Hawaii Becomes 12th State to Ban Conversion Therapy After Governor Signs Bill Into Law

Hawaii is officially the 12th state to outlaw conversion therapy after Gov. David Ige signed a bill banning the anti-LGBTQ practice on Friday.

In a brief ceremony at the Hawaii State Capitol building in Honolulu, Ige claimed that attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth are “neither medically nor ethically appropriate.”

“The overwhelming scientific research has shown that conversion therapy is not effective and frequently has lasting harmful psychological impacts on minors,” Ige said. “For our LGBTQ youth, it often results in feelings of isolation, depression, and hopelessness. It has absolutely no place here on our lovely islands.”

The Democrat was widely expected to sign into law Senate Bill 270, whichprohibits conversion therapy on minors under the age of 18. He was joined in the ceremony by the bill’s sponsors, which included State Sen. Stanley Chang.

“This is one of those bills that’s a no brainer,” Chang claimed. “If you ask anyone below the age of 30 in Hawaii or across the country, I think they’d be shocked that it still happens, but it does still happen. Twenty thousand LGBTQ youths a year are subject to conversion therapy, according to research from UCLA.”

Conversion therapy, which is sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay therapy,” has been condemned by every leading medical association in the U.S., including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Counseling Association (ACA), American Psychological Association (APA), Mental Health America (MHA), and Voice For Adoption (VFA).

Given the overwhelming scientific consensus, a growing number of states have moved to ban conversion therapy. On May 15, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, signed legislation prohibiting orientation change efforts on minors into law.

New Hampshire is expected to be next, as a conversion therapy bill sits on Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk. The conservative has vowed to sign it.

To date, 10 other states (and D.C.)have passed laws at the statewide level banning medical providers from offering any treatment to “cure” LGBTQ youth of their same-sex attractions. These states include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Although New York is widely cited as having passed such a law, it has not. A bill outlawing the practice has stalled in the state legislatureleading Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass an order blocking insurance providers from covering conversion therapists.

LGBTQ advocates praised Hawaii for joining the growing movement of states taking a stand against a procedure often likened to “torture.”

“There are currently more than 700,000 survivors nationally, and an estimated 77,000 teenagers across the country will be subjected to conversion therapy over the next five years,” said Mathew Shurka, a strategist for the conversion therapy awareness campaign Born Perfect, in a statement.

“As a survivor, I know how harmful conversion therapy can be,” he added.

Shurka was one of a number of conversion therapy survivors who testified in the Hawaii State Legislature as to the practice’s harms.

Others included Dillard Slay, a 24-year-old advocate who was sent to a conversion therapy camp at the age of 13. His grandparents hoped to cure him of “effeminate behavior.” Meanwhile, 17-year-old Andrea Kirk told state lawmakers that her friends were threatened with reparative counseling when they came out to their parents.

Such counseling may include everything from talk therapy and aversion techniques (e.g., snapping a rubber band on an individual’s wrist to ward off impure thoughts) to electric shock treatment.

Advocates say this bill ensures other LGBTQ youth in Hawaii aren’t subjected to such treatment.

“I could not be happier that Hawaii has taken this important step to protect the health and safety of its LGBTQ youth from this terrible practice,” said Shurka, whose group is affiliated with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The governor agreed.

“I’m proud to join 11 other states that have banned conversion therapy and send a strong message to LGBTQ that sexual orientation is not an illness to be cured,” Gov. Ige said. “We accept you and love you just the way you are.”

Photo viaEdmund Garman/Flickr

Republican Says It’s OK to Deny Housing to Gay People, Loses Realtor Group Endorsement

A California Republican lost the endorsement of a national realtors’ group after claiming it should be legal to refuse housing to LGBTQ people.

On May 16, U.S. House Rep. Dana Rohrabacher allegedly told the Orange County Association of Realtors that homeowners should have the right to refuse to “sell their home to someone [if] they don’t agree with their lifestyle,” adding that individuals are free to “choose who they do business with.”

The remarks were first reported by Wayne Woodyard, former president of the Southern California-based group.

Woodyard told the Orange County Register that the conversation began when representatives with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) asked him to support HR 1447, a Congressional bill on LGBTQ protections in housing.

Titled the “Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017,” the legislation would “extend the protections of the Fair Housing Act to persons suffering discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation, and for other purposes.”

While Rohrabacher supports nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religion, race, or sex, he claimed the buck stops with LGBTQ protections.

“We’ve drawn a line on racism, but I don’t think we should extend that line,” the Republican told the Register when asked about his earlier comments, adding: “A homeowner should not be required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”

“There are some fundamentalist Christians who do not approve of their lifestyle,” he added. “I support their rights.”

After Rohrabacher confirmed his prior remarks to the California paper, the NAR pulled its endorsement of the incumbent, who is facing a tough reelection campaign in coastal Orange County’s House District 48. “After reviewing all new, relevant information, it was determined that Rep. Rohrabacher will no longer receive support from NAR’s President’s Circle,” the NAR said in a statement.

At least 15 challengers are running against him. Opponents include former Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh and Democrat Harley Rouda, whose late father once served as NAR president.

The national trade group, which counts an estimated 1.1 million members around the U.S., claimed the candidate’s anti-LGBTQ beliefs are antithetical to the NAR code of ethics. The organization’s bylaws oppose any form of discriminatory bias on the basis of “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In a statement, NAR further urged federal lawmakers to pass HR 1147.

“We certainly hope that Congress will support the elimination of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” the group said.

As Rohrabacher gears up for the June primaries in a district Hillary Clinton won by two percentage points in the 2016 presidential election, the conservative claimed that being abandoned by the NAR wouldn’t help his chances. The organization has, thus far, donated $5,000 to his reelection campaign.

“It certainly can’t do me any good to have people take me off their endorsement list,” he claimed. “It’s sad to see [NAR’s] priority is standing in solidarity with making sure a stamp of approval is put on somebody’s private lifestyle.”

Rohrabacher’s opponents have already begun to use his anti-LGBTQ comments against him in the race.

Calling the statements “outlandish and unacceptable,” Rouda told the Register: “What Dana Rohrabacher fails to understand is discrimination is discrimination. It shows how backward his thinking is.”

The Republican also opposes the Violence Against Women Act and LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination in the workplace.

Former Lesbian Air Force Member Considers Legal Action After Dishonorable Discharge And Hard Labor Sentence in 1982

Shedreamt back to the bookcase in one of the rooms of her house in a small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In her mind, she would count the books, over and over. She pictured the carved wooden elephant and the Russian nesting dolls sitting on the shelves.

Anything to transport herself out of the walls of Leavenworth Military Prison.

“I would be at home and seeing the snow fall,” she recalls. “I would be at the window and watching the snowflakes fall softly. I would feel the snow fall on my body.”

Or she’d be up on a roof. An airplane would come to rescue her.

Joann Newak had been sentenced to seven years hard labor. She was 23 years old, just coming to terms with her attraction to women. It landed her in maximum security military prison.

“The very first lesbian relationship I had was with the partner that testified against me at my court marshall,” she says. “It’s like screwing around for the first time and getting pregnant. That was my first experience.”

The year wasn’t 1930. The country wasn’t on some far-flung continent. It was 1982. She was stationed in New York.

Newak is among an estimated 100,000 LGBTQ former service members that were discharged without an “honorable” distinction. When “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) the military policy banning service members from serving openly, was repealed, their discharges were never upgraded.

More than 30 years later, she considers, for the first time, that she may be owed an honorable discharge. Her attorney, Elizabeth Kristen, says they are going to pursue legal options to obtain one.

Newak’s story is complicated and painful. She came from a proud military family. During WWII her father was a merchant marine and her mother a nurse. Her uncle was a captain in the navy. Several other relatives had served.

“I was very patriotic, and I loved my country,” she says. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to pursue the Air Force also further my education.”

She attended Syracuse University and was commissioned in 1979. She was stationed at Hancock Field Air Force Base in Syracuse where she enjoyed the work. But in 1981, things changed.

According to Newak and court documents, it started with a female airman who was facing her own charges of driving while intoxicated. The airman reported Newak’s relationship with her girlfriend, Lynne Peelman, in exchange for leniency.

Court documents reveal that the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) directed the airman to go undercover to dig up information on Newak and Peelman. During that time, the airman pretended to ingest what the group assumed were amphetamines and smoke cigarettes laced with marijuana.

The “amphetamines” turned out to be diet pills.

Newak and Peelman were told they were under investigation. There were assigned the same attorney, Captain Raymond Smith. But Peelman was offered immunity to testify against Newak.

“They pulled me into the JAG Office or whatever it’s called, and they essentially ordered me to testify,” Peelman says. “They told me I had to. ‘If you don’t this is what’s going to happen to you.’”

Smith resigned as Newak’s attorney, but stayed on as Peelman’s counsel while she testified against Newak.

Newak was sentenced to seven years hard labor in maximum security prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Newak fought to appeal her conviction, arguing that it was a conflict of interest for Smith to represent the woman testifying against her when he previously had access to privileged client information.

The Air Force rejected that claim.

For the first five months, she lived in almost complete isolation. Unlike the other women at Leavenworth, she was not allowed to take meals or sleep in the same room as her peers.

“You become very institutionalized, when you go to eat, when you go to work,” she says. “Lockdown is at night, when all the lights are out. It was really bad.”

Her punishment was so severe and so shocking that it caused a media firestorm. In 1982, the Washington Post wrote about the “bizarre and nearly unbelievable story of heavy-handed military justice.”

“Newak finds herself locked away, and with her life possibly in ruins, for being found guilty by an Air Force court of first offenses that were not only nonviolent but would probably not be prosecuted in civilian courts,” the Post wrote.

The following July, the same reporter wrote that his letters to Newak were being opened by prison staff without justification.

“By making an example of her, it was sending the message to gays, and others whose private behavior was suspect, to keep away,” Colman McCarthy argued. “To those already in, a warninglove the wrong sex or smoke a joint, and you’ll be jailed.”

The negative press had an impact. Newak’s sentence was reduced from seven to six years. Then it was cut in half to three years. She ended up serving 14 and a half months. She was released on parole for two years.

Newak was “dismissed” from the Air Force, the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge for officers.

She couldn’t go home. Her family was humiliated.

“Being from a small town, it was really looked down on,” she says. “I was embarrassed. My mother, she was embarrassed. My older sister was afraid it would affect her and her teaching job.”

Feeling like her family didn’t want to having anything to do with her, transferred her parole to Syracuse where she stayed for two years.

“I would have done anything to protect my country,” she says. “And I still feel that way. But I was branded. I was proud and I was stripped of it completely. They wanted to stamp me out completely like I didn’t exist at all.”

Her dismissal meant she was never eligible for military benefits like home loans or low-cost medical care. And she lost the career she loved.

So did Peelman.

In July 1982, the Air Force sent her packing with an honorable discharge. But the discharge was stamped with the designation of “sexual perversion and conduct unbecoming.”

“I just so regret how everything conspired,” she says of testifying against Newak. “What I should have done was sought out my own lawyer, but damn we were young and naive and there was nobody to ask anything to.”

Peelman became a postal carrier. It was a good job, a job she loved. It wasn’t her calling. It wasn’t the military. And she never got over testifying against Newak or the fallout from that.

Newak has done a lot to distance herself from the pain of her incarceration. She only told people closest to her what happened in the military. She has lived in fear it would ruin her, cost her her job.

Today, she works at CVS. She has a partner of 14 years. She lives in California, far away from Leavenworth or Hancock Air Force Base.

“All these decades or years that have gone by it’s almost like it was erased from my memory,” she says.

But earlier this year, a 90-year-old lesbian won her bid for honorable discharge after 60 years of living with the same humiliation Newak felt. Helen Grace James made national headlines in January when the Air Force finally gave her an honorable discharge.

Newak’s sister Kim read that story and called James’ attorney, Elizabeth Kristen at Legal Aid at Work.

The memories flooded back, but instead of being nervous or letting the bad feelings take over, Newak thought about what it mean if she won an honorable discharge. She deserved that. She would have done anything to protect country back then. In fact, she still would.

“I thought, ‘Well, I’m 60, what the hell am I afraid of?’” she says.

The U.S. Air Force did not respond to a request to comment.

A Three-Day Weekend at Inndulge Palm Springs

Although you can’t go wrong with the SoCal lifestyle, living in L.A. can often take a toll. Sometimes you just need to escape the traffic and the constant Hollywood hustle. Thank god for the three-day weekend.

I recently hit the road to spend a few days in the desert oasis of Palm Springs. What it lacks in beachfront appeal, it makes up for in its charming retro Americana motifs and its unbeatable queer culture. With many gay resorts (most of which are clothing optional), it’s an ideal destination for a sense of community, as well as some good queer fun.

I spent the weekend atInndulge Resort, one of the desert city’s more desirable clothing optional resorts for gay men. Having recently undergone a complete renovation at the hands of owner, Jon Jackson, it’s just the place for a weekend of pampering by the saltwater pool with friends, old and new. But unlike most of the gay resorts in town, Inndulge trades in the gratuitous sexcapades (which are often just what you need) for a sense of community.

Day 1:

After a short drive from L.A., kick off your Palm Springs weekend with happy hour at Wang’s. The Chinese restaurant is an unusual but popular choice for a gay gathering. The long-running Friday happy hour in their sprawling outdoor space is the perfect spot to dip your toes in the Palm Springs scene, complete with go-go boys and cheap booze.

After working up a good buzz, it’s time to check in at Inndulge. The friendly staff will give you a full rundown of the property, from its lobby library of books and movies (including adult titles) to its saltwater pool and 12-man Jacuzzi and its outdoor common area that’s usually offering either continental breakfast, complimentary afternoon cocktails, or a BYOB happy hour. The pool area is also 420 friendly.

Had a lovely weekend in Palm Springs. Thanks for having me, @inndulgeps!

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Get settled in your recently remodeled room before hitting the pool. Go in your cutest summer suit or nothing at all, whatever you find comfortable. There’s an unmistakable sense of community that makes it the perfect location for making some vacation friends.

For dinner, invite your new friends or ride solo over toTrio. Located in the heart of Palm Springs, it offers a warm and upbeat ambiance with a colorful SoCal motif. The prix fixe menu features Midwest comfort food with a California edge, including classics like calamari, St. Louis style spare ribs, and a house-made chocolate brownie.

If you’re up for another dip, the pool at Inndulge is open 24 hours. And night swimming is the perfect opportunity for the shy pool-goer who wants to try skinny dipping, just once.

Day 2:

When you’re hungry, head out to East Arenas Road, where they gay bars are already in full swing. There are multiple locations for a good brunch and bingo. But we recommendBlackbook. Their bacon, egg, and cheese “brunchwich” is a classic breakfast food served in a cool and contemporary bar setting.

After brunch, head over to North Palm Canyon Drive for some Palm Springs shopping with a midcentury desert flair. For some good unique thrifting, hit upGypsyland andIconic Atomic. Don’t pass up the essential Palm Springs fashions at theTrina Turk andMr. Turk flagship location. Check out some unique homoerotic art atWoodman/Shimko Gallery. Don’t forget to visitJust Fabulous for all your Palm Springs gifts, queer literature, and eccentric novelty needs.

Shopping in Palm Springs is an adventure…

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If you’re not afraid of heights, take a trip up Mount San Jacinto on thePalm Springs Aerial Tramway. The world’s largest rotating tram car, it offers beautiful vast views of Palm Springs and the surrounding desert during the two-and-a-half-mile ascent. Once you get to the top, there are restaurants, observation decks, and 50 miles of hiking trails, so don’t forget your good boots.

Head back to Inndulge, and enjoy what’s left of the day by the pool. The staff usually has a batch or two of complimentary cocktails, ready to serve you poolside. Or bring your own beverage for a happy hour and some socializing with the other guests.

Get ready for dinner, and head out to Lulu California Bistro. One of Palm Springs’ most popular gay-friendly gatherings, its colorful hip décor and vibrant crowd exemplifies the best of classic Palm Springs. With a menu of classic dinner favorites, you must end the meal with the flourless triple chocolate cake.

After dinner, head over to East Arenas for drinks and dancing at Hunter’s. Go-go boys and drag shows keep the party going all night. Three blocks of gay bars make for a convenient barhop.

Day 3:

Wake up refreshed and head to the courtyard for continental breakfast. It’s an essential morning ritual for planning out your day or recapping the night before. Follow it up with a dip or a lounge around the pool.

I found God… she’s in Palm Springs

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For a unique adventure, take a little day trip down toJoshua Tree National Park or Salvation Mountain. The latter is a secluded hill in the desert of Niland, painted by Leonard Knight with beautiful colors and the message “God is love” as a shrine to his religious journey, welcoming people of all faiths to have a spiritual experience. Tunnels, caves, and abandoned vehicles are adorned with colorful details, making for the perfect photo op and a very unique experience. It also happens to be where Kesha shot her “Praying” video.

On the way back, stop at Salton Sea. White sands and blue waters with mountain vistas make for a beautiful afternoon by the beach. It’s a peaceful way to cap off a weekend of relaxation before heading back to L.A.

Trans Drag Queens Make Drag Better

While at RuPaul’s DragCon in L.A., INTO asked several of the show’s most beloved contestants (past and present) what they believe trans queens contribute to drag. As Aja opens with, “I think they contribute the drag to drag.”

Flying While Black, Queer, And A Person of Size

Every week, I rush through my local airport, making sure I have enough time to complete my flying rituals. Flying has always brought me a great deal of anxiety, and it’s not just because of how tedious the boarding process can be. Adding to the anxiety of moving through TSA in a timely manner and the stress of making it to my gate is the feeling of who I am and the space I take up.

My experiences from boarding to reaching my destination cause me to reflect on each of my identities. In some cases, the experiences are connected to my racial identity, while others are connected to my size. But as of late, flying as a Black, queer, person of size means taking up more than someone’s space; it means infringing on the totality of another person’s level of comfort.

As any marginalized person can tell you, living with multiple oppressed identities means living a life where you are constantly having to navigate multiple painful experiences, all at the same time. In my case, as a Black, queer, person of size it is no different when I fly. The experience is often one where you are trying not to overthink the actions of others, while still trying to stay present with the actions of others in response to the person you are.

From the feeling of wondering if someone doesn’t want to sit next to you because you are Black, queer, a person of size or all of the above, flying with said identities is in fact, daunting.

Knowing that a non-person of color may push past you when it is time to board, or someone might bump you or talk over you without saying “excuse me” can really leave a lasting impression. Let us not forget the moments when you board with first class and someone says, “Oh, I need to get to my seat,” insinuating that you could not possibly deserve the opportunity to stand in first class with everyone else. When that person can’t imagine you paid for the upgrade so that you wouldn’t have to make someone else uncomfortable in economy.

Even more painful are the moments when you worry about sitting next to someone, constantly touching them or bumping them because most seats are not made accessible for your size. And of course, my favorite moment of having to sit next to a cis hetero male and having them ask to move seats because your very existence compromises their toxic masculinity.

Keep in mind that all of these things happen before the plane actually takes off.

There are several times I was made to feel both large and small while in flight, and how demeaning it was to me as a Black person of size. In one situation, two white women who boarded the plane together talked across me as I sat in the middle seat. When offering them the chance to switch seats, they actively ignored me and continued with their conversation. On another occasion, a gentleman saw me storing my luggage over him and when I asked him to get to my seat next to him, he called a stewardess and asked if he could be reseated. When said stewardess said no, he grabbed his items and got off the plane.

Flying as a Black queer person of size is stressful because we live in a world where we must be hypersensitive of both identities and the politics that are at play with both of them. In a world where a Black person of size is worried that they may have the police called on them for just existing on an aircraft, it is imperative for folks to understand there is privilege in being able to fly comfortably. What’s disconcerting is how many Black, queer people of size fly and very rarely do we hear about the experiences they have and why airline companies should be paying them more attention.

So how does anyone who holds privilege help make the flying experience better for Black, queer people of size?

Well, first, know that being in economy class, our bodies will at some point touch. It is a given, and if I had the money for an extra seat or to fly first class every time, I would. However, your being uncomfortable with our bodies touching only complicates the experience for the both of us and only adds the the emotional taxation that flying has on Black queer people of size.

Some of my best experiences flying have come from those who have checked in with me because they see me and my struggle, and how complicated flying can be. Flying is stressful for anyone and your discomfort with me and my existence only makes the travel that much more complicated.

In moments when we can give attention to the needs of others, specifically those who are marginalized daily, we not only are we making someone’s experience better, but we are in fact making the skies that much friendlier.

Image via Getty

Monet X Change Dishes on Planning Lip Syncs, The Vixen and Pussycat Wigs

Everybody get out your sponges and get ready to soak up Monet X Change. The New York queen, who delivered the very best lip sync of the season and one of the best in the show’s history, sashayed away on Thursday’s episode of Drag Race. But she’ll always shantay in our hearts due to her trademark humor, wit and of course her pussycat wigs.

Monet X Change took some time to talk to INTO about her tenure on the show and her upcoming Target sponge line. (That’s a joke.)

Back on day one, what was it like to walk into the workroom and see so many black queens on this season?

It honestly was amazing. RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of the most inclusive competition shows and to see so much chocolate representation was amazing.

Also, what about the number of New York City queens. Did you feel relieved to see them or did it make you nervous?

It was very comforting to see the NYC queens because we are all so different and it was really cool to see the five of us represented.

You forged a friendship with Eureka during the season. What made you two vibe?

I recognize her desire to make people like her. We are all drag queens and we are all flawed, and I love that Eureka wears all her flaws on her sleeve.

You were somewhat of a lip sync assassin this season, and I’m wondering, what for you goes into planning a Drag Race lip sync versus just one you would do at a normal gig?

I am trying to find the nuanced thing to do in the number and I try and read what the viewer is reacting to and give more of that so they will have a good time.

You have the most iconic lip sync in Drag Race season 10. Have you performed “Pound the Alarm” since you did it on the show and do you do the fake death drop move?

If you want to know that you have to come see me live!

I wanna talk about The Vixen. You were one of the queens on camera who was very vocal that you believed she was being too negative. Do you think it was the stress of the competition? Have you been able to be closer since the show wrapped?

It is the stress of the show and the frustration she was having because of her performance on the show. You get caught up in the moment of trying to win and show RuPaul how fierce you are and I think she just took that out on Eureka.

What did you make of the judges harping on you for your pussycat wigs? Do you feel like there’s a bias toward like a pageant-y aesthetic among the judges’ panel?

I really appreciate RuPaul’s guidance and help getting me outside of my comfort zone with my looks. However, I do think that short hair is beautiful and I love that my pussycat wigs help portray that.

It often felt like you were giving them 100% Monet X Change and the judges were just asking that to be tweaked to their liking. Were you thinking at all during the competition of like, staying true to yourself but changing to play the game?

No, being authentically myself is what got me there. They wanted me to try something but at the end of the day, what I went with in my suitcase was authentically me and that’s what I delivered. I alway appreciate their direction and will take some of the feedback with me as I move forward in my career.

You were in the bottom two twice in a row. After that you enjoyed a long streak of being in the top without winning. What do you think changed after your lip syncs?

I think that I remembered why I was there. Miz Cracker left me a note saying “10 Things I love About Monet” and that note helped set me back into the reality of the show.

I want to talk about this week’s challenge. Did you feel you were judged too harshly for the “drag family” resemblance between you and Tyler?

We didn’t really get terrible critiques and we weren’t judged that harshly, which is why I was surprised that we were in the bottom.

I saw last night you brought a bucket of sponges with you to Roscoe’s. Are sponges now officially part of the Monet X Change brand?

Absolutely. We are going live at Target starting next week, official line of Monet X Change sponges! If only…

Now that there are five queens left, who is your favorite to win?

Miz Cracker. She is my friend before the show she is my friend after the show and I think she is fucking fierce and cool.

9 Easy Ways Cis Women Can Help Trans Women For Mental Health Awareness Month

Trans people are under attack in this country. While it might be easy to attribute trans-antagonism and anti-trans legislation to Tr*mp, this shit has been going on for decades which is not to say he and his yee haw masses aren’t making it worse with their lowkey but not so lowkey obsession with trans women. It’s just a thing no one wants to talk about because then people would have to admit they stand by idly while institutional and countrywide social oppression and inequality go down on a daily basis.

Cis women, specifically, are often spoken for and used as scapegoats in arguments against the validity of trans women. When people say trans women are a threat to women in bathrooms, people are aware that this is not fact and that there is not a single statistic to back this up. However, these trans-antagonists know that the stereotype is a prevalent one and that few people are invested in fighting and dismantling it. In this case, cis women need to speak up and tell the truth that really it’s cis-men who are the biggest threat to women in bathrooms, here, there, and everywhere.

Cis women have influence in this situation and can do a lot to help trans women. In fact, I’ve listed nine easy ways that you can help. If you’re a cis woman (or know one) who is looking for extra incentive to help trans women, consider Mental Health Awareness Month your reason. Because mental health is a big concern in the trans community but how couldn’t it be in a world like this?

Gifting unused clothes and shoes

Have any clothes that you don’t like or that don’t fit anymore? Gift it to a trans woman who may not have many clothes in their wardrobe that represent their gender in a way that feels comfortable and authentic to them. While you may not be exactly the same size, trans women are innovative and creative and likely can figure something out with your clothes not your shoes though, those do have to be the right size.

Helping trans women learn about and practice hair and makeup skills

Trans women learning how to properly do hair and makeup is like starting a race 15 minutes after everyone else. Life isn’t a race, of course. The point is that cis women need perspective. They need to understand how far ahead they are for having access to these things, where trans women often don’t have the space to safely play with hair and makeup before they come out. Simple things like what order to use makeup products in or how to do quick styles in your hair are not such basic knowledge to some trans women. I, for one, knew and still know very little.

Have a hair and makeup party and practice putting on products together. Do your trans friend’s makeup or style their hair. Pass on your favorite tips and tricks. Hair and makeup may not be your favorite thing nor is anyone assuming cis woman equals hair and makeup expert but to trans women, the skill with which they’re able to do hair and makeup can be a matter of life and death.

Gassing trans women up on social media

Trans women presenting as their authentic selves in public is an act of courage and resistance in a world where people try to tell trans women that they’re nothing more than men in a dress. So when you see trans women posting pictures, show them love. It’ll mean a lot, especially to those dealing with dysphoria who have trouble seeing themselves as pretty or feminine and/or see features they consider “male” to be larger than they are.

Standing up to transphobes; putting in the work as an ally

Lots of people say they support trans women but few are willing to put in any work. Allyship is about more than performative activism on social media. It’s about calling out someone’s bigotry when they speak it. It’s about marching with us when there are opportunities. It’s about being present at rallies and protests where trans women trans women of color in particular are more likely to be targeted, provoked, and attacked by law enforcement. Speak up (and listen), be present, and put in the work. This is what movements for justice, trans or not, require.

Helping pay for hormones and any other medications

Hormones and medication expenses can easily begin to stack up and feel overwhelming for trans women. This is particularly the case when unemployment is such an issue in the trans community. “Transgender people experience unemployment at 3x the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to 4x the national unemployment rate,” GLAAD writes. So, if you have disposable income, help out a friend who might really need it.

Familiarizing yourself with the statistics

Get on your computer and do some searching. I can’t do all the work for you. But here are a few particularly painful statistics from GLAAD’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey: across the board, 29 percent of respondents were living in poverty (2x the rest of the country). However, more specifically, 43 percent of Latinx respondents, 41 percent of American Indian respondents, 40 percent of the multiracial respondents, and 38 percent of black respondents were living in poverty (3 times the general population). 17 percent of the respondents said they received such severe treatment in school that they withdrew. 30 percent of respondents have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. And, finally, 40 percent of the respondents have attempted suicide (almost 9 times the rate in the U.S. population).

Keeping an eye out for job opportunities and networking your friend out

As previously mentioned, trans people are 3 times more likely to be unemployed than the cis population with trans women of color being 4 times more likely. Success in most industries, in one way or another, depends on who you know and, more specifically, who knows you. When you see, overhear, or have opportunities, forward them to trans women. Introduce your trans friends to professionally relevant people and recommend them when they apply for jobs within your company or in related companies.

Attending a trans support group together

This may, unfortunately, not be possible for everyone depending on where you live. There are many cities and states that have little to no resources for trans people. The best you can do is search up any local queer organizations, if they exist, and see what resources they provide. If you’re able to find a group, many allow attendees to bring a support person (this is you). These groups allow trans folks to form community with one another and often, most importantly, to see that they’re not alone.

Signal boosting the hell out of the trans women that we lose

Trans women live in an increasingly dangerous world. It’s an unspoken reality that trans women aside from the elitist, Ca**lyn Je**er types and the like have to tread carefully in a world that is obsessed with them, for better and worse. “Victims of anti-transgender violence are overwhelmingly transgender women of color, who live at the dangerous intersections of transphobia, racism, sexism, and criminalization which often lead to high rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness,” GLAAD explained in a call to the media about the coverage of anti-trans violence.

The Human Rights Campaign kept a running list of the trans people who were stolen from us in 2017 and are keeping a running list this year (the current count is 11). ‘Shot and killed’ is repeated a lot on the lists. Queer organizations and media aside, few in the mainstream talk about the trans women that are killed, let alone say their actual names and correct pronouns. That’s why it’s more important than ever for people to use social media to show the world that trans women are a priority to us and that we won’t allow their oppression to be pushed under the rug.

Follow GLAAD’s advice to the media when you’re speaking about these trans women and you’ll be just fine.

The Increasingly Dangerous Gaze of Todrick Hall

Todrick Hall’s gaze has always disturbed me.

I’ve never understood how an artist who occupies the social reality of being a black gay man could make a theme park out of the interlocking realities that oppress all black gay men at different degrees. There has been a creative guilt I’ve felt about not resonating with the images and sounds Todrick Hall produced because we share the same identity and there are so few black gay men at the forefront of industries outside of fashion and beauty.

However, every time I interact with Hall’s work, I’m left feeling empty and claustrophobic, as one does when their experience and identity are reduced to a clever Pepsi commercial.

Over the years, the artist who first rose to fame on YouTube has received a lot of criticism for how he represents his own blackness and how he imagines the blackness of others. And his professional and personal relationship with Taylor Swift, who occupies a highly racialized space in public pop culture discourse because of her now infamous saga with rapper Kanye West, has only exasperated this.

When it comes to blackness, Swift is best-known for building a career by positioning herself as a victim after the infamousKanye West VMAs moment in 2009. In the public battles since, Swift continually tries to paint West as a bully and herself as victim, to the point that Kim Kardashian West famously had to intervene to show that Swift was openly lying about not cooperating with West after he included her in his song “Famous.”

While Hall has stood by his friend through all of these public spats with West, and even released social media statements defending his own identity against the constant efforts that use Swift to discredit him on various identity levels, his latest work only exacerbates many feelings about the black queer man.

And now he’s truly showing where his gaze unapologetically sits: Hall is fixated on whiteness, and he now is using it to consume black bodies.

“Thug,” his latest music video, includes an entirely black casta first for Todrick Hall of shirtless and oiled black men. Hall sings lyrics about how he used to have desire and affection for men who had more feminine performances, but now he interested in a more hyper-masculine lover who is both black and a “thug.” The video offers a layered insult to black manhood is layered; it’s just plain tone tone deaf, to say the least.

In an era when black men are mostly in the news because of the demonization of their identity due to the hyper-masculine brute trope, you’d anticipate more care and nuance from an artist when they finally decide to center black manhood, especially when the art is being produced by a black man who loves other black men platonically and romantically.

It is confusing to watch Halla black gay manreproduce hyper-masculine and hyper-sexualized stereotypes of black gay men that are just as insulting as when Taylor Swift imaged black women as twerking props in her own “Shake it Off” music video. How is this possible?

Identity is not the sum of what informs artistic production; there is also the gaze. Your gaze determines how you interact with the world around you, other people, and even how you see yourself. Todrick Hall is not any less black or gay than any other black gay men, but his gaze is one of a white supremacist mainstream culture that prioritizes an appeal to large demographics over having artistic and political integrity with respect to marginalized folks and folks of your community. Swift and Hall’s identities and experiences might be vastly different, but their gazes are near identical.

Todrick Hall’s mainstream gaze is not sustainable for himand it is dangerous. Much of Hall’s performance and representation reminds me of Pecola, the main character in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Pecola is a dark-skinned black girl who desperately wants blue eyes. By the end of the novel, Pecola has literally gone mad in her search for the white supremacist aesthetic (re: blue eyes) that she believes will bring her acceptance, fairness, and beauty.

What Pecolaand Todrick Hallfailed to realize is that no black person can center and uphold ideas of white supremacy without it eventually chipping away at one’s sanity and happiness. The music video for “Thug” was the first piece of evidence that Hall’s grasp on a reality that centered and exalted himself and his community was loosening, and that he is likely to produce more images that feel disconnected from the world he occupies.

Todrick Hall’s actual eyes are hazel, but it is tragic to see that his creative and political gaze is blue-eyed, neutral, and dangerous for the very people his body represents.

Including himself.

Header image via Getty

How Death Positivity Helps Me Mourn The Living

There are many ways that death has followed me throughout my life. I was born with my umbilical cord wrapped around my throat and a disability nearly caused my death several times as an infant. When I was three and I stopped growing, my growth hormone, before it was made in a lab, was taken from cadavers.

Fearing death dominated my childhood so much that I became extremely paranoid. Growing up with a gay parent and hearing about Matthew Shepard, I had to trust the friends I brought home into my life. Already having been bullied in school for supposedly being a lesbian, I didn’t want to give them any reason to escalate the harassment physically. While I know I’m not personally going to be targeted, the spectre of death is ever present.

But so much of death is about mourning people who have died, when, for LGBTQ people especially, there is a kind of death that is not really discussed, explored or acknowledgedthe death and mourning of the living. Estrangement grief is a thing, and it’s complicated to mourn a person who is not dead.

Death positivity” is about coming face to face with mortality and, instead of fearing and ignoring it, embracing it. I came across this movement through the“Ask A Mortician” channel on YouTube run by Caitlin Doughty, who is also behind the death positivity movementOrder of The Good Death. Fundamentally, death positivity is about challenging the way our society views death and creating a culture that allows people to be more prepared and ready to make the difficult choices around death that they may be avoiding.

All around the globe, people have signed up to be part of The Order of The Good Death, and this may mean something as simple as taking an active interest in making end of life wishes to educating people locally about burial options to campaigning in local government for options such as water cremation, which aren’t available in all areas.

The process of becoming death positive is about embracing the realities that lie at the end of my life, it also has helped me embrace several lessons that have helped me live my life.

I am estranged from both of my parents: one of them disowned me and the other has mental health problems that make a relationship between us difficult. Other family members either don’t show very much interest in me or, when I have attempted to reach out for support, have either not responded or told me they were tired of “weird.” As someone who has always felt quite strongly about family ties, these losses were difficult to endure. But the lessons I have learned through death positivity have made them much easier to cope with.

1. Sadness is not shameful.

This seems obvious, but it isn’t. Part of death positivity encourages people to think about what choices they want for their bodies after death. That got me thinking about the complex way I’ve felt about funerals I’ve been tohow cold and incredibly formal they’ve felt and how awkward it was to express strong emotions in austere settings. I decided I didn’t want the people I left behind to feel how I felt. I wanted them to feel like being sad was okay. And in doing so, I had to tell myself that it was okay not only for the people who lost me to mourn, but for myself to mourn the people I have lost.

Estrangement isn’t always permanent, but holding on to the hope of change in many instances can end up causing more pain than it’s worth. It may seem on the outside that your estranged relative has more of a chance of coming back into your life than a dead relative, but that isn’t true for everyone.

Giving others the space to grieve helped me understand that it was okay for me to grieve. At least now when I mourn the loss of people in my life, I can accept that I have these feelings and not fight against them.

2. Grief and recovery aren’t linear.

In thinking about how I wanted to prepare as much as possible for my loved ones before I die so that they don’t have to stumble around in the process of grief, I had to come to understand it more. Despite the presence of death and loss in my life, there have been few family members I have actually felt sadness at losing. My mother was 18 when she had me and her mother was 18 when she had her, so I have a relatively young family. I lost my grandfather and step-grandfather when I was in high school, but I knew both of these men as abusers of my mother.

When they passed, I wasn’t even remotely sad. Many of my great uncles and aunts had passed, and I lost a second cousin to a tragic accident, but I didn’t have very close relationships with these people. It was when my great grandmother died in 2013 and I didn’t have the money to fly home and attend her funeral that I came face to face with my biggest loss.

One of Caitlin’s videos talks about the reasons people fear death, and one of them is the impact it will have on their loved ones. Much of what I suspected from both Caitlin’s videos and the crowdfunders I’ve contributed to for funeral costs spelled out the reality of the impact “traditional” funeral homes and their soaring prices can have on families. I had to understand that grief is expressed in so many different ways and it’s not as simple as “letting it go.”

In the case of my great grandmother, losing her felt so odd and numb that I had almost no emotion when I heard the news that she had passed away. She was 98 years old and the morning I got the news, I’d had a funny feeling that she was gone. Without having ever experienced a massive loss, I didn’t at the time know what was normal. And I secretly felt ashamed that I hadn’t shed many tears, though I told nobody.

Years after her death, I was trying to recall how she made biscuits every Sunday morning for breakfast. My mind walked through the process of her pouring flour and lard on her biscuit pan, but there was a lot I couldn’t remember. When it occurred to me that I couldn’t ask her anymore, something broke in me and I finally cried. After being active in Death Positive communities, I knew and understood that grief wasn’t linear and that sometimes the sadness comes and goes when it wants.

Likewise, I stopped telling myself to “let it go” when I was grieving estrangement from my parents. When you experience a loss, you have good days and you have bad days. Thinking about my own death and preparing for it meant thinking about what my loved ones would go through in their grief. I would never expect them to just stop feeling their feelings, so why should I expect my feelings to suddenly go away?

3. Celebrate the time you have.

The Order of the Good Death may sound very morbid and odd to some. But in her videos, Doughty points out that “the good death” is not about failure if you don’t plan, but about the idea that avoiding conversations about death ultimately means much more hardship than addressing it at all.

Facing my own mortality in a healthy way encourages me to actually take advantage of the time I have. When death becomes something that moves from being in the unknown, terrifying and looming but never addressed to being looked at, planned for, and understood, that also means that you’re more likely to take advantage oflife.

Loss and grief become part of the process of death and equally part of the process of life. When I learned to address the fact that all life will end including my own, it felt easier to for me to cope with the idea that several of the relationships I once valued and held dear in my life were also at an endand that’s okay. And what’s more, it’s helped me appreciate what time I do have and know not to waste it on people who hurt me or don’t respect me for who I am.

Death positivity may sound like a bizarre notion, especially as a queer person and a disabled person fighting in many instances to stay alive. It’s not about wanting to be dead. It’s not about being happy about dying. But it’s about facing the reality of death in a way that isn’t the paranoia and fear I’ve had sit heavy on my shoulders.

And doing so has helped me cope with what a lot of other people like me go through when we lose a family member either because of our own identities or because of their inability to accept and see us for who we are in a loving and positive way. Reckoning with the face of grief and mourning has given me tools to use to cope with a different but also painful kind of loss.

Because I embrace the fact that I will die, I live better.

Image via Getty