‘Sex Education’ is Queer, But the Gayest Part is My Crush on Gillian Anderson

Since her days as Dana Scully on The X-Files, Gillian Anderson has amassed a widespread and, um, vibrant queer fanbase. Basically, we all want her to tear us limb from limb and eat our faces. The British actress, who is queer herself, has riled up her lady-loving fans for years with her austere performances, killer power-suits, and willingness to openly flirt with Kate McKinnon.

Her latest endeavor, a teenage-centric Netflix dramedy called Sex Education, is queer as can be, with lesbian sex scenes and numerous LGBTQ leads. But the gayest part of Sex Education is actually the velocity at which my heart throbs for Gillian Anderson.

One boy in the show refers to Anderson’s character as a “sexy witch,” which would normally be the ultimate compliment, but in this case, barely scratches the surface of her sex appeal. Gillian plays Jean, an acclaimed sex therapist and promiscuous mother to 16-year-old Otis, who is sexually repressed as a result of his unconventional upbringing, being surrounded by phallic statues and jarring conversations about sex. Anderson wears motherhood well, despite usually playing less maternal characters. But she maintains her ever-severe disposition. Throughout the show, Gillian does a lot of staring in a British accent. There’s also some glaring in a British accent, judging in a British accent, and lots of intimidating in a British accent—all of which confirmed that I want Gillian Anderson to step on me.

I’ve written about the queer community’s desire for Brie Larson to punch them in the face—a craving I definitely share. But underneath Brie Larson’s superhero exterior as Captain Marvel, there’s something sweet and endearing about her. The same cannot be said for Gillian Anderson. I am scared of her, she makes my bones quiver, and I want her to stomp on my face and leave an oily black shoeprint on my forehead. What I’m trying to say is: I’m so gay for Gillian Anderson that my desires for her have surpassed normalcy. She has radicalized my lesbianism and I would let her do ghastly things to me, especially as the perpetually lustful Jean from Sex Education.

While I initially watched the Netflix show so I could pretend Gillian Anderson was yelling at me, Sex Education actually turned out to be one of the best shows I’ve seen in the last year. I expected to be bored during the evergreen virginal teenager content, but was pleasantly surprised by how gay it was. Long story short, I ended up unhinging my jaw and swallowing the show whole in less than 24 hours, leaving a tear in the space-time continuum where my TV used to be.

Queerness is ubiquitous in Sex Education, and does what every show or movie should do with sexuality: the show finds the delicate balance between normalizing queerness and removing its shock factor, and illustrating how sexuality can still be a big deal for certain people. For example, there’s Eric, a flamboyant gay guy and best friend to Otis, who is cursed with heterosexuality. What I love about Otis and Eric is that they’re lifelong besties who visibly diverge in personalities, sexualities, and interests: Eric is theatrical in his exuberant temperament and garish outfits while Otis is mild, both behaviorally and in his lackluster wardrobe which says “I’ve been wearing these clothes since I was 11.”

I hate having to say this, but it’s nice to see an unlikely and intimate straight-gay male friendship. It shouldn’t be rare, and I don’t want to call them an “unlikely” pairing, but they are. Otis and Eric are the perfect example of how life should be—straight white males like Otis, when freed from the prisons of toxic masculinity and homophobia, can form close bonds with gay men without feeling like others will think they’re gay by association (which, newsflash, isn’t a bad thing—it’s a compliment).

I’ve seen other straight-gay male friendships attempted on-screen before, like in Set It Up (2018), when Pete Davidson and Glen Powell were paired as besties—but their entire relationship felt forced, like Powell’s straight character was constantly calling out his friend’s queerness, as if to say “Look how chill I am with this dude being gay! I can talk about it without even being weird!”

In Sex Education, there’s no leftover bro detritus or defensiveness. Otis and Eric openly talk about their romantic endeavors and give each other advice on both girls and boys. They dress up in drag to attend a showing of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Eric playfully grinds on Otis and slow-dances with him at the school dance, just like a pair of girls would do without being judged, labeled, or experiencing gay panic. We, as the audience, can see how special and unique Otis and Eric’s bond is, and how Eric’s queerness is NBD to his best friend. However, Eric’s sexuality is a big deal to other people in his life.

Eric’s father, who teeters on the edge of being openly homophobic, reprimands his son multiple times throughout the series—not necessarily for being gay, but for dressing up and standing out, because he worries about his son’s safety (which is heartbreakingly compromised when Eric is attacked by vicious straight men on the street).

Queerness is also a big to-do for Adam, the repressed school bully who (surprise surprise) targets Eric because he’s got a secret crush on him. We’ve seen this storyline tons of times before—looking at you, Karofsky from Glee. However, when the trope is contrasted with the low stakes queerness of the other characters, it works, as it demonstrates the spectrum of homophobia that unfortunately exists today. For example, it’s worth mentioning that there’s an out lesbian couple in Otis’ high school and no one ever targets them and they’re never the butt of the joke. The couple has a few cringey sex scenes, and later seek Otis’ expertise for sex and relationship advice—which, again, is NBD to him.

Unfortunately, Gillian Anderson’s character isn’t queer (that we know of—the show’s only in its first season and she’s clearly very sexually open). And even though I was totally sated by the range of queerness and LGBTQ storylines that Sex Education had to offer, I was markedly distracted by Anderson’s angular bone structure and Miranda Priestly hair. I would recommend this show to anyone who’s starved for queer content—so, everyone—but I would assign it to any queer Gillian fan. Jean offers the gravity of Stella Gibson in The Fall, the intimidating, lengthy pauses of her character in The Spy Who Dumped Me, and the fiery sex appeal of 1,000 mean lesbian suns.

But be forewarned: Watching Sex Education while crushing on Gillian Anderson will likely create a big gay black hole where your TV used to be—binge at your own risk.

Idaho Appealing Ruling It Must Provide Gender Confirmation Surgery to Inmate

The state of Idaho is arguing that gender confirmation surgery is not medically necessary. The Gem State is appealing a court order that it must provide surgery to a transgender inmate who is self-harming.

Governor Brad Little announced last week that the state will fight a U.S. District Court ruling that found it cruel and unusual to deny inmate Adree Edmo’s gender-affirming surgery.

“The hardworking taxpayers of Idaho should not be forced to pay for a prisoner’s gender reassignment surgery when individual insurance plans won’t even cover it,” Little said in the announcement. “We cannot divert critical public dollars away from our focus on keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders.”

Many insurers, however, do cover transition-related care, and Medicaid covers gender affirming care.

If anything Edmo’s case may test public opinion over whether gender-affirming healthcare is medically necessary. Courts across the nation have already largely found that prisons are required to provide transgender inmates healthcare, which includes hormones and gender-affirming surgery.

“When a person urgently needs medical care because they’re seriously in danger of health consequences and they don’t get it, then courts have made clear that that care must be provided,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Attorney Amy Whelan, who is representing Edmo.

In Florida, a federal judge ruled that the state’s Department of Corrections must provide hormones to a transgender inmate and recognize her as female. The state is now appealing that ruling, a move that a dozen LGBTQ advocacy organizations are fighting.

In Edmo’s case, Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said that the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) had ignored medical standards in refusing Edmo treatment for gender dysphoria.

“This constitutes deliberate indifference to Ms. Edmo’s serious medical needs and violates her rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Winmill wrote. He gave the state six months to provide Edmo with surgery.

Edmo, who had been self-harming behind bars, said the ruling was a relief.

“Not having the care I need is like being in a prison within a prison,” she said in a statement. “Even though I am still living, it has felt like I have been dying inside.”

But many in Idaho have taken issue with the ruling, conflating Edmo’s past crimes with her being transgender. The governor’s office notes that Edmo is serving a 10-year sentence for sexual abuse of a minor.

An article on Edmo by ABC Local 8 News also parallels Edmo’s gender with allegations of sexual abuse. The article repeatedly deadnames and misgenders Edmo (this piece has not been linked as INTO does not condone either practice).

The article quotes Edmo’s ex, Brady Summers, who says he survived an abusive relationship with Edmo. But the station allows Summers to question if Edmo is even transgender.

“Never once indicated anything of gender dysphoria or sexual indifference,” Summers is quoted saying. “He was a predator. He, on several occasions, had his way with me. It was brutal.”

Asked to comment on the decisions to run the piece and its violations of the AP Stylebook and GLAAD Media Guide, News Director Curtis Jackson stood by the story.

“In our research the story is correct,” Jackson said in an email. “The reason we aired the story is because of the high interest in the prison case.”

Other articles note that Edmo would be only the second person in the nation to receive a bottom surgery behind bars. Advocates argue, however, that that hardly matters as many others have won the right to transition-related healthcare.

IDOC officials argue in Edmo’s case that gender-confirmation surgery is not medically necessary.

“If Ms. Edmo had a broken arm, we’d all agree it should be treated,” the state’s Chairman of the Board of Correction, Dr. David McClusky, said in a statement. “But disagreement among medical professionals in this case does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.”

McClusky’s reasoning that gender affirming care is elective, however, flies in the face of consensus among major medical associations.

Richard Saenz, Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist at Lambda Legal, said the law is clear when it comes to providing medically necessary care for all behind bars.  

“As a queer person who does this type of work, it’s difficult when we lose the idea of dignity and humanity of people who are incarcerated,” Saenz said. “I can understand, but I disagree with people who say they don’t deserve this healthcare. I believe that’s coming from a place of bias against transgender people in general, and it’s not where doctors are.”

Image via Getty

This Kristen Stewart and Stella Maxwell Split Ruined My Holiday

My holiday season was less-than-happy because my favorite celesbian couple broke up just as my gay ass was attempting to start feeling jolly. Kristen Stewart and her (wipes tear) now ex-girlfriend Stella Maxwell are no longer together — and neither is my life.

Yes, it was inevitable. Yes, some have referred to the Twilight star as a “serial dater.” Yes, celebrity couples typically split after two years of dating, but I had such high hopes for this power couple. I thought it would end in wedding bliss at a star-studded, royal style, Chanel custom-designed double dress, celesbian wedding in Paris.

But after two years of high fashion runway shows, exclusive film premieres, A-list Hollywood parties, sharing clothes, cold-pressed juices, and passionate PDA, the hot celesbian heart-throb couple have ended their relationship.

There was a very brief red flag in October, when Stella was suddenly no longer following Kristen’s (private) IG account (someone slid into my DMs and told me — I do, outside of loving celesbians, have a life.) But the error was corrected not long after, and our celesbian queens were once again following each other.

The couple started their relationship in 2016 and I guess 2016 would also be the last great year America saw — it was President Obama’s final year in office and it was the year “Kristella” began.

I am so grateful that I get to exist within the same lifetime as these people. Especially given the mass adoption of social media (not to brag, but Obama follows me on Twitter). In this social media obsessed culture (where if you don’t post a pic of bae does bae even exists?) one thing that stood out about their relationship was that Stella never posted a single photo of Kristen to her 4.2 million Instagram followers — if you were lucky, you maybe could barely catch a glimpse of Kristen’s arm or leg in one of Stella’s stories, but that’s about as much as we ever got.

As you know, the Instagram “follow back” is the re-branded version of the “Facebook relationship status.” For those in your early thirties, you may remember how serious it was if your Facebook relationship status changed. If the other person was actually tagged, it announced your partnership with a photo of the two of you together on everyone’s timelines. It was basically a millennial marriage.

And now with Instagram taking Facebook cyberstalking to heroin-like levels, we can see who followed whom, when they followed them, and how many of their photos they liked. This is an INCREDIBLE amount of information for someone like me who loves to keep up with the latest Hollywood celesbian gossip — but when it led me to finding out that my own ex had finally moved on and had a new girlfriend, I became not-so-fond of these intimate features.

Anyway, time heals all wounds, right? Well, this Kristella breakup has left a gaping puncture wound in my hopeful, celesbian power couple-dream heart. For fans of celesbian culture, Kristen and Stella had picked up where Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson left off in 2008 — simpler times (sans the broken bottles being thrown in nightclubs and the ever so common restraining order) — but Sam and LiLo gave us young queer women a feeling of hope and excitement. At that time and for our generation, Lindsay Lohan was the most recognizable household television and film actress dating another woman. Her openness about dating a woman was monumental; it gave queer women worldwide visibility and validity, even if the press did often attempt to minimize their full-fledged “women who love women” relationship to “gal pals.”

I remember seeing Lindsay Lohan on The Ellen Show in 2009, the year after her breakup with Samantha. Ellen casually talked about how Sam and Lindsay had come to her birthday party together where Sam had DJ’d — ooh, to be a gay fly on that celesbian wall! Kristella gave me that exact same excitement and feeling of being seen. Sam and LiLo existed in a pre-social media world —  but now, I could look at new photos of Kristen and Stella virtually as they were being taken.

One of the highest paid and most well-known actresses Hollywood, the face of a worldwide terrifyingly popular film franchise (I never got the whole vampire thing, tbh), dating one of the most in-demand models — a Victoria Secret model at that — beautifully stunning women that are specifically cast to make men drool over them and make women aspire to be them were dating each other! Kristen was on the FROW (front-row of a fashion show) in Paris watching her girlfriend Stella walk the runway debuting the first look for the new Chanel collection, both of them mingling with Karl Lagerfeld (who seems to be quite fond of lesbian models himself) after the show. It was something straight out of my own fantasies and dreams.

When Stella attended Kristen’s directorial film debut screening in Beverly Hills (which I also attended…with the aforementioned ex…deep sigh), I thought, “maybe Stella and I share some sort of deep universal connection right now —  newly single and quickly moving on with new women.” (And if I may speak for us both, downgrades at that!) No shade to this new girl, Sam or Sarah Stylist Somebody, who looks like an intellectual. Intellectual stimulation from a partner seems to be something Kristen longs for, but she clearly has a weakness for beauty — not that I blame her.  It even happened to me earlier this year, when I attempted to take a long-time Instagram model crush out for a Valentine’s Day date, which crashed and burned after I discovered her black-out alcoholism. The prettiest people do the ugliest things.

The two archetypes Kristen always seems to oscillate between are the silent glamorous beauty or the articulate creative intellectual. Another reason I believe Kristen longs for an intellectual partner comes from a major hint I picked up from a December 2017 interview Stella did with the Italian women’s magazine GRAZIA.  Here is an excerpt from that interview:

I think that excerpt speaks for itself.

Let me be clear: This is not to drag Kristen, nor Stella. I adore them both. I don’t know who broke up with whom, (although my money would be on Kristen calling it quits) or even if it was mutual, but what I do know is that most “high fashion” models are simply not intellectuals and are usually low-key homeless. Not to be shady, but if you travel as much as they do, why would you want to pay rent for a place that you’re barely going to have time to actually live in?

Recent paparazzi photos of Kristen and her new gal, seem to suggest that Kristen has been staying at her new girl’s place—my guess is to give Stella time and space to figure out where her and her little gay dog are going to go. Maybe she can crash with her fellow model BFF Barbara Palvin, or maybe she can be an erotic third with her Russian hottie pal Irina Shayk and Bradley Cooper.

Bella Hadid might even be a good option, SEVERAL Tumblr Lesbians™ believe that Stella and Bella Hadid low-key dated and slept together casually a few years back and that Bella Hadid has ALLEGEDLY taken many a dip in the lady pond. Her close friendship with Kendall Jenner only validates this in my mind. Kendall Jenner’s queerness is an entirely different article. (Catch one of my live stand-up shows to possibly hear my Kendall Jenner Gay theory. It’s deep.)

Maybe Stella could be petty and messy and crash with Kristen’s ex’s ex Cara Delevingne— I’m pretty sure Cara has a home. Although it does seem like she crashes on friends’ couches a lot, like that week she was continuously photographed outside of Gaylor Swift’s New York City apartment every morning? And who could forget how close Cara and Kendall were? R.I.P. “CaKe.”

Remember not too long ago, but also low-key forever ago, when Cara Delevingne dated (and was madly in love with and proposed to) Annie “St. Vincent” Clark, but then St. Vincent broke up with Cara for Kristen and then Kristen broke up with St Vincent for Stella? *Alice Pieszecki voice* Maybe Stella should date St. Vincent! That would be weird and confusing, but also everything.

Or maybe she could Airbnb at  O.G. Silver Lake celesbian Amber Heard’s place while Amber travels the world trying to be the new Meghan Markle. (Jk, love you Amber let’s grab tea at Covell next Saturday). 

Stella could even get back with Miley Cyrus! And yes, Miley Cyrus and Stella Maxwell dated! It was in 2015 and it was very hot and cute.

Possible plans for Stella’s romantic future aside, I honestly feel just as heartbroken over this breakup as Stella and Tripp the dog must. Meanwhile, Kristen is seemingly feeling no pain. If I had her bank account and was the hottest celesbian in the world, I probably wouldn’t be feeling too much pain from a breakup either.

However, this breakup was undoubtedly the WORST part of 2018 for me. After a few days of silently grieving their split, or maybe being in denial about it all, I’m still not quite sure. I was reminded of the way life always seems to restore the balance, how when something bad happens, that usually means something good is to follow. Yin-yang; night, day; happy, sad. We need that balance; we have to have shitty moments so that we can know when to appreciate the good times. Just like this current era the world is experiencing, after this awful phase, we will see more love, more peace, and more unity as a result of all the turmoil we are enduring right now. Once again, the balance of life.

So cheer up, Stella—I’m sure there is some hot, up-and-coming young actress/model/singer looking for a high profile relationship to boost their TMZ ratings. You and your gay dog will have a home again in no time! As for us, the celesbian royal watchers, well, when one door closes, another one opens. And God has blessed us with more hot, young lesbian models. And he even put a cherry on top—they are WOMEN OF COLOR. I wish I were lying when I say I’m crying while typing this, but I’m not.

Allow me to introduce you to the new celesbian power couple of 2019 and 2020—Aqua Parios and Selena Forrest. I can hear you say “Who?” I had never even heard of them until a faithful follower on my @BettePorterGallery IG account DMed me and told me to check them out. (Shout out to @cleopatranising.)

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👭🏽❤ lez be happy😚

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Selena and Aqua are both up-and-coming New York-based models of color that are currently dating each other and recently got engaged. They’re both incredibly stunning and are both extremely out. Just one scroll through Aqua’s instagram (@aqua) and see for yourself— their relationship is on display bold and clear for the world to see *cries*. May I please just say, THANK YOU AQUA. THANK YOU SELENA. GODDESS BLESS YOU BOTH.

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❤️

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I have been dreaming of this day for so long — a young, relevant, hot black or brown celesbian couple and here they are. The best Christmas present of all. Aqua is Blasian (Black and Japanese) from Arizona and Selena seems to be biracial as well, from Cali. I’m not sure how they met, (assuming through work) but they seem to have been dating since sometime in 2014. Congrats on your engagement, ladies. I look forward to you both becoming household names on your rise to the top and seriously THANK YOU for your VISIBILITY and for being OUT and PROUD with your LOVE. We need more of it. I’ll see you both at the wedding.

And goodbye, Kristella! I will always love you. (*Whitney Houston voice* Sidenote: please watch the Whitney documentary if you didn’t. It has ALL the TRUE Robin Crawford Whitney Houston lesbian relationship tea, as well as confirmation that Cissy Houston — Whitney’s mother, did not want her daughter to be gay and did not like her girlfriend Robin.)

2020 Presidential Hopeful Apologizes For Past Support of Anti-Gay Conversion Therapy

A 2020 presidential hopeful has recently come under fire following allegations she worked for an anti-LGBTQ organization which promoted conversion therapy.

U.S. House Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) issued an apology on Monday after CNN reported she worked for the Alliance for Traditional Marriage at the age of 17. Gabbard’s father, Mike, founded the pro-family group, which was originally called Stop Promoting Homosexuality America. It was effectively disbanded in 2004.

In 1998, Mr. Gabbard posted a message to the organization’s website expressing support for discredited treatments seeking to “cure” homosexuality.

“[W]e must… renew our efforts to reach out with love and compassion to those who are addicted to homosexual behavior,” he claimed, “and encourage them to seek help through the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), ‘ex-gay’ ministries such as Exodus International, Courage, Homosexuals Anonymous and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (P-FOX).”

At the time, Tulsi Gabbard dismissed criticism of her family’s anti-LGBTQ activism as the work of extremists.

When her mother, Carol Porter Gabbard, ran for the Hawaii Board of Education in 2000, Tulsi Gabbard claimed “homosexual activists” were engaging in a “war of deception and hatred” to stop her campaign.

“They know, that if elected, [my mother] will not allow them to force their values down the throats of the children in our schools,” the younger Gabbard said.

As the youngest-ever elected lawmaker in the Hawaii State Legislature, Tulsi Gabbard doubled down on her parents’ opposition to equality. When Hawaii voted in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, her father’s organization spent more than $93,000 in support of the ban.

Then 21, Tulsi Gabbard claimed her father was merely trying “to protect traditional marriage.”

“I learned that real leaders are willing to make personal sacrifices for the common good,” Gabbard told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in an interview. “I will bring that attitude of public service to the legislature.”

During her single term in Hawaii’s legislature, the Democratic lawmaker opposed bills legalizing civil unions and protecting bullied LGBTQ youth.

In a speech to fellow House representatives, Gabbard warned the anti-bullying legislation would lead to children being taught that homosexuality is “normal and natural.” She also expressed concern that “homosexual advocacy organizations” would infiltrate K-12 schools to “promote their agenda to our vulnerable youth.”

But days after announcing her intention to take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, Tulsi Gabbard expressed “regret” for her anti-equality stances.

“I’m grateful for those in the LGBTQ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey,” she said in a statement to CNN. “Much work remains to ensure equality and civil rights protections for LGBTQ Americans and if elected president, I will continue to fight for equal rights for all.”

INTO reached out to Gabbard’s office to inquire about how her opinions on conversion therapy have changed over the past decade. This publication did not receive a statement prior to press time but will update should one be provided.

LGBTQ groups said Gabbard must expound on her LGBTQ rights platform—including her views on conversion therapy—if she intends to campaign in 2020.

“This will be a robust primary with many champions of equality in the race,” said

Stephen Peters, Human Rights Campaign’s Senior National Press Secretary, said in an email to INTO: “Anyone running for president and trying to win the support of the 10 million LGBTQ voters and our allies will have to not only explain past positions but articulate a vision and agenda for the future.”

Orientation change efforts, which entail a range of practices from shock treatment to talk therapy, remain legal in 36 states. These states include Arizona, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

Gabbard’s home state, however, passed a law banning conversion therapy in 2018.

But as states like Colorado, Maine, and New York move to join the growing list of states banning conversion therapy, others say Gabbard’s “personal journey” on the issue mirrors the public’s own evolution on reparative treatments.

“Every day more Americans like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard are coming to understand the dangers of conversion therapy, which too often contributes to depression and increased risk of suicidal behavior,” said Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, in a statement shared with INTO.

Gabbard is one of four candidates to officially declare their intention to run for president in 2020. Others include former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

Warren also recently apologized for missteps in her record on LGBTQ rights.

During her 2012 campaign against Republican Scott Brown for governor of Massachusetts, the progressive standard-bearer claimed gender-affirming surgeries for transgender prisoners are not “a good use of taxpayer dollars.”

A spokesperson for Warren claimed those were no longer the candidate’s views.

“Senator Warren supports access to medically necessary services, including transition-related surgeries,” the spokesperson for her exploratory campaign told ThinkProgress. “This includes procedures taking place at the VA, in the military, or at correctional facilities.”

Both Warren and Gabbard earned perfect ratings of 100 on the most recent HRC Congressional Scorecard, indicating universal support for LGBTQ equality.

Image via Getty

Agender People Debunk Myths About Their Identities

Agender people often do not feel a desire to perform within gender roles, as they often feel they exist outside of them.

“A person who is agender sees themselves as neither man nor woman, has no gender identity, or no gender to express,” Dr. Meredith Chapman, a psychiatrist at the Children’s Health Genecis Program told Teen Vogue.

In order to continue the ongoing conversation and growing knowledge of the various ways in which gender exists, it’s important that we shed more light on agender people’s experiences — so that the cisgender and the LGBTQ community alike can better understand how this community exists. It’s especially important for others who may be questioning if they are agender to find any resources that can to help them navigate their identities.

INTO interviewed eight agender people about the myths they would like to debunk about their identities, and what society should know about what it means to be agender.

Tab, 29, They/Them

When I was in sixth grade, my head was shaved for medical reasons — and I had a lot of identity crisis issues. I hadn’t hit puberty or anything like that and a lot of kids called me a boy, as if it was sort of an insult. They knew I was one thing and they called me another and it was just sort of a teasing torment. And I remember not wanting to have to dress overtly feminine just avoid getting labeled as a little boy by all of my classmates, like I shouldn’t have to wear pink to not get called a boy. I don’t want to get called a girl, but I don’t want to be called a boy.

In high school, my mother gave me a science fiction book called Commitment Hour. It’s Sci-Fi but [in a] more fantasy setting. It follows the characters in a village where they can basically change their sex every year until their 18th birthday and then they get to choose what they want to be. And if they choose, they’re called “neuts” and so I was like That is me! I don’t want to be one or the other, I don’t want to be anything. From that point — it was around 2004— I was calling myself “neut” and then as I got older I sort of went into hiding.

I guess I’m considered closeted by most standards of identity stuff because it’s kind of hard. My mother’s the only person who’s really supportive of this—the rest of my family is religious. I’m married. My spouse is supportive, but my spouse’s family probably wouldn’t be. So it’s just a weird struggle to self-identify and be proud of who I am, and at the same time, I don’t want to have to get into arguments.

And now there’s words for it — non-binary, gender nonconforming, agender. There are so many names and I’ve been calling it neut for the last 20 years.

Being agender is really hard because even in circles and communities that you think will be supportive, especially LGBT circles or supposedly sex-positive and open communities, you still receive a lot of questioning. I can’t wear anything that shows off my female sex characteristics or whatever because people are like “Oh, how very agender of you” and it’s like what do they expect me to be? Some sort of lifeless blob you can’t identify? Am I supposed to look like an alien with no human features whatsoever?

Even places where you think there’s spaces for you to identify this way, it’s still kind of difficult.

The biggest misconception of being agender is that you have to be completely androgynous.  A lot of people go for androgyny because it’s the closest they can get to sort of registering on both scales, it’s kind of like a compliment for somebody to go “Are you a boy or a girl?” because that legitimately means they cannot identify your sex based off of your looks, which a lot of genderless people try to seek. But by no means do you have be completely androgynous to be agender.

Gender expression is a personal thing — it’s our personal identity. And, yes, we want to be validated and have people accept us when we say “Yeah, I don’t have a gender” — but you can have a full beard and be agender. You can have massive breasts and be agender. Some people feel more comfortable to remove their breasts or shave their beards or grow their hair out long to achieve a balance of whatever their sex traits are, but we shouldn’t have to.

Older people have felt this way for years. The concept of being genderless has existed but we are just now only getting terminology for it. So just understand we do exist, we’re not a bunch of crazy people, we’re not a bunch of young kids just wanting to stand out — most of us are just trying to fit in and be accepted without leaving our comfort zones or going beyond ourselves. You want to be yourself — you don’t want to be somebody else just to be valid.

Dee (Daniel), 33, Any Pronouns

I have been in feminist and in LGBT circles for a long time, and my roommate came out as non-binary years ago. My husband started using they/them and identifying as non-binary about a year ago.

Talking about gender and such with them, I debated a long time whether I counted as cis anymore, because I have never really had a problem with people IDing me as a woman (usually online because I have a beard IRL). I still usually say cis-adjacent for the simple fact that because of my beard, I’ll get IDd as a cis man regardless of if I wear makeup or not. This means I benefit from cis male privilege, even if I don’t think any gender expression feels particularly right to me.

There is a lot to think about and discuss around agender, non-binary, and presentation versus identification. I paint my nails and wear some light makeup, but I still present mostly masculine.

I think one of the misconceptions is that agender folks are trying to force everyone else to be agender — that it’s somehow invalidating trans folks’ or non-binary folks’ lived experience — which couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are all trying to figure out what we are doing with these meat sacks we call a body and live our best lives, as short as they are.

My biggest personal struggle is finding ways to express my lack-of-gender since I don’t like how I look without a beard, but it’s seen as a huge masc identifier. Most of the androgynous tips online are for thin white folks like David Bowie. I’ve started wearing my hair asymmetrical and more gender-neutral in an attempt to get some semblance of androgyny.

Society should stop focusing on others’ gender expressions, and if someone asks you to use certain pronouns/name, use them! Everyone’s gender/expression will be different. Even among cis folks, there are huge variants on how people present their gender.

Talk, think, and try things out. Try on different gender expression, try out different pronouns. You’ll probably know when something suddenly feels right, though not always! I’ve been trying out going by Dee instead of Daniel (it was a childhood nickname and more androgynous) and I’m not sure if I like it better or not. And that is OK!

Nicky, 20, He/They

I discovered I was agender when I was in tenth grade. I never felt correct identifying as a woman, nor did I feel like I was a binary trans man. I made a failed attempt to force myself into the binary when I was first exploring what it meant to be trans, and proceeded to bring more misery upon myself. I couldn’t figure it out. If I wasn’t a woman, and I wasn’t a man, what was I?

When I discovered the agender identity, it felt like a breath of fresh air. There were people with similar stories to mine, and what they saw themselves as aligned with what I could see in myself. I first came out as agender when I was 15, and I will be 21 this June.

There’s no correct way to be agender. Being agender doesn’t require androgyny, and androgyny isn’t inherently masculine, as mass media tends to show us. There’s truly no concept of passing when it comes to identifying with no gender at all. You can be agender and present how you want, no matter the gender you were assigned at birth, as agender people’s identities are all incredibly unique.

My experiences as an agender person have been met with confusion. There’s still a long way to go in education about gender identity, as many people I’ve come out to along the way have questioned me endlessly about my gender, often assuming I’m a confused woman, or equating gender exploration with puberty. Sometimes, this is the case, and I’m all about allowing gender to be explored, and no limits or boxes for what it means to identify. But, this is who I am, and who I am proud to be. I’m not a man, I’m not a woman, I’m extraordinarily Nicky James Ballard.

It’s not always difficult, though, and I’m thankful for the people who take the time to understand where I’m coming from, the ones who have met me with open arms and continue to support me.

I can only hope that as we continue to spread the word of gender identity, the concept of identifying with genders other than male or female becomes more normal. I wish that being taught about gender identity, expression, and gender dysphoria was more accepted in the sexual education curriculum in high schools. I want people to know that there is nothing wrong with questioning gender, learning about gender, and exploring their own, and what gender, or lack thereof, means to them.

On, 31, They/Them

There was never one pivotal moment for me in knowing myself as agender. It started four or five years ago when I revisited some of the feelings in my youth, because back then there wasn’t really any equivalent terminology around gender. In hindsight, I would say I was experimenting with gender expression by putting on makeup or more traditional feminine clothing.

I guess it came from a different place but gender definitely played a central part in it. After a while, the pendulum swung in the other direction. I was performing masculinity, and then over time I grew more uneasy with fitting either masculine or feminine identities.

It wasn’t really this one moment where I really realized I was agender. I knew I didn’t know how to really navigate any of those binary genders, and I realized nothing really fits and that it may just be neither. It’s not that I’m in between or somewhere outside, but none of those identities are applicable for me. I wouldn’t know how to position myself in either way.

I definitely pass as a cis male and most of the time I’m just read as a cis male, but it depends on the space and how comfortable I feel in expressing more of my ambiguity. It’s been a difficult experience, but my partner is really supportive and she’s helped me a lot to be more affirmed in who I am, and feel more at ease, and that kind of led to me opening up to my friends a bit more.

It’s still difficult because it’s already hard to even explain what binary trans means to people, and so to explain what an absence of gender means is challenging. It’s been the same with my family as well, they are always assuming that I’m in between two genders.

The most important thing is not to pressure yourself; a lot of the narratives that are circulating about agender people are focusing on this journey that ends at some point and the person feels at home with themselves or they feel more complete and affirmed. And that could put a lot of pressure on people because from my experience that journey slows down and you have a little pause here and there when you think of your gender identity — I believe if you identify as agender today and you realize “Oh, I actually might be cis” the next day, or whatever, that’s completely fine. These different labels can put on a pressure to choose and settle on one identity.

But it’s okay for your identity to be temporal as you begin to know yourself and allow yourself the agency to move around within your own fluidity.

Winter (or Winston), 20, They/Them

It’s funny: I discovered my agender identity in a similar way to how I realized I was asexual about two years prior. I was having trouble understanding who I was and how I wanted to express myself, and how the two connected. I felt like I was missing something that other people seemed to be in touch with. I knew of the term agender for some time in high school but never thought much of it until my senior year, when I suddenly realized that it was actually the perfect word to describe myself.

There are so many misconceptions about agender people, and many of them probably apply to other non-binary genders as well, but here are some that I’ve come across in my day to day life:

People (mostly bigots) tend to have this idea in their minds that agender people just don’t understand nature, biology, psychology, or science in general. I actually excel in biology and psychology. I’m currently working towards a bachelor of science in psychology and started doing undergraduate research in my college’s neurochem lab at the start of my sophomore year. And I identify as agender. So I’m basically living proof that this myth isn’t founded in fact, but prejudice.

People seem to believe that because we are genderless, agender people’s experiences of our genders, how our internal experiences affect how we interact with the world, and how the world treats us, are basically the same as men and women, because how can a gender that’s not there affect a person’s experiences? Our perspectives tend to be ignored in favor of a more gendered, binary world view. However, I think agender people can have very special perspectives that should be taken into consideration when discussing gender-related topics, especially topics like gender discrimination and the patriarchy. I think there is something unique about seeing a world so heavily influenced by gender through a genderless eye. People living in a society that uses gender so heavily to control people, and being still strongly affected by this system even while being genderless, are worth listening to.

When people imagine agender people, they usually picture someone who is AFAB and dresses sort of masculinely. I think this is usually somewhat rooted in two types of sexist thinking. The first being the idea that all AFAB people are weak-minded and easily-influenced girls who can’t be trusted to understand their own experience of gender and must be protected, lest they are tricked into no longer wanting to be girls. The second is that masculinity is seen as a sort of default, while femininity is seen as other, so something that is genderless must be masculine, because if it were feminine then it would be “girly.” However, AMAB agender people exist and feminine agender people exist, and quite frankly I believe they’re too important to be forgotten about.

Agender people are often seen as touchy, angry, confused people who are obsessed with gender. People believe that because we identify in a way they are not familiar with, agender people must spend too much time thinking about gender and must be confused or distressed by it. In reality, I’m very comfortable with my identity and I don’t spend much time at all thinking about anyone’s gender. I feel much more comfortable with myself since coming to realize my agender identity than I did before I knew I wasn’t cis. Really the only time I am reminded of my gender is when I am misgendered, either by a person who uses the wrong pronoun or something, or by a place, like a bathroom or clothing section that is labeled either for men or for women.

As an agender person, all I ask is for people to show me basic human respect. Using the pronouns a person asks you to use for them is basic respect. Calling a person their name is basic respect. Not saying things that would be inappropriate to say to anyone (like questions about a person’s genitals) is basic respect. That is all I want. I don’t ask people to be experts. Allowing yourself to respect people, even if you don’t understand them, is probably the best way to come to understand them in the long run.

Khalypso, 19, They/Them

I knew I didn’t identify with womanhood though it was assigned to me and I certainly don’t feel connected to masculinity. I did some googling and discovered an article about being agender and the descriptions and definition are almost exactly how I feel.

I think with identifying as anything non-binary, especially agender — people see it as some sort of political stance and not an identity. We’re treated like we’re rebelling against the whole world just for existing, and things simply do not work that way. My identity does inform my politics but I shouldn’t be made to feel like a walking protest just for existing as I am.

I’ve experienced a lot of misgendering and harassment since coming out, especially because I made the choice not to seek any hormonal or surgical gender-affirming treatment. It sucks to say that most people are not only ignorant, but hateful towards me for simply wanting to exist and be validated. People take it as a personal affront that you don’t subscribe to a binary so it’s kind of rough just expressing myself.

Society must understand we’re regular people and we do everything people with binary genders do. Stop being afraid of us and stop endangering us. Stop misgendering us and take the time to learn more about the history of gender especially as it pertains to violent Western colonial politics — we’re human beings and we really do just wanna live like everyone else.

James, 28, They/Them

I transitioned to male when I was 19, mostly because I knew I wasn’t female and male seemed like the only other option. I have never been especially uncomfortable with my body or being perceived as either binary gender, but somehow, even at the age of 19, I knew that I would be more comfortable in a body that is as nonbinary as my gender. I discovered nonbinary genders when I was 23, and it was that classic ‘aha’ moment. I have used a lot of different labels to try and define my agender identity, and these days I tend to use gender-null, which is the closest I have gotten to describing how, where most people feel male or female — I just have a void. For me, being agender is not a gender identity defined by the lack of gender, but the lack of any gender identity at all. It’s also possible that I won’t always identify this way! But I am not a time traveler, so I can’t be sure.

Being agender doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything to do with gender or gendered constructs. There are a lot of different ways to feel and be agender. Like any identity category, people who identify as agender have different ideas of what that means (even if the term seems straightforward). They may prefer gendered pronouns, or not. An agender person may present solely femininity or masculinity, or may move between the two, or may blend them to create a sort of nonbinary style. They may pursue transition (and that will look different for everyone) as I have, or they may love their body as it is. Their gender identity may be a significant part of an agender person’s life, or the lack of gender may mean that they don’t think about it at all. Everyone is different, obviously.  

Even though it makes me uncomfortable, I know that providing a space for everyone to name their preferred pronouns is actually really affirming for most people, and I think it is an important practice. Otherwise, what can society do? I honestly think that is just a matter of understanding that there are gender identities and experiences that go beyond male/female. There seems to be some movement toward making nonbinary identities visible, but even then I think there needs to be more emphasis on the fact that there are so many different ways to be nonbinary that the experiences we see in the media don’t even scratch the surface.

There are about various ways to experience gender (or not). They are all valid. Not identifying with any gender at all is valid. Experimenting with gender is the best part about gender, and if you end up at “My gender is agender,” that is cool and you are cool.

Ruth, 39, Any Pronouns (as long as you’re respectful)

I’ve known I was different than my peers since I was four years old. I didn’t know that not being male or female was an option, so at first I thought I was just “weird” or different. I felt like I never quite fit in with my peers. The other girls in school often seemed like a different species from me, but I didn’t feel like I was a boy either.

Then I learned that I’m queer, and I thought that was the answer to how I felt differently than my peers. (I’m open to a romantic relationship with any gender.) I’ve always been interested in “gender-bending” at times, like wearing masculine clothes and having a gender-neutral hairstyle.

It was when I learned about younger people identifying as non-binary that I felt like I found a term that matched how I felt.

A big misconception with being agender is that we’re asking for anything special by trying to get non-binary birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and passports. We just want to be legally acknowledged as who we are, the same as anyone else. (I got my California birth certificate corrected last year and now I’m trying to get my current state – Arizona – to change its laws and issue non-binary driver’s licenses so this topic is on my brain.)

Being non-binary or agender is not a fad and it’s not new. Non-binary people have always existed, but it’s been more recent that we’re being acknowledged.

It’s challenging and draining to be non-binary in a binary-centric society. There are everyday occurrences that people who are cisgender probably don’t even think about but that tell me that I’m excluded as non-binary:

  • Locker rooms (only male and female options).
  • Public bathrooms that have more than one stall (labeled male or female general).
  • Referring to someone as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” There is no gender-neutral option.
  • Ditto for other situations like what am I to my sibling’s baby. I’m not their aunt or uncle. I adopted my own term: “Oggy” (rhymes with “doggy”).
  • When I sign up to run a race, I have to specify if I’m male or female. In my head, I’ve renamed them the testosterone and estrogen divisions.
  • When you buy a plane ticket, you have to specify if you’re male or female. There are no other options and you must pick one.
  • Buying clothes, especially a business suit, can be a nightmare because nothing seems to fit right. I want a masculine style suit, but items in the men’s section aren’t made for someone with my proportions and the women’s section doesn’t have masculine style suits. And my feet are too small to get men’s dress socks in most stores and that’s where the patterns I want are.
  • The TSA – I seem to always set off the spinny-go-round scanner. They’re supposed to give a patdown by someone of the same gender. Every time I’ve asked, they haven’t had a non-binary person there to touch me.

Here’s what happened when I tried to get my travel ID, which everyone in AZ is required to get by January 2020. I brought the required documents, including my non-binary birth certificate, and they couldn’t process the application because the computer can only process a person as male or female.

The risk of being physically attacked or killed is much higher for transgender people, including non-binary people. I’m definitely more aware of my surroundings now.

I find this video by BBC Three titled Things Not To Say To A Non-Binary Person validating when I need it.

There is no one way to be non-binary, so what works for one person may not work for you, and you both may be non-binary people. It’s OK to be confused and questioning. There are websites, online forums, and books you can read as well as LGBTQ groups where you can meet people who are similar to you.

Justice For ‘Soda Pop’: Remembering One Of Britney’s Weirdest Songs

Not only did the 20th anniversary of …Baby One More Time fix climate change and end world hunger, but it also led to newfound appreciation of Britney’s debut album. There’s a whole generation of young people out there who weren’t even alive when Godney brought us this precious, precious gift, so it’s gratifying to see her first record receive some love from the Spotify generation as well.

A number of articles and social media rants posted over the weekend prove that hits from the album like “…Baby One More Time” and “(You Drive Me) Crazy” will continue slaying us till the world ends, but there’s one track, in particular, that’s still not getting the love it deserves and that’s “Soda Pop.”

You’d assume that a song that also appeared on the first Pokémon movie soundtrack would be universally loved by all, but to do so would make you even more wrong than the Ash/Pikachu porn that circulates online.

Despite appearing early on the original tracklist between classic singles like “Sometimes” and “Born To Make You Happy,” “Soda Pop” is often dismissed as an unfortunate byproduct of the time in which it was made, much like Napster or The Phantom Menace.

In a brand new ranking of the album’s track listing, Billboard placed “Soda Pop” in tenth place, besting only “The Beat Goes On,” and EW was even harsher when they argued that it’s one of the four worst songs Britney’s ever recorded. We were more generous when we ranked it in seventh place, but on an album full of classic material, “Soda Pop” still deserves to be celebrated and not just because it’s catchy AF either.

Although super-producer Max Martin was the one who elevated Britney to stardom with her debut single, the lion’s share of …Baby One More Time was actually written and produced by Eric Foster White, who basically worked on every song that wasn’t a single and eventually won a Nobel Prize for his work on “E-Mail My Heart.”

Along with reggae star Mikey Bassie, White co-wrote and produced “Soda Pop,” drawing on influences from the seemingly incongruous worlds of dancehall and bubblegum pop. While the song seems to have left a bad taste in the collective mouth of critics everywhere, fans at the time fizzed with joy at Britney’s soaring vocals and her infectious love of soda popping, even if it did sound like nothing else on the album.

Although it’s easy to see now why the song’s reggae vibes might have sounded out of place back in 1999, it’s also clear that the experimental nature of “Soda Pop” would go on to inform the genre-bending that defined later albums like Femme Fatale and In The Zone. Part of Britney’s appeal has always been her weirdness, and it doesn’t get much stranger than singing about opening a “soda pop, bop, shu-bop, shu-bop” to dancehall rhythms.

Scratch that. It does get weirder, but only when you stop dancing around to this carefree bop and take a closer look at the lyrics. On the surface, Britney’s obsession with soda seems to harken back to more innocent times when dates would meet up at their local diner over a chocolate malt. In reality, though, “Soda Pop” might be more interested in the taste of something else altogether.

When Bassie’s guest vocals first kick in, younger me assumed that he and Britney were just enjoying a casual soda together as all good friends do. However, talk of “monster riding to the music tonight” and leveling the vibes “for a wicked time to the end” took on a whole new meaning for older me.

That’s right. It’s not just soda that Britney’s watching “fizz and pop” in the chorus.

Many are quick to claim that “E-Mail My Heart” is the weirdest song that the Princess of Pop has ever recorded, but “Soda Pop” could easily give it a run for its money, which is why this naughty little ditty will remain a fan favorite “on and on until the break of dawn” and beyond.

“Soda Pop” is many things to many people; A cheesy nostalgia trip, a hyper-sexual ode to ejaculaton, a “vibical expedition” that rivals even the work of the “great poet Homer”… it’s tough to fully encapsulate the song’s strange, strange appeal, which is why we’ll leave it up to Weirdney herself to explain:

“’Soda Pop’ is such a fun song, when you hear it you’re just like ‘oh, I wanna go outside and just, y’know, party’ it’s like a really fun summer song everyone, y’know, just, in your car, listening to, y’know, it’s a great song, it’s a lot of fun.“

Truer words have never been spoken.

Image via Getty

Traveling Solo as a Trans Woman in London

It was when the cashier converted my US Dollars into British Pounds that I knew the trip was real. I was going to London, alone. I had never been and didn’t know anyone there. How would people react to me? My accent? I considered adjusting my look. How do British people dress?

The one thing I couldn’t adjust was my transgender identity.

The UK and I have always had a long distance relationship. We stayed connected through my obsession with Robbie Williams, Doctor Who, and British Bake Off. We needed to be together. One morning, I impulsively booked the cheapest flight I could and secured an Airbnb. I was going. Not even Brexit or reports of increased violence against the LGBTQ community could keep me away.

My makeup was perfect and I wore a feminine floral dress. I was afraid to disturb binary gender standards while abroad. After the six-hour flight from New York, the first person I spoke to was an immigration officer. I feared being detained and somehow ending up in a cell full of men. Mercifully, I breezed through and had my passport stamped.

One of my first stops was Buckingham Palace. I felt compelled to take a selfie. As I took the photo, I noticed a man staring at me. I followed my first instinct and fled. Through the Canada Gate and past Green Park, I thought I lost him. I was wrong. His clothes and demeanor told me he was a business traveler looking to get laid. He matched my frantic pace and wore a diplomatic smile.

“Are you a man or a woman?

“I’m a woman, obviously.”

“I’m so sorry, I was on a trip to Thailand before and needed to know. Can I walk with you?”

“…..”

“I’m so sorry I asked you that. You are very beautiful. I wanted to meet you. Do you live here?”

“Yes. On the other side of the Thames. I have friends coming soon.”

I walked fast but he kept up. He grabbed me and forced me to locked arms. I considered if I should pull away and risk a struggle. I decided to lead us to a public place. We ended up in pub called the Silver Cross. As long as we stayed in the pub there was nothing he could do.  We sat down and he ordered a bottle of Italian Rosé.

“I want to fuck you. I have a hotel nearby. If you are a woman, I want to fuck you.”

His eyes slowly scanned my body as if he were making a map. He took another sip. I hardened myself and look him in his eyes.

“I only have sex with people I love. Unless we have an emotional connection, that would never happen. Have you ever been in love?”

I disarmed him. His forehead started to sweat. I figured he was married and I made him think about it. I started to mention children. How wonderful they are. How I want to have a child.

“Excuse me for a moment. I have to go to the toilet.”

I intentionally sat close to an exit. As soon he was out of my range of vision, I ran out the door. I ran several blocks until I was comfortable with the number of people and buildings between us.

Shaken, I made my way to the Hungerford Bridge to see the London Eye. While taking pictures from the bridge, a man with a German accent must have clocked me as a tourist. He put a necklace in my hand and asked me to help him put it on. While I was savvy enough to keep my valuable near my breasts, I made the mistake of clasping the necklace around his neck.

The man turned to me screaming, “Thank you!” He wrapped his arms around me tightly. I put my hands on my boobs. My wallet and passport were safe there. A warm, prickly kiss touched my cheek and he walked away.

My valuables were with me but my sense of safety was gone. What’s next?

I headed back to my AirBnB. With the door locked behind me, I was safe again.

My eyes glazed over as I stared out the window. The view of the apartment parking lot became darker as the sun went down. I couldn’t stay hidden in my room forever. I decided to venture out again.

Close to my building was a place called Paya and Horse. I mistakenly assumed it was a restaurant. Immediately, I was offered a drink for five pounds. I couldn’t refuse. The owner was a Serbian man with a collection of hats hanging behind the bar. I noticed him change hats at least three times although he wouldn’t admit it.

One by one, a regular would approach the bar. Each time, the weathered pub owner would introduce them as sketchy or shifty; not to be trusted. Then the owner would playfully encourage them to flirt with me.

“Don’t be shy! There is a pretty girl here! Talk to her!”

Each time, they would walk off, red-faced and defeated. I was equal parts flattered and terrified. Halfway through a pint of Fuller’s London Pride, a younger man with shaggy blond hair and thick-framed glasses walk in. He carried a confidence that the other men didn’t. I watched him walk to the bar and hoped that the pub owner wouldn’t tempt him to talk to me. He did.

As he approached me, I noticed his Tapout tank top gently draping over his muscled shoulders. Fighting sports are very popular in the UK. Through conversation, he revealed that he was half Scottish and had been living in London for the last decade. His eyes revealed that he was attracted to me.

We shared stories about Mary Berry and Simon Pegg. He gave me a tutorial on how to speak with a proper British accent. We revealed that we both scream-sing “Angels” by Robbie Williams on car rides. Our eyes met as we both reached down to play with his friend’s dog. I was disarmed.

My sides started to hurt from laughing and the pub owner had to quiet us several times. My mind was playing different scenarios. One was of another life where I was born a cisgender woman and we had several blonde, muscular babies together. The other was me fighting for my life because he learned I was trans.

Several beers later, my legs were shaky. Beer is stronger in the UK. It was time to escape. I knew the way back the Airbnb, but I needed to get there without being followed. I was planning different scenarios when the pub owner started to turn off the lights. He was closing early.

We were all outside and my new half Scottish friend stayed close to me. The entire pub said goodbye and I was alone with him, his friend, and their dog. So many of my rules were already broken and I was incredibly vulnerable.

“Let’s see the Buddha! It’s in Battersea Park! We can take the dog for a walk, then take you home. We have a job in Scotland tomorrow. Where are you staying?”

“Um… around the corner. I can just find my way.”

“Don’t worry, we’re going that way, too. We can walk together so you won’t get lost.”

It was like being confronted by a coiled snake, I was afraid to make any sudden movements. I decided to walk with them.

Battersea Park at night is pitch black. The lack of visual clues allows other senses to take lead. The texture of the ground. The cold crisp wind from the Thames River hitting your skin. The smell of hay from the park zoo.

As we walked down a trail, I felt his shoulder and elbow touch mine. He wanted to lock arms. I pulled away and asked about the zoo. Anything to create space while we walked home. We walked through darkness and I used his friend’s dog to divert any physical contact between us.

My voice. My pitch. We were engulfed in darkness. I had to raise it higher than usual. Under no circumstance could I be read as a trans woman. I never hide my transness. I’m proud of it. This was different. I had to keep it a secret. My life could depend on it.

We started to see street lights and I asked questions about the city. As long as they are talking, I’m not the focus. I’m safe. They started telling jokes about movies like The Matrix. Lilly and Lana Wachowski’s transition from masculine to feminine came up. I braced myself.

“Maybe I’ll cut my balls off. Then I can make a solid film.”

I looked at them and burst into laughter. Laughing at the situation I was in, not the joke. I couldn’t believe what I heard. This wasn’t the place to defend my position on transphobic jokes.

Finally, we made it through the park. It was time to say goodbye. We all hugged and I said goodbye to the playful shepherd dog.

My half Scottish friend wrapped his arms around me and before I could react, kissed me on my lips. It was a gentle kiss that begged me to move to London and start a new life. I stood in shock, I watched them walk away.

He was so sweet to me while assuming I was cis. Would he still be sweet if he learned that I’m trans? I’m still the tall, olive-skinned beauty that sings “Angels” in the shower. I never want to know the answer.

I made it back to my Airbnb in one piece. Behind the locked door, I sat on the bed and fell into a trance. My mind had trouble processing the day. All the adrenaline flowing through my body made my hands tremble. Hundreds of what if scenarios speed through my mind. I started to question whether solo travel abroad is a good idea. Would I ever travel like this again?

The answer is a resounding, yes. Is it more dangerous for a transgender woman to travel alone? Absolutely. I can’t stop being transgender. The dangers I face are real everywhere I go although they change based on the environment and the culture I’m in. I won’t let discrimination based on my identity stop me from living life.

I will see the world and the world will see me. Trans-identity included.

Liberty Counsel Says It Doesn’t Want to Lynch LGBTQ People After All

Liberty Counsel would like the record to reflect that it doesn’t want to lynch gay people.

The evangelical law firm drew controversy last week after President and Founder Mat Staver opposed the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act. He claimed language on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the Congressional bill was a way to “slip” in federal nondiscrimination protections.

“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,” Staver told the right-wing website One News Now on Tuesday.

According to Staver, the anti-lynching legislation would represent “the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation as part of this anti-lynching bill.” (This is false: LGBTQ people were included in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act a decade ago.)

While the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act unanimously passed the Senate last month, Staver claimed Liberty Counsel had been meeting with House lawmakers to remove the LGBTQ provisions ahead of a vote.

But just days later, the Orlando-based advocacy group is rolling back its own president’s statements—saying they were mischaracterized by the media.

In a Thursday press release, Liberty Counsel claimed many outlets “have falsely reported that Liberty Counsel is opposed to banning lynching, or, opposes banning lynching of LGBTQ people.” It called those allegations “false, reckless, and offensive” and claimed they were pushed by “those with a political axe to grind.”

“No one can or should oppose a bill that bans lynching.” Staver stated. “We oppose lynching across the board for any person. Period!”

Staver then attempted to clarify his earlier remarks. As he now claims, he does not specifically want LGBTQ people cut out of the law. He merely believes that enumerating a “list of protected categories” would weaken the legislation by limiting the application of the law.

“Lynching should be prohibited no matter the person’s reason for committing this violent crime,” he concluded.

At the risk of editorializing, that assertion makes no sense and is flatly untrue. The legislation merely recognizes that the vast majority of lynching victims are members of marginalized groups. The NAACP notes that between the years of 1882-1968, 73 percent of the 4,743 people who died as a result of lynching were black.

As hate crimes have surged in the U.S. in recent years, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community have been among the groups most targeted for violence. In 2016, LGBTQ people accounted for 17.5 percent of hate crimes.

Nonetheless, Liberty Counsel accused journalists of pushing “unrelated political agendas by hijacking a serious issue.”

“False reporting endangers lives,” it said.

The lobby group further claimed the fake news campaign against it had led to “death threats” against its employees. Liberty Counsel allegedly received an angry message saying, “All LC leaders must die.”

The individual’s “identity is being traced,” the organization claimed.

Liberty Counsel first gained infamy after defending Rowan County, Ky. clerk Kim Davis for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The law firm—which believes LGBTQ advocacy is satanic, fascist, and pro-pedohilia—has fought against banning conversion therapy and opposed Planet Fitness’ trans-inclusive locker room policy.

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The Weeknd’s New Song is Not Sexy, It’s Boring and Biphobic

Can you believe that in 2019 we still have to deal with the same stale bi- and lesbophobia? 

The Weeknd’s new song “Lost in the Fire” not only sounds like most of his other songs post-“Starboy,” but also puts its listener through an annoying and tired narrative. In the first verse, he’s singing about being sad and alone (again!), but in the second, he starts to opine about a woman who is interested in women, before promising to “fuck her straight.”

The entire stanza is as follows:

You said you might be into girls

Said you going through a phase

Keeping your heart safe

Well, baby, you can bring a friend

She can ride on top your face

While I fuck you straight

Let’s just clarify something here, Mr. Weeknd: No one can be fucked straight. I don’t care how big or powerful you think your dick is, it’s just impossible. Queer women are queer, whether they identify as a lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or sexually fluid. No amount of your D will fuck up her life into thinking she’s strictly dickly from now on. Should she somehow fall for you, she would not be “straight.” There’s not a switch in our G-spot (should you be able to find it).

Secondly, this shit has been done over and over again. Rappers, in particular, have enjoyed this idea of turning lesbians. A few choice examples:

I take a dyke chick if she like dick I kissed the dyke chick and I liked it Fucking each and every Katy Perry for the night bitch, light this.” A$AP ROCKY
 
I be fuckin’ broads like I be fuckin’ bored/Turn a dyke bitch out, have her fuckin’ boys; beast.” A$AP ROCKY – repeat offender!
 
Girls kissin’ girls, cause it’s hot right? But unless they use a strap-on then they not dykes/ They ain’t about that life, they ain’t about that life.” KANYE WEST – another repeat offender!
 
Black girls say they like girls, say they dyke girls/ Type girls lose their boyfriends to them white girls.” JOEY PURP
 
It’s not just rap, of course — misogyny and homophobia knows no genre — but this brand of braggadocio has been the most consistent there.
 
And yet in 2019, we’re still singing the same old songs about queer women as conquests. As if those same ideas don’t connect to the corrective rapes happening in places like South Africa, or the hate crimes taking place in America as well as the rest of the world. The idea that a queer woman’s sexuality can be changed or fixed is the same faulty, fictitious narrative laid out by those who believe in conversion therapy, which, if you didn’t learn in 20Gayteen, STILL DOESN’T WORK. As if we can’t be trusted to know ourselves and our own bodies.
 
When #MeToo started to go viral and Cara Delevingne spoke out about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual advance on her and how homophobic it was, I wrote about my own experience with a rapper who attempted to challenge my identity, chastising me and my relationship with my partner, and eventually cornering me and forcing me to look at his dick.
 
Reader, I am still gay.
 
That dick was not enticing nor life-changing. In fact, it made me gayer. I was so repulsed by this man thinking he had the magic dick — and, for the record, I am not at all dickphobic — it’s all about the person behind the appendage, and the ones who think their dick is magic are delusional and not great role models. His  Louis C.K. act did not convince me to be something other than what I am because cis dudes, despite the power dynamics they so often utilize to their sexual benefit, do not have this magic ability they’ve convinced themselves they have. And furthermore, if a woman wants to have a threesome with you, it won’t be because you are giving her permission and then dictating how it’s all going to go down. Unless you’re coercing her, which, if you haven’t heard, is not fucking cool. 
 
Frustratingly, media outlets and Twitter are paying attention to “Lost in the Fire,” sussing out clues about ex-girlfriends or Drake disses. We’ve become so used to hearing “dyke” tossed around and boasts about girl-on-girl for the sole pleasure of a dude that perhaps it seems like old news, or something easily swatted away as tongue-in-cheek or some kind of funny song fodder. But compared with how little mainstream representation we have of songs by queer women about queer women, the prevailing storytelling done in popular songs that get major radio play dictates how our sexual identities are framed in the larger picture. Yes, we have Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani and King Princess and more visibility than we’ve had ever before, but The Weeknd’s reach is massive, not solely because of his artistry but because of the women that he’s been connected to romantically.
 
The way popular music frames sexuality is often problematic because it insists women’s queerness is so fleeting. The Weeknd literally calls it “a phase”; exactly the kind of language lesbian and bi women have been trying to do away with since, like, Sappho. Men just can’t stand that women don’t want them, and songs like this just prove as much. I’m honestly surprised he wasn’t added to the mix of Rita Ora’s “Girls.”
 
Queer women have to endure a special blend of homophobia and misogyny that seeks to invalidate us in the name of keeping a man from feeling emasculated, and as a card-carrying member of Lesbian Club, I can say that these kinds of bi and lesbophobic song lyrics are embarrassing — not just for us, but for you Weeknd. For you, ASAP Rocky and Kanye and Eminem and anyone else who needs to use our identities in order to feel better about their manhood. That is pretty much the exact opposite of our collective job, which is to make sure women are treated with love and respect and to actually have orgasms. 
 
And just in case The Weeknd says, “This was based on a real woman! She said those things!” I have a message for that woman, who believes dating another woman wouldn’t and couldn’t end in heartbreak: You’re probably straight.

More LGBTQ Chechens Detained Amid Fears of Another Anti-Gay Purge

Arrests of LGBTQ people in Chechnya have reportedly surged amid fears authorities are launching another campaign targeting queer and trans people.

Advocacy groups have witnessed a concerning “spike in detentions of men and women suspected of being gay,” as activist Igor Kochetkov told the Associated Press. Kochetkov, head of the Russian LGBT Network, did not cite specific numbers.

The report arrived just hours after a warning to Chechnya’s LGBTQ community was posted on the social network Vkontakte.

“We ask anyone still free to take this message seriously and leave the republic as soon as is possible,” the bulletin reads. “I ask you to turn to human rights activists, the media, [and] friends who can help you.”

The message includes an email contact for the Russian LGBT Network and the number to its hotline.

Little is known about the arrests. As the Independent reports, the surge in detentions may have resulted from “contacts of LGBTQ Chechens [finding] their way into the hands of the authorities.”

The Russian LGBT Network is expected to provide more information in a Monday report.

More than 100 people were arrested in 2017 after Chechen police reportedly began imprisoning and torturing suspected LGBTQ individuals. Maxim Lapunov, a survivor of the purge, claimed his jailers would flog him until he could no longer stand. When he collapsed from the pain, they would stand him back up and keep beating him.

At least three people have died as a result. This tally is believed to include Zelim Bakaev, a gay singer who disappeared while visiting the southern Russian republic.

Chechen leaders have continued to deny a crackdown is taking place, even after the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) released a report in December claiming “indisputable” evidence of human rights abuses.

A spokesperson for Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov told the Russian news network RBK TV the new claims are “untruth and misinformation.”

“In the Chechen Republic, there are no prisons and places of detention,” said Alvi Karimov, who has previously said Chechen men “have only one orientation and the country’s highest birth rate speaks of its effectiveness.”

Kadyrov has dismissed the reports as “provocation.”

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