Candy Lee Could Be The First Trans Woman On WWE’s Roster

Although it often seems like a delicate dance of two-steps-forward-one-step-back for progressive pro-wrestling fans, it is undeniable that a surge of social change is making its way through the field. On the indies, female and queer stars are making huge names for themselves as beloved underdogs while empowered women and allies work towards mainstream acceptance in the WWE. It’s not surprising that wrestling devotees haven’t been particularly resistant to these changes, given the perhaps counterintuitive liberal leanings of the art form’s fans.

Transgender professional wrestler Candy Lee has somewhat inadvertently found herself at the forefront of this new wave of diversity in the medium. As the current Impact Pro Wrestling New Zealand Women’s champion, Lee has become an almost universally adored face (backstage lingo for a good guy) with fans around the globe.

Lee grew up in Samoa and moved to New Zealand when she was five years old. As a self-described “feminine little boy,” Lee found herself enchanted by the glamour of the pro-wrestling world, despite her introverted personality.

“I rarely spoke, people thought I was mute – my family didn’t get why I was so quiet,” Lee tells INTO. “When I was on my own I was feminine. I loved putting T-shirts on my head and pretending I was a girl. I played with Barbie dolls. I didn’t really know the internet was until I got to high school, I was just closed off from the world. I read books.”

“I was six years old [when I first started watching wrestling],” Lee continued. “My cousins put on the 2000 WWE Royal Rumble PPV. I was watching that and I was hooked. The first wrestlers I ever saw was Kurt Angle and Taz. After that, I was like, ‘This is amazing. I don’t know what this is, but I love it.’”

In the early 2000s, women’s pro-wrestling was hardly wholesome – the WWE was deep in the so-called “Attitude Era” at the time, a phase in which the company aimed for sleaze and shock value, often populating their shows with overtly misogynistic storylines and ostentatious violence. The respectability of the program was not a factor in Lee’s appreciation for the talent of the female competitors.

“I’m not going to shit on the Bra and Panty era,” Lee said, noting her love of legendarily beautiful brawler Candice Michelle. “I live for that. I love every era of women’s wrestling in the WWE. I don’t understand why people disregard the women from back then. Even though they were presented as eye candy, I still resonated with them. It helped me be a fan … Seeing these very feminine women, they just embodied what being feminine was to me growing up.”

In her early teens, Lee’s identity became more crystallized. She began medically transitioning from male to female at the age of 16.

“I went to an all-boys Catholic school, which was annoying,” Lee says. “Did not enjoy that. I felt alone there. I knew I was different and that I wanted to start transitioning, but there was no one else like me. We only had one gay couple and people were so mean to them. I didn’t know if I could handle being picked on like that. What’s worse, though, was that I had long hair and boys would make fun of me. I wasn’t identifying as trans or anything, but they were already making fun of me because of how feminine I looked compared to them.”

Lee’s parents remained cautiously supportive throughout the process– but her passion for pro-wrestling didn’t waver as her body changed. She began officially training in 2015 with one big caveat: she never realized that pro-wrestling was fixed.

“I didn’t know wrestling wasn’t real until I started training!” Lee says. “On my first day of training I thought we had to go in and just fight each other, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do that!’ That’s how closed off I was. When I learned that wrestling wasn’t real I felt betrayed! It’s not that magical! I laugh at myself about it now.”

Lee realized from the start that her status as a trans woman would complicate the shows she participated in, but was met with welcoming attitudes from the start.

“I could tell they didn’t have any issues, that they didn’t really care because I didn’t make it a big thing. I just kept to myself – I didn’t really have to come out because they became my friends and they were understanding,” Lee says.

The backstage politics of the wrestling world are complicated and largely secretive, with many wrestlers purposefully obfuscating behind-the-scenes decisions to protect the illusion of reality. But when it came to Lee’s character, things got more tricky: Would a trans heel (wrestling lingo for “villain”) be possible to write without relying on outdated stereotypes? And how would crowds react?

“Being trans – I thought that me being heel would be a bad idea and [the promotion] agreed. Wrestling fans can be so mean sometimes, so if I was a heel, I worried the fans would attack me personally and not attack the character. I don’t want to be a heel – I don’t want to be a bitchy girl who’s all about makeup, because the fans wouldn’t attack [that part of my character], they’d call me derogatory terms,” Lee says. “I don’t think that’d be fair for me.”

Standing at six feet tall, Lee’s striking looks and powerful move set left a strong impression on audiences, who happily embraced her when she became a champion one year after debuting – making her the first transgender wrestling champion in New Zealand.

“I knew I would cry,” Lee says. “I’m such a crybaby! It was special that my close friends and my parents were there to witness it. My mom was so proud she got up and danced in the aisles. I was like, ‘Oh god, this is embarrassing.’”

Lee’s position as a champion is a rarity in the wrestling world writ large, which continues to struggle with responsible queer representation. Yet Candy remains optimistic about the future. “I think some of the stuff that’s been happening more recently in the WWE has been great,” she says.

“I have such a love for representation. I love that Sonya [Deville] is open and I love that she represents our community,” Lee says of the WWE’s only openly queer person on their roster at the moment. “I feel like she could become a champion. It just depends on the talent themselves, if they’re working hard and if they are resonating with the fans.”

While certain wrestlers have found themselves averse to the WWE’s hyper-corporate ethos, Lee hopes to someday accomplish her dreams and become part of their team.

“If they asked, I would totally do it. It feels so cliché telling people that. Making wrestling a career is my goal either way … For me, it’s not about being the first transgender anything. I just love wrestling. So just making it to the WWE would make me so happy. If I happen to be the first transgender person signed, that’s cool – but just making it there is what I want.”

With Lee setting her sights on mainstream success, it’s unlikely she’ll stop any time soon. That being said, she’s already got the end of her career figured out: “I always joke about doing a bra and panties match as a retirement match!”

Kicking Sarah Sanders Out of a Virginia Restaurant Isn’t ‘Bigotry.’ It’s a Teachable Moment

Sarah Huckabee Sanders never fails to demonstrate irony.

The White House Press Secretary claimed on Friday that she and her family members were asked to leave a Virginia restaurant because she works for the president of the United States. Noting that she “politely” left, she tweeted to three million followers from the official @PressSec account that the store manager’s “actions say far more about her than about [Sanders].”

“I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so,” the spokesperson noted.

Sanders and her father, one-time Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, have held up the incident as an example of intolerance on the part of the left. Huckabee tweeted that “bigotry” was “on the menu at Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, Va.” He further directed customers to “ask for the ‘Hate Plate.’”

“And appetizers are ‘small plates for small minds,’” the former presidential candidate added.

The Huckabees, though, don’t have an issue when the tables are turned: Both support the right of people of faith to discriminate against LGBTQ folks in the name of their religious beliefs.

When Kim Davis was released from jail in September 2015 for refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the elder Huckabee appeared at a rally celebrating the Rowan County, Ky. clerk’s freedom. The two locked hands in a jubilant victory pose as “Eye of the Tiger” played, positioning Davis as the underdog “fighting judicial tyranny.”

The Republican politician would later claim that Davis was only compelled to follow the Supreme Court’s rulings “when it’s right.”

His daughter, meanwhile, has continually defended the right of Christian businesses to deny service to LGBTQ people on faith-based principles. When the Supreme Court issued a “narrow” 7-2 ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission earlier this month, Sanders said the White House was “pleased.”

“The First Amendment prohibits government from discriminating against the basis of religious beliefs, and the Supreme Court rightly concluded that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to show tolerance and respect for his religious beliefs,” she claimed. “In this case and others, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defend the free speech and religious freedom First Amendment rights.”

Although Sanders is not a member of a protected class—because Republicans are not included in any definition of civil rights law—here’s what the press secretary fails to realize: Friday’s incident debunks many of the arguments conservatives have long deployed to defend licenses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

In the case of religious business owners like Arlene’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman, proponents of so-called “religious freedom” have argued that her decision not to provide a wedding bouquet for a same-sex couple had nothing to do with her own animus toward LGBTQ people; it was motivated by her Biblical conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman. After all, the couple in question—Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed—had been customers of Stutzman’s for years.

The common refrain in Stutzman’s case, which the Supreme Court declined to take up on Monday, goes something like: “It’s not who they are, it’s what they do.”

Similarly, Red Hen Restaurant presumably serves Republicans every day. Sixty-two percent of voters in Rockbridge County, where the Virginia establishment calls home, voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson said that refusing service to Sanders was based on what she and the administration she works for do, specifically citing the White House’s “inhumane and unethical” attacks on LGBTQ people and immigrants.

“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson told the Washington Post. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”

Although conservatives have flooded the company’s Yelp page with negative reviews, Red Hen Restaurant has not stated its desire to eject all Trump supporters. The business’s owners made a decision based on their own “sincerely held beliefs”—which are that LGBTQ people deserve equal treatment under the law and that innocent migrant children should not be separated from their parents.

But that’s about where the similarities between the two cases end. While the owners of Red Hen Restaurant have not argued for a sweeping right to discriminate against people of a certain characteristic (this time, conservatives), that’s precisely what people like the press secretary have defended.

When the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Masterpiece case in December, Sanders claimed that religious business owners would be well within their rights to hang signs refusing service to LGBTQ people. She told reporters that Trump “certainly supports religious liberty,” calling the issue “something he talked about during the campaign and has upheld since taking office.”

When asked if that included “No Gays Allowed” signs, she added: “I believe that would include that.”

Unfortunately for LGBTQ Americans, such displays are perfectly legal in at least 29 states. After the Masterpiece decision came down earlier this month, it was revealed that a Tennessee hardware store has had a sign up for the past three years, claiming its right to “refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”

While Sanders described the incident at Red Hen Restaurant as “polite,” anti-LGBTQ refusals are typically anything but. When a gay couple was kicked out of an East Texas restaurant in 2014 for “touching legs,” the waitress at Big Earl’s told them: “We don’t serve fags here.”

“Here at Big Earl’s we like for men to act like men and for ladies to act like ladies, so we want you to never return,” the employee added.

The couple’s experience isn’t uncommon. When Houstoners Randall Magill and Jose Chavez kissed in an Uber on New Year’s Eve, their driver forced them out onto a busy highway—where they could have been struck by an oncoming car and killed on a night notorious for drunk driving. When a lesbian couple was similarly booted from their rideshare earlier this month, they filmed the confrontation in fear that it might escalate into a hate crime.

What appears to have upset Sanders isn’t that she was put in the crosshairs of violent hate—as far too many LGBTQ people are every day. By her own admission, she appears to have had a civil disagreement with the Virginia restaurant. She was not harmed. Her family members were not harmed. She has retained her job, her livelihood, and her privileges as a cisgender white woman.  

Sanders is angry because she experienced what LGBTQ individuals are forced to endure in a majority of states: the feeling of the door hitting you on the way out. It hurts. And in her case, what hurts worse is that she won’t learn a damn thing from it.

Lucas Entertainment Changes ‘Black C*cks Matter’ Name After Allegedly Not Telling Black Actors The Title

Notice: This article contains extremely NSFW images.

While most adult films look to arouse, they’re probably not looking to arouse anger.

According to gay porn news site Str8UpGayPorn, Lucas Entertainment released a film called “Black Cocks Matter,” starring black actors Max Konnor, Andre Donovan and Bama Romello alongside three white actors.

For those who don’t know, the head of Lucas Entertainment is Michael Lucas, who has a long history of alleged abuse, threatening and not paying actors, revenge porn, and racism.

Str8UpGayPorn mentioned in their write-up that they usually have a policy against covering Lucas, but that this film caused them to buck their usual policy.

“Using Black Lives Matter—maybe the most important activist movement of our time, whose purpose is to prevent violence against Black communities inflicted by the police and other government agencies—to fetishize black men in a porn movie is not really a surprise coming from a bigot like Michael Lucas, but it is something of a new low, even for him,” Str8UpGayPorn wrote.

In a tweet that has since been deleted, but was captured by Str8UpGayPorn, Max Konnor, one of the actors in the film, said that he was not told about the name of the film when he shot the scenes.

In a tweet on Monday to journalist Daniel Villareal, Konnor said Lucas had reached out and changed the title.

Currently, the film is available on Lucas Entertainment’s site as (alert: extremely NSFW link following) “Black Cocks Rule.”

Str8UpGayPorn captured a screenshot of the original extremely NSFW ad before Lucas Entertainment changed the title.

Though the name of the film was changed on the website, the brand is still using the words “Black Cocks Matter” with accompanying images to promote the film on Instagram.

INTO has contacted Lucas Entertainment about the name change and will update if we hear back.

‘When Katie Met Cassidy’ Is The Lesbian Chick Lit Romance Of The Summer

Lesbian lit and chick lit rarely cross streams, but Camille Perri’s latest novel is bridging that gap.

When Katie Met Cassidy is a romance set in New York City, home to many heterosexual love stories and a handful of notable same-sex ones as well. But Perri’s novel is not tortured or tinged with tragedy like so many previous lesbian stories. Instead, the two titular characters happen upon one another in a work setting and instantly find their chemistry to be undeniable, and a post-work run in is both coincidental and fateful. While Katie has always assumed herself to be straight, Cassidy’s masc-of-center swagger piques a new kind of curiosity, and their instant friendship is full of a tense connection that has Katie questioning her identity.

Perri, an out lesbian whose debut The Assistants was praised as a feminist take on The Devil Wears Prada, tells INTO she’s been wanting to write a novel addressing gender and sexuality for several years. The idea, she says, was to write a queer novel that could reach mainstream audiences. 

“So that it wasn’t just left in a corner,” she says, “like it wasn’t relegated to a margin. I wanted it to break into the mainstream, and I knew that was a really challenging thing to do.”

When Katie Met Cassidy is a marker of just how far lesbian lit has come. The story of an assumed straight woman meeting a butch lesbian and the relationship not ending in death or a similarly unwelcome circumstance is a far cry from the early banned books and pulp novels lesbians were offered. There have been many more queer authors and stories published by larger presses in the last few decades, but the genre referred to as chick lit has yet to see it own bisexual- or lesbian-driven narratives. With Katie and Cassidy as alternating narrators, readers can find a way into both characters and the way they see the world, themselves, and each other.

“Depending on the personal life experience you bring to this novel, whether as a straight, cis person or as a queer person, Katie or Cassidy could be your touchstone and the book can sort of apply to you in a very different way,” Perri says. “And once I figured that out, it really cracked open for me.”

Published by the Penguin imprint G.P. Putnam’s Sons, the nude and pink cover of When Katie Met Cassidy is a close-up illustration of two women kissing. It’s non-threatening and will sit snugly between the works of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner, and Jane Green on bookstore shelves, sure to entice a few real-life Katies into picking it up at their local Barnes & Noble.

“I wanted to pull off that magic trick where I present this book as a really fun, very traditionally plotted, conventional, romantic comedy with the twist that it’s about two women,” Perri says. “But underneath that, I really wanted to get at issues of gender and sexualities that I can kind of trojan horse in there. But for romance readers or people looking for a good beach read, they would be drawn to this cover, they would be drawn to this story, and then you’re sort of getting that other stuff as well, like gravy, you know?”

Perri isn’t afraid to have her characters fantasize and engage in some queer sex. Katie’s desires arise in a way that challenges her perception of what she wants and who she is, while Cassidy’s deviate from her lifestyle of random hook-ups and eschewing of commitment altogether. They both have moments of coming forth as the aggressor; the one who acknowledges the wanting of the other. This is important, as were it only Cassidy seeking out Katie, she would ultimately seem like the predatory lesbian displayed too often in works of fiction; an off-putting caricature instead of a flawed human being who happens to move through the world as an androgynous gay woman. 

“I wanted it to be as much about love as it was about sex, and as much about the magnetism you feel for another person as it was about sex, but of course I wanted sex in there, too,” Perri says. “What I didn’t want was for the book to have sex in it that came off as titillating in some way or cheap. It was important for me for this book to have a certain level of dignity to it and to represent a love story that is essentially a queer love story that was clearly from a queer gaze. … This book was not going to come out sounding like something that a straight, cis white man wrote, you know?”

Another facet queer readers will appreciate in When Katie Met Cassidy is the lesbian bar Cassidy and her friends frequent. Referred to as Metropolis in the book, the bar was based on the gay Brooklyn bar Metropolitan as well as other lesbian-focused spaces Perri used to frequent.

“Like Meow Mix, the Hole, Cattyshack–they’ve all disappeared,” she says. “So Metropolis itself is sort of this spirit of all of those places together in one bar. But yeah, there’s a lot of Metropolitan in there. I spent a lot of years hanging out at those Metropolitan barbeques on Sundays and Ladies Nights, Wednesday nights at the Met for years. That was sort of my home.”

Cassidy invites Katie into her space in a way that is surely new to the chick lit genre. Inside Metropolis, Katie is introduced to a variety of queer women and the specific way they relate to each other; the incestuous inner-workings of a marginalized community whose relationships are often fraught with personal histories that overlap with other friends, exes, partners, and peers. Katie is at once fascinated and fearful, a feeling not unlike those felt by other baby dykes finding themselves for the first time among a sea of convening lesbians.

“I think bar culture is really, really significant to queer culture in a way that the straight world might not really understand, because these bars serve as community centers as much as they do as a place to get drink and dance and make bad decisions,” Perri says. “It’s also where the first time you come into a new city or the first time you’re maybe stepping into a queer space, you are suddenly surrounded by people hopefully who look like you and who feel like you and who you feel safe around and a lot of places, especially in New York, those bars are filled with people who have come from other places who have either been rejected or abandoned or not loved, not accepted, not celebrated.”

For Perri, the bar also reflects a very important part of Cassidy as a masc-of-center lesbian; it’s a place in which she is not just comfortable being who she is, but lusted after, too.

“I’ll never forget my first experiences stepping foot into lesbian bars and queer spaces and just feeling for the first time, ‘Oh, I’m hot here,'” Perri says. “Like, the definition of what sexy and hot is is different because you can be butch or you can be femme or you can be gender neutral or you can be whatever. Anything. Your body type can be a million different ways and you are still hot in that space, you are still accepted in that space, because it is just a complete paradigm shift from what you experience in straight white culture.”

Perri says it’s been both pleasing and surprising to see how many mainstream outlets are giving the book positive attention. It being published during Pride month certainly doesn’t hurt, but also, Perri was successful at queering the canon of chick lit while making the book accessible and pleasurable for a broad audience without sacrificing or apologizing for anything, especially Cassidy and the way she inhabits herself and her surroundings. She’s not treated preciously; she gets the same treatment, Perri says, as any male love interest would in a similar novel.

“I purposely wanted to leave all of my gender and sexuality studies terminology out of it because I really, really wanted people to be able to come to this without any background knowledge at all about gender and sexuality,” Perri says. “Cassidy, for me, is a character that I created because I have never yet been able to find that character in something that I consumed. Whether in a book or on screen, someone who is very, very confident. She is masculine presenting, really does reject a lot of the conventions of femininity and in this way, she sort of takes on the role as the traditional male hero of a romantic comedy.”

Cassidy exhibits that same kind of playboy behavior often attributed to fuckboys of any gender (see: Shane from The L Word), but her redeeming qualities are not just that she can change her ways for the right woman, but that she, like anyone else, can see opportunities for personal growth. 

“She definitely displays bad behavior and she’s sort of wild and she’s promiscuous,” Perri says, “but there’s a realness to her and a softness to her heart. I really, really just hope that queers out there who like me have been like waiting for a character like Cassidy to show up will be able to sympathize with her and empathize with her and hopefully feel like they have been represented.”

“This is a romantic comedy for us, ” Perri continues, “and we deserve a happy ending just like anybody else.”

When Katie Met Cassidy is available now.

‘The Incredibles 2’ Has Something To Say About Parenting, Superhero Ethics, And Our Current Administration

I’m always going to be of two minds when I hear the word “sequel.” Sometimes I regard them as woefully and unequivocally unnecessary. Other times, I look at the premise of the sequel and go:

via GIPHY

For example, every Transformers sequel was woefully and unequivocally unnecessary. On the other hand, when Reese Witherspoon announced that there was going to be another Legally Blonde sequel, I definitely found myself wanting to know more.

There’s no exact science to this sequel craze, but I will say that a quality story does compel people to want to return to it and its world every single time.

Such is the case with The Incredibles 2. With 14 years of hype to capitalize on (since Brad Bird wasn’t about to do another one until he had a good story), The Incredibles 2 seeks to deliver and build upon the legacy of The Incredibles, its bombastic villain, iconic one-liners, and surprisingly dark twists and turns. It was a hefty task, too, since most of us regard the original as the Fantastic Four film we deserved.

And it delivers.

Sort of.

The Incredibles 2 is great, funny, and enjoyable in all the right ways, but the caveat is that the film does this all in familiar ways. If you get a sense of deja vu while watching the titular sequel, you wouldn’t be too off-base.

The Incredibles 2 shares certain beats with the first film. Supers do something seemingly heroic in the opening sequence. Supers somehow fuck it up with astronomical collateral damage. Supers are now (still) illegal. Supers have to relocate and/or slink back into the shadows. Somebody— probably a super — reiterates how unfair this is. One of our supers and protagonists attempts to go out into the world as the main working parent and make things right by showing that supers aren’t all that bad and “just like us.” This leaves one of the super parents behind to hold down the family fort. The main super parent then uncovers a mass conspiracy to (systematically) get rid of supers because they kinda sorta have a childhood grudge to settle on them — even if they have a good point.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

There are points where this new film deviates and attempts to make this story its own. Queer Icon Edna Mode returns and forms the unlikeliest duo with movie MVP Jack-Jack. Emo Lesbian Icon Violet Parr serves us full teenage angst as she tries to navigate the trials and tribulations of courting what we assume to be a fuckboi. IG model and super-mom Helen Parr returns as the lead protagonist and working parent this time around, which creates interesting commentary about parenting and family.

Particularly because the last film’s lead protagonist, Bob Parr, is now playing the role of the parent and career man that gets left behind (at home) and is saddled with making sure his family is okay and that the house doesn’t burn down. And of course, he, a man, assumed this was going to be easy — which makes sense because child-rearing or any other type of labor associated with women is assumed to be easy or not requiring as much effort and is devalued as a result. This quickly turns out to not be the case and he must learn to simultaneously deal with his failings in that regard and his professional jealousy where Helen is concerned in order for them both to do well and succeed as a unit and family.

Which, again, is extremely cogent stuff for a “kids’ movie.”

Still. The film is simultaneously bolstered and hampered by its over-reliance on the familiar, particularly as it concerns the villain. It is often said that [superhero] movies are only as good as their villains and TI2 is no exception. Having the film follow a similar trajectory villain-wise without the presence of someone who is as diabolical, emotional, and narcissistic as fanboy (what amazing commentary 14 YEARS later) Buddy/Syndrome certainly puts TI2 at a slight disadvantage, but I would hesitate to declare that that means that The Incredibles 2’s villain “sucks.”

While Evelyn Deavor is not as charismatic as Syndrome, she is very calculated, precise, logical, and pragmatic and could be anyone else in the film if they were to have a bad day— and boatloads of money. She reminds me of Captain America: Civil War villain Helmut Zemo. While she is no Syndrome and he certainly wasn’t Loki, they both make really sound and logical points about the downsides of relying on superheroes as some sort of catch-all failsafe for the world’s fuck ups just because they won at the randomness that is the genetic lottery and how blatantly problematic that is because it elevates superheroes to God-status (even if they don’t want that) and helps them skirt-skirt around accountability. And it works because both Evelyn and Zemo could be different people given different conditions.

Evelyn’s beef with this side of superhero ethics in particular lands in this movie because supers are assumed to be “better” because of advantageous genetics, which is supposed to translate into impeccable morals, and it is assumed that that alone qualifies them to be the sole protectors of our world because “they have better hands.” This, of course, leads non-supers to use them as a crutch. A means to an end. An excuse to have and hold instead of normal, everyday people dealing with real-world problems like crime and the conditions that create them. Evelyn sees them as a large and woefully unsustainable band-aid in that regard.

And her point is strengthened by the fact that this reliance on supers is what brought about her father’s untimely demise. So by the time she finds her and her brother on a similar path all in the name of “bringing back supers,” she’s fed up. And she is bewildered that her brother and father would be so asinine as to let supers do the heavy and inequitable societal lifting in order to “make things better” instead of just making things better themselves.

That point is particularly timely, too, as it reminds me of the way in which Black women in particular — who are ironically and dubiously absent from the film save for a disembodied voice (an apt metaphor about our value in this world) — have been propped up, dehumanized, and mythologized in our current administration.

People would rather “believe in Black women” like we’re unicorns and deify us just long enough for us to supposedly save them from some tangerine despot than put in work and elbow grease to save the republic themselves. It’s analogous, really. Folx like Winston Deavor would rather deify supers (or Black women) and charge them with fixing the world’s ills, ics, and isms than fixing it themselves, even though they have the power, privilege, and capital to do so.

Of course, those that are worried about the film getting too existential and philosophical need not worry as there are enough laughs and gags — especially where Jack Jack is concerned — to go around. This is also compounded by the astounding animation (everything was especially crisp and makes my 4K TV look like the proctor of PS1 graphics in comparison) and the hilarious soundtrack that includes in-joke theme songs for Mr. Incredible, Elasti-Girl, and Frozone.

If you’re looking for a nostalgic fix,The Incredibles 2 is for you. It does struggle a bit to differentiate itself from its predecessor, but in the end, it’s a worthy addition to the Disney/Pixar pantheon of cross-appealing “kids’ movies.”

 

 

 

 

Illustration by Bronwyn Lundberg

Adam Rippon, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird Get Naked for ‘ESPN’ Body Issue

There are a few athletic queer bodies on display in the latest ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue.

The annual special issue celebrates athletic builds with nude and semi-nude photographs and this year, they’ve included Olympian Adam Rippon and, in a first for the magazine, a queer couple: professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe and WNBA player Sue Bird.

Rippon shared the shot of his backside on Instagram, along with a caption.

“Getting to shoot ESPN’s Body Issue was amazing, but being one of their covers is so awesome, unreal, and honestly WTFFFF!” the Olympian, who loves his gym time, wrote.  

Rippon told ESPN that doing the shoot made him feel “liberated.” He also put rumors of him wearing butt pads to rest.

“I have a shelf butt,” Rippon told the magazine. “When I was at the Olympics, one of my roommates — she is also a skater — said, ‘I know why people think [your butt] is fake. It looks like a shelf in your costume.’ In skating, we’re very lower-limb-dominant and it’s important to keep our trunk and upper bodies very lean, because if you’re lighter, you will jump higher, and if you’re thinner, you will spin faster. But it’s finally time to put all of those questions to rest. All of the doubters, all of the naysayers, they’ll finally have the proof they’ve been looking for!”

Bird shared a snap of her and Rapinoe together. In the photo, Bird holds a basketball while Rapinoe has her foot on a soccer ball.

#Body10

A post shared by Sue Bird (@sbird10) on

In an interview with ESPN, Rapinoe said that being on the cover of the Body Issue was especially important for the couple at this moment in history.

What better time than when we need to be celebrating things that are different about us and accepting them and trying to understand them better? It’s pretty incredible to be in this moment,” Rapinoe said.

Bird spoke specifically about the importance of her coming out for visibility.

“Prior to me coming out, these were conversations that Megan and I had all the time. Just, what it actually means. Why you have to do it. ‘Cause everybody in my life knows. It was not a surprise or shock. But that’s not the same as coming out. It really isn’t,” she said. “Being around Megan, I learned that. And then after I came out, just seeing the reactions. Having people come up to me directly. I think there’s just something really powerful about that. For some who maybe didn’t know I was gay, I think it meant a lot and it changes some people’s perception on what being gay is.”

ESPN has been inclusive of LGBTQ bodies before. In 2016, the magazine featured Chris Mosier, a trans athlete, as part of its repertoire of athletic builds.

Supreme Court Gives Christian Florist Another Chance to Argue She Didn’t Discriminate Against Gay People

Barronelle Stutzman will get her day in court—again.

The U.S. Supreme Court vacated an earlier ruling against the 73-year-old owner of Arlene’s Flowers after declining to take up a 2013 case in which she refused to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding. She will instead get another shot to appeal before the Washington Supreme Court in light of SCOTUS’s June 4 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Last year, Washington’s highest court ruled Stutzman violated the civil rights of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed after refusing them a wedding bouquet. The couple had been customers at the Richland store for years, but Stutzman claimed that fulfilling their request would go against her Southern Baptist beliefs.

In a written opinion on behalf of the Washington Supreme Court, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud claimed that “discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The ruling was backed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who brought legal action against Stutzman for violating the state’s nondiscrimination laws.

Reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to remand the decision to lower courts was mixed following the bench’s “narrow” 7-2 ruling in Masterpiece, in which the court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated unconstitutional bias against religion in weighing the 2012 case. Like Stutzman, Lakewood baker Jack Phillips claimed that servicing a same-sex wedding would contravene his First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel and law and policy director at Lambda Legal, called the Monday decision from SCOTUS “immensely frustrating and disappointing.”

“Just as in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case decided three weeks ago, the Supreme Court should simply have reaffirmed long-standing constitutional principles that freedom of religion is not a license to discriminate,” Pizer claimed in a statement. “Laws requiring businesses to be open to all do not conflict with the Constitution.”

“It is past time to put to rest these proliferating attempts to undermine the civil rights of LGBTQ people in the name of religion,” she added.

Others were more positive about the ruling. Masen Davis, the CEO of Freedom for All Americans, claimed in a press release that it sets an important precedent: The Supreme Court has again declined to issue a “license to discriminate” in the name of religion.

“Opponents of LGBTQ equality have asked the Supreme Court for a constitutional right to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and the Court has refused to do so on two separate occasions—first in Masterpiece, and now in Arlene’s Flowers,” Davis said. “Earlier this month, the Supreme Court reaffirmed our nation’s longstanding promise of equal opportunity for all, making clear that all business owners and all customers should be treated with respect.”

It remains to be seen how the outcome of Masterpiece will affect the earlier Washington Supreme Court ruling on Stutzman’s case, which was unanimous.

While the Masterpiece verdict was viewed as a victory for religious conservatives, SCOTUS declined to weigh in on many of the larger issues surrounding so-called “religious freedom.” Instead, it was a narrow procedural ruling on whether the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had judged the case fairly.

Earlier this month the Arizona Court of Appeals cited Judge Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Masterpiece to uphold the rights of LGBTQ people to nondiscrimination laws shielding them from bias.

Kennedy claimed removing these protections would create “a community-wide stigma inconsistent with the history and dynamics of civil rights laws.”

LGBTQ advocates are hopeful the Washington Supreme Court will decide similarly.

“To be clear, the court made no indication the lower courts ruled incorrectly and made no decision on the case’s merits,” claimed James Esseks, director of ACLU’s LGBTQ and HIV Project, in a statement. “We are confident that the Washington State Supreme Court will rule once again in favor of the same-sex couple, and reaffirm its decision that no business has a right to discriminate.”

Image via Getty

Like ‘Dear White People’? Meet ‘Sincerely, the Black Kids’

Sincerely, the Black Kids explores the real-life consequences facing Black student organizers when they show up, critique, and elicit change in the historically – and presently – white landscape of academia. This independent doc comes during a swell of millennial-driven media centering stories of Blackness as told by the young, talented, and Black.

Director Miles Iton and videographer Eduardo Correa traveled to American University, Clemson, and Cornell to connect with Black student leaders on their shared experiences of bullshit. What they talk about already made national headlines: American University’s “banana incident,” the social lynching and impeachment trial of Clemson’s VP Jaren Stewart, and the September assault of a Black student at Cornell. But Sincerely, the Black Kids resists sensationalism and instead invests in students’ voices and the emotional impact of navigating higher education.

Recently recognized by the Sundance Film Institute, Sincerely, the Black Kids was conceived, produced, and directed by a small team of QPOCs, and reveals how Black excellence is often punished in the very places we’re told it should thrive.

INTO spoke with producer Shakira Refos and director Miles Iton about the making of Sincerely, the Black Kids.

How does Sincerely, the Black Kids engage with modern representations of race and racism in America?


Shakira Refos: 
Sincerely, The Black Kids compliments a current wave of artistry that feels very Black, very free, and very authentic. Shows like Insecure, Atlanta, and writers like Lena Waithe and Justin Simien are offering narratives that feel closer to the lived experiences of Black people in this country. What the storylines in new productions are telling us is that [our] experiences are OK to talk about. That we don’t always have to define our stories through pain or overcoming obstacles, but that we will tell them however the fuck it pleases us, and with the understanding that there is an audience out there wanting to connect with your voice.

Dear White People was such a phenomenon at the time it came out. When I grew up were not many narratives that spoke to the college experience of Black students, you had A Different World, Higher Learning, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air somewhat… I appreciate how specific Dear White People is with its commentary on race relations; it allows little to no ambiguity. We wanted to frame Sincerely, The Black Kids in a similar way. An unapologetic focus on the harm white people do when their intentional and unintentional behaviors go unchecked and unquestioned. The film shows what happens when racism ends up revealing itself (it always does, ask your Black friends). We show Black kids, now tasked with protecting their own dignity, alienating white people in their schools who wanted to think they were one of the good ones. We show the reality of acceptance; it is ultimately defined by keeping white people comfortable.

Sincerely, The Black Kids exposes the golden rule; as long as good Black kids graciously and quietly accept the gift of acceptance and don’t stir the pot, good Black kids CAN achieve everything in life, be anything they want to be, except freedom from racism and racial bias.

 You, as well as the other Black student presidents you interviewed, dealt with racism and organized attempts to impeach you. Tell me how you understand the roles of power, race, and  (color blind? complicit?) academic institutions in these situations.

Miles Iton (MI): In every case we examined – except for Cornell’s, which was not an impeachment attempt but protests in response to an assault – the presence of racism was careful to not evolve past being an undertone. After all, few students or institutions would ever come out and admit they pursued something out of resentment towards people of color. What I see coming under scrutiny more and more often is the power shift that this generation of colored students in leadership roles represent. Having Black and brown students openly advocate for issues pertinent to their identities threatens people who feel excluded. It’s that feeling of exclusion prompts racialized responses and perceptions towards Black and Brown students.

One thing I try to highlight in this film is that these instances [of assault, impeachment, harassment] were brought upon us by white students, point blank. Even at a liberal arts institution like Clemson – one that prides itself on being open to conversations – liberal students are just as capable as their conservative counterparts to characterize Black figureheads in order to help their own political agendas. We need to put personal responsibility back in the fold here and stop coddling the hurt feelings of the “I’m not racist!” crowd by subverting blame to someone who they can believe is racist.

At the end of the day, though, I’m a whole ass, individual human being aside from the optics and politics of my Blackness and queerness on a campus. I feel the narrative of race conversations in contemporary white liberal media tries so hard to put a specific white face to racism. But racism is much less open-and-shut than that. Racism exists in how power is enforced and reinforced socially. Black and brown students have only recently in the course of US history gained access to institutional power. The loose doctrines of colorblindness confound the realization of historical exclusion for too many.

 

What do you hope Sincerely, the Black Kids does for those watching from their college dorm rooms? 

MI: I’m not promising the missing link to ending campus racism once and for all. I just would like for the current and next generation of Black and Brown students to know what they’re getting into. I’d also like for any non-Black students watching this to hear from people firsthand how racism perpetuates itself beyond slurs and insensitive jokes.

We all need to reframe how we conceptualize racism, because maintaining this idea that racism is exclusively what we saw in the 60’s is harmful to our country’s social development. I see a lot of promise in the shifting standards for racial discussions today. I went to a majority white, K-12 Christian-conservative school from preschool to the 8th grade, so I’ve been practically raised in those situations. I can see and understand how people don’t realize the pitfalls they encounter because they center white identities. All I want will not be accomplished solely because I made Sincerely, the Black Kids, but I hope viewers understand where I’m coming from.

  

Shakira, tell me about your experiences on the film. What came up for you working on this project?

SR: What struck me deeply during filming is how the hype and spectacle of the major conflicts highlighted in this film overshadow the effect and emotional toll they play on the Black kids tied to each campus.

We often talk about racism being perpetrated by the low-income and poorly educated. I learned how far-reaching white supremacy is, how it’s ingrained in spaces we hold sacred as positive learning environments. It ultimately boils down to the lengths even educated and well-meaning white people will go in order to avoid forms of racism deeply embedded in their existence and day-to-day behaviors. They wrestle with the deep fear that they too may have to accept accountability if they took a true, honest look at themselves and their environments.

I think Sincerely, The Black Kids has a potential to help Black kids with aspirations in academia feel validated and less alone in ways their chosen institutions may not be able to.

 

Watch the official trailer here or visit the Sincerely, the Black Kids website to keep up to date with upcoming film festival premiers. 

 

 

 

How YouTube Is Failing LGBTQs

As I write this, I’m watching the views on my YouTube videos about LGBTQ equality tick upward, just now passing 3,208,812. As a creator and activist who uses video to make the world a better place for queer people, YouTube’s been one of my most powerful allies. It’s also a source of constant frustration.

Proposition 8 made me a YouTuber. After California’s marriage ban passed a decade ago, I started posting weekly video updates about marriage equality. That led to a partnership with the group funding the lawsuit to overturn the marriage ban. After marriage equality was won, I expanded my production to cover even more topics: Now I produce a weekly series about global LGBTQ equality called “Weekly Debrief,” and a monthly show about queer stories in movies and television called “Culture Cruise.”

We’ve all heard about the frustrations with YouTube’s treatment of LGBTQ creators: Certain queer-focused videos are placed into a restricted mode, hidden from users who most need to hear that they’re not alone. Thumbnails are deleted without warning. Videos are demonetized, signaling to queer creators that their content isn’t welcome. And most recently, YouTube’s been allowing homophobic ads to run before videos on LGBTQ themes.

Without YouTube, there’s no way my messages could have been seen over three million times. I love the site, I love my viewers, I love making videos. I love that YouTube gives me the power to speak directly to queer people all over the world and gather in a community that, just a few decades ago, was secret, dispersed, and forbidden.

When YouTube is good, it’s very good indeed. But when it is bad, it is horrid.

My first indication of the most recent difficulty came from my viewers who started sending alarmed tweets and leaving unhappy comments. Before they could watch my video about how to talk to family members about equality, they were forced to sit through an advertisement for bakers who think they should be allowed to break nondiscrimination laws. Other viewers were shown an ad for Donald Trump.

I certainly don’t think that YouTube would deliberately target queer people for mistreatment like, say, Chick-Fil-A. Everyone I’ve ever met who works for Google has been lovely, supportive, and often queer themselves. When I worked on the Prop 8 trial, Google reached out to live stream a play about our work that reached millions of people; they invited us to their headquarters for training; they provided free advertising through their ad network.

So what’s going on?

“I know that it’s the algorithm and the bots and the way that everything is coded,” said Chase Ross, a transgender YouTuber, in a recent video. But the fact that YouTube’s problems originate in a robot’s brain doesn’t soften the blow, either for the creators or the viewers.

“A bunch of people tweeted me more screenshots and videos of anti-LGBT ads (specifically from Alliance Defending Freedom),” Ross said in an interview with Forbes. “This started up the conversation with other LGBT+ YouTubers and we all realized our videos had anti-LGBT ads placed on them.”

“The ads are targeted from organizations that are taking advantage of the system,” said Amp, host of the YouTube series “Watts the Safeword.” “They know they can put religious stuff in front of LGBTQ content to undermine our platform.”

Creator Gaby Dunn was even more direct. When the YouTube Diversity team invited their top queer earners to attend a Pride-themed networking event, she tweeted a screengrab of her refusal to attend: “It’d be really awesome if you guys would stop running anti-gay ads on content where my vulnerable queer audience can see it,” she responded, and added in her tweet, “PRIDE ISN’T ABOUT RAINBOW FLAGS AND BANNERS AND OPTICS, SORRY. … How you gonna invite me to an LGBTQ dinner and then demonetize me and my friend’s shit and run anti-gay ads on my channel hell to the no.”

“How fucking dare you @youtube?” tweeted Elijah Daniel with a screengrab of ads on their channel. “You restrict creators beyond belief with what we can have ads on, but don’t screen ads like this before going live? and let them run on LGBT channels? for days? during pride month?”

This is a particularly sensitive time for YouTube to allow anti-gay messages on their platform. Here in the United States, the opponents of equality are pursuing an agenda to dismantle what few legal protections exist for queer Americans. Although marriage is legal, sexual orientation and gender identity are not federally protected, and it’s legal to fire, evict, or expel someone for being queer in most states. Anti-equality groups are spending millions to overturn the country’s limited nondiscrimination laws, making it harder than ever for queer people to hold a job, have a home, go to school, or simply to access government services.

 

If YouTube’s commitment to Pride is genuine, it must include a commitment to take action to protect queer creators.

 

Internationally, the situation is far more dire. Queer people face violence and persecution in Chechnya, Egypt, and Indonesia, just to name a few. Under the Obama administration, the United States imposed sanctions against countries that target queer populations. Now, the State Department is silent–not surprising, given that Mike Pence recently defended the criminalization of homosexuality.

In that climate, it’s vital to reach marginalized groups with news, community, and support for organizing. And while YouTube makes it possible for queer creators to do so, its advertising system also undermines that work by allowing the enemies of equality to get the first word in with pre-roll ads. I can’t imagine how discouraging it must be for a young queer person, isolated and unable to access support from those around them, to seek out supportive voices online, only to be ambushed by a message about how they’re not wanted. How many people in need of help have closed the tab before even having a chance to watch the video they came for?

“Right now LGBTQ videos might save a kid who feels they’re not valid or acceptable to society,” said Amp. “For me to know that kids are seeing anti-LGBTQ ads, I can’t imagine how difficult that must be.”

For their part, YouTube is aware of the problem and has offered a solution. Unfortunately, it’s a solution to a different problem.

“You can keep these ads from appearing by setting an ad exclusion for a specific advertiser URL,” tweeted an anonymous company representative, including a link with instructions.

The problem with that method–besides being too jargony for many users to understand–is that it doesn’t actually work. It’s true that you can block advertisers by their specific URL, but how are creators supposed to know what URL to block? YouTube doesn’t tell creators what ads have appeared on their channel. The only way to block them is to wait for it to be shown to a viewer, then for that viewer to click on the ad to get the URL, and then to report the ad back to the creator.

There’s a simpler solution that YouTube could implement. They already have a way for viewers to flag ads by clicking an almost-invisible symbol in the lower left of the screen. YouTube could make that symbol clearer (such as with the “This particular post sucks” button that Tumblr employs) and then provide creators with a report showing which ads have been flagged on their channel.

Or better yet, YouTube could refuse to accept advertising from groups that advocate for government policies that are morally reprehensible.

But instead, their solution is to “use machine learning to evaluate content against our advertiser guidelines,” according to YouTube. “Sometimes our systems get it wrong, which is why we’ve encouraged creators to appeal. Successful appeals ensure that our systems get better and better.”

In other words: We built an advertising robot that allows malicious actors to target vulnerable populations. Maybe someday our robot won’t do that anymore. Maybe. Shrug emoji!

It’s great that YouTube has a rainbow banner. It’s great that they highlighted It Gets Better videos in an ad once. It’s great that they invited their top queer money-makers to a diversity party. At a time when crackpot business owners are litigating for their right to turn away queer customers, it’s meaningful that the largest corporations in the world are eager to associate themselves with rainbow flags. It wasn’t always this way.

Mike Stabile, who represents an adult-industry group called The Free Speech Coalition, is hopeful that YouTube will come around.

“What you see is largely a matter of straight privilege,” he said. “And corporate privilege. You can make sure you’re hiring a diverse workforce and supporting LGBTQ causes. You can commemorate Pride and do wonderful things, and at the same time have a blind spot about how your policies are adversely affecting the LGBTQ community.”

As Gaby Dunn noted, Pride isn’t just about banners and optics. There’s more to Pride than a flag. Pride started as a riot against police brutality, as a brick thrown through a window, and as queer trans people of color refusing to be silenced.

If YouTube’s commitment to Pride is genuine, it must include a commitment to take action to protect queer creators — particularly those who are most vulnerable, such as trans people, people of color, people with disabilities, and the economically disadvantaged.

Pride is not a time for marginalized people to perform volunteer work on behalf of a multi-billion dollar company in the hopes that one day they’ll teach its robots not to discriminate.  It’s a time to smash the systems that oppress.

“People don’t want to make ripples,” Amp acknowledged. “But the only way to get change is to push back.”

Hopefully, that pushback produces some change. Last week, one of my viewers reported seeing an ad for Donald Trump, and supplied me with the associated URL. I jumped through YouTube’s hoops to block it, and a few minutes later clicked over to one of my videos to check the comments. But before my video played, I was presented with an ad for the very website I’d just blocked.

Advocacy Groups Eye Lawsuits to Protect Trans Prison Rights

Fifteen years ago, a senator from Alabama carried a bill that changed the game for transgender prison rights. The senator was Jeff Sessions, and the bill was the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

It’s the same law Sessions’ Department of Justice is working to undermine today. Last month, the Trump administration announced new guidelines under the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that sought to house transgender inmates according to their sex assigned at birth, instead of their identified gender.

Now, legal advocacy organizations say they are looking into legal action to block the policy.

The rule change is the result of a lawsuit out of Fort Worth, Texas brought by four cisgender prisoners who claimed that housing them with trans women constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The Transgender Offender Manual now states that “only in rare cases” should a trans inmate be housed based on their identified gender over their sex assigned at birth. It confuses that matter, however by using language in PREA, stating that a trans person’s safety should be considered and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

But despite the muddled language, the intent is clear, say advocates. Per the new rule, transgender women will be automatically housed with men. Transgender men will be housed with women. Non-binary people will have their options stripped away in federal prisons.

The policy is a direct affront to PREA, the federal law requiring prisons to house trans inmates on a case-by-case basis with special consideration for their safety and self-identified gender.

“The Prison Rape Elimination Act is binding on the federal bureau of prisons system,” said Richard Saenz, criminal justice and police misconduct strategist at Lambda Legal.  “So we believe that the recent changes to the Bureau of Prisons transgender offender manual violate PREA as well as the constitution.”

Saenz said Lambda Legal is reviewing all possible legal options for challenging the rule.

Ian Thompson, a legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, echoed that statement on behalf of his organization, “including federal court action,” he added.  

The two organizations are among more than 100 to sign onto a letter this week to Federal Bureau of Prisons Acting Director Hugh Hurwitz, urging a reversal of the policy and a recommitment to PREA.

The six-page letter argues that the new policy exceeds BOP’s authority by violating federal law.

“One glaring omission in the revised policy broadcasts the BOP’s intent to completely prohibit housing based on gender identity, disregarding both transgender prisoners’ own perceptions of safety and the studies that confirm the overwhelming risk to transgender prisoners housed based on genital characteristics,” the letter argues.

The policy not only faces opposition in court. One who takes particular exception to it is Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott, who sponsored PREA in 2003.  

“The Trump Administration’s action violates the spirit and intent of the Prison Rape Elimination Act by unfairly and unnecessarily putting transgender inmates at a higher risk of sexual assault,” Scott said in statement to INTO.

Saenz worries that the new BOP policy will also muddy the waters around PREA compliance beyond federal prisons.

“It sets a dangerous precedent that we hope states do not take this as a green light to implement some harmful changes,” he said.

Despite PREA, transgender prisoners have faced extraordinary high rates of violence behind bars in the U.S. A California study found that transgender inmates were 13 times more likely to be sexually abused behind bars than cisgender people.

The Colorado Department of Corrections is refusing to house transgender inmate Lindsay Saunders with women despite pleas from her attorney and local lawmakers. She has reportedly been sexually assaulted twice in custody and faces daily abuse from her peers and prison staff.

The Philadelphia Department of Corrections is likewise facing difficult questions over its decision to house a transgender woman arrested at Pride with men earlier this month.

Challenges to those placements could become more difficult now that the Department of Justice has confused the rule of law, say advocates.

“At a minimum, it sends the completely wrong message,” said Thompson. “I think the clearest evidence is really just pointing to what can only be described as an anti-trans bigotry that animates the actions of this Department of Justice.”