Precious Ebony Comes With The Commentary On ‘My House’

Precious Ebony is a master of what they are doing. They are a conductor of life not only directing the flow of voguing balls around the world, but serving as the narrator, and thus mediator, of Viceland’s My House series, navigating viewers through the scene. But those talents for narrative-driven lyricism are put on display now around the world through achievements like a Nike commercial, an appearance at a Rick Owens party in Milan, and come this fall, her very own EP.

“I got into commentating because when I was in high school, I used to love rap in general,” Ebony told INTO in an interview Wednesday ahead of the latest episode of My House. “Biggie Smalls, Fat Joe, those are the rappers that I grew up with and I was always trying to freestyle and battle the boys; I used to get in trouble for listening to music in class while I was doing my work.”

When they first came in touch with the ballroom scene, Ebony became enamored with the role of commentator. On the microphone for the duration of a ball, they not only set the tone and pace of the events but can completely change the atmosphere, energizing or deflating the crowd. It is their choice who gets the spotlight during segments like Legends, Statements, and Stars (usually called LSS) where the commentator calls out scene notables in the room for recognition. Ebony wanted that power and asked around about how they could get it. The answer: performing in a category called commentator versus commentator, where they would compete against others wanting the same thing.

“When I [competed] the first time, there was an icon on the panel named MC Debra and she’s known in the mainstream for just being a personality,” Ebony said. MC Debra has made an impression on pop culture being turned multiple gifs, memes and video clips, in addition to being sampled on a Leikeli47’s teaser video.

“When I did my commentation, she stood up for me and started waving her finger and shaking her head at me like ‘You better do it.’ Two days later I went to Vogue Knights and she was giving this big speech about if you want the mic you gotta earn it, you can’t ask for it. She was saying the mic has to be passed down to you,” Ebony said. “Then she turned to me and was like ‘Now show them how you do it and how you are,” Ebony said. “I remember grabbing the mic and I went off.”

Since, Precious has become a big name in ballroom and in the mainstream. They travel constantly around the world for work. In this latest episode of My House, they go to Detroit to commentate their “gay father’s” Fuck Love ball.

“Markis has been my gay father since I came out in ballroom, so that’s been 10 plus years,” Precious said. Their connection is blatant on screen in the episode. “I had made a commentation at a ball called ‘I SuckToo Much Dick, I Can’t Commentate’ that went super viral.” Posts got shared by the likes of Amber Rose and The Shade Room, while many others in the ballroom recorded their own videos voguing to the song.

“So I went to this one ball and he was like ‘You got a dirty ass mouth and you’re raunchy; you’re big and you’re bold, I want you as my daughter.” And since then, an organic relationship has formed between the two who were already both a part of the House of Ebony.

“He’s come to my house for a weekend and met my mom,” Ebony said. “If I could, I would have him actually adopt me.”

Though commentating has its highs (performing for Rick Owens for one, according to the star) it also has its lows. When they first started commentating, Ebony would sometimes be so exhausted the next morning they couldn’t move or couldn’t speak. Even today, performances come at inopportune moments.

“On April 3 , I had to go commentate a ball, but it was two days after my grandmother’s funeral. And I wasn’t up for it but I had gotten a big deposit,” they said. “I know my grandmother would have wanted me to continue chasing my dreams and so I went and did it and I had never felt so alive. I even incorporated some things she would say and her favorite songs into what I was saying.”

But there’s a reason that Ebony goes so hard and presses on even when tired: the past. When energy runs low thoughts come back of days gone when they dreamed of being booked, busy and traveling. And it all represents a reversal of roles in school.

“I always want to be seen and heard because in high school I wasn’t seen or heard,” they said. “As a commentator, I have to host the event, run the event and make sure everything runs smoothly. You not only have to interact with the crowd, but you have to know what’s going on, what’s next, what’s happening. You have to diffuse a fight and maybe even start the fight to make a battle good!”

“I’ve had to do that multiple times,” Ebony laughed. “Like:, ‘Oh, isn’t she the one that left your house?’ Come on, girl!’”

My House pushed the lyricist to new heights that will likely rise with a debut EP in August. “I’m shocked that people are watching and I’m shocked that people are writing me on Instagram like ‘Oh my god, you’re Precious!’” they said. “I just had a panel discussion and it was shocking because I went to breakfast with my mom and the manager of the restaurant came over and said ‘Oh my gosh, aren’t you on TV?’”

“So it’s exciting but it’s also nerve-wracking because like I can’t wear this outside, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. But overall it’s so humbling when someone comes up to me on the street and asks to have a picture,” Ebony said. “It’s like ‘Who me? What did I do?’”

That, sis. You did that.

‘AIDS Simulator’ Game For Sale on Steam After Platform Relaxes Content Rules

Can it be “game over” for this video game?

A controversial new video game on distribution platform Steam drew the ire of gamers online on Thursday. Developer BunchOD00dz — yeesh — gave the game, titled “AIDS Simulator” the following description:  “Welcome to Africa, you’ve got HIV! Now you’re mad and want to kill all Africans that gave you AIDS to get revenge. AIDS Simulator is a very short first-person shooter with boring gameplay, bad graphics, and generic assets.”

In a company blog post published on Wednesday, the gaming platform announced a new “anything goes” policy regarding content. The platform would sell your game — as long as it got a cut of the profits.

“We’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling,” the post reads. “Taking this approach allows us to focus less on trying to police what should be on Steam, and more on building those tools to give people control over what kinds of content they see.”

The decision was instantly controversial, leading some to fear “the prospect of zero intervention risks giving hate mobs and scam artists de facto control,” as PCGamer writes.

Steam also anticipated backlash in its blog post, saying: “The Steam Store is going to contain something that you hate, and don’t think should exist. Unless you don’t have any opinions, that’s guaranteed to happen.”

People certainly do hate the “AIDS Simulator” and have made their feelings known to Steam on social media.

“You ARE endorsing it, because you are listing it, and you are selling it,” one person tweeted to Steam. “When someone buys it, YOUR LOGO AND SOFTWARE ARE PROMINENTLY INVOLVED. You utter human offal.”

“Everyone needs to delete their @steam_games account right the fuck now. This racist, stigmatizing SHIT SHOW of a game called AIDS Simulator is allowed (dare I say encouraged) on their platform. Encouraging the murder of Africans in this HORRIFIC game,” another Twitter user wrote.

In a YouTube video, video game critic Jim Sterling excoriated Steam for selling “AIDS Simulator.”

“You not wanting to do your due diligence as a storefront is pure fucking laziness, if not gross incompetence or again complete endorsement, which is exactly how people offline will view this,” Sterling said.

One post on Steam underneath the game summed it up as: “Wow, Steam is total trash now.”

Tove Lo’s ‘bitches’ Is A Summer Bop About Women Having Casual Sex With Other Women

Tove Lo’s new track “bitches” has some interesting lyrical storytelling. It kicks off with her demanding an appreciation for what we soon come to realize is her pussy.

Appreciate it
Touch me like you know what you do and you don’t
But I’m feeling jaded
Know your own love, I don’t fuck with no glove
So why complicate it?
Let me be your guide when you eat my pussy out
‘Cause I’ve had one or two, even a few
Yeah, more than you

So far so good, right? Worship that pussy! I’m on board. Then Charli XCX comes in and it starts to become clear that this might be her second bisexual bop of the summer. In the video, she’s in a rainbow-lit room, just to drive the point home, singing “All these girls stare at me, drop lip/Dripping in harmony, like fifth/Lay ’em down, feel ’em up/And they slide away, so easy.”

The chorus, though….the chorus. 

Bitches, I don’t trust ’em
But they give me what I want for the night
Bitches, I don’t trust ’em
But I tell ’em and they do what I like
Why
Bitches, I don’t trust ’em
But they give me what I want for the night
Bitches, I don’t trust ’em
But I tell ’em and they do what I like
Why

Sure, “bitch” doesn’t necessarily have to mean a woman, but as Tove Lo continues, the imagery is, IMO, pretty damn specific.

They can’t fake it
Drying off the seat when they getting up to leave
So (wet) they get noticed
I’m better if they blunt, I don’t really wanna hunt
So why complicate it?
I call it respect when you givin’ what you get
So, baby, spread your legs
I’ll do the same
Already coming
 
Tove Lo, who identifies as bisexual, has created an ode to oral sex with women, both giving and receiving. And while it might seem like it’s the same concept as “Girls,” Lo and co. (Charli, Icona Pop, Elliphant, and ALMA), the song is actually not about bisexuality being acceptable or fun to try on, but instead, casual sex in general — casual sex with a woman. 
 
As opposed to “Girls,” Lo wrote “bitches” and also had Rough Night director Lucia Aniello direct the video, which has Lo and her collaborators teaching a guy (Aniello’s husband, Broad City star Paul Downs) how to properly go down on his wife. It’s funny and feminist and with a decidedly queer aesthetic. 
 

It’s rare queer women have a song that celebrates sex positivity in this way, which is to say, without salaciousness and the sense that the desired audience is actually not queer women at all. Miley Cyrus’ “Bang Me Box” and Rihanna’s “Te Amo” are perhaps the only real mainstream offerings, but both are in relation to one specific partner, whereas “bitches” is about the idea of hooking up in general. Lo’s focus on women is a revelation in this way, though it’s arguably a somewhat misogynistic POV that’s akin to Young M.A.’s lines about women giving her head. So while Lo specifies she wants “one night” with a woman, it’s not because that woman is a woman — it’s because she’s interested in getting her proverbial rocks off and keeping things moving. It’s not in juxtaposition to a relationship with men; not a scenario tinged with titillation. In fact, there is no mention of men in the song at all. It passes the Bechdel test!

Lesbian and bisexual women have very few songs that are explicitly about getting it on with one another.  The most notable are likely lost on millennials: Melissa Ferrick’s “Drive,” k.d. lang’s “Constant Craving,” The Butchies’ “Sex (I’m a Lesbian),” Meshell Ndegeocello’s “Beautiful.” Melissa Etheridge’s 2014 “All The Way Home” was apparently so explicit it got her album banned from Barnes and Noble. (“I’m gonna take off honey take the brake off/When I break down the door/Your hips slide like a riptide/honey I’m a surfboard/I said honey I’m a surfboard.”) 

Lo’s addition to the Sapphic sex song canon is one of sex positivity and sexual freedom that is queer-inclusive without having to call attention to it. Lo’s interest is made clear, and now non-monogamous queer women can participate in the highly popular music genre that is “songs about fucking” without feeling like it’s the bad kind of naughty.

Zachary Quinto and J.J. Abrams Are Making A Film About The Most Important Gay Love Affair In Hollywood History

A steamy gay love affair from 1950s Hollywood is coming to the big screen thanks to Zachary Quinto and J.J Abrams. The pair, who previously worked together on Star Trek, will now tell the story of Tab Hunter and Anthony Perkins — which will probably involve a lot less outer space. Hunter and Perkins were famous actors who first peaked in the 1950s.

Perkins, who died from AIDS in 1992, was most famous for his iconic role of Norman Bates in Psycho. Hunter, 86, is known for a number of roles and also being a popular heartthrob of his era.

The film, titled Tab & Tony, will be inspired by Hunter’s 2005 memoir Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, which details the actor’s struggle with revealing sexuality in an era when homosexuality was a taboo.

The screenplay for Tab & Tony will be written by Doug Wright, who is mostly known for being a Pulitzer-winning playwright. Film producer Allan Glaser, who is Tab Hunter’s romantic partner, will also be involved with the film.

This story comes at an interesting time for mainstream queer cinema. After Moonlight, Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon, it’ll be interesting to see a more biographical and retrospective take on gay Hollywood.

Images via Getty

Justin Vivian Bond’s ‘Down on Creation’: It Takes a Superstar to Cover One

I’m embarrassed to admit that, beyond the songs I happened to hear out in the world and her famous death due to complications of anorexia nervosa, I knew next to nothing about Karen Carpenter. I certainly didn’t know about her fraught relationship with her family, nor that she’s widely regarded as a gay icon. Fortunately for me, Mx Justin Vivian Bond brought Carpenter’s iconic catalog to Joe’s Pub last month in a revival of v’s Down on Creation—On Top of the World with the Carpenters.

The show plumbs the depths of Karen’s complicated legacy to reveal a woman who made beautiful, lasting work in spite of the roles foisted on her by everyone around her. Bond, who originally thought of calling the evening I Think I’m Gonna Be Sad, paints a dynamic portrait of Karen Carpenter by refusing to languish in pathos and transposing the songs to suit v’s unique voice. As v says, “The money’s in the low notes.”

Bond, a self-described “tomgirl,” meets tomboyish Carpenter more than halfway in an act that parodies her lumbering stage presence (she “talked like a trucker and walked like a Mack truck”), even as it mourns her. Though Carpenter died in 1983, the force of loss didn’t hit Bond until 1991, when v listened to “A Song for You” on a boyfriend’s record.

V’s banter covers the death of v’s cat, Pearl, to getting “fucked next to a washing machine on Quaaludes,” to the forfeiture of v’s front door to a nest of birds. V is “fond of ambivalence as a philosophical posture”—Down on Creation’s ambivalence evokes the question, “What are the consequences of interfering with nature?” For Bond—do you intervene, when baby birds are in danger, at the risk of alienating them from their mother? For Carpenter—could things have gone differently for Karen Carpenter if her family had let her be herself? If society hadn’t required a certain kind of performance—of gender or music—from her? Bond gives us no easy answers. Perhaps there are none.

The show’s title comes from the Carpenters’ “Top of the World,” in which the singer is “at the top of the world, looking down on creation”—a posture that suggests transcendence even as it engenders alienation. Karen must have felt very lonely—Bond, who says, “Sad songs make me happy,” can relate.

Karen Carpenter didn’t live to see her eponymous solo album released, and the Carpenters live on in the popular mind as either “polite plastic pop” or the dysfunctional Barbie-doll family of Todd Haynes’ Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. But as Bond brings self-acceptance, agency, and the power of choice to lyrics Carpenter was obliged to sing, v stakes a claim to her dignity. Probably ours, too—if we follow Bond’s example, we can create a friendlier world for ourselves.

Pianist Matt Ray led a tight band at the keys, giving a mesmerizing solo during “Masquerade” I still think about weeks later. Nath Ann Carrera (guitar), Danton Boller (bass), David Berger (drums) and Claudia Chopek (violin) rounded out the ensemble, bringing otherworldly grace to a beautiful set of tunes. I was especially fond of the four-part harmonies in “Superstar.”

Justin Vivian Bond performs next at LPR X: Justin Vivian Bond and Friends Celebrate Pride 2018 at (le) poisson rouge on Friday, June 22–23, 2018—see the event website for details. V will return to Joe’s Pub this fall—watch The Public’s calendar for updates. Follow v on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or sign up for v’s newsletter on v’s website, www.justinvivianbond.com.

More Than Rainbows: On Performing As An LGBTQ Ally

Pride Month has only just begun, and already it seems like we’re seeing rainbow flags in more places than ever before. In businesses and on websites across the US, companies seem eager to celebrate Pride alongside us in a manner would have seemed barely possible less than a decade ago. Many people would point to this growing enthusiasm for Pride as a positive sign for the growing acceptance and support of the LGBTQ community. But this important celebration of the resistance and resilience has been slowly diluted as more and more people and organizations seek to prove their progressive cred through performing allyhood with queer and trans folks.

In recent years, this performative allyship has reached almost absurd levels, with corporate logos smeared over every surface, and police officers marching in our parades. Unfortunately, while the business world seeks to cash in on Pride month for its own benefit, the wider LGBTQ community is suffering immensely under the oppressive policies of Trump and his Republican allies— especially queer and trans people of color.

In an era where the backlash against our community grows by the day, it’s time for us to retake Pride as an act of political resistance and expect more from organizations and businesses that would call themselves our allies. It’s time for us to reclaim Pride for ourselves.

One of the most frequent sources of friction in recent years has been the participation of police in Pride events. The LGBTQ community and police spent decades at odds, and the most notable confrontations with police (Stonewall Riots, Compton’s Cafeteria Riots, Toronto Bathhouse Raids) served as the galvanizing events for the LGBTQ Rights Movement. The police long served as the primary weapon of the state in marginalizing the LGBTQ community, and systemic ant-LGBT bias still exists within our system of policing.

It’s not surprising then, that there has been a push to keep police out of Pride. Last year, activists in several cities such as Toronto, Phoenix, and LA made a significant push to keep police out of Pride parades and other festivities because of concerns that their presence makes Pride less welcoming to many members of the community. These concerns are well-founded. A 2015 national survey of transgender people found that more than half who interacted with law enforcement experienced mistreatment, and almost 60% of the 28,000+ respondents did not feel comfortable around police. Another study found that LGBTQ people of color face unfair treatment by police at a level well beyond those of straight people of color and white LGBTQ people. Sex workers are also a significant (and often ignored) part of our community. They, too, have plenty of reasons to be wary of police presence. And, of course, with the current administration’s deeply anti-immigrant policy push, any police presence makes Pride completely unwelcome to undocumented LGBT people, as ICE detention is infamously dangerous and cruel to LGBT detainees.

The fact is, Pride is an event rooted in resisting systemic state violence against our community. Allowing police to participate runs counter to the entire history and purpose of the event. It further entrenches concerns that Pride and other LGBTQ events are only for cisgender white gay people.

Of course, police are far from the only unsavory element that needs to be pushed At my recent local Pride event, I was absolutely gutted to see my employer—a large regional hospital system— with a booth set up and corporate PR folks waving rainbow flags. Meanwhile, my health insurance continues to exclude all trans-related healthcare and I have to pay for my hormones out of pocket. Their corporate website contains literally no content when searched for “LGBT,” “gay,” “bisexual,” or “transgender.” It has no specifically LGBTQ-affirming medical providers. The company culture is so unsupportive that I’m actually stealth at work. But here they were at Pride, doing the ally dance for the assembled local queers for good press.

This kind of corporate ally theater has become incredibly common at Pride events across North America. While there are certainly some corporations that are legitimately interested in supporting the LGBTQ community, many others simply use our community space as a marketing opportunity and a chance to curry brand loyalty from consumers who align themselves with progressive causes. These companies are not lobbying Congress on our behalf. They aren’t standing up to the constant onslaught of anti-LGBTQ policies being pushed by the Trump administration. They aren’t providing material support to the LGBTQ organization that support our most vulnerable people. They are not really our allies in any meaningful way.

I fully understand that a Pride event is an expensive undertaking, and the corporate money has become an important way to fund these events. But simply throwing a little money the event or having LGBTQ employees should not be enough for a company to have a booth at our festivals or to be marching in our parades. We don’t need more free pens. We need meaningful, material support for our community as we work towards equality and liberation. That should be the price of entry for any corporation looking to participate in Pride.

Where the corporatization of Pride Month has reached mind-blowing levels of absurdity is in smearing of the rainbow on just about every product imaginable. Reminiscent of the almost-comical levels of “pink-washing” that occurs during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve seen Pride Whoppers, Pride Doritos, Pride Fries, Pride Vodka, Pride Sneakers, Pride Mickey Ears, and now even a Pride band for your Apple Watch. Whereas rainbow-related products were mostly a cottage queer industry, Pride items can now be purchased at Target, Urban Outfitters, and Hot Topic.

While some of the companies selling Pride merch have partnered with LGBTQ charities and funnel at least some of the profits to these deserving organizations, many others are using the rainbow imagery as little more than a tool, pocketing all the profits for themselves. These corporations are not “celebrating pride”. They’re exploiting our collective history, our culture, and our symbols for capitalistic greed.

While there are certainly some cisgender, heterosexual folks buying these products, the onus is largely on us for this situation. The minute we see a rainbow on something, it spreads through the queer social media world like wildfire. Being on the receiving end of this kind of focused marketing is still novel, and it still feels validating in some bizarre consumerist way, as if our symbols in mainstream commerce means that we’ve finally earned acceptance in the wider culture. But it’s something we absolutely need to resist. At the very least, we should expect any product emblazoned with some variant of the Pride flag to have 100% of the profits donated to a worthwhile LGBTQ charity. As a community, we should prioritize buying our Pride merch (and anything else really) from LGBTQ-owned businesses. And more broadly, we ought to work to shift our behaviors at Pride from consumption and consumerism back to the original purpose of Pride: resistance, activism, and community.

After years of consistent political and social progress, Pride has slowly evolved from political event to celebratory party. There is an allure to having the major players of mainstream society involved in our biggest event — it provides a false sense of having reached a place of acceptance and inclusion within the broader fabric of society. But Pride was never about assimilation; the founding principle and driving force is about resistance to the forces that would drive us out of public life, back into the closet, or into an early grave. The LGBTQ community is under some of the worst political assaults we have seen in decades from a President and Republican party hell bent on turning back the clock on our progress. It’s high time we expect more than empty platitudes from police, lip service corporate PR allyship theater, and meaningless rainbow-washed marketing strategies.

Images via Getty

After Masterpiece, Republican Says Christians Should Be Allowed to Discriminate Against Black People

The slope is getting real slippery these days.

After the Supreme Court issued its “narrow” 7-2 verdict in favor of a Christian baker who turned away a gay couple, a conservative lawmaker in South Dakota claimed faith-based businesses should also be allowed to discriminate against people of color.

On Monday, State Rep. Michael Clark referred to the outcome of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission as a “win for freedom of speech and freedom of religion” in a Facebook post. When Clark’s followers asked if he felt that people of faith should also be able to deny service to, say, black people or Latinos, he did not back down.

“He should have the opportunity to run his business the way he wants,” Clark wrote. “If he wants to turn away people of color, then that [sic] his choice.”

The Republican walked back his remarks on Facebook when commenters reminded him that refusing service to individuals based on their race or national origin is prohibited under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Clark admitted that “jumped in on [the issue] a little bit too fast” and edited the initial post.

But when the Sioux Falls newspaper Argus Leader initially reached out to the legislator for comment, he appeared not to change his tune all that much.

“If it’s truly his strongly based belief, he should be able to turn them away,” Clark said of Jack Phillips, the Lakewood, Colo. baker at the center of the Supreme Court case. “People shouldn’t be able to use their minority status to bully a business.”

The right-wing lawmaker added that if customers didn’t like it, they would put the bakery out of business: “The vote of the dollar is very strong.”

But after the story attracted national attention, Clark backtracked yet again.

“I am apologizing for some of my Facebook comments,” he said in an email to the Argus Leader. “I would never advocate discriminating against people based on their color or race.”

Clark added on Facebook that his initial statements were “very racist.”

“I made some comments here on Facebook, defending a Colorado Baker [sic] decision not create a cake for a Homosexual [sic] wedding,” he wrote. “[…] Businesses should not be able to discriminate solely based on race, sex, national origin, age, or handicap. My comments were made in haste, with the belief that businesses should be able to operate with fewer constraints of a heavy-handed government.”

“Of course, I was wrong,” Clark continued, “all business should serve everyone, equally.”

It should be noted that even in his final apology, the groups of people that businesses should not be allowed to discriminate against do not include queer or transgender individuals. That’s perhaps fitting for a candidate who supported legislation allowing adoption agencies to deny placement to same-sex couples and urged Gov. Dennis Daugaard to sign a discriminatory bathroom bill targeting trans students.

“Girls should shower with the girls and boys should shower with the boys,” Clark said of HB 1008, which was vetoed by Daugaard following a threatened boycott by LGBTQ groups.

The representative further called trans people “in between, unsure, confused, or otherwise.”

Following Clarke’s series of half-apologies, local Democratic groups have called for him to resign from the race for South Dakota’s House District 9. In a statement, South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Sam Parkinson referred to his remarks as “disgraceful and disgusting.”

“Anyone who is okay with a business discriminating on the basis of race has no business in the State Legislature, or in any elected office,” Parkinson claimed. “Rep. Clark should drop out of his race for re-election, and leaders in the South Dakota Republican Party should join us in our call for him to drop out. […] The people of South Dakota deserve better.

Clarke, who ran unopposed in the GOP primaries, will face off against Democrats Toni Miller and Michael Saba in the November general election—as well as Republican Deb Peters. District 9 voters tap two representatives to the state legislature.

But Clarke is just one of a handful of conservatives who have claimed their religious identity permits them to discriminate against minority groups in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 7-2 verdict, which weighed whether the Colorado Civil Rights Commission treated Phillips fairly and not whether he had the Constitutional right to turn away same-sex couples.

John Kluge, a former teacher at Indiana’s Brownsburg High School claimed his religious beliefs prevented him from calling transgender students by their correct name and pronouns, calling LGBTQ identity a “dangerous lifestyle.”

After Kluge claimed he was forced to resign, local conservative groups started a letter-writing campaign in protest of the decision.

Image via Getty

CrossFit Executive Supports Indiana Location That Cancelled LGBTQ Pride Event

This CrossFit executive is leaving people less fit and more cross.

CrossfFit Chief Knowledge Officer Russell Berger is under fire after tweeting in support of an Indianapolis, Indiana location that canceled a Pride-themed exercise event.

“Thank you #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by your convictions and refusing to celebrate sin by hosting an @indypride workout,” Berger tweeted. “The intolerance of the LGBTQ ideology toward any alternative views is mind-blowing.”

Indy Pride is an Indianapolis-based LGBTQ non-profit organization that hosts Indiana Pride.

Berger has deleted the tweet, but the screenshot circulated Wednesday afternoon.

In a follow-up tweet, Berger said that Indy Pride is a “celebration of sin.”  

In an email to members of the local Indianapolis gym, owner and coach Brandon Lowe explained that the gym canceled the event because, “We believe that true health forever can only be found within humility – not Pride.”

In a statement to local affiliate RTV6, Lowe said, “The gym has a history of welcoming and serving people training to be fit.” and “The gym never has and never will be anything but welcoming to all human beings who live, move and breathe and God’s world.”

According to RTV6, members began to cancel their memberships after receiving an email that the event was canceled.

“I quit my membership within an hour of receiving the email,” member Becca Kimball said. “I didn’t wanna be associated with a discriminatory organization.”

CrossFit has previously drawn the ire of the LGBTQ community when it banned a transgender woman from competing with other women in a fitness competition.

Several people expressed their dissatisfaction with Berger and CrossFit on Twitter.

According to BuzzFeed, CrossFit placed Berger on unpaid leave following his comments.

In a statement on the company’s Twitter, the CEO of CrossFit said, “I am crazy proud of the gay community in CrossFit.”

INTO has reached out to Indy Pride for comment and will update this story should they respond.

NRA Spokesperson Says Being Forced to Bake Cakes for Gay Couples Is Like ‘Slavery’

National Rifle Association Spokeswoman Dana Loesch believes that forcing Christians to serve same-sex couples is akin to “slavery.”

In a Monday broadcast on her NRATV program Relentless, Loesch sounded off on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which was handed down the same day. Jack Phillips, a baker in Lakewood, Color., fought to overturn a 2013 decision from the state’s civil rights board claiming he violated the rights of Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple who asked him to bake a cake for their wedding, when he turned them away.

SCOTUS claimed in a 7-2 verdict that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission contravened the “free exercise clause” of the U.S. Constitution by denying Phillips a “neutral and respectful consideration” in the case. Justices argued the board’s deliberations illustrated an unconstitutional animus toward religion.

Loesch said the ruling—a narrow procedural verdict on whether the case had been adjudicated fairly, not so-called “religious freedom”—was “clearly a victory for Jack Phillips.”

The host further claimed that “big, statist government progressives” are trying to “force people to engage in expression.”

“Now in other words, that state wants to compel this baker to perform… against the baker’s wishes,” Loesch said, calling attention to a similar case in California siding with an anti-gay baker. “Now, in the real world, we would call this slavery. We would call this some sort of indentured servitude. Who owns whose labor, right? I mean that’s what this is.”

In the California case, Tasties Bakery owner Cathy Miller turned away a lesbian couple, Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio, last year after they requested a cake for their wedding. Kern County Superior Court Judge David R. Lampe ruled in February that Miller was in her right to refuse them service.

“The right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment outweighs the State’s interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace,” Lampe claimed.

But Loesch pointed to some key points in his written opinion to bolster her argument that equal accommodations for LGBTQ people is akin to thousands of years of forced labor. Lampe claimed that Miller was being compelled to “use her talents and to design and create a cake that she had not conceived with the knowledge that her work would be displayed in celebration of a marital union that her religion forbids,” the host noted.

Thus, slavery.

This isn’t Loesch’s only nonsensical attack on the LGBTQ community in recent months. In January, the conservative Trump supporter accused U.S. Senate hopeful Chelsea Manning of “appropriating” her gender in an NRATV segment forcibly misgendering her several times.

“[D]on’t correct me on pronouns, for anybody who is watching,” Loesch said, “because I’m not going to suddenly pretend that this individual who is pretending to be a woman is a part of my sisterhood. He went through maturity and puberty as a male. Just because you get some boobs, and you put some red lipstick on, poorly applied, and a very poor smoky eye bad dye job, that don’t make you a chick.”

Numerous companies have cut ties with the NRA in recent months following national protests of its opposition to gun control measures.

No, Police Really Don’t Belong at Pride Marches

It probably sounds topsy-turvy to most Americans to say that there are places that police officers should not go. In the U.S., we’ve vested police officers with the authority to delineate who can and cannot be in public spaces. And we’ve seen that power play out in the news over the last few months. White people have used police officers to kick black people out of public spaces again and again: public parks, Yale University common rooms, and Philadelphia Starbucks.

These string of incidents happened to take hold of the national consciousness just before the beginning of Pride season, and as they are fresh in the minds of black and brown Americans, the queer community has begun its annual discussion of whether police belong at Pride celebrations.

More so than in any other previous year, police officers’ presence at Pride celebrations is a contentious issue. And the issue has so entered the queer discourse that it’s been memeified in queer Twitter.

But boiling down a complex issue like police presence at Pride down to a meme is extremely difficult. There are many people who feel comforted having an officer within arms’ reach. And, now more than ever, LGBTQ cops argue that they should serve a role in any Pride march.

And while the issue is complex, the answer is not. The memes are right: In order to honor the origins of Pride, police should be excluded from Pride celebrations.

No, I’m not here to nostalgize you to death: we all know that Pride began as a riot against the police, that these officers raided gay bars and crammed queers into squad cars. Having nothing to do with the physical act of sodomy or drinking or disturbing the peace, being queer was seen as an offense, one that the long arm of the law needed to punish. Until black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson threw a brick and fought back, queer people took their petty overnight holdings in stride, but her response — and the response of other LGBTQ people, especially street youth who lived in the West Village — was the first push back.

Pride celebrations do honor those riots, but the past is not the sole reason that queer people should hesitate to see police march in pride. It’s the present.

While in the past all queer people feared the authorities, that’s not true now. In the almost-50 years since Stonewall, racial privilege carved a schism into the queer community. White lesbians and gays are now by-and-large offered protection, while black and Latinx queer people are not. The result: spaces that trans and non-binary people and femmes of color worked to create have become spaces that now exclude them. To allow police into these intentional spaces is to center — as usual — cisgender white gay voices in the planning of pride celebrations, as these people are more often than not the ones who benefit from police presence. This is called homonormativity, or the reality that the queer community capitalizes the “G” in LGBTQ, while often lower-casing all the other letters and dropping the “T” entirely.

Just last year, four black trans and queer disrupted Columbus, Ohio’s Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival to pride festivities to remind pride-goers that just one day prior, Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on charges after killing Philando Castile. It ended with four demonstrators — Wriply Bennet, Kendall Denton, Ashley Braxton, and DeAndre Antonio Miles-Hercules — facing charges including aggravated robbery, resisting arrest, causing harm to a police officer, failure to comply with a police officer’s order and disorderly conduct, according to Teen Vogue. The four protesters — who came to be known as the Black Pride 4 — were found guilty of six of the eight charges.

In a video for AJ+, Bennet said that, as they were arrested, two white women began to cackle and one of them spit on her.

During their disruption, the group of protesters asked for seven minutes of silence to acknowledge those black and brown people killed by police violence, the many trans and gender non-conforming people who were killed in the last year and for the lack of diversity at the pride event.

“Having a pride parade that is dominantly white and then policed — overpoliced — by a system of police that has been murdering black folk in your city,” Bennet said, “it absolutely excludes people of color, trans folk, LGBTQIA folk from the event.”

And the same thing happens elsewhere, as well. Police arrested black and brown activists decrying police violence in New York City during the 2017 pride march, as well.

Many Pride celebrations — Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, to name a few — take place in formerly queer, heavily gentrified neighborhoods which are usually over-policed and criminalize queer youth of color.

Some queer people — mainly privileged queer people — have called for more police in queer spaces ever since the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. That same weekend, police apprehended someone allegedly heading to the Los Angeles pride festival with explosives, guns, and ammo, though his intent was never clarified, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After these back-to-back events, police flooded queer events, often without community input.

“You have police walking the streets with automatic weapons, lining the streets, standing next to signs that say ‘We are Orlando’ or the names of the victims,” a staff member of the New York City Anti-Violence told Mic about the 2016 Pride parade shortly after the shooting. “Aside from it being slightly ironic, it speaks to this country’s way of protecting people: sending police in and not thinking of the effects that can have on communities of color, queer communities, and trans communities.”

Some of the people who survived the Pulse massacre would not benefit from increased police presence at pride celebrations, either. Though woefully underreported by the media, several of the survivors of the mass shooting were undocumented, and several cities that will celebrate pride this year, including Orlando itself are not sanctuary cities: police officers are open to speaking to immigration when apprehending an undocumented citizen.

There’s no easy solution when it comes to making sure that everyone in a space feels safe. But while queer communities work to make sure that all people in a queer space feel safe, the community must also recognize that it might be doing active harm to its most marginalized if it continues to allow police into spaces that are supposed to be for black and brown queer youth.

Police may no longer feel like your oppressors, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t oppressors to others in your community.