Clarkisha Explains: On Happiness, Survival, and The Rejection of Self-Destruction

I am…happy.

I know what you’re thinking.

That’s great, Clarkisha, but how is that relevant? And what does that have to do with me?

As always, that is an excellent question and maybe to you, I am just spouting straight nonsense and uttering unintelligible musings. But if you are any kind of survivor who has encountered the mental fuckery that ensues when you no longer have to just “survive” anymore….this is relevant to you and you know what I’m talking about.


So, where to begin? Ah, well, if I were to give you the equivalent of a roundabout ESPN highlight, I’d say that I spent the first couple of days this year dashing all my petty fears and it paid off in a *major* way. A surprising way. And a fairly romantic way. All ways that are foreign to me and usually elude me.

I slid into someone’s DMs. And it…worked? I was NOT roasted. And now I cannot believe that my Chicken Run ass took this long to say something, mostly because saying that we have good chemistry and that good times await would be such an understatement.

Now fast forward to some weeks later and a bitch. just. can’t. stop. smiling.

It’s…odd! I should be relishing this newfound giddiness, right? And the stomach flips should be fun, right? And what of the butterflies?

Shouldn’t I be leaning into that too?

I should. Normal people would. In fact, normal people wouldn’t question such happiness. Or elation. Or straight-up JOY! But my depression and my PTSD have equipped me with an [un]healthy suspicion when it comes to good things happening in my life. In whatever part of my life. Some, like Teen Wolf, call it regression to the mean. Except in the case of Teen Wolf (and you know, psychology), the phenomenon has more with extreme things happening in a singular place or time in your life and eventually swinging back to a place that’s more neutral, so to speak. This means things won’t always be terrible but also won’t be great 24/7. For me, the negative side of this phenomenon is usually what I experience and it manifests itself when life is either going great or okay, but I can’t help but think that shittier times are ahead and that I would be naive to not prepare for them. That I would be remiss to just throw myself fully into my happiness because I don’t want to get caught off guard by something catastrophic because I was too busy being a sap.


I call it the “When Will The Shoe Drop?” Syndrome. And because I’m me, I take it further. There’s always a question of how long my happy situation will last. If I’m projecting. Whether this is truly a reality or just an illusion. And if there’s a person who is one of the focal points of said happy situation (be they a friend or whatever), there’s always the additional question of how long it will take before they grow tired or annoyed with me. Or if someone put them up to this. Or if, quite frankly, they took a wrong turn and simply ended up here. With me.

This string of unhealthy hypotheticals always threatens to rip me from the happy situation I’m currently in and put me in some of the darkest corners of my mind. I know this because it’s a pattern of mine (and perhaps yours, too) that I’m fairly aware of and that I have been trying to break and not succumb to, for a very, very long time.

I remember when I first discovered this was a thing (college). At first, I thought it was a normal thing and that it was just my way of looking out for myself and not being so quick to fall for the okie doke. You know, because I was being wise! Emotionally cognizant. Wiser beyond my years.

Basically, all ways to tell me that my trauma had effectively changed my life but, you know, make it fashion!

Still. I thought I was so smart. I thought I had life all figured out. And then someone on Twitter succinctly stated that there was no way for us to thrive (but mainly me) with the coping mechanisms we had developed and refined for survival. And that doing so was a recipe for ultimate failure, and most importantly, self-destruction.

It left me shaken for a really long time.

I say this because normally I would have ignored such a fairly topical and pointed tweet (because I’m so fucking headass), but because I had briefly dabbled in therapy before I couldn’t afford it anymore, my therapist had made it clear fairly quickly that some of the coping mechanisms that I had used to draw lines of demarcation between me and my family or to emotionally shield myself would bring me nothing but misfortune in the future.

“You have a tendency to be self-destructive, [redacted],” she once said. And this is before she dragged my life by pointing out how weird I get about happiness. And how I eventually isolate myself from the person or thing who is bringing it to me. Compare this realization to that oddly-specific and well-timed tweet and I found myself asking myself why the fuck I was like this and how the fuck I could possibly fix it.

If you’re anything like me, maybe that’s something you have been asking yourself too. And the truth is…I don’t have an easy answer for you. I’m lucky because my person in question has known me for a minute and is semi-aware (semi because I’m not so sloppy that I’d reveal all my good and bad quirks all at once LOL) of how…neurotic…I can be sometimes. And they’ve also made it safe enough for me to talk about this shit with them so they that they have the chance to reassure me when I’m doing the absolute most. I realize everyone doesn’t have that and I don’t really take that lightly.


But still. What are we, recovering survivors, to do in the interim as we attempt to return to “normal” and untraumatized lives? With or without help in tow? Again, that’s a good-ass question. Part of me is sometimes self-defeatist and wants to accept that this is just my reality and that I have to come to terms with the fact that happiness, if it doesn’t elude me, will never sit well with me. But the other part of me knows what a crock of unhealthy bullshit that is and how it is ultimately imperative for me to unlearn all this shit.

And that’s the thing, too. Unlearning unhealthy survival coping mechanisms is a tall order and it doesn’t happen overnight. But it must be done. Because one (unless you’re a bigot) deserves nice things and one can either
develop new ways to truly handle said nice things (like happiness, contentment, and joy) or they could face the possibility that the various ways in which they “survived” in the last couple of years will surely destroy them if left unchecked.

It’s your move.

Republican Governor in Ohio Signs LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Order For Second Time in a Month

For the second time in less than a month, a Republican governor in Ohio has signed a nondiscrimination order protecting LGBTQ state employees.

The executive order was one of six signed by incoming Gov. Mike DeWine during an inauguration ceremony held shortly after midnight on Monday. It upholds an order signed by former Gov. John Kasich in December, one which extended state-level employment protections to Ohio’s LGBTQ community for the first time.

The order signed Monday expanded on the earlier measure by adding three protected classes: pregnant people, foster parents, and parents of young children.

“We said we were going to hit the ground running,” DeWine said during the swearing in.

LGBTQ groups hailed the governor’s decision to keep the Kasich order, as many feared it may be in jeopardy under the new administration. As the state’s attorney general, DeWine defended Ohio’s marriage ban in court, facing off against SCOTUS marriage equality plaintiff Jim Obergefell.

The advocacy group TransOhio called the nondiscrimination order a “victory for all of Ohio.”

“By issuing this executive order protecting state employees, including LGBTQ state employees, from discrimination, Gov. DeWine made a strong statement on his first day that he will be a governor for all Ohioans,” added Equality Ohio Executive Director Alana Jochum said in a press release.

However, Jochum noted the Buckeye State “is still playing catch up when it comes to welcoming LGBTQ people.”

Currently, Ohio is one of 30 states which lacks fully inclusive nondiscrimination protections at the statewide level. The Ohio Fairness Act, which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s list of protected classes, stalled in the state legislature last year.

Supporters claim the proposal is gaining momentum, despite conservative opposition in the lawmaking body. HB 160 reportedly received the support of hundreds of local businesses during the 2018 legislative session.

LGBTQ advocates hope DeWine’s support leads to further bipartisan action on the issue.

“Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are coming together to affirm what we all know to be true: Our nation is at strongest when everyone is able to live their lives without the fear of discrimination,” claimed Freedom for All Americans CEO Masen Davis in a statement.  

“Governor DeWine’s executive order is an important step toward comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ people in Ohio and nationwide,” he added.

DeWine is one of a handful of first-term governors to sign an executive order forbidding bias against LGBTQ employees already this year. He is joined by Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Wisconsin’s Tony Evers, both of whom are Democrats.

Republican Rick Snyder, the former governor of Michigan, signed a nondiscrimination order shortly before leaving office in 2018.

In Salta, Mummies, Mountains, and Melodies

The Andes stratovolcano Llullaillaco rises to 22,110 feet from the neutral reds, yellows, and greys of the Atacama Plateau.

From its airy, chilly summit, adventurous alpinists can see Chile’s Antofagasta Region to the West and Argentina’s illustrious Salta Province to the East.

And nearly 20 years ago, on March 16th, 1999, after a month of brutal winds, -40°F chills, blizzards, and nearly calling it quits, a team of Argentine, Peruvian, and American archaeologists led by Johan Reinhard noticed a small disturbance of “fill” dirt near the summit.

Llullaillaco via Lisardo Maggipinto on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport of the Province of Salta.

After digging four feet (and nine inches) into the soil and rock, they discovered what is now known as the the highest archaeological site in the world. There, among a collection of carefully placed textiles, headdresses, statues, and pottery, were three perfectly preserved Incan mummies — the remains of child sacrifices drugged on coca leaves and chicha from a religious practice known as capacocha — from some 500 years ago. They were so intact, Reinhard noted, that even their arm hairs remained.

The mummies, now known as El niño (the boy), La doncella (the maiden), and La niña del rayo (the lightning girl) were carefully extracted from their five-hundred-year-old grave and transported over 150 miles to La Ciudad de Salta, the capital city of the vast Argentine province of the same name which sits in the foothills of the Andes in the Lerma Valley at 3,780 feet.

For nearly 8 years the mummies were kept in the Catholic University of Salta as tests were conducted to determine how to best display the mummies to the public without compromising their delicate compositions.

A team of scientists was eventually able to mimic a controlled climate similar to Llullaillaco’s summit—and so in 2007, The Museum of High Altitude Archaeology opened in Salta to permanently display the mummies and artifacts found on the dormant volcano.

Salta via Miles W. Griffis


It’s early summer when I visit La Ciudad de Salta.

It’s humid and overcast and the Andes that typically act as the city’s stunning backdrop are hiding in thick clouds that swirl in a lazy breeze.

It’s a Saturday and the city’s main plaza is filled with vendors selling leather belts with gaucho designs, hand-carved wood gourds and bombillas for sipping yerba mate, colorful wool blankets and textiles, and children’s toys, like the a wind-up plastic Spiderman that crawls on the ground with an AK-47 on its back.  

The highlight, though, of walking through the plaza is stealing glances at the neoclassical Cathedral of Salta that glows light pink in the grey and gloom of the day.

When I step off the humid streets into The Museum of High Altitude Archaeology, I feel the cool whisk of air conditioning as we ascend to the second floor to take in the world famous exhibition.

MAAM via Lisardo Maggipinto on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport of the Province of Salta

As we meander the neat maze of placards, feathered headdresses, and little stones carved into the shape of llamas, I wonder which of the three mummies will be on display around the corner, at the end of the exhibit.

For whatever reason, only one of the three mummies is displayed at a time and they rotate every few months.

La niña del rayo via Lisardo Maggipinto on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport of the Province of Salta

I am hoping to see the lightning girl—after years of mountaineering, one of my greatest fears remains electric storms that scare, scar, and strike the alpine and La nina del rayo is said to have been hit more than once.

I approach the display case—a large, see-through tube where the seasonal mummy on display rests. I press the button that turns on the lights so the the squeamish aren’t exposed to the corpse in full light against their wishes.

Before me is the not the girl of lighting, but El niño, the smallest and youngest of the three sacrifices who is said to have struggled the most, as evidenced by blood and vomit found in his garments, as well as the materials that were used to bound him. He rests forever in the fetal position, in a sunset red tunic, hiding his face.


Cerro San Bernardo via Miles W. Griffis

Later in the afternoon, after seeing the nationally popular museum, Museo Güemes, “the museum of the people”—dedicated to Martín Miguel de Güemes’s life and leadership in the 1800s War of Independence against the Spanish—we zip over to Cerro San Bernardo, a recreational hill that gently rests above the city.

Many Salteños hike the hill beginning at the stately Güemes Monument that sits at the edge of town before trekking the 1,021 steps to the top, where there is a small park, fountains, a wine bar, and storefronts selling regional crafts.

But since we had a packed itinerary, we took the most direct route, the teleférico, a cable car that gradually rises over the city’s orange tiled roofs and white stucco, before climbing a full  kilometer over the thick forest of the hill’s western face to its summit.

From the hill’s vista, the city stretches and sprawls in a wonder of white buildings that blend into the green Yerma Valley like water colors. Then a wildness takes over and more hills buckle to obscure the province’s most famous wine region, Cafayate, where the acclaimed torrontes and malbec grapes are grown, plucked, squished, barreled, fermented, corked, poured, and shipped around the world. And lancing the sky in the West, the snowy 16,509 foot Cerro Malcante shows its snowy self.

The view is an argument for two things. The first—the possibilities for extending time in Salta, seeing the city elongate before you from its rich plaza full of Spanish and indigenous influence to its expansive festival grounds that light up in April for the city’s popular arts and culture festival. And second, for the landscapes and adventures for which the city serves as a launching point—for alpinists, hikers, train to the clouds riders, peripatetic roadtrippers, wine sippers, and empanada tasters.


Via La Casona del Molino

Speaking of empanadas, they are delicious tonight at the rock of Salta’s nightlife, La Casona del Molino.

We arrived for a ten o’clock seating. That’s early, even for Salteños who extend their nights and eat famously late. After a five-minute drive from the city center, we parked and were greeted warmly by the restaurateur. We wound through rooms where families dined before we picked a table in the courtyard ornamented by trees and beautiful worn brick flooring.

After appetizers and the sweetest white sangria, our empanadas arrive.

Empanadas in Argentina’s northern provinces, like Salta, are said to be some of the most authentically made in the country—especially at a family run restaurant like Las Casona del Molino. When our plate arrives, each variety of the baked stuffed doughs is marked by a little repulgue, a marking. The cheese empanadas are poked with three holes and the beef empanadas are sealed with a criss-crossing braid.

The restaurant, built in 1671, began as a general store, transformed into a chicherías in the 1700s, before acting as a carriage house in the 1800s where it served as a supply for the patriotic troops during the War of Independence—now, it is a magnet of the city’s nightlife, but not just because of the empanadas. The main draw is the impromptu, no-frills, folkloric performances.

Each night, local musicians from Salta and the surrounding area come into the restaurant, take a seat (perhaps even at your table if there are open chairs…), tune their acoustic guitars and treat the entire restaurant to melodies as gorgeous as the evening’s atmosphere. As the night lingers, the musicians come and go and sometimes congregate for a super group performance of classics like Mercedes Sosa’s “Gracias a La Vida.”

Nights at La Casona del Molino start late and go even later—many stay past 4 a.m— and unlike so much of American nightlife, bring together multiple generations under one roof, or in this case, under the Southern Hemisphere sky that will have you harmonizing—

Gracias a la vida, gracias a la ciudad de Salta, tú me has dado tanto.

But How Gay is ‘The Upside’?

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 The Upside? A remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables, the much-less interestingly titled The Upside tells the story of unlikely friends Dell Scott and Phillip Lacasse. After a hang-gliding accident leaves him paralyzed from the neck down, Phillip needs a life auxiliary, and hates every single person his assistant Yvonne brings in for him. Dell Scott needs work — or, at least, signatures to show his parole officer he’s looking for work — and accidentally finds himself interviewing for the life auxiliary job. Phillip likes his DGAF attitude and hires him on the spot.

The rest of the movie follows their relationship, from Dell’s early days unable to perform even the simplest of life auxiliary tasks, to their disagreements about music. (Phillip likes opera, Dell prefers Aretha. They eventually find common ground.) Along the way, we see Phillip branch out into dating again following the passing of his wife, and Dell try to reforge a relationship with his young, sensitive son Anthony.

Who’s in it? Likely the only reason you’ve heard of The Upside, unless you’ve caught a trailer for it here or there, is because it’s the movie Kevin Hart was promoting during his infamous appearance on Ellen. He plays Dell, while former Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston plays Phillip. Nicole Kidman plays Yvonne, in a role entirely too small and one-note for an actress of her caliber. (Quite a few things in The Upside annoyed me, but this most of all.)

The rest of the cast is mostly filled with folks you know primarily from TV or supporting roles in films (Aja Naomi King! Tate Donovan!), but Julianna Margulies gets a big, juicy scene later in the movie. I won’t spoil it for those who do want to see The Upside — or, like, watch it on Netflix in six months and fast-forward to her scene — but it’s the only part of the movie that felt bracingly honest and painful in a real, earned way.

Why should I see it? Well, it’s based on a true story, so if you like a heartwarming true story, there’s that. But then again, you could just watch The Intouchables instead. So I’ve got nothing.

Here’s the thing: The Upside isn’t bad. It’s enjoyable enough to watch, if a bit emotionally manipulative. It mostly just isn’t anywhere near good enough to justify its own existence. Considering everything happening with Hart, it’s also hard to justify supporting him at the box office by buying a ticket. So this is overall a pass from me.

But how gay is it? Hoo boy. So it’s not gay, save Kidman and Margulies’ appearances (though again, the former really doesn’t get much to do). Moreover, a lot of Dell’s disgust early in his work is with physical contact with Phillip. There’s an extended scene in which he has to change Phillip’s catheter, and can’t even bring himself to say the word “penis.” I’m sure these scenes wouldn’t play well no matter what, but in light of Hart’s past homophobic jokes, they play all the worse.

Why is an adaptation of a onetime Best Foreign Language Film-shortlisted French film coming out in January instead of Oscar season? Again, it’s not great, so that’s part of it. But there’s also a messy development situation here. The Intouchables was first optioned for remake by The Weinstein Company back in 2011. Paul Feig came on to write and direct in 2012, with a whole score of interesting actors attached. Chris Rock, Chris Tucker, Jamie Foxx, and Idris Elba were all considered for Dell before Kevin Hart finally signed on in 2014. Colin Firth was set to play Phillip, and both Jessica Chastain and Michelle Williams were considered for the female lead (likely Yvonne).

The movie then went through three different directors, with Feig dropping out, then Tom Shadyac, then Simon Curtis. During these changes, Bryan Cranston came on as Phillip. Finally, in late 2016, final director Neil Burger came on, and Feig’s script was thrown out entirely. (Jon Hartmere wrote the script Burger used.) All of this is to say, this movie clearly went through development hell, including and especially being optioned by The Weinstein Company. (Their name does not appear on the final product.) It’s a wonder The Upside got made at all.

Will this movie make me feel any better about Kevin Hart? Nope! While his performance is fine enough, the hint of gay panic will only bolster your feelings about him if you’re aleady not a fan.

Does Hollywood need to stop offering Nicole Kidman thankless roles like this? They sure do.

The Upside is in theaters now.

Texas’ New House Speaker Says Anti-Trans ‘Bathroom Bill’ Is Not a ‘Real Issue’

Dennis Bonnen is ready to move on.

A year and a half after Republican lawmakers in Texas failed to force through a anti-trans “bathroom bill” in a special session, the incoming Speaker of the House suggested another push isn’t on the table for 2019.

After he was unanimously tapped to replace retiring Joe Straus, Bonnen told colleagues he would not get “caught up in things that don’t lead to real results.”

In a Tuesday speech, the longtime House lawmaker said he was focused on four key issues for the nascent legislative session. Bonnen’s top priority is funding the state’s ailing public school system, which ranked 40th in the country in a 2018 report from Education Week.

“My passion for education centers on the fact that I grew up a dyslexic kid in a small town at a time when there were almost no options available to students like me,” the conservative claimed.

Bonnen also hopes to tackle sex trafficking, school safety, and property tax reform.

While the 46-year-old did not specially mention the thwarted Senate Bill 6, he expanded on those comments in an interview with the Dallas Morning News. Bonnen referred to the “bathroom bill” discussion as a distraction.

“I would be very discouraged if we were distracted by an issue that could derail those significant challenges that we need to solve,” he said.

Those comments fall in line with remarks made by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last year. The Republican said taking up the issue of transgender restroom use is “not on [his] agenda” in the 2019 session following reports he privately opposed SB 6.

Even Dan Patrick, who was formerly its most vocal champion, suggested he was done with SB 6. In a Wednesday news conference with Bonnen and Abbott, the Texas Tribune reported the lieutenant governor repeated “comments he… previously made about winning public opinion on the issue even if the legislation did not pass.”

That claim is dubious at best. A June 2017 poll from the Tribune found that 47 percent of Texans agreed with Bonnen that the question of where transgender people go to the bathroom isn’t a legitimate concern.

But as the legislative session convenes Wednesday for a 140-day session, washing his hands of SB 6 is also strategic for Bonnen. He will now preside over a House that is far more Democratic than during the 2017 term: The Blue Wave led to a 12-seat pickup in the lower chambers of the Texas Legislature.

Addressing members of the Texas House, Bonnen urged lawmakers to come together across partisan divides to tackle the issues voters care about.

“Unlike Washington, Texas stands apart,” he claimed. “We lead the nation by doing things our way. And we do it with strength, unity, and resolve. We will once again rise to that occasion and serve as the nation’s model for effective governance.”

Moving forward from SB 6 may be easier said than done, however. The bill’s author, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), has already vowed to try again in 2019. At a September forum hosted by the right-wing group Texas Values, she referred to “men in women’s bathrooms” as the “women’s rights issue of our time.”

“The only way that you fail is to not try,” Kolkhorst said of introducing another version of the legislation.

Arizona Lawmaker Won’t Say If Bill Would Allow Teachers Who Discuss LGBTQ Issues to Be Fired

Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem is staying pretty tight-lipped on a controversial proposal banning teachers from discussing “any side of a controversial issue” in classrooms.

In December, the Oro Valley lawmaker put forward House Bill 2002 after a constituent complained that a math teacher in the district had been criticizing President Donald Trump during class discussions. Finchem told the Arizona Republic the proposal is intended to ensure faculty leave their “political agenda behind… at home.”

“If you enter a classroom with a Trump T-shirt, a Hillary T-shirt, [or] a Vote No 126 T-shirt, you engage in a political speech in class,” he claimed.

The draft bill intends to solve that problem by instituting a code of ethics that all K-12 teachers in the state must follow. These rules, for instance, forbid faculty members from “[singling] out one group of students as being responsible for the suffering or inequities experienced by another group of students.”

While that proposal enumerates race as a verboten characteristic for discussion, it does not specify whether topics related to queer and trans lives are also prohibited.

Websites like LGBTQ Nation concluded HB 2002 is vague enough that teachers could, for example, be terminated for discussing the Stonewall Riots of 1969—which helped set off the modern movement for queer and trans rights. Issues like LGBTQ equality are “often deemed ‘controversial’ by Republicans,” the site concluded.

Even worse, the proposal may lead to teachers being effectively forced to give hate groups a platform in schools. Any teacher who does discuss marriage equality could be forced to present the opposing side—giving equal time to anti-LGBTQ bigotry.

“A teacher must provide students with materials supporting both sides of the controversy in a fair-minded and nonpartisan manner,” the text reads.

INTO reached out to the conservative to ask if he felt the speculation regarding its anti-equality implications was accurate. Finchem’s spokesperson, Renee Padilla, claimed he’s “unavailable for commenting, as he is, and has been out of the office.”

This publication isn’t the only outlet lacking clarification on the bill’s implications. The Hill and Arizona Daily Star were also offered no comment.

What has been reported about the legislation does not inspire confidence that HB 2002 would not be used to target vulnerable LGBTQ people. Finchem’s bullet points were lifted nearly verbatim from a “Teacher Code of Ethics” posted on the Stop K-12 Indoctrination website two years ago.

The campaign warns that “no age group and no corner of our K-12 classrooms are immune from the left’s ideological aggression.”

Stop K-12 Indoctrination is a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, whose namesake has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-black movements.”

Finchem’s own record on LGBTQ rights is concerning. Three years ago, he put forward draft legislation which would allow the state of Arizona to ignore decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, such as its ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges. He told the Arizona Daily Star that SCOTUS had no right to “force” marriage equality on states.

“If the federal government wants to issue a gay marriage license, they’re free to do that,” the representative said at the time. “But it’s not a state license.”

In 2017, Finchem also attempted to ban schools from discussing “social justice.”

The Arizona State Legislature convenes for the 2019 legislative session on Jan. 14. As with Finchem’s previous proposals, HB 2002 is not expected to go far.

Kim Davis’ Lawyers Want to Remove LGBTQ People From Bill to Make Lynching a Federal Hate Crime

Kim Davis’ lawyers are fighting to keep LGBTQ people out of a Congressional bill to make lynching a federal hate crime.

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act passed the Senate in December following a unanimous vote of 100 to 0. The legislation has been a long time coming. The bill was first put forward in 1882 and has stalled more than 200 times in the 137 years since, according to the New York Times.

The current version of the proposal was put forward by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Despite its overwhelming popularity, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver plans to lobby against LGBTQ-inclusive provisions in the legislation as it moves through the House of Representatives. The draft bill covers characteristics like “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” in addition to “color,” “national origin,” “race,” and “religion.”

Staver told One News Now this language is a way to pass anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community through the back door.

“So far they’ve been unsuccessful over the many years in the past [at passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act],” the Liberty Counsel founder and CEO claimed, “but this is a way to slip it in under a so-called anti-lynching bill, and to then to sort of circle the wagon and then go for the [jugular] at some time in the future.”

First put forward in 1994, ENDA would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace.

Although it failed to become law, that legislation eventually led to the introduction of the Equality Act, which expands LGBTQ inclusions in standing civil rights law beyond the workplace. It would protect against sexual orientation and gender identity bias in all walks of life, whether housing and education or credit and federal funding.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed Democrats would take up the issue if they won back the House in the 2018 midterms. Democrats now hold a 36-seat majority in the chambers.

Staver warned the LGBTQ-inclusive Lynching Act is a sign of things to come.

“The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can’t stop them from coming the rest of the way in,” he said. “And this would be the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation as part of this anti-lynching bill.”

The right-wing activist claimed Liberty Counsel—which famously represented the once-jailed Rowan County clerk in court—was already lobbying House lawmakers to remove the language on LGBTQ identity.

The Orlando, Florida-based firm has a noted track record of anti-LGBTQ advocacy.

Following her brief five-day incarceration, Liberty Counsel took Davis on a nine-day trip to Romania to lobby against same-sex marriage. As sources told INTO at the time, she was “presented like a martyr” during the speaking tour.

Despite Liberty Counsel’s efforts, a referendum to ban marriage equality in Romania failed due to low voter turnout.

Liberty Counsel has also pushed for the introduction of anti-trans “bathroom bills” across the U.S. and is behind lawsuits challenging Planet Fitness’ inclusive locker room policy. They have also opposed local ordinances banning conversion therapy.

As Colorado Swears in America’s First Gay Governor, Denver Bans Conversion Therapy

As Colorado becomes the first state to swear in an openly gay man as governor, Denver also made history this week. The Mile High City became the first municipality in the state to ban anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy.

On Monday, Denver’s City Council unanimously voted to outlaw orientation change efforts from being performed on minors under the age of 18 years old. The city defines conversion therapy as “based on the false claim that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured.”

According to government leaders, the ordinance is “aimed at state-licensed therapists, operating their practice in the city.”

While no known practitioners of conversion therapy are operating within Denver city limits, supporters of the measure believe it’s preemptive. Conversion therapy has been deemed as “ineffective” and “harmful” by every leading U.S. medical and child care group, including Voice for Adoption and the National Association of Social Workers.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called the ordinance’s passage a “very proud moment for our administration, for members of City Council, and for everyone in Denver who values inclusion and acceptance.”

“Tonight’s vote to ban conversion therapy [is] our city coming together and saying with one voice that we will never allow our LGBTQ youth to be the targets of these dubious practices, and that we are here to support them,” the 49-year-old Democrat claimed in a press release.

“Who they are is something to be celebrated, not maligned, and Denver will always be there to lift up our youth and ensure that they have the opportunity to grow up safe, happy, and healthy,” he added.

Hancock submitted the proposal to a city council committee in December.

At the time, the Denver mayor called reparative therapy efforts “dangerous and immoral,” claiming that his government was “going to make sure that they never happen within [the] city.”

At the time of writing, conversion therapy remains legal at the statewide level in Colorado. Just 14 states (and D.C) have outlawed it. While local municipalities in Florida, New York, and Ohio have taken action to prohibit the practice in their communities, no other cities or counties have done the same in The Centennial State.

Statewide legislation banning “gay cure” treatments has failed in the Colorado Assembly at least four times, facing opposition from conservative lawmakers.

LGBTQ advocates, however, believe 2019 could be different. Control of the State Senate flipped to Democrats in the 2018 midterms, giving them a slim three-vote majority in the upper chambers of the legislature. Democrats currently hold 19 seats, while Republicans boast just 16.

Should a conversion therapy bill head to his desk, Colorado’s new openly LGBTQ governor, Jared Polis, is all but guaranteed to sign it.

The 43-year-old Democrat was sworn in on Tuesday after handily defeating challenger Walker Stapleton by double-digits in the 2018 election. During his inauguration ceremony, Polis said his victory showed “anything is possible in our great state and in our great country.”

Just one other LGBTQ candidate has been elected to a governorship in the U.S.: bisexual Kate Brown, who is currently serving as governor of Oregon.

Dearly Beloved, Should I Let My Boyfriend Go?

In this week’s Dearly Beloved, the advice column from author Michael Arceneaux, our dear reader is wrestling with whether or not to break up with a boyfriend. It’s not just the distance between them harming the relationship, it’s that they come from two different worlds. In one, it’s legal to be gay. In the other, not so much.

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,

A few years ago, I fell madly in love with a guy I’d never even met. I’m not this type of guy. I’m always the one who would tell my friends in long distance relationships that they were acting stupid, so it took me a long time to accept that this was what I was doing, and that this guy was more than a friend to me.

Things were going great up until last year. We had plans to meet, we talked about a future together, but it was all derailed when he was pulled for mandatory service in his country.

Where he’s from, it’s still illegal to be gay, which also played a factor, because the army found out about our relationship. It was found he committed no crime, but he still doesn’t talk to me the same way.

A lot of stressors before this led to a breakdown in the relationship, which led to a period where we would do nothing but fight, despite having had not a single fight for the almost three years up to that point. He’s become someone I don’t know. He’s angry all the time and constantly trying to blame me for things that aren’t my fault to make me feel bad. He’ll tell me he couldn’t call or text because his phone was confiscated because they saw me texting, when in reality it didn’t happen. He’ll tell me his service got extended because of things going on between us, when in reality the whole batch got extended.

Right now, I just want to be able to give up on this relationship. I love him incredibly, but I also can’t stand it anymore. He wants it to be over, but he keeps saying things like “maybe in a year” or “maybe when this is all over” and all I can think about is getting back the sweet, loving, caring guy that made me fall in love from thousands of miles away against all my better judgement.

I don’t know how to deal with these emotions, and I feel I can’t really open up to my friends about it. I really need some advice.

Thank you in advance.



Dear Jamie,

What I learned as a teenage boy with feelings for other boys I couldn’t communicate with in person out of fear — so I turned to the internet — is that you can absolutely fall in love with someone you have never physically met. If your mutual attraction gives way to real intimacy, it can absolutely happen. You’ve admittedly learned that now, though I am very sorry about the situation you find yourself in.

Unfortunately, you two cannot be together — at least not when he is the military, and arguably, his native country.

As for his hardened character, it may be frustrating and it may hurt you, but forgive him. It may not be right, but one imagines he has taken on this harder exterior as a means of protection. He knows who he is. He senses those around him know, too, thus he faces imminent danger at every second of his life. That is an impossible situation to be in.

I’m sure, he, too, loves you, but you two just aren’t good for each other. It is neither of your faults. This is the fault of his nation and the homophobia that informs its policies.

Maybe one day you two can reunite and have the relationship you both deserve. But if not, at the very least, you got to meet someone that made you feel. Don’t let how it burned out blind you to that.

I realize none of this will comfort you in the interim. That is understandable, so I will just feel the sadness until you think it’s time to let it go. Just don’t blame him or yourself for how this turned out. You both were wrong, and for that, again, I am sorry.



Wisconsin Gov. Signs Order Protecting LGBTQ Workers From Discrimination Hours After Taking Office

Just hours after taking office, Wisconsin’s new governor signed an executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees from discrimination.

After defeating Republican Scott Walker in a closely-watched race, Tony Evers was inaugurated as the 46th governor of Wisconsin on Monday. During his swearing-in ceremony, the Democrat urged government leaders to “transcend divisiveness” and “governing by retribution,” a swipe at his predecessor’s much-publicized “war on labor.”

Evers’ pledge to turn the page certainly got off to a good start. The 67-year-old signed an order that prevents government workers from being fired or denied employment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The order calls for “the state to put standard terms in contracts saying that the recipient can only hire on the basis of merit,” the Associated Press reports.

Wisconsin is one of 30 states lacking inclusive statewide laws banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. Although the state was the first in the nation to pass legislation prohibiting bias in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation, it has yet to update that bill to include gender identity.

Republicans control both chambers of Wisconsin’s bicameral legislature, making the passage of trans-inclusive provisions a difficult task.

Despite the conservative roadblock, the governor reportedly intends to push the issue further. According to the Associated Press, his administration intends to “create a model anti-discrimination policy” for other states, cities, and municipalities to implement.

Five cities and Milwaukee County have already passed local nondiscrimination ordinances protecting their trans citizens from discrimination.

Advocacy groups lauded Evers for taking steps to protect LGBTQ people on his very first day in office. Fair Wisconsin Director Megin McDonnell said in a statement the order “modernizes our state’s internal policies to make sure Wisconsin government employees are judged solely on their job performance, not who they are or who they love.”

“Discrimination in any form is wrong,” said Human Rights Campaign Wisconsin State Director Wendy Strout in a statement, adding that Evers “continues to demonstrate that he will fight day in and day out [for] fairness, justice and equality.”

Freedom for All Americans noted that Evers is actually the fourth governor to sign an antidiscrimination pledge in three weeks—two of whom were Republicans. These included Outgoing Governors John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Snyder of Michigan, as well as Michigan’s new Democrat governor, Gretchen Whitmer.

“The momentum for LGBTQ nondiscrimination is undeniable,” its CEO, Masen Davis, concluded.

“Discrimination can and does impact so many LGBTQ people every day,” he continued. “We’re not wasting any time moving the ball forward in 2019—we believe that these executive orders from governors of both parties demonstrate the urgent need to pass enduring and comprehensive protections through state legislatures.”

This issue could soon be headed for the federal legislature, as well.

Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi pledged Democrats would push for the Equality Act if the party retook the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms. Following the election, Democrats now hold a 36-seat advantage.

If passed, the Equality Act would prohibit anti-LGBTQ bias in all walks of life—including federal funding, education, credit, public accommodations, and jury selection.

It’s unlikely, however, to survive the Senate, where Republicans retain the majority.