Dearly Beloved, I Have Libido Without Love

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

If you want Michael’s advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start your letter with Dearly Beloved!

It’s a thing.

 

Dearly Beloved,

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

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

K.

Dear K.,

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

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

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

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

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

Signed,

Beloved!

Subtle Homophobia Is The New Blatant Homophobia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrestling With Mass Tourism in Phang Nga Bay

Earlier this month, Maya Bay, one of southern Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations, closed indefinitely to allow coral reefs and ecosystems surrounding Ko Phi Phi Le island a chance to recover.

The stunning area was once the location for the 2000 film, The Beach, which featured a svelte, post-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio in a paradise-gone-awry thriller. While the movie didn’t steal many hearts (it received a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes), its setting did. Alongside the James Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun, also shot in the region, the film put the limestone karst islands and their gold sand beaches on the map as one of the hottest spots in southeast Asia.

The island of Phuket, beyond its natural beauty, is also known notoriously as a party paradise where backpackers come from far and wide to let loose in the monthly Full Moon parties. While these parties draw a more heteronormative crowd (though they can at times and in certain pockets be quite queer-friendly), the island also hosts some of the best queer nightlife in Thailand outside of Bangkok.

It is in fact the only province to organize a Pride festival, a large colorful (and wild) week that takes place every April. Aside from the festival, the island hosts incredible drag cabaret shows in a collection of gay establishments that make the region incredibly popular for queer tourists.

Because of the many attractive factors drawing tourists to the Phuket region, many of the beaches and bays surrounding Phuket and Phi Phi now consequently bear an overabundance of activity. To say it kindly—they are being loved to death. In Maya Bay’s case, sometimes as many as 5,000 people a day are crammed onto the thin beach while 200 boats bob side by side in the warm, polluted (yet beautifully green) waters where nearly 80% of coral reefs have diminished.

When I visited Phuket over the summer, I was aware of Maya’s closure (the bay was originally temporarily closed for a few months over the summer before being closed indefinitely this fall) as well as the national park, Ao Phang Nga National Park, being placed on Fodor’s “no” list for 2018 to give the area a chance to recover. I felt guilty about visiting, concerned about my place as a tourist, another invasive number in the region’s mass of tourists, contributing pollution simply by my presence.

As a backpacker and hiker, I’ve always valued leave-no-trace principles— leaving places the same (or better) than I’ve found them. But as a travel writer, I wanted to see firsthand what drew so many tourists to the region. I wanted to witness the spectacle of mass tourism and decide if the must-do boat trip was even worth recommending if it rightfully deserved its place on the “no” list.

I decided to join despite my initial reservations, comforted that I would be seeing the region with John Gray’s Sea Canoes, a thirty-six-year-old company that has won recognitions like the Skal Ecotourism award and has been praised for its commitment to hiring only local guides.

I was also partially persuaded after reading about the owner, John “Caveman” Gray, a wild, crunchy man who often cleaning up the sea by kayak. In one photo, he paddles an entire shattered plastic chair on the stern and a heavy bag of plastics on the bow.

At the end of Gray’s mission statement on his website, he says, “Never Give Up! Mother Nature cannot afford to lose the Battle for Planet Earth!”

Gray’s hippy-dippy, tree-hugging, and ocean-saving online presence gave me an assurance of the company’s commitment to the region, as well as the well being of the world at large, and so, I stepped onto the boat more open to the experience, something I wouldn’t normally partake in because of its large group numbers.

After embarking on a massive two-story boat from Phuket filled with inflatable kayaks, a handful of local guides, chefs, and around 30 guests tackled the day forging across the stunning Andaman Sea that was further dramatized by sheets of rain that the limestone karst formations loomed behind like bashful titans, until a mid-afternoon sun burnt off the rain and the day became perfectly blue.

Our first stop after crossing leagues of open water was to take a look at the famous James Bond Beach. Our guide talked over the microphone about why the company doesn’t stop at the beach or at Phi Phi Islands where many tour boats allow their guests to feed the local, wild monkeys on Monkey Beach.

“We at John Gray Sea Canoe want to take you to places a little more remote,” he told us, “And we don’t want to overwhelm the environment or feed the beautiful animals.”

In front of us at the beautiful James Bond Beach, there must have been around 60 boats and perhaps several hundred tourists squished on the narrow little beach. There were stands set up on the beach selling coconuts and trinkets and drinks. Here, paradise was lost, and it was quite sad to see. There were so many people on the beach, they were almost only able to walk in a line as if they were in a crowded night club, or waiting in line to get into Coachella—going against the tide of bodies would prove difficult.

We forged on, making our way to places “a little more remote.” We came to a set of islands within the national park that surprisingly didn’t have any other boats—except for three other John Gray Sea Canoe tours each carrying the same amount of tourists and guides as our boat. The company certainly knew the islands and caves to explore where basic level tour operators didn’t trek, but by putting four boats in a location at the same time, the tour never seemed remote or particularly wild—but maybe that wasn’t the point.

We were soon assigned our kayak guides, hopped onto the inflatable boats, and were paddled beside the remarkable limestone formations where vines and trees full of tropical birds and buzzing insects screeched and sang.

Gradually, we approached a small opening in the formation, a “sea cave” that was only possible to squeeze below in low tide. My guide paddled us to where the cave ceiling was so low that he had to guide our boat with his hands, pushing slowly against the walls as I laid on my back—the limestone only an inch from my nose—until we entered a beautiful circular inlet of mangroves. It was like being in the middle of a miniature jungle, though, in the middle of the sea. The walls towered hundreds of feet above us as plant life clung on dearly to their sides.

This environment was, to say the least—sensational. The experience was a truly unique adventure made accessible to anyone. A place that typically required caving skills, kayaking skills, a decent level of fitness, a high sense of adventure, as well as complex ocean navigation skills to reach was made accessible to nearly all by John Gray’s Sea Canoe. Over fifty kayaks at a time were paddled around the secluded sinkholes, making the remarkable experience no less stunning, but much busier, constantly reminding me of my presence as a tourist.

I’ve lived a lucky life of exploring beautiful landscapes, but seeing these karst formations with their unexpected sea caves was one of the most exotic and unforgettable experiences I’ve had—it was here in the ease of accessibility to adventure and exploration, coupled with a warm, tropical climate that I realized an obsession for the region. One did not have to be a a hardy outdoorsy person to enjoy the day. It was the perfect blend of excitement, scenery, and relaxation.

For the rest of the afternoon, we explored two other islands, had drinks on the boat, and got the chance to explore one karst formation without our guides, paddling around the warm waters in the late afternoon sun—my favorite part of the day—before eating a delicious Pad Thai dinner on our boat.

We ended the trip just after sunset, pushing floating lanterns (which we collected after use) of leaves, wood, and flowers that we made and lit with candles in the deepest, darkest and most crowded cave of the day as bioluminescent plankton were activated like fireflies with our every paddle stroke. Finally, we hopped on our main boat, before transferring to a speedboat and chugging back to the island of Phuket.

I commend the Thai government and parks service for closing Maya Bay indefinitely to give it a chance to recover, much like I commend the American Bureau of Land Management (in this instance) for managing truly delicate public lands, like Arizona’s Wave, with permits that only allow 20 visitors a day.

The challenge, I believe, in showcasing the world’s most incredible landscapes will always be one of great balance. Our national parks, all over the world, make stunning places accessible to nearly anyone, paving roads to quiet summits, wide trails through rough landscapes, and boat tours to beautiful bays.

Their very designation as a national park—synonymous in my opinion with “spectacular place with millions of visitors”— can ruin the very place we are attempting to protect, whether it be from traffic jammed roads in Yosemite Valley, packed beaches in Thailand,  eyesore developments over the Grand Canyon, or worse of all, by human waste.

I wrestle with this question daily as a travel writer—how do we get everyone to experience these incredible lands so they can begin to care about nature, climate change, and our world’s public lands, without overexposing the landscapes and consequently loving them to death?

It is too easy as a writer to recommend other places near Phang Nga Bay in Thailand that are stunning and lesser visited, but wouldn’t that just help bring more boats and tours their way? What happens when the lesser visited becomes just as popular—will we one day have nothing less?

In the instance of Phang Nga Bay, I do recommend seeing it perhaps in an even more in depth way if you’re looking to avoid crowds, whether it be a multi-day tour with John Gray or other “eco-friendly” companies like Paddle Asia. But even though these trips will offer more solitude, they still expose the hard-to-get places to more humans, but at least in smaller, private groups and with higher leave-no-trace principles there is true respect for ecosystems.

As I would never say “don’t immerse yourself in the granite-walled vistas of the Yosemite Valley” or “don’t walk the rim of Bryce Canyon,” I could never tell someone to avoid the karst landscape of Phang Nga Bay. It is one of the places in the world that makes you feel deeply and wonderfully for our earth. It is the type of place that reinvigorates your own zest for life. The question is: how can we the people protect the earth from humanity so we never forget it, and for that matter, ourselves?

GOP Candidate Used Photos of Trans Veteran on Anti-LGBTQ Billboards Without Permission

A GOP House candidate came under fire this week following allegations his campaign used photographs of a transgender veteran on billboards without her permission.

In the heated race for California’s 8th U.S Congressional District, Republican Tim Donnelly took out displays attacking incumbent Paul Cook — who is also a Republican — for allegedly not being conservative enough. A billboard on display in San Bernardino County criticizes Cook for voting down a bill that would have banned the military from funding gender-affirming care for trans soldiers.

“Ask Paul Cook Why He Voted To Allow Our Military Funds To Be Used For Sex-Change Surgeries!” reads the signboard, which also features the image of a transgender woman with a short blonde bob wearing a Navy uniform.

Allison Hannan, the woman pictured in that photo, told INTO she was “paralyzed” when she found out it was used without her approval.

“I could not believe that something so positive and wonderful was bastardized in this manner,” said Hannan, who was so devastated that she had to take the day off work. “It was horrible. I don’t want to be associated with that horrible sentiment.”

The photograph originated in a 2016 shoot in which nine former and active military members discussed their experiences serving while trans as they put on their old uniforms. Cassidy DuHon, a D.C.-based photographer, was inspired to take on the project by a friend who served “semi-openly” before the ban on transgender enlistment was officially lifted in 2016.

Many of the interviewees DuHon spoke with served under intense discrimination. When Hannan enlisted in the late 80s, troops would have been met with an immediate discharge if they disclosed their gender identity.

By highlighting the struggles trans people faced to live as their true selves, DuHon hoped to advocate for further progress in the U.S. armed forces.

“At the time it looked like the ban would get overturned and this was just going to keep going and get better,” he said, noting the spread debuted in OUT magazine prior to President Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to block transgender military service. “Of course, that has not happened. This billboard is yet another setback.”

One of the women featured in the spread alerted DuHon to the billboard’s existence after discovering a snapshot posted in a pro-military Facebook group.

DuHon immediately reached out to Donnelly’s campaign, hoping to resolve the matter privately. He intended to explain — in a clear, calm, and professional manner — that he holds the copyright to Hannan’s photo and any use of those images without his permission is illegal.

But it immediately became clear that the candidate had no interest in taking the billboard down, DuHon said.

When DuHon sent a message to Donnelly’s Facebook page, a member of the Republican’s team responded by criticizing the quality of the photo posted on Facebook. Snapped on a camera phone, a man is pictured standing underneath the billboard on Twentynine Palms Highway with both his arms raised.

“It’s hard to tell if you’re flipping the sign off, though, or simply pointing to it, due to poor lighting,” the campaign responded, seemingly intended as a jab at the photographer’s artistry.

When DuHon informed them it was merely a snapshot that was passed along to him, Donnelly’s team again dodged accountability.

“Interesting,” the campaign said. “The BB has since been defaced.”

“Sorry to hear that!” Duhon responded, adding that he couldn’t have been the one responsible due to living on the other side of the country. “Wish it was me, but I’ve been thousands of miles away.”

After replying with an “LOL,” Donnelly’s team went silent.

The Republican did not respond to requests for comment prior to the publication of this story. In a statement emailed to Southern California’s Desert Sun, Donnelly also declined to answer allegations that the billboard amounts to stolen property.

“When 8th District Republican Women Federated groups are holding bake sales to buy boots for our troops, the question asked by the billboard is more than fair,” he told the paper. “Why in the world would Paul Cook, a former Marine Col., vote to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on a sex-change surgery instead of putting that money into properly outfitting our troops or taking better care of our veterans?”

Cook has further discredited the billboard by calling his opponent’s allegations false. In 2017, he was one of two dozen Republicans to vote against the Hartzler Amendment — an anti-trans rider attached to a defense spending bill — because it would have been filibustered by Congressional Democrats.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis personally requested conservatives vote the amendment down to ensure the bill’s passage, as Matt Knox, a spokesperson for Cook’s campaign, claimed in September.

“It’s unsettling that Donnelly would oppose our president and put our troops at risk just to make a cheap political point,” Knox said.

Donnelly’s attacks on his opponent in the race for California’s 8th are particularly noteworthy because neither candidate supports LGBTQ rights. Cook scored a 16 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2017 Congressional Scorecard. The paltry rating illustrates that he’s voted against nearly against every piece of pro-equality legislation that’s come across his desk.

Meanwhile, Donnelly has referred to the teaching of LGBTQ history in California public schools as “censorship.” When the state voted in favor of policies allowing trans students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, he pulled his children out of school.

The few ideological differences between the two candidates further illustrated to DuHon that the billboard is intended to “mobilize voters based on fear.”

“In this congressional district in California, there’s no pressing issue about trans-related legislation,” he claimed. “There’s no ballot initiative. There’s no particular reason that trans issues need to come up.”

After his attempts to resolve the issue with Donnelly’s campaign proved unsuccessful, DuHon has reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union and other firms to represent him in court. He wants proceeds from the case to be donated to a trans advocacy group of Hannan’s choice.

While Hannan would also like to see the billboard taken down, she hopes a potential lawsuit reaffirms the dignity of transgender veterans.

When Hannan traveled from her home in New Jersey to meet DuHon two years ago, she thought the project was an exciting opportunity to highlight the positive contributions of trans members of the military. When she was in the Navy 30 years ago, she never dreamed she would one day have the opportunity to be celebrated both as a transgender woman and a veteran.

“It was thrilling for me and it was thrilling to see how much we’ve moved forward,” Hannan said. “Who we are doesn’t necessarily put us in a box. We are all different. We come from different walks of life, and we have contributions to make to this country.”

“To have this twisted in such a horrible way, it’s devastating to me,” she added.

‘Why Did You Do That?’ Is Neither Bad Nor Intended to Be Bad

Spoiler alert: everything about A Star Is Born is discussed at length here!

Of the many questions and conversations that A Star Is Born has engendered online, only one concerns the butt-centric bop, “Why Did You Do That?” The first time we hear the Diane Warren-penned song, Lady Gaga’s character Ally performs it on an Alec Baldwin-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live.

The song prompts much of the action of the film’s second half: Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine goes back to the beer bottle while she’s singing, both confused and put off by her newfound success. And her subsequent Grammy nominations lead the two to have a gin-soaked argument.

But the song’s most important role is the one it’s taken on in our internet discourse. Defenses and discussions of the song have shown up in Vulture and other sites, while a few critics have used the song to argue that A Star Is Born hates pop music. I’m here to add to that discourse: the song is good and A Star Is Born does not hate pop music!

Most of the arguments against “Why Did You Do That?” hinge upon the fact that either the song is bad or that it’s good but was intended to be bad.

The first indication that the song was not intended to be bad came when the song’s writer, Diane Freaking Warren, tweeted out that the song was not intended to be bad in response to a Gaga Daily tweet about bopping to the song shamefully.

“That was not the intention actually!!” Warren tweeted with conviction.

Here’s the deal. “Why Did You Do That?” is not bad, it’s actually a bop and not one I’d only listen to ironically. It’s deceptively simple and it mentions “ass” in the first two lines, which is enough to toss it in the wastebin for people who claim to be music aficionados. I don’t think it was intended to be bad — as Warren tweeted — but I do think it was intended to feel simple and therefore assume a “guilty pleasure” status. There’s a distinct bias against things that are deceptively simple, like episodes of Friends or “Call Me Maybe.” But, as they used to say in J School, easy reading is damn hard writing. And easy consuming is damn hard crafting.

A lot rides on “Why Did You Do That?” It has to work both as a plausible radio hit and as something mainstream and simple enough to piss off Jackson Maine. And it does both pretty seamlessly. The song’s minimal beat sounds at home alongside things like Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” or “Let Me Love You” or even Dua Lipa, while also sounding like a thing too easily discarded by any cowboy-hat wearing, guitar-strumming somebody.

The second reason that people suspect A Star Is Born hates pop has less to do with the song and more to do with the film’s repeated attempts to lionize Jackson and everything he does. But, as I previously wrote, though Jackson is the film’s emotional center, he nevertheless DOES die like the relic he is by the time the film’s runtime is over. So, while it is concerned with what Jackson has to say about Ally’s career, it also shows him returning to dust. And the idea that pop music can’t be complex, meaningful or layered should go with him.

Now, shed your guilt and go spin “Why Did You Do That?” once more, sans guilt.

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George is Tired…Of Rappers Who Don’t Read

Kanye West doesn’t read. Neither does Kendrick, or Chance the Rapper, or [insert the name of most male rappers who make statements not knowing what the fuck they are talking about].

Mr. West was once known as a “genius” in our community (though not by all of us chile…). The man who notoriously went on TV and declared that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black People” (which was correct to be fair). The man who famously went on TV and grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs and said: “Imma let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time”(which he was also correct about). But like the old saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Since that time, Mr. West has become a MAGA hat-wearing, ignorant tweeting shell of what many thought he was—most recently stating that “Slavery was a choice” and asking for the abolishment of the 13th amendment. You know, the amendment that abolished Slavery, which is weird because if you know that slavery had to be ABOLISHED than how could it have also been a choice? Then again, WHEN YOU DON’T FUCKING READ you can end up in this contradictory state of foolishness.

Now I wouldn’t have so much of a problem if Koonye was making these statements and people were able to see past the hotep logic and pay it no mind. However, the legions of followers who have went on defense about how Slavery was actually a choice leaves me no choice but to actually write my thoughts out on the danger of placing leadership titles on rappers who clearly don’t have the range. Oh, and that minstrel show of a press conference he did yesterday with that Orange man was foolishness at its finest.

Rap music has always been a part of pushing the culture forward and informing the world about the many atrocities faced by particular segments of the Black community. Rappers have had the ability to make those less informed about what is happening in society become more aware in brilliant ways. People who may never tune in to the news, or even notice what is happening around them in the world are easily more informed by rappers and their music than community leaders and grassroots activists preaching many of the same themes and topics.

So, let’s make it abundantly clear. SLAVERY WAS NOT A FUCKING CHOICE. Not reading and knowing what the fuck you are talking about is, though. The education system is a set up for us in this community. Textbooks are written through a gaze that centers whiteness, removing many crucial elements including the facts about what actually happened. 

For Black folks, and Queer folks, and those of us who are both, there is a lot of unlearning that must happen outside the classroom to understand who we truly are and what we encompass. Rappers are often prone to being misogynistic and homophobic, a pattern that has had dangerous consequences for many of us. 

The old saying goes, “If you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book.” Unfortunately, this generation of rappers who claim to be speaking truth on a community they have clearly not read up on continue to make this quote pretty damn truthful. There is no way you can understand the plight of Black people in this country and think that any of our oppression was by choice. Furthermore, the continued attacks with the use of homophobia and misogyny is just late and tired.

These same rappers who wear queer brands, get their faces beat and styled by queer folks continue to participate in cognitive dissonance for a few snaps in agreement with their homophobic hotep bases. They constantly go on these rants about how pro-Black they are only to disrespect Black people they feel don’t meet their standard of acceptable Blackness. This must end.

There are too many ways to access Beyoncé’s internet for these men to not know of what they are speaking. There are too many search engines on Al Gore’s internet for them not to google some questions before spouting out dangerous rhetoric. We have lived in an era where rappers are heralded as social consciousness leaders. Any social consciousness that doesn’t have the requirement of reading is dead on sight. It’s just a projection of patriarchy, masculinity, and an undying desire to be like our white counterparts.

Levar Burton walked so that you could read. In all seriousness, times are too dangerous for us to play around with the enemy using alternative facts and ahistorical statements to prop up whiteness while disparaging parts of the Black community. So, take a look. It’s in a book. Read, y’all.

(special mention to M.B. Jordan who didn’t know we had Black folklore and mythology. READ, y’all. READDDDD!)

But How Gay is ‘Beautiful Boy’?

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 Beautiful Boy? In 2008, writer David Sheff wrote a memoir titled Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. If you guessed that Beautiful Boy is an adaptation of that memoir, one that deals with a father’s journey through his son’s addiction: congratulations! Full marks for you.

David’s son is Nic, a sensitive boy who falls victim to addiction. His primary vice is crystal meth — at least, the scariest one to David — and rehab doesn’t help him. Real life is a bit of a spoiler, as Nic is alive and writing (the movie is also adapted from his memoir Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines), but Beautiful Boy gets deep on how touch-and-go Nic’s life was for years.

Who’s in it? Steve Carell plays David, mostly a whirlwind of bluster and concern over his son. Timothée Chalamet plays Nic, while Maura Tierney gets some of the best, most subtle material as Nic’s stepmom Karen. Oscar nominee Amy Ryan plays David’s ex-wife and Nic’s mother, Vicki. That said, this is basically a two-man show between Carell and Chalamet.

Why should I see it? Well, uh, if you’re interested in the story, I’d say it’s worth checking out. Maybe? Hoo boy, this one didn’t work for me. I hesitate to be too critical of a real life story, especially one this painful, but director Felix Van Groeningen and Luke Davies’ script has no discernible arc. Things happen in the order that they happened … except when the movie suddenly decides to flashback or flash-forward for no discernible reason.

Watching Beautiful Boy is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle using pieces from three different puzzles. You’re never going to get a satisfying solution.

But how gay is it? Other than the presence of Call Me By Your Name star Chalamet, it isn’t. If you’re thinking it is, you’re probably thinking of similarly named film Boy Erased, out later this year.

How does Chalamet’s performance compare to his work in Call Me By Your Name? I hate to say this, because I do think Chalamet is massively talented, but his performance suffers from vague direction here. He has good moments and scenes, but there’s not enough of a well-written character patching them together. Beautiful Boy filters so much of its idea of Nic through David’s eyes that the character gets lost. That Chalamet’s performance is effective at all is entirely a credit to him.

Does he stand a chance at the Oscars? Potentially! He’s got heat after Call Me By Your Name, and is competing in the supporting actor category. I’d guess he’s the film’s sole nomination if he gets in.

How does this movie’s treatment of addiction compare to that in A Star Is Born? Oh, it’s not even comparable. A Star Is Born uses addiction to inform and underline another story; in Beautiful Boy, addiction is the story. That’s it. We learn again and again how destructive addiction is, and we believe it! But there has to be something else after that. A Star Is Born gets that. Beautiful Boy is stuck running in circles.

Beautiful Boy is in theaters now.

This Queer Video Project Believes Coming Out Stories Can Save Lives

A coming out story can save a life. Jordan Reeves knows because a coming out story saved his.

Growing up in Alabama, Reeves didn’t know any other LGBTQ people. He felt trapped and alone in Hueytown, a conservative suburb on the outskirts of Birmingham whose major attraction is a outdoor water park. He didn’t admit to himself that he was gay until he was 18. It was another five years before he decided to share that information with anyone else.

Before coming out, Reeves lived a double life. He considered becoming a missionary, but knew deep down he was just playing the role of a good Christian — the person he thought everyone wanted him to be.

But that’s when he heard Cliff Simon, his professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, discuss his experiences coming out during the post-Stonewall era of the 1970s. In a later retelling of the story, Simon remembered his mother asking him as a child, “Why can’t you be normal like all the other boys?”

“I sort of wanted to know that, too: Why couldn’t I?” he recalled.

But after spending years dating women and unsuccessfully trying to “change” through therapy, Simon came out to his mother in his early 20s. He said he was ready to “finally feel some sense of being OK.”

“I’ve learned so much about life and about myself, and it all started when I came out — and not just because of the gay stuff,” Simon explained. “It was a waterfall of everything, of me starting to see that life could be what I wanted it to be. … Normal is different for all people.”

By providing a model of how to begin his own journey, Reeves claimed Simon’s story showed him for the first time that he could be authentically himself.

“I really did not think that I was going to make it,” he said in a half hour phone conversation. “Coming out is the first step in sort of publicly announcing who you are, and for me, it literally meant life.”

Simon’s story is just one of about 250 stories featured on VideoOut, a digital platform Reeves founded two years ago. Since 2016, he has traveled the United States collecting diverse stories of LGBTQ people reflecting on their own experiences of coming out, whether it was about their sexual orientation, gender identity, or even their HIV status.

“We were the warriors,” said Sean McKenna, a long-term HIV survivor and advocate who lives in New York City, in a VideoOut interview. “We were on the front lines of medication.”

When he was first diagnosed, McKenna recalled that medical professionals weren’t allowed to disclose that information over the phone. If the results came back negative, that was OK to share, but everyone else had to come into the office. It was intended to prevent newly diagnosed individuals from taking their own lives.

The day his doctor told him they would need to meet in person to discuss his diagnosis, McKenna was at work. He described that phone call as a “whirl of emotions.”

“You hang up the phone and you have to wait a week to talk to the doctor,” he said.

“I turned to my coworker and I said, ‘I think I just tested positive for AIDS,'” McKenna continued. “And she started to cry. So the first thing I did when I tested positive was console one of my best friends who I worked with.”

All McKenna remembers from that day is the “black and white subway tile” from the work bathroom, where he went to cry as he processed the news.

He spent a few weeks washing down his grief before turning a corner.

“I just partied it up,” McKenna recalled. “I drank, I went to happy hours, and I thought, ‘What the heck—what do I have to lose at this point? But after about two weeks, I thought, ‘No, I could actually be helping people.’ So I went back to support groups and that sort of thing and became a little bit of an activist.”

McKenna was among the first HIV survivors to take experimental drugs intended to halt the virus’ spread. The side effects of early medications were harsh, including headaches, diarrhea, kidney problems, and soft bones.

These experiences illustrated to McKenna the power of support among long-term survivors of HIV. Years later, he lobbied the New York-based Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GHMC) to resurrect its defunct Buddy Program, which pairs up dedicated volunteers with survivors in order to address the isolation and loneliness that people living with the virus may feel.

Many stories featured by VideoOut follow a similar pattern to McKenna’s: of LGBTQ people coming into their own after announcing themselves to the world.

“It’s really important to not just come out to the people around you, but to come out to yourself,” said Dana Kaye, who appears in a video with her mother, Susan Litoff. “You want to be true to who you are and your authentic self. It’s no fun living a lie and living in the closet.”

Litoff, a psychotherapist, said she came out later in life than her daughter did.

“I shared with a lot of my good friends and it felt really comfortable,” said Litoff, who was 41 when she came out. “I felt really comfortable about what was happening with me. It was more a sharing than a difficult process.”

When Litoff told her mother she was in love with another woman, her mother cautioned against telling her father, claiming he wouldn’t understand. She didn’t listen. When she did finally tell him, he clutched his chest in mock offense: “What’s the problem? I understand loving women!”

“That was the end of that story,” Litoff concluded.

These anecdotes — which range in tone from jubilant to mournful — have taken on added weight since Reeves first began collecting them. Shortly after the project commenced, Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency and immediately began rolling back equality. Subsequently, 2017 was the deadliest year on record for LGBTQ Americans.

Reeves described the people he’s spoken with over the past two years as “nervous.” They’re scared “about what’s going to happen to them, their families, and the people that they love the most,” he claimed.

But a perhaps unintended side effect of the Trump presidency it has also instilled in LGBTQ people the importance of visibility.

“People are exceptionally proud of who they are in an unprecedented way — in a way that I don’t know has ever existed before,” Reeves claimed. “What I’ve seen in our community is that in the face of this administration and not knowing whether or not you’ll be able to get married next year, people are stepping up to the plate. They’re saying, ‘I am proud of who I am and I’m not apologizing.’”

His goal is to collect 1,000 more stories of people living their truths, whether they’re submitted online or in person. VideoOut frequently organizes what they call “Story Collection Day” in cities like New York, Chicago, or Birmingham. At these public events, people with a story to tell can sign up for a 30-minute slot on camera.

After winning a $50,000 grant from Marriott’s #LoveTravels Beyond Barriers Social Innovation Investment, Reeves hopes to use the funding to hold a Story Collection Day every month of next year.

To better reach out to local communities, VideoOut plans to partner with advocacy organizations in each location.

VideoOut is also in the process of building a new platform where people can record their stories themselves. The website will give users the option to edit their videos, tag them for searchability, and then submit them with one click of a button. By lowering the barrier to entry, it allows a much wider pool of voices to be reflected in the series.

“One thing that we say is one story is important, several stories are powerful, but all of our stories together are an unstoppable collective that demands equality,” Reeves said.

These stories can “change minds, break barriers, and eradicate hatred,” he added.

While VideoOut hopes their platform has the ability to reach individuals who may not know someone who is LGBTQ, these transformations often begin in our own communities.

Although Reeves’ parents have long struggled with his sexuality, VideoOut helped start important conversations in his own family. Reeves’ father called him after he started the project and said, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that if anybody tries to take your rights away, I’ll be the first person to stand up for you.”

At one of VideoOut’s public events, an elderly gentleman approached Reeves and said it inspired him to finally come out of the closet.

Reeves said moments like these are why VideoOut exists.

“I just feel like these stories have the ability to embolden people, to encourage people, to inspire people,” he said. “Even people that think that it’s too late.”

“So no matter where you are in your journey, no matter how old you are or young you are, no matter what position you have, where you work, if you work, it doesn’t matter,” Reeves continued. “Your story deserves to be heard.”

Republican Resigns After Saying Native American, Lesbian Candidate Will Be ‘Sent Packing Back to Reservation’

A “radical socialist kick boxing lesbian Indian” just killed another career in Kansas.

A GOP official resigned Wednesday morning after predicting Sharice Davids, who is campaigning as a Democrat in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, will be “sent back packing to the reservation” in November.

Michael Kalny, a precinct committeeman in Shawnee, made those claims in a Sunday evening rant to the Johnson County Democratic Women. In a private Facebook message, he told Anne Pritchett, president of the group’s north chapter, that alleged attacks on Republicans are “going to blow up in your leftist face.”

“The REAL REPUBLICANS will remember what the scum DEMONRATS [sic] tried to do to Kavanaugh in November,” he wrote. “Your radical socialist kick boxing lesbian Indian will be sent back packing to the reservation.”

Davids, who is campaigning to be the first female Native American lawmaker in U.S. Congress, said the comments don’t “represent Kansas values.”

“[I]t doesn’t represent the values of the Republicans we know, many who support this campaign,” said Davids, who would also be the first queer woman of color to sit in the national legislature.

Local party leadership agreed with Davids, quickly distancing themselves from the posts after they attracted national media coverage. In a statement to the Kansas City Star, Executive Director of the Kansas GOP Jim Joice claimed the comments were the exact “same type of rhetoric we condemn the left for.”

“We must be better than this,” he added.

A spokesperson for Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder, who currently trails Davids by six points in the race, claimed the comments don’t reflect Yoder’s views.

“Kevin [Yoder] doesn’t believe this type of rhetoric is appropriate at all. It’s unacceptable,” claimed Communications Director C.J. Grover in a statement calling attention to America’s increasing political division. “These kind of nasty personal attacks are all too prevalent in politics these days, and it needs to stop.”

Following GOP pressure, Kalny announced he would be stepping down from his position.

Johnson County Republican Party chairman Mike Jones confirmed yesterday that Kalny had tendered his resignation, claiming he “didn’t want to bring negative attention on the party or candidates running in this area.”

“He reflected an apologetic attitude,” Jones told local press.

That tone is markedly different from Kalny’s initial response to the controversy. When the Kansas City Star called the Republican for comment, he asked, “What is this lady trying to accomplish?” It wasn’t clear if he was referring to Davids or Pritchett.

Pritchett has maintained that she was “stunned” by Kalny’s rhetoric, which she called “hostile.”

The attacks, however, are not surprising. Davids, a political newcomer, has consistently led in the contentious U.S. House race after upsetting Democratic favorite Brent Welder in the August primaries. Prior to running for office, the member of Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk Nation was an attorney and LGBTQ advocate.

Campaign videos highlighting Davids’ history in mixed martial arts went viral in the early days of the race.

“This is a tough place to be a woman,” she said in a segment showing her putting on MMA gloves. “I’ve been put down, pushed aside, and knocked out. Truth is, I’ve had to fight my whole life because of who I am, who I love, and where I started.”

Sensing potential defeat as the November midterms near, the national GOP recently yanked $1 million in ad buys intended to reelect Yoder in Kansas’ 3rd.

Ecuadorian Endorphin Rush

Growing up, my Bolivian father’s best friend was from Ecuador, and they would always talk about the similarities between the two countries. I was fortunate at a young age to visit Bolivia several times and by my 10th plus trip, I began exploring all the other countries in South America. But I always discounted Ecuador, mainly because of those overheard conversations between my dad and his closest friend. I didn’t really have anything against Ecuador, but it was just at the bottom of my priority list, so when I got the opportunity to travel there recently, I was more than ready to put aside my preconceived notions about the country and head there with an open mind. For this trip, I was traveling with Contiki, on a group tour (The Lava Line) with a bunch of strangers, something that was still relatively new to me. But I was looking forward to not having to plan much.

Quito

The moment I landed in Quito and smelled some of the local food in the airport, I knew I was in for a good trip, even if all I was going to be doing was eating like a local. The high altitude of Quito means that the staple diet is starch and meat based, leaving veggies out of the equation. My time in Quito was short, as it was mostly a starting point, a place to meet the other travelers and to prepare for the week ahead. Contiki is geared towards a younger demographic (ages 18-35), so I was surrounded by lots of young people, all looking to make the most of their time on their trips. As a result, night 1 of our trip included an exploration of some of the local breweries…and later bars. Once the flaming shots were imbibed, the night was pretty much vaporized from my memory, making the bus ride the next day a bit more challenging. I was thankful for having packed ear plugs and an eye mask so I could sit on the bus and avoid reality for a few hours while my body slept off the mixture of liquids it had endured just hours before.

ME to WE

This particular Contiki trip was different from the rest because they had partnered with ME to WE, an innovative social enterprise that empowers people to change the world with their everyday consumer choices. Contiki guests had the opportunity to divert from the original itinerary for two days to instead experience a ME to WE project in a nearby area. For our particular experience, ME to WE sent us to the depths of the Amazon rainforest to their exclusive lodge where we spent two nights learning about the local communities. We met with a local healer who performed a cleansing ceremony on those who wanted one, learned how to make chocolate, and even perfected our spear and blow dart training. But the highlight of this entire add-on was the opportunity to go and work on a project that ME to WE was involved with. For us, that meant traveling to a small community to visit a school that was in the process of being completed. We were there to work, and that day it was all about mixing cement by hand for a portion of a sidewalk next to the soon to be new community dining room which was located next to the classrooms. It was sweltering hot and the work was demanding but being able to see the sidewalk afterwards was beyond rewarding. The short time we spent there actually made an impact, and that was all that mattered. ME to WE does so much beyond this small partnership with Contiki, but I was grateful for the experience as I was able to learn more about the organization (and you should click the link above to learn more too).

Baños

Thrill seekers need to look no further than the small town of Baños. After the amazing time in the Amazon, it was time to celebrate our accomplishments and experiences with some high-adrenaline adventures. Our first stop included walking nearly behind a massive waterfall, something so simple yet incredible. The next couple of days here had me doing all sorts of things that I never knew I wanted to do, like rappelling down waterfalls, zip lining across canyons, bridge walking, and scariest of all, making our way up the side of a canyon wall, hooking and unhooking our safety line with each step along the way. And just when I thought all the thrills had come and gone, we made our way to a swing at the “edge of the world” that overlooked an active volcano, because apparently our heart rates hadn’t been put through enough during the last couple of days in Baños. Everything we did was optional, but never wanting to feel left out, I reluctantly did everything.

Guayaquil

As our trip came to an end, our last stop was the largest and most populous city in Ecuador, Guayaquil. To be honest, it was a great way to end the trip because the options in the city were limited to a couple experiences, with the best one involving walking up a massive staircase that was lined with bars and pubs. The best way to endure this experience was to hike to the top and slowly make your way down, stopping at different watering holes along the way. The week had been filled with non-stop adventure that came in different forms. From eating carb-heavy foods to mixing cement to overcoming fears while climbing for my life on the side of a cliff, everything we did had my heart working overtime, all leaving me wanting more.