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.

Bisexual Man Assaulted At Utah Pride Festival Defending Two Gay Men

An attack by a mob at the Utah Pride Festival left one bisexual man bleeding and police searching for clues after as many as 20 assailants took off on foot Saturday.

According to Salt Lake Police Detective Rob Ungricht two gay men sought refuge in the Doki Doki ice cream shop Saturday night at around 10:30 pm after a mob of white men started threatening them with anti-gay slurs.

The attack happened in the middle of the city’s two-day pride festival as the night wound down.

Terrance Mannery, who works at the shop, let the two and barred the mob from entering. According to Mannery and Police, there were at least seven men, but Mannery says several witnesses told him as many as 15-20 were involved.

“I stated that I was not going to allow them in because in my mind, if this group of people was harassing then what is going to happen next?” Mannery told INTO. “So my thought process was let me just make sure everyone inside was safe and after that, we started fighting.”

Mannery said that a man in the mob attacked him, and he tried to fight him off.

“Some chairs we had just put up got knocked down, so no one inside the restaurant could get out,” he said.

Eventually, there were able to leave, however, and the altercation spilled into the street, where bystanders tried to intervene. The gay men were not harmed, but Mannery walked away with a nosebleed, cuts above his eye and a gashed lip.

Mannery is bisexual, but he said that didn’t play into his decision to intervene.

“At the time, I wasn’t really thinking of it that way,” he said. “Maybe subconsciously it pushed a few buttons.”

Ungricht said even though the assailants yelled anti-gay slurs before the attack, it is unlikely to be pursued as a hate crime because Mannery was not the intended target of the slurs.

“So right now what that classifies as is a simple assault,” he said.

Police are appealing to the public for any information that could lead to an arrest in the case.

“We don’t have a lot of physical evidence,” Ungricht said. “We don’t have any video to put out for identification purposes.”

The Utah Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has also posted a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the attacks.

“The UGLCC’s anti-violence fund was created to provide the victims of homophobic or transphobic crimes and to provide resources for the prosecution of perpetrators of such crimes,” the group said in a statement. “The world needs more Terrance Mannery’s.”

Wow, The Video For ‘Girls’ Is Even Worse Than The Song

As soon as the song “Girls” came out, I received several messages from friends, asking my thoughts. Some were looking for me to share their outrage over big names co-opting bisexuality, while others were fans of the catchy bi-affirming bop and were hoping I’d give them my blessing. On Twitter, openly queer artists like Torres, Kittens, Kehlani, and Hayley Kiyoko called the track out for appropriating queer culture and selling, literally, the same old Sapphic-tinged song about getting just tipsy enough to take a dip in the lady pond. 

The song,  Rita Ora’s with cameos from Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha, and Cardi B, is an homage to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” according to Ora, who wrote the track with six men (three of whom produced the track) and one other woman. (Cardi B penned her own verse.) The male gaze (ear?) is apparent in the lyrics that inevitably make “Girls” a stereotype-perpetuating pop track about women feeling drunk and bored enough to have a dalliance with a lady friend. Ora eventually apologized for offending fans and peers but also wanted to make her own bisexual identity clear. She was singing, she says, from her own experiences, which is that “sometimes she just wants to kiss girls, girls, girls.” 

Clearly, queer women were finding themselves conflicted with the kinds of visibility being offered in 2018. Ten years ago, “I Kissed a Girl” provided a public nod to bisexuality that was as problematic as it was popular. There was still an argument made by supporters (aka those who have a thing for straight girls or identify as straight girls) that the song was about a very specific experience, one that shouldn’t be dismissed or ignored. The fact that “I Kissed a Girl” received much more support and radio play than songs about the lesbian or bisexual experience from out lesbian or bisexual artists, though, was worth noting, as was the noticeable marketing push for Perry to play coy about it being based in any truth. (The story has changed many times, but most recently, Perry says she would make significant changes to the song now, having listened to LGBTQ fans and critics of the song’s mention of her boyfriend’s approval and other stereotypical stanzas that further myths about bisexuals.)

The other three women on “Girls” have also spoken about being sexually open, though every verse is a more cheeky delivery of fleeing flirtatious curiosity than an affirmation of non-heteronormative romance and relationships. What could have helped this narrative would have been to make a killer queer music video; one in which lesbian and bisexual women saw themselves reflected unlike Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” which, infamously, included zero girls kissing. (Instead, just Perry delivering a lot of come-hither looks and a slumber party full of feminine women definitely not making out with each other.)

The “Girls” video, out today, was directed by (wait for it!) a man, and has very little kissing. Instead, it’s shots of Ora delivering a lot of come-hither looks and a slumber party full of feminine women definitely not making out with each other. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before!) They’re wearing lingerie and all have identical soft blonde curls to those Ora sports, one of the video’s first nods to narcissism, a stereotype that plagues lesbians or anyone who dates the same sex. Bebe Rexa’s scenes has her kissing her own reflection in the mirror, no other girls in sight. (Cardi’s verse includes “I’m too sexy, I seduce myself,” furthering the theme.) Charli XCX is singing amongst wandering women in white in a wooded area, and there’s a brief shot of two women caressing one another in some illicit, secretive cruising scenario.  

Then there’s Rita and Cardi as holograms, Cardi using some Gene Simmons-esque tongue tricks to show off her perceived expertise. When Cardi and Ora share a peck on the lips, it’s hard to tell if the two women were edited together or actually in the same room. Either way, there’s no chemistry like there was in Kiyoko and Kehlani’s video for “What I Need” released this week, nor the Syd-directed video for The Internet’s “Come Over,” also out today. As the only actual kiss between women in the video, it’s without passion or longing. It exists purely for titillation and, surely, attention-grabbing headlines.

There’s a palpable difference in videos directed by queer women about queer women, and in songs written by queer women about their own experiences. I’m not discounting Ora’s sexuality, nor Cardi’s, Charli’s, or Bebe’s. When there are several straight cis men writing a song with you, producing it, directing the music video, that influence will inevitably show, and that’s the case for “Girls.” Were this song and subsequent visual component helmed by queer women, it would feel much more authentic—a for us, by us feeling that queer women so rarely get the chance to experience but are, luckily, able to find more than ever with openly lesbian and bisexual artists who are making it a priority to serve that audience; their own community. The fantasy “Girls” provides is noticeably one lacking a queer aesthetic, which, I suppose, is also representative of the song itself.

Halsey and Lauren Jauregui’s duet “Strangers” doesn’t have a disclaimer about why they are both women, lamenting about the loss of one another to each other, and when Halsey sings about women as lovers in other tracks, it’s in the same vein as the men she croons about with equal candor and emotion. Tegan and Sara don’t have to lay out the specifics of their love interest’s identity when singing about their confusing treatment in “Boyfriend”—it’s understood. And if listeners who aren’t queer might not grasp it at first—perhaps it’s something that’s outside of their own experience that they don’t necessarily identify with—then they’ll have to suspend disbelief to put themselves in a song, just like queer people have had to do with heterosexual love songs for decades upon decades. 

Artists who dare to sing from and about the queer woman’s experience are still pushing against a heterosexualized narrative that still begs them to conform. Being openly queer and casting women love interests in music videos, speaking out about non-straight sexuality, and doing so beyond one radio single is, even in #20Gayteen, a radical act. This is especially true for women of color and masculine of center artists such as Syd and the androgynous-leaning Kiyoko.

“Girls” is not radical. It’s not pushing the needle forward, nor offering a positive, progressive kind of representation for queer women who are seeking their stories in popular music. It’s a sanitized version of vague Sapphic willingness that is akin to the ’90s versions of mainstream lesbian-tinged films—the Wild Things of radio-ready, highly-produced pop tunes (just in time for Pride!).  When I considered what queer women might find in “Girls” that they need and can’t find elsewhere, it’s perhaps the idea that their identities and experiences are worth something—a validation that kissing girls is okay. But when accompanied with lyrics like “sometimes,” that kissing girls happens when drinking “red wine” or getting high, when it’s committing to being queer for “one night,” the ultimate narrative of “Girls” is not that women are fluid and that’s cool, but that it’s cool for a limited time only.

That, I told my friends who sent me texts and asked my initial thoughts, is not validation. That’s another “Cool for the Summer”; another step back when we have out artists who are pushing forward, against conventions that would try to keep them from doing so. It’s having Katy Perry play the Dinah instead of openly gay musicians. It’s having to hear “Girls” on Pride playlists, taking up the space of queer artists working hard to be heard and acknowledged when the songs they wrote without additional input from men are queer because they are, and marketing sexual identity in such a blatant way would be beneath them; would belittle their artistry and community. 

Sure, songs about bisexuality will always be a part of pop music, and always have been. But there’s a sizable difference between songs like “Girls” and Kiyoko’s “Girls Like Girls,” an entirely different take on the notion of sexual fluidity. If “Girls” is a testament to being “50/50” and “open-minded” as Ora sings, then Kiyoko’s furthers this, singing about how love between women is not unequal or less than love between a man and a woman; that her bisexual love interest will ultimately find “Girls like girls like boys do. Nothing new.” No alcohol or drugs needed; no time limit enforced; no male validation; no secret self-obsession that translates into looking for a woman who inevitably serves as a carbon copy of yourself. 

“Girls” isn’t offering anything we haven’t seen or heard before, and it’s also male-dominated in all aspects of production. It just feels tired. As well-intentioned as it may have been on Ora’s behalf,  the unfortunate truth is she didn’t learn from the “I Kissed a Girl” missteps and, instead, tried to capitalize on its success with a too-similar take. Just like its predecessor, should you find yourself singing the chorus in the car or at your local gay bar, or unfortunately, getting it inside your head (guilty!),  consider the song is ultimately one that likens a bisexual identity to putting on a nightie and discarding it just as easily, which is how it will feel when the artists involved move on to more songs and videos by and about men. If that feels OK to you, then “Girls” just might be your jam.

SOPHIE Announces Release Date For Debut Album

English music producer SOPHIE announced the release of her debut, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES, and it’s June 15th. A lot of fans have been eagerly waiting for this big announcement as SOPHIE has already graced us with three singles from the upcoming album.

As a producer/songwriter, SOPHIE has worked with rapper Le1f and was partially responsible for Charli XCX’s new sound on her Vroom Vroom EP.  In October 2017, SOPHIE showed her face for the first time in her music video for “It’s Okay to Cry.” In an interview with Teen Vogue, SOPHIE talked about how she didn’t like the phrase “coming out,” but this video did serve as the first time her audience knew that she was trans.

Since then, SOPHIE has released two other singles including “Faceshopping” and “Ponyboy.” All three of her singles will be on the upcoming album, just a few weeks away.

Gay K-Pop Artist MRSHLL Releases First EP

Marshall Bang aka MRSHLL has officially made his K-pop debut with his new EP, Breathe. The Korean-American rapper, who grew up in the United States, made his first appearance in K-pop in 2017 when he performed on Show Me The Money, a Korean music competition.

Bang is the one of only two openly gay K-pop artist out there today, and he is proud to be visible.

I don’t think I consciously made a decision to be the ‘gay singer’ of Korea,” MRSHLL told Billboard. “I wasn’t trying to make a scandal or create buzz; it literally just happened in the most organic and natural way.”

Being gay in South Korea is a bigger deal than one might think given the appearance and mannerisms of some big male K-pop stars. As Bang points out, there’s a certain level of androgyny, with boy bands often displaying more feminine expressions than American male artists. But no one is openly gay — the culture wouldn’t allow for it.

Part of that is because K-pop artists rarely speak about sexuality or personal relationships. In fact, some K-pop contracts include a dating ban for the beginning portion of an artist’s career because they want artists to present a specific way for their fans. Allegedly, this is because they want the fan base to be able to fantasize about these artists, and for the artists to seem available for anyone’s romantic or sexual projections.

Homosexuality isn’t culturally acceptable in South Korea largely due to a belief rooted in the Confucian focus on the family that same-sex relationships are thought to be a detriment to.

Breathe, available on iTunes now, has a six-song track list and has features from other emerging members within K-pop, such as songwriter Lydia Paek and rapper Ja Mezz.

Evangelicals Say It’s ‘Religious Freedom’ When Christians Refuse Gay Couples—But Not If Muslims Do It

A new poll released by Morning Consult just a day after the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling is a revealing look at the debate over “religious freedom” in the United States.

Conducted the week of May 25, the poll found that white evangelicals were more likely to say that a Christian bakery had the Constitutional right to refuse service to same-sex couples than a Muslim business who turned away LGBTQ customers. Six in 10 white evangelicals (60 percent) sided with the Christian-owned company in cases of religious refusal, while just 46 percent of the same group felt Muslims had the right to do so.

The same trends were true when it came to white evangelicals’ beliefs about the “religious freedom” rights of other faiths. Fifty-five percent of white evangelicals polled believed Jewish business owners should have the right to discriminate in the name of their religious beliefs, while just half said the same about Mormon-owned companies.

Meanwhile, 20 percent of evangelicals claimed they have never met an LGBTQ person.

These results are strikingly different from overall findings in the Morning Consult poll, in which 2201 adults were surveyed about their opinions on faith-based refusals. Fifty-seven percent of respondents claimed it should be illegal to deny services to LGBTQ people solely on the basis of religion, while just 37 percent of those polled supported turning people away because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

A separate poll released the same day from Reuters/Ipsos came to the same conclusion: 72 percent of survey respondents claimed that Christian business owners like Jack Phillips, the baker at the center of the Masterpiece case, should not be able to discriminate in the name of their beliefs.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated the “Free Exercise Clause” of the U.S. Constitution by reprimanding Phillips for turning away Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who requested a cake for their wedding in 2012. In siding with the plaintiffs, the state civil rights board ordered the Lakewood, CO baker to offer “comprehensive staff training” to employees on local anti-discrimination laws.

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy claimed that “the neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised” by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruling.

“The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of [Phillips’] case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection,” said Kennedy, a moderate conservative who has authored many of the court’s most progressive decisions on LGBTQ rights.

While Kennedy stopped short of weighing on the “religious freedom” argument, he said the debate would be decided by future court cases.

Other potential Supreme Court cases over whether people of faith have the Constitutional right to turn away LGBTQ customers include Arlene’s Flowers Inc. vs. State of Washington, in which florist Barronelle Stutzman refused to provide floral arrangements for a gay wedding. Stutzman, who claimed her “relationship with Jesus Christ” made her unable to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony, has filed a writ of certiorari with SCOTUS to hear the case.

But as the U.S. court system continues to deliberate over the rights of LGBTQ people versus people of faith, the Morning Consult poll shows that those Constitutional liberties aren’t applied equally across all religions.

That’s why GLAAD has asked media outlets to stop using terms like “religious freedom” or “religious liberty” without scare quotes or an asterisk.

“Advocates for these types of bills often describe the issue as purely about religious freedom or liberty,” the national LGBTQ organization claims. “However, they are actually quite different from religious liberty as it is usually understood. At their core, these cases are not about the right to practice religion freely, but rather using religion as a tool to push for exemptions from laws created to protect fellow citizens.”

Instead, GLAAD suggests that publications use terms like “religious exemption” to describe faith-based refusal laws.

Laganja Estranja Was On ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and I’m Literally Dying

In a true colliding of worlds, Laganja Estranja auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance Season 15 on Monday. The Drag Race Season 6 alum crossed over into straight culture for a night when she performed RuPaul’s “Cover Girl” in front of judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and resident voguing expert Vanessa Hudgens,  as well as guest judge Stephen “tWitch” Boss.

Funnily enough, she only refers to her drag name as Ms. Estranja — probably because they wouldn’t let her say “Laganja” on Fox. It is always a treat to watch straight people interact with drag performers. For example, the host of the show, Cat Deeley, quoted Beyoncé within 30 seconds of meeting Estranja saying, “you woke up like this.”

“When I get up on stage, I tear it up,” Estranja said in her intro video. “The floor is my mission and baby, I am on it.”

When Estranja meets the judges, they are immediately enthralled with her. She introduces herself with an“okurr” and a tongue pop and they eat it up. It was interesting to watch how behavior that made her unpopular on Drag Race was so well received among a more mainstream audience.

From the get-go, her routine is straight out of a drag show. The first thing she does when the music starts is a death drop — it doesn’t get more drag show than that. The judges’ reactions to her performance are pretty mixed. They all agree that her personality and energy are magnetic, but think her actual dancing skills could be improved. Nevertheless, through some genuine Laganja charisma, she got the votes she needed to make it to the next round of the competition.

If drag culture (and Drag Race specifically) does one thing well, it’s teaching these queens how to be entertaining on television.

‘Pose’ and ‘My House’ Are Reclaiming Ballroom

Last Monday night, the Meatpacking District in New York City hosted a special edition of Vogue Knights, a recurring mini ball in the city. It was founder Jack Mizrahi’s birthday and the local scene turned out in force with legends like Dashaun Wesley commentating in addition to other scene notables like Kelly Mizrahi, Monster Labeija, and Tati 007 all making appearances. During one of Jack’s introductory bouts on the mic, his speech took a turn.

He explained the importance of community to culture at large. “Our culture is culture,” he said, underlining how ballroom lingo, verbiage and ways of life have been mainstreamed and adopted by pop culture. But he pushed the point further.

“RuPaul has built a legacy on the backs and struggles of this community and trans people of color,” he said leading up to the height of his speech. That comment was referencing Drag Race’s frequent usage of ballroom language and methods, incorporating them into challenges and essentially commodifying the culture with little respect for accuracy or connection to the actual community. “But on June 3, we will let the whole world know who we are.” The legendary commentator was referring to the debut of PoseRyan Murphy’s latest FX show set in the early ballroom scene but following fictionalized characters. One of the lead actors, Ryan Jamal Swain who plays Damon, was in fact at the ball and introduced by Jack as a face to watch.

It was quite the introduction for the ball but it was true: the Ballroom community is finally at the forefront of culture as much as their art form is. Dashaun, father of the House of Lanvin, was recently in a Christian Louboutin video for the popular high fashion e-tailer MyTheresa.comMonster LaBeija and his house brother Ivan Caci LaBeija make an appearance in Lil Mama’s new music video. Tati 007, Precious Ebony, and Alex Mugler of Viceland’s My House all make it into Blink Fitness’s latest commercial in partnership with Gay Men’s Health Crisis. They are joined by Luna Lens from the House of Khan and Monet Performance.

Ballroom, not just voguing, is here and reclaiming its time.

Last week’s episode of My House dug into that exact thing. Tati and Alex were chosen to walk in the Gypsy Sport Fall 2018 at New York Fashion Week in February. “For us to be here is surreal,” Tati says in the episode of the event. “Who knew that ballroom could take us to these heights?” But only four months later, it’s clear that experience was only one part of an upward trajectory.

There is a learning curve, however, to this integration and commodification of ballroom. “A lot of people in ballroom get taken advantage of just because of what they don’t know and that’s how people in the entertainment industry get you,” Alex says on the show, revealing that he works at a cabinetry company to keep his life consistent and stable. “So now I think it’s our responsibility now to tell [the entertainment industry] not to just take on the low and not give us the credit or the coin.”

Proper compensation and credit is an important and longstanding conversation. It was what ultimately soured some opinions over the impactful Paris Is Burning. It is a conversation happening in culture at large under the banner of cultural appropriation. And many times, as the ballroom community is finding, when that compensation comes, it is an afterthought and doesn’t come on the same terms as it does with others.

“Bitch, you wanna act real funny, bitch better gimme my money,” Precious raps on a track played in the episode. She explains the context later to a friend. “I came up with that song because I’m tired of bitches playing. When you book me, bitch have my deposit, come correct. Times is changing. I’ve become one of those people that has mastered what I’m doing so come at me correct. Don’t come at me half step. Don’t try to send me on a bus cross town.” And increasingly now, the community is reaping benefits and compensation on par with their talent not only in the form of My House but also the fictional Pose.

Pose’s importance is immeasurable for this community. While many accolades of its “firsts” have been lauded, one has been forgotten: this is the first major television show to place the ballroom scene at the center of its narrative. And though it’s fiction, the characters are baked in the history of the community.

| Score the #HouseofAbundance | #PoseFX | 📸 by |

A post shared by Jason A Rodriguez ( on

Elektra (Dominique Jackson), mother of the House of Abundance, most resembles Crystal LaBeija, founding mother of the House of LaBeija. The writers lean into this characterization, pulling quotes like “I have a right to show my color,” which Crystal uttered in the 1969 documentary The Queen, for actual lines. Crystal was known for her searing reads, as is Elektra.

Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), who becomes disgruntled with Elektra’s iron fist, decides to strike out on her own, beginning the House of Evangelista by picking up house members off the street, and building a ragtag group based on equal parts talent and need for family. She is Pose’s equivalent of Angie Xtravaganza, founding mother of the House of Xtravaganza. And in comes Jamal, her Hector. Professionally trained as a dancer, Jamal is her secret weapon at ballroom competitions; she is fiercely protective of and invested in him. Also of this house is Angel (Indya Moore), a sex worker pursuing the white filtered American dream.

But there’s more. Pose has not just put members of the community into the stories, they also make appearances throughout the show. Jason Rodriguez, who is a member of the actual House of Ninja, has a recurring role on the show in the House of Abundance. Twiggy Pucci-Garcon, Hector Xtravaganza, Jose Xtravaganza and others appear on the judging panels. But they are also behind the screen.

Ballroom notables like Leiomy Maldenado and Danielle Polanco’s names are prominently listed as choreographers in addition to their cameo appearances. Twiggy is listed, too, as a consultant. This means that not only is the beauty of ballroom explored on the show but it’s done so by the actual community in ways that will now allow them to navigate the entertainment industry more easily. These aren’t just talented artists in the underground that “someone should take a chance on.”

These are now artists and creatives with resumes, with credits anyone will take seriously. These credits as consultants, producers, cameos, and actors mean that Pose may be the stepping stone for many to translate their ballroom talent into mainstream success, birthing an entire generation of talent that had been before relegated to the underground.

Time for the world to know indeed.

Facebook Won’t Be Giving Us Rainbow Flags For Pride This Year

2017 was by no means a good year to be on the internet, but one beautiful piece of social media emerged from the otherwise hellish year: Facebook’s LGBTQ Pride react button. Throughout last June, the social network offered a little rainbow flag reaction button—right alongside the “Like,” “Angry,” and “Wow” buttons—to those who “liked” the [email protected] page and to “major markets with Pride celebrations.” And for 30 glorious days, it was fun to be queer online again.

But oh, how things can change in a year. Facebook told Business Insider it has discontinued all temporary reaction buttons, seemingly permanently. That includes not just the Pride button, but the Mother’s Day flower and the Star Trek ones they apparently did, among others. Now we all just “like” [email protected] for no real reason, which, fine. So rest in peace, The Gay Button. You were the only good tech innovation since the gif.

The Pride react wasn’t politically monumental or all that important. It was just fucking fun. Finally, we could label anything we saw on Facebook as queer. Photo of your friend’s bulldog puppy? Gay. Status update announcing a cross-country move? Gay. A shitty, bigoted rant from your racist aunt? Throw a Pride flag on it and see what happens. Your straight friends’ engagement photos? SO fucking gay. Performative allyship from that girl who called you a dyke in A.P. Bio class? Angry react, duh. Don’t let that idiot off the hook. But pretty much everything else? So, so queer. We could plaster adorable little rainbow flags to whatever we chose, declaring everything “gay” simply because it’s Pride Month. What a dumb, fun online thing.

A little rainbow flag isn’t technically an emotion (as “Like” or “Wow!” sort of are), so what did it actually mean to react “Pride” to something? Does it matter? Our use of the Pride react didn’t have to make actual sense; indeed, it was more fun when it didn’t.

This year, Facebook has rolled out Pride-themed photo filters, stickers and status backgrounds, so you can drape gay flags all over your own content as much as you please. But the rainbow react was incredible because we, as queers, were labeling other things queer. The Gay Button let us scream our LGBTQ pride all over our feeds, for all our friends, family, and acquaintances from middle school summer camp to see. Cheekily labeling the mundane daily content we always see on Facebook as “gay” was a way of occupying a largely heteronormative space, a.k.a, our social media feeds. Dare I suggest it made Facebook cool again?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Facebook’s tacit endorsement of Pride Month is really no better than any other corporations’. It’s painfully trendy for companies to blast rainbow signage each June, as if that does anything to better the LGBTQ agenda. Even the FBI tweeted a Pride Month message the other day, and their history with the gay community, uh, ain’t great. This type of messaging is the laziest (and often, a downright manipulative) way to engage with queerness. In 2018, the LGBTQ community is still being denied rights on institutional levels; a little rainbow logo from a mega-corporation isn’t doing anything.

So yeah, Facebook’s Pride button was barely meaningful, but it was fun! It echoed the simpler days of the internet, when it wasn’t an eternally burning pile of diapers we can’t seem to put out or tear our eyes from. It allowed me to actually enjoy logging on to Facebook, something that hasn’t happened since the days of weekly 50-photo albums documenting dorm room pre-games. Since those days, Facebook has made countless useless updates, sold our data, and left the fate of democracy up to trolls. I can’t believe I’m still even on Facebook. But in June 2017, I got to fuck around online with my LGBTQ friends, and it was actually an enjoyable way to use the website. So, why not again in 2018?

Give the queers what we want—it’s Pride Month, after all. It’s only June 5, Facebook. You’ve still got 25 days.

The 30th Annual Lambda Literary Awards Celebrate The Best In Queer Reads This Year

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Lambda Literary Awards are the highlight of my literary year. Even in a year where I didn’t release a book so am not eligible for an award nomination, I love the Lammys – I even tattooed the lambda sign on my ankle after I won the emerging author award in 2013. This year, I was one of many judges for the awards, sworn to secrecy throughout the process but now able to disclose.

Last night, the 30th annual Lambda Literary Awards was held in New York City at NYU’s Skirball Center For The Performing Arts. It was emceed by the one and only lesbian comedian Kate Clinton, whose commentary was relevant, funny, smart, and engaged with our terrifying homophobic/transphobic political climate and the importance of writing.

I don’t tend to get excited about pageantry for the sake of pageantry, but there is just something magical about being in a fancy room filled with people there to celebrate queer books! To be in that space surrounded by LGBTQ authors whose books have deeply touched my life is powerful and inspiring. Writing is, for the most part, a solitary act, so the Lammys are a welcome annual opportunity to get dressed up, socialize, and celebrate.

One of the most touching moments of the night was the tribute to Lambda’s outgoing Executive Director Tony Valenzuela for his nine years of service to the organization (incoming Executive Director Sue Landers was named publicly this week and briefly introduced at the awards). Valenzuela has been a rock and a force in the literary world on behalf of the Lambda Literary Foundation and LGBTQ authors. Speaking briefly at the awards, he mentioned how he once reframed a question from a reporter, one that asked whether Lammys were still relevant after all the advancements in LGBTQ rights. Valenzuela commented that what he heard in that question was, “Now that we have these rights, do we need your culture?” Valenzuela’s vision and commitment not just to Lambda, but to queer culture, will be greatly missed by the LGBTQ literary community, and by me personally.

Edmund White was the recipient of this year’s Visionary Award. Speaking about his writing life and legacy, White poignantly brought attention to the writers who we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS, and spoke about the pleasure of writing. He said he’s often been asked if he regretted calling himself a gay writer.

“If I were straight,” he said, “I wouldn’t have wanted to be a writer. I wouldn’t have wanted to confess or tell the stories of my friends.”

An absolute highlight of the evening was hearing Roxane Gay speak as she took the stage twice. Gay was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for her book Hunger, which won the Lammy for Bisexual Nonfiction, and then the Trustees Award. In her acceptance speech, Gay said, “On the page, I become the best or perhaps the truest version of myself–and it’s fun, and I don’t think we talk enough about that especially when we talk about marginalized writers.”

She also spoke of the pressures on marginalized authors to write our trauma for “public consumption.”

“Writing has offered me salvation and sanctuary,” she said. “I write because I just love writing.”

It was exciting to see the publishing professional award get more attention as part of the Lammy awards this year. The 2018 recipient of the award is Bluestockings Bookstore, an independent bookstore in the Lower East Side of New York City. We’ve lost so many incredible feminist, LGBTQ, independent bookstores, that it’s vital for writers and readers to support those that have managed to stay around.

The musical entertainment was cut from the show this year, but the presenters were fantastic. A highlight was Auntie Kate Bornstein joking that “With all the right wing lies going around about trans people I’m surprised they aren’t nominated for Transgender fiction” while preparing to announce the winner in that very category.

New this year at the awards were projected video acceptance speeches from winners who weren’t able to attend (because as more than one winner commented in their acceptance speech, let’s be real about how much money queer authors don’t make, and traveling to NYC ain’t cheap). Of course, the preference is to see winners take the stage, their excitement and emotion palpable, but it was fun to be able to put a face and voice to a winner instead of just the repeated voice-of-God saying “The foundation accepts this award on behalf of…”

Here is a full list of this year’s Lambda Literary Award winners.

Lesbian Fiction

Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado, Graywolf Press

Gay Fiction

After the Blue Hour, John Rechy, Grove Press

Bisexual Fiction

The Gift, Barbara Browning, Coffee House Press

Bisexual Nonfiction

Hunger, Roxane Gay, HarperCollins

Transgender Fiction

Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, Bogi Takács (ed), Lethe Press

LGBTQ Nonfiction

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Haymarket Books

Transgender Nonfiction

Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, C. Riley Snorton, University of Minnesota Press

Lesbian Poetry

Rock | Salt | Stone, Rosamond S. King, Nightboat Books

Gay Poetry

While Standing in Line for Death, CA Conrad, Wave Books

Transgender Poetry

recombinant, Ching-In Chen, Kelsey Street Press

Lesbian Mystery

Huntress, A.E. Radley, Heartsome Publishing

Gay Mystery

Night Drop, Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

The Fact of a Body, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Flatiron Books

Gay Memoir/Biography

Lives of Great Men: Living and Loving as an African Gay Man, Chike Frankie Edozien, Team Angelica Publishing

Lesbian Romance

Tailor-Made, Yolanda Wallace, Bold Strokes Books

Gay Romance

Love and Other Hot Beverages, Laurie Loft, Riptide Publishing

LGBTQ Erotica

His Seed, Steve Berman, Unzipped Books

LGBTQ Anthology

¡Cuéntamelo! Oral Histories by LGBT Latino Immigrants, Juliana Delgado Lopera, Aunt Lute Books

LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult

Like Water, Rebecca Podos, Balzer + Bray


The Gulf, Audrey Cefaly, Samuel French

LGBTQ Graphic Novels

My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Emil Ferris, Fantagraphics Books


Autonomous, Annalee Newitz, Tor Books

LGBTQ Studies

Punishing Disease: HIV and the Criminalization of Sickness, Trevor Hoppe, University of California Press

Images courtesy Lambda Literary