section 6 of the legislation, marriage officers are permitted to object on the grounds of “conscience, religion, and belief.”

Lawmaker Deidre Carter claimed the exemption is against the values of democratic governance.

“It cannot be in our constitutional democracy that civil servants can be afforded the right in law about whom they would like to serve,” Carter, who authored the private member’s bill, told colleagues in the Parliament of South Africa.

The Congress of the People (COPE) representative claimed the “religious freedom” provision has led to widespread discrimination against same-sex couples.

“I received complaints that couples were being turned away from a number of Home Affairs offices as there were no marriage officers that were prepared to solemnise same-sex marriages,” she alleged. “My investigations revealed that this tendency was in fact more widespread than initially thought.”

Of the 412 local branches of the Home Affairs office in South Africa, only 111 currently have officiants on staff who are willing to marry LGBTQ partners. That’s less than 27 percent.

Carter said that addressing this problem “goes beyond the mere repeal of Section 6 of the Civil Union Act.”

“It touches upon the genesis of our constitutional order,” she claimed. “It touches that which is most sacrosanct in our Constitution, our Bill of the Rights: the right to equality and dignity; that the state may not unfairly discriminate; and that it has the responsibility to promote, respect and fulfill these rights.”

Supporters of the Civil Union Amendment Bill claimed religious exemptions to same-sex marriage violate Article 9 of the South African Constitution, which forbids bias on the basis of characteristics like gender, sex, and sexual orientation.

The bill was opposed by the National Freedom Party (NFP) and African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP). They claim it infringes on the rights of people of faith.

That argument was a common one in the United States after the Supreme Court passed same-sex marriage in a landmark 2015 ruling. Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, Ky., went to jail for five days after claiming that she could not sign same-sex marriage certificates as an Apostolic Christian.

But as in the SCOTUS ruling, the legislation would not compel ministers or other religious officials to endorse marriages that go against their faith. It merely applies to government employees.

The Civil Union Amendment Bill will now head to the upper house of the legislature—known as the National Council of Provinces—for approval. After that, President Cyril Ramaphosa must sign the pro-LGBTQ legislation before it becomes the law of the land.

But should the president approve the amendment, it would not take effect right away. The bill mandates a two-year training period for Home Affairs Officers previously granted exception under the law.

During the transition, officers who have no issue with marrying same-sex couples must be present in cases of religious objection.

The Weekender: Brooklyn

No guide can withstand the quick turnover and ever evolving swing that takes place in New York’s second largest borough. Designed for the first time visitor, this guide is Northwest-centric—grounding visitors in Williamsburg with excursions to Bushwick, Greenpoint, and DUMBO, but also an unexpected whisk to King County’s southern edge, Coney Island. Besides its many restaurants, cafes, and trend-setting storefronts, Brooklyn is a queer culture paradise, with a host of parties, readings, art galleries, and intellectual entertainment; it is, after all, the original home of Sasha Velour’s now international drag show, Nightgowns. And so, if Nightgowns is the ‘drag artist’s drag show’ then Brooklyn is the American queer culture aficionado’s home base.

Friday

5pm-Riverside Walks

Begin your weekend with a walk on the waterfront in one of Brooklyn’s newest (and cutest) parks, Domino Park. Located in Williamsburg on the banks of the East River, at the site of the historic Domino Sugar refinery, the park is now a long narrow ¼ mile strip with lounge chairs, a playground, a bocce ball court, a volleyball court, and a dog park. Designed in partnership with the same landscape company behind Manhattan’s esteemed High Line, the park also features a lovely suspended catwalk that stretches the length of the park from the gantry cranes to the tasty Tacocina restaurant. Watch the ferries zoom in and out of harbors, cars zip over the Williamsburg Bridge, and get five star iconic views of Manhattan.

7pm-Vietnamese-American

Di An Di is one of Greenpoint’s newest Vietnamese restaurants and serves one of the meanest bowls of soup in the borough. When I visited, most patrons around me slurped up the #2 — the Beef Deluxe Noodle Soup, but it was the Pho Thin Ha Noi that stole the show for me. Owners Kim Hoang, Tuan Bui, and chef Dennis Ngo define the restaurant as “Vietnamese-American,” drawing from the Vietnamese food scenes of their native Houston and Northern Virginia. The space is bright, full of plants, and is the warmest welcoming meal to the borough.

9pm—Catch a Show at the Sawdust

(Nightgowns, sashavelour.com)

The home of Sasha Velour’s Nightgowns when the iconic drag show isn’t gallivanting itself around the world, National Sawdust always has an incredible line up of talent, from musicians to performance artists. Coming up in the next month are shows like Neneh Cherry, Baby Dee’s Big Swan Song, and V Town, “the last bastion of resistance in an imagined dystopian near-future…a dramatic set of character studies in song.”

Saturday

10am-Queer Diners

Steve Viksjo for Jarry

It’s worth getting up a bit early for a stroll through the 525-acre Prospect Park before grabbing a bite to eat at Meme’s Diner. Queer-owned and (mostly) queer-operated, the restaurant combines sinful comfort food and elegant drinks—think fluffernutter and stovetop mac and cheese alongside a mezcal martini. Its owners, Libby Willis and Bill Clark, described the restaurant as “very, very gay” to Jarry Mag, saying: “We really hope to make everyone feel comfortable.” They’ve trained their staff to use gender-neutral language as well as preferred pronouns. Best of all, every brunch starts with a free bowl of sugary cereal—I was a sucker for the marshmallows of the Lucky Charms.

11am-Historical Scavenger Hunt

Begin this scavenger hunt of a small part of Brooklyn’s queer history by seeing Green Pastures: Walls of Jericho (1938), by gay Harlem Renaissance sculptor Richmond Barthé, at the Kingsborough Houses. Continue to The Walt Whitman Residence on 99 Ryder Street, the only site in New York City associated with the poet, where it is said he lived while finishing the first edition of Leaves of Grass.

Continue to the Transy House in Park Slope, “a transgender collective operated by Rusty Mae Moore and Chelsea Goodwin from 1995 to 2008” that acted as a safe house for trans and gender non-conforming people. Finish with a trip to Brooklyn Heights and the Oliver Smith/Truman Capote Residence, where Capote lived while penning some of his most famous works, including Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1958).

1pm-Coney Island

No matter the time of year, Coney Island always provides kitschy, campy entertainment. Summer offers the carnival enthusiast with thrills and funnel cake at Luna Park while winter presents a more austere landscape of bizarre contrasts, perfect for the experimental travel photographer. In any season, a walk along the Atlantic Ocean Boardwalk is a refreshing escape from the city and a visit to the Coney Island Museum or the New York Aquarium is an easy way to lose an afternoon.

4pm-Shopping in Williamsburg

https://www.instagram.com/aland_usa

Be ready to bring out the big bucks in Williamsburg—but even if you aren’t looking to spend, taking a stroll around the neighborhood and checking out the luxury clothing and design stores is always a hoot. Look for Pilgrim Surf + Supply for big-ticket surfwear, The Hill Side for more masculine styles, Concrete + Water for more feminine styles, and the brand new ALAND, the U.S. flagship store of the popular South Korean retailer that specializes in high fashion streetwear, to help give your closet a little bit more Seoul 😉

6pm-Zaaaa

I mean, you’re not going to not have pizza while you’re in New York. For the classic pizza parlor experience, head to Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop in Greenpoint and make sure you bring a coat because there can sometimes be a line snaking out the door. From my informal questionnaire in line, the most popular pie seemed to be the Grandma’s. Looking for more pizza on your trip? Try the nationally famous Roberta’s near Bushwick on 261 Moore Street.

7pm-Starr Bar

Rex for New Visual Collective, www.starrbar.com

Some of the best performances, comedy, and poetry readings (as well as some great late night revelry) can be found at Bushwick’s Starr Bar, a Brooklyn staple for the performing and literary arts “that celebrates and supports movements for social justice.” Check their calendar for an up to date list of events ranging from the “Queer Abstract” variety show, to readings from issue launches of Femmescapes magazine, and even monthly swing dancing lessons on their lively Swing Night.

Late-Queer Parties

Writing a brief general guide to nightlife in Brooklyn is damn near impossible. With so many queer parties popping up left and right on different nights and first to fifth Fridays, it’s not easy keeping track. Check out our friends at Gayletter’s excellent weekend event round-ups (many of which take place in Brooklyn) as well as their informative party section. Here’s a list of a few favorites, catch them if you can!

Rotating parties like Papi Juice, Bubble_T, Hot Rabbit, and Onegaishimasu typically take place in Brooklyn but hop around from time to time.

Can’t find any pop-up parties while you’re in town? You can always rely on one of Brooklyn’s most popular queer bars, Metropolitanfor a Thorgy-Thorgeous time, or for a clubbier scene, check out Outputwhich hosts a variety of electronic acts and occasional queer parties like Horse Meat Disco.

Sunday

10:30am-Vinegar Hill House

Vinegar Hill House is one of the coziest brunch spots in all of Brooklyn, and it’s v. v. v. Brooklyn. Set beside the lovely cobblestone street at 72 Hudson Avenue, the restaurant serves incredible comfort food, but always with a twist. It’s hard not to fall for the apple sourdough pancake with Normandy butter or the cheddar jalapeno grits. Reservations, as with most joints in New York, are highly recommended.

12pm-DUMBO

John Von Pamer for Brooklyn Flea

After grabbing the noms, head over to DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) to the well-known (but always fun) Brooklyn Flea that’s been popping up below the Bridge on weekends since 2008. Open from April through October, the outdoor market is the biggest in Brooklyn—you can buy vintage clothes, antiques, art, handmade goods, smoothies, food, and coffee from wonderful, creative, and innovative independent vendors. Not only is it one of the most adored flea markets in the world, but as the Flea’s site claims, “Time Out NY named the Flea one of New York’s Essential Pick-Up Spots.” Visiting in winter? No worries, while not *technically* in Brooklyn, just across the river the indoor Smorgasburg + Brooklyn Flea Winter Market takes place on weekends at the Atlantic Center (625 Atlantic Ave. )

The Snugs

Fancy Pants—The Williamsburg Hotel

The Williamsburg Hotel

Located on “the right side of the river,” the Williamsburg Hotel is one of the many Brooklyn-chic hotels rising high above the East River. The Williamsburg stands out for its upbeat atmosphere, double-height ceilings, outdoor terraces, Manhattan views, and colorful rooms. Enjoy the hotel’s rooftop pool in warmer months, weekend parties, and the popular Sunday Jazz Brunch. The hotel has yoga classes onsite as well has free passes to the local Brooklyn Athletic Club. Be sure to zip around the neighborhood on the hotel’s complimentary bikes by day and the speedy chauffeured tuk-tuk by night. Rooms from $295.

Just Right—Pod Brooklyn

Pod Brooklyn

Pod Brooklyn, Brooklyn’s first micro-hotel, offers cozy, clean rooms for the savvy traveler looking for wallet-friendly accommodations. The hotel blends their modular rooms with large, welcoming communal spaces like its rooftop bar ‘RFTP,’ a work/play lobby, four terraces, a fitness deck with seasonal classes, and beer garden. Best of all, the well designed layout makes it easy for the solo traveler to make new friends. Its prime location four blocks from the Bedford Avenue L train station and near the East River Ferry make it a great location to explore not only Brooklyn, but all of Manhattan as well. Rooms from $125.

Backpackers-Airbnb Rooms

If you don’t mind renting a room in Brooklyn with a host, there are rooms as low as $45 per night (plus booking and cleaning fees) that will allow you to pick a room for your stay exactly where you want to be in the borough. Rooms from $45 and up.

Chicago Transit Authority to Cover Gender-Affirming Surgeries for Trans Employees

America’s second-busiest mass transit system will now start covering gender-affirming surgeries for its employees.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is rolling out a new policy that allows transgender employees to apply for medically necessary surgery through the agency’s insurance program, Cigna Health. While the plan has long covered hormone therapy and other forms of care affecting trans workers, surgeries were excluded from coverage.

Russia Brown, a bus driver for the CTA, assumed his employer would cover top surgery after he began medically transitioning in July 2016. The thought that Brown would be refused “never really crossed [his] mind,” he told INTO over the phone.

But that same month, the 28-year-old received an email back from the CTA saying his benefit plan only covered bilateral mastectomies in the event of cancer.

Brown claimed he was “very upset” at the news.

“I was very angry because I had already chosen a surgeon and I waited four months for the consultation,” he recalled. I had the consultation and I had been waiting maybe a month or two already for the surgery that was supposed to be in October.”

“They had to cancel it,” Brown added. “I really didn’t know where to go from there.”

A counselor at Chicago’s Howard Brown Health Center referred him to the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, who sent a letter to the CTA in September demanding the department cover confirmation surgeries for its trans staff members.

According to ACLU of Illinois Deputy Director of Communications Max Bever, the City of Chicago had “already figured this out.”

“[The City of Chicago] started covering it back in 2015,” Bever told INTO in a phone conversation. “So it was more of just a surprise that the city sister agencies hadn’t had a clear policy yet.”

What surprised Brown was that the CTA didn’t fight the request. The department changed its policy so he could receive the care he needs.

Brown was able to reschedule his top surgery for March 2019.

“I couldn’t hold my excitement together,” he said of learning the news. “I remember going to get on the bus to finish my route and I was skipping through the train terminal because I was just so excited.”

Russia Brown

Carolyn Wald, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Illinois, added that there’s a big reason the CTA complied with the petition so quickly: It’s the law.

“Federal and state law requires insurance policies to pay for necessary medical coverage, including treatment for employees who are transgender,” Wald claimed in a press release shared with INTO via email.

Across the country, the ACLU has been lobbying to ensure city and state insurance plans are fully inclusive of the needs of trans people.

In Wisconsin, the civil rights advocacy group sued on behalf of two transgender women who were denied health care coverage as state employees. Alina Boyden works in cancer research at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, while graduate student Alina Boyden is employed as a teaching assistant at the university.

Two months ago a jury awarded the plaintiffs $780,000 in damages. The state is currently appealing the decision.

But rather than oppose trans inclusions in their health coverage, the ACLU of Illinois credited the CTA with doing the right thing by meeting its legal obligations to its transgender staffers.

“We congratulate CTA for changing their policy and making the CTA a better workplace for all of its employees,” Wald said.

More than 11,000 individuals work for the CTA, although it is unknown how many transgender people will be affected by the policy. If the department’s staff corresponds with the percentage of trans people in the U.S. overall, around 66 workers now will be eligible for gender-affirming surgery.

More than 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender.

But in addition to covering its trans workers, Brown argued the CTA’s decision recognizes the special importance of bus drivers, train conductors, and other transit employees to the city of Chicago.

In his years of servicing America’s third-largest metropolitan area, Brown claimed he’s witnessed the special bonds between bus drivers and the public. When he’s assigned to a route long enough to get to know people’s schedules, he sometimes waits for customers he knows are running late to work or to get their children to school.

“People that have enough seniority, they pick the same routes every season when we get a chance to pick,” he explained. “They know the regulars and they build these very intimate relationships with them. They talk about their lives and give them advice.”

“I’ve actually seen a bus driver pay someone else’s fare,” Brown added.

As a transgender man who was terrified of coming out after seeing the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry, Brown said the CTA’s decision was important in recognizing his struggles to be affirmed and respected for who he is. But as a driver, he was happy to see the department giving back to the employees who keep the city running every day.

“It doesn’t seem like it for a lot of people, but it’s a very important job,” Brown said. “The city does not move without the CTA.”

Dearly Beloved, I’m 40 and Have Never Had A Relationship. Is It Too Late?

In this week’s Dearly Beloved, the advice column from author Michael Arceneaux, our dear reader says despite coming out some 20 years ago, he has yet to experience a long-term relationship and fears that he may never find one.  

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.

And yes, the holiday season is upon us, so please send us your holiday-related questions!

 

Dearly Beloved,

I am 40 and have never had a long-term relationship before even though I have been out since I have been 20 years old.

I’ve hooked up on Grindr on numerous occasions, but have never really found the right person for me. Whenever I have managed to grow close to someone they have either backed away or I have ended it.

Nearly all my friends are in long-term relationships and I am the last one. I am in awe of how people do it as I have never been able to.

I worry that I will never ever find someone, and now that I am 40 I am over the hill and will never have the relationship I have longed for.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Anon

Dear 40 and Baeless,

You sound like my biggest fear. I say that with no sense of joy or any intent to mock or belittle. But yes, this letter is my biggest fear, and frankly, it is probably one of the greatest fears for many of the people reading our exchange in this very moment.  It’s one thing to be comfortable being alone, another to feel lonely. It’s even more painful to feel as though you will stay lonely. It’s a certain kind of hope that you should never really let go of.

Mere hours before writing a response to you, a dear friend of mine, a straight woman, mentioned not feeling her best. When I asked why, she said it was because she was dying alone.  I failed her a bit in that moment, but I don’t want to fail you now.

As gay men, the reality is we are the first among us to truly have the opportunity to even form the sort of relationships you’re longing for. I could go on and on about the perils of living up to heteronormativity, but you don’t want to hear that right now and I don’t blame you because I don’t want to be alone forever either, bitch.

Still, it must be said: give yourself a break.

You are one of the first of your kind to live out loud and it’s not as if you were given an instruction guide on how to find love and keep it. You are becoming the instructional guide. As am I. It sucks, but what can we do but live in the world as it is not how we wished it to be.

You may have made some mistakes in the past, but forgive yourself of that and move on. I know that sounds easier said than done, but you’re carrying baggage with you and that load isn’t going to get you to where you want to be any sooner. 

I’m sorry that you are the sole member of your friend group without a long term relationship. You don’t have to stay that way, though. How proactive are you being about it? Where do you go to meet men? Are you asking for help? Are you broadening the pool of men you are open to dating?

Are you dating younger? Older? Have you tried online dating outside of Grindr? The answer to all of these questions can be yes, but my answer would be the same: keep trying anyway. I know how exhausting and overwhelming it can all feel, but we have to keep trying. And if you tell yourself that you will not die alone, you will not. Because you will keep trying. Because it is all you can do. I’m going to go back and tell my friend the same thing.

You are not over the hill. You are not doomed to a lonely life. It’s just been harder for you than it has been for others, but later is not the same as never. Hold on to that.

Signed,

Beloved!

Taiwan Official Says Marriage Equality Is Here to Stay: Court Ruling ‘Cannot Be Touched’

Marriage equality is here to stay in Taiwan, even in the face of a national referendum in which voters overwhelmingly rejected same-sex unions.

In a speech delivered to the Legislative Yuan on Thursday, Secretary-General Tai-lang Lu claimed the Constitutional Court’s May 2017 ruling on marriage equality “cannot be touched.” Taiwan’s top court paved the way for the legal recognition of same-sex marriages in a written opinion claiming that denying these couples full marriage rights its unconstitutional.

Judges gave the legislature two years to enact a freedom to marry law or marriage equality would automatically become legal.

Tai-lang Lu, a representative of the Judicial Yuan, claimed nothing has changed following Taiwan’s contentious Nov. 24 plebiscite. Despite polls showing Taiwanese have long supported same-sex unions, 70 percent of voters claimed the Civil Code should continue to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

According to Taiwan News, the Secretary-General confirmed what INTO has previously reported: “interpretations made by the Constitutional Court hold the highest rule of law and cannot be defeated by referendums.”

In the meeting with the Legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws committee, Lu said the only question that remains is how lawmakers will respond.

“The Legislative Yuan will therefore only be able to decide how to guarantee [rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitutional Court], via amending the Civil Code or establishing a new law,” the publication reported. “How they are guaranteed will be decided in accordance with the referendum results.”

Legislators are required to act upon the referendum results by Feb. 24.

Kolas Yotaka, a spokesperson for the Executive Yuan, told the news channel Focus Taiwan that the federal government “will draw up a draft for a separate law in three months… send it to the Legislative Yuan.”

Although 58 percent of voters supported offering a lower form of relationship recognition to same-sex couples (i.e., domestic partnerships), the executive branch claimed that any legislation put forward would “extend equal marriage rights” to same-sex couples in Taiwan.

In total, voters sounded off on five ballot measures: three in support of LGBTQ rights, and two in favor of equality. All three anti-LGBTQ proposals passed, and the pro-equality measures failed.

One concerned whether students should be taught about LGBTQ issues in schools.

Jason Hsu, a representative in the Legislative Yuan, previously told INTO he would not support a civil unions bill, saying it was tantamount to “discrimination.”

“We should not allow a special law to be sent to our committee for review,” the Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker said days before the vote. “I will do everything I can to tear down that committee. I will fucking block it because it’s not right.”

What remains to be seen is whether the legislature can refuse to put forward a bill by the three-month deadline.

If lawmakers ignore the referendum vote, same-sex couples will be able to marry on May 29, 2019—two years after the Constitutional Court decision. That would make the Taiwan the largest municipality in Asia to legalize marriage equality.