After Protesting Church Sign Misgendering Caitlyn Jenner, These Activists Are Fundraising to Repair It

Protesters are helping a California church fundraise to repair a sign which was allegedly vandalized after it bore a transphobic message misgendering and deadnaming Caitlyn Jenner.

Justin Hoke, a pastor at Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church in Lake Shastina, reported on Wednesday that a sign reading “Bruce Jenner is still a man” had been destroyed.

Homosexuality is still a sin,” the message continued. “The culture may change. The Bible does not.”

In a Facebook post highlighting the damage, he claimed the Plexiglass had been shattered and the letters had been stolen.

“I woke this morning to find that our sign had been vandalized,” Hoke wrote. “I have not seen it up close yet as this picture was sent to me by a member of our congregation. Please pray that God would provide.”

“As wickedness increases the fear of God decrees,” he added later.

Although Hoke blamed the destruction on a group who protested the sign on Jan. 6, organizers Amelia Mallory, Charolette Kalayjian, and Mishelle Le Guellec told the Siskiyou Daily News the “Shastina Love Rally” was not responsible.

“To our knowledge, nobody affiliated with our peaceful rally was involved,” Mallory said. “If we do become aware of the culprit we will be informing the local authorities.”

Protesters “condemn the use of violence and destruction of property,” she added.

The estimated dozen protesters who gathered across the street from Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church on Sunday are reportedly planning another demonstration for this weekend. Activists say their message is “strictly of love and support for anyone who feels like they are the target of the sign.”

But in a perhaps surprising twist, members of the local LGBTQ community plan to use the rally to raise money for the church. There will be a “collection to help… with repairs to their sign” at this Sunday’s event, Mallory said.

Organizers hope the gesture will help change hearts and minds within the church.

“While we are donating with no strings attached, we do hope that pastor Hoke will reflect on the generosity of those he rebukes before posting another similar message,” Mallory told the local news station KRDV.

In a Sunday sermon, Hoke did not appear ready to make nice. He took aim at LGBTQ rights in a speech calling same-sex unions “selfish.”

“What the world calls love is not love at all,” he claimed. “Rather it is extreme mutually agreed upon selfishness which knows nothing of sacrifice, nothing of servanthood, nothing at all of seeking another’s highest good.”

The sermon was called “Love Warns.” The title is a reference to the popular marriage equality slogan, “Love Wins.”

As of Thursday, a temporary sign was back on display.  In the caption of a Facebook photo showing the glass patched together with duct tape, Hoke remarked: “It’s not pretty, but it’s back up.”

George is Tired…Of Terrible-Ass Apologies

We have already been in the month of January for 525,600 minutes and we have not only brought the B.S. of 2018 with us but compounded it with even more foolishness. However, since I love social media, petty moments, and celebrities’ inability to find good PR professionals these days, you could say I’m in heaven.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was tired of Kevin Hart. A few weeks later I am STILL tired of Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart’s timeline from the past five weeks has sort of read like this:

“I apologized for being homophobic so I’m not going to apologize again, but then I lost the Oscar hosting gig so I then apologized again, but it was found out that the apology after losing the Oscars gig was actually my first apology and the myth that I told everyone was an apology was really me calling LGBTQ people too sensitive for my humor which has now sent me on a promo tour about my new boring ass movie where instead of talking about the movie I talk about how I have moved on over, and over and over again, proving that I haven’t moved on but that my ego is too strong to let it go because I’m used to getting away with everything — look at both my marriages!”

Where is the damn PR industry? One thing about social media is that a story that usually would last a day or two at the most can now last for a person’s entire career if they handle it wrong. Kevin Hart’s story has been going on for 10 years now. However, this is a story that won’t die because of his own doing.

Now listen. I am not expecting every straight person to want to be LGBTQ people’s best friends, nor do I want to be the reverse of that. What I do expect is respect, and for you to understand the damage that is done when you talk badly about a marginalized group in your own community. Had Hart, when initially questioned simply apologized, this would not be a thing. Unfortunately, people have become so ego-driven that they think they can operate above the law because they have wealth and some power. That’s not how any of this works, though, and being un-humble and disrespectful could end your career.

Because, honestly, If people began addressing things when they happened, if they ever popped up again they could simply repost the original apology and then reiterate what was once stated. But that’s not what we have anymore. What we have is a system where people do things that are dead-ass wrong, and then they remain silent until an opportunity is threatened by it years down the line.

Which is how we get to Lady Gaga, who decided to pull out her Notes app and apologize to herself more than anyone else. And the timing, four days after a shocking loss of the Golden Globe to Glenn Close and shortly before the Oscar nominations, is questionable.

I understand people need the time and space to grow. People who may have been misogynistic, homophobic, etc. in the past can definitely show growth over the years and become advocates in places where they were once abusers. However, that doesn’t absolve you from addressing your original mistake.

It was 2013 when, at age 27, Gaga decided to work with R. Kelly. Yes, the R. Kelly who at that time had 20 years of sexual abuse allegations under his belt. Not only did she work with Kelly, but when questioned about it, she made a statement saying, “R. Kelly and I have sometimes very untrue things written about us, so in a way, this was a bond between us.”

First of all, yuck. Secondly, her decision to double and triple down against Black victims of R. Kelly was very telling. However, by 2014 Gaga started talking about her own sexual assault and became the voice against it…still never talking about the R. Kelly situation. A situation that she has been questioned about in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and the first week of 2019 prior to her apology, which conveniently came during award season.

And then there is the apology. A very long explanation saying everything except “I messed up.” There was legitimate talk of her own bouts with sexual abuse, but sweeping generalizations of apology towards others and no specificity towards the Black women she hurt.

So last night I saw a question posed about what would be an acceptable apology. The first step is timing. The closer to the offense the better.

A great apology should follow these six steps:

  1. I messed up
  2. This is how I messed up
  3. This is who I harmed by messing up
  4. I apologize to all that I hurt by messing up (not that “may have offended” crap)
  5. This is what I have learned since messing up
  6. Moving forward I plan on doing these things to fix it and not mess up again

Easy, breezy, beautiful APOLOGY. I hope folks move to a place of sincerity and accountability, with the understanding that all may not forgive. If you are giving apologies simply looking for praise afterward, then the apology wasn’t real to begin with.

Twenty Years Later, Britney’s Debut Album Is Still One Of Her Best

Described as just “shameless schlock” and “a pretty great piece of fluff” back when it was first released, Britney’s debut album didn’t exactly receive the rave reviews one might expect from the birth of an icon. Britney herself even looks back at that era now as “bit of a blur,” and when fans rank each of her records, …Baby One More Time usually hovers near the bottom, just one or two places above the often maligned Britney Jean.

While the lead single will continue to be praised and worshipped till the world ends, the rest of …Baby One More Time isn’t always given the same respect, despite breaking every record going when it dropped on January 12, 1999. Much was made of that video and its subsequent impact on pop culture yet again following its 20th-anniversary last year, but now it’s time to give the album as a whole the glory it deserves.

It’s no exaggeration to suggest that music today would be unrecognizable if Britney hadn’t pulled on that school girl outfit and revealed to the world that her loneliness is killing her. Critics are usually quick to point out that without this song, we probably wouldn’t have pop icons like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, but there’s obviously far more to Britney’s appeal than one single could ever capture. After all, there’s a reason why she didn’t end up as just another one hit wonder and for that, we have the album as a whole to thank.

With just three piano notes and a swish of her pigtails, Britney almost single-handedly revived the teen pop genre, but it was the release of subsequent songs like “Sometimes” and “(You Drive Me) Crazy” that cemented her iconic status. While nothing else on the album could ever quite match up to the superstar power of “Baby,” each of the other singles helped Britney shine brighter and brighter, quickly confirming her status as the new Princess of Pop.  

“Sometimes” was the first song that hinted at Britney’s longevity, proving that she could carry a hit song without sexual innuendo or fierce dance moves. Following the worldwide success of her second single, Britney released “Crazy,” which continues to be remembered long after the film it was supposed to promote slipped from memory.

Hitney’s second UK number one then came from “Born To Make You Happy,” and while “From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart” didn’t match the success of her other singles, it did prove that she possesses impressive vocal chops of her own which could rival the many, many pretenders to her title.

Before Godney decided to grace us mere mortals with her presence, it was the vocal acrobatics of powerhouse singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey that defined ’90s pop. By tapping into the teen market with her beguiling (and perhaps problematic) mix of sex and innocence, Britney brought new vitality to the industry, becoming the biggest superstar on the planet in just a matter of months. 

Detractors would go on to mock the unique quality of Britney’s voice in the years to follow, but the “oohs” and “baby’s” that characterized her first few singles went on to define an entire era of music. Even now, after all of the various lip-sync dramas that have taken place since, it still feels special hearing her distinctive tone on record. It’s Britney, bitch, and there’s no one else quite like her, something which she proved from the get-go with her very first album.

Whether she’s projecting joy on songs like “Deep In My Heart” or singing earnestly about the benefits of electronic messaging on “E-Mail My Heart,” Britney’s voice has never sounded stronger than it did on her debut record. Even in the moments where she belts the hardest, there’s still a rough rasp to her register that dared to sound different in an industry full of emotive divas.

Deep cuts like “I Will Be There” still sound strong, and if you listen closely to songs like “Soda Pop” and “The Beat Goes On,” you’ll hear how she had already begun to experiment with genre in ways that would come to the fore in later albums such as In The Zone. Visionney at her finest.

Britney’s upcoming tenth (!?) album has been delayed due to her father’s hospitalization, but executive producer Justin Tranter has promised fans that there’s a “whole spectrum of bops” coming our way once the project’s finally finished. Where this new record will rank in her overall discography remains to be seen, but in the meantime, listen to some old-school bops on …Baby One More Time again and experience pop princess realness firsthand, untainted by the pressures of fame — before the whole world wanted a piece of her.

Images via Getty

Is The WOW Presents Plus Subscription Worth The Fee?

Want to know something that’s not even slightly unique about me? I like Drag Race. Nay, I love Drag Race. Hell, I’ve watched Drag Race so many times I can quote every season verbatim (except maybe season seven, because, well, it’s season seven). So when I found out that WOW Presents (the production company behind RuPaul’s Drag Race) announced WOW Presents Plus, a streaming network available on iOS, Apple TV, Roku, and Android, rife with original series from some of RPDR’s best queens, I whipped out my credit card, bought a week’s worth of groceries and didn’t leave the house.

This sequestered seven-day binge occurred when the service originally launched in November 2017. Now, I believe I’ve consumed enough content on the platform (all of it) to responsibly determine whether the service is worth its $39.99 annual fee (or $3.99 a month). And, as a self-elected prophet, I’ve decided to bestow this knowledge unto you. You’re welcome.

Something I noticed straight out the gate was that almost every show followed the same format as WOW Presents’ standout series, UNHhhh, featuring Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova. Essentially, queens sit next to each other (or do it solo) and wax poetic on a topic in front of a green screen while editors work their magic.

Admittedly, without these unceasing and turbulent graphic treatments, these series would be nothing more than a visual podcast. Series limited to this standard formula include: Bro’Laska (Alaska), Tea with Tati (Tatianna), Bobbin’ Around (Bob), AYO Sis (Aja), La Vida De Valentina (Valentina), Jasmine Masters’ Class (Jasmine Masters) and so on. Are they good? Yes. All of them. Have I watched every episode? Many times. Is there diversity among the series? Not at all.

I understand why: It’s a successful formula that’s cheap and easy to produce. But people are paying money for this content and we deserve more effort. The service does feature some series that veer from the haphazard setup, like His Vintage Touch (where hairstylist Tony Medina styles hair for drag queens and celebrities), Drag Tots (a minutes-long animated series featuring the voices of Latrice Royale, Adore Delano, etc.) Feelin’ Fruity (a bizarre Pee Wee Herman-esque variety series from artist Seth Bogart), Transformations (a lengthier program where celebutante James St. James is given wacky makeovers from world-renowned queens and make-up artists) and others.  

The service also hosts a randomly curated collection of dated documentaries (like Party Monster Shockumentary, Becoming Chaz and Miss Navajo), slapdash Drag Con coverage and other bland, rice cake content that you will probably pass on, but fills the void if you’re super bored. Or high.

What’s arguably best about the service is that you can watch every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race (except Season 1), All Stars and Untucked.  But here’s the kicker: The only reason I can watch these series is because I’m located in Canada. You cannot access these shows in the United States. But if you’re in Europe, I believe they’re also available. Admittedly, these shows only recently became available in my neck of the woods, but I continued subscribing because I fell in love with a few of the series.

My favorite of the bunch, Follow Me, is a short docu-series that follows a day in the life of some of Drag Race’s more popular queens (Gia Gunn, Aja, Miss Vanjie, for example). You learn a lot about the personality behind the make-up, some of which is not always good (coughs – Aja – coughs).  Another promising series is Couple$ for Ca$h, which is kind of – scratch that, exactly – like the Newlywed Game, except it features drag queens and other queer celebrities.

While the majority of the shows are fun and entertaining, many times a season of a series (or the entire series) is only an episode or two. You might get one new episode (which, on average, run about 10 to 15 minutes) on the entire platform a day. It’s also worth mentioning that the search and browsing capabilities are a mess and many of the best series (UNHhhh, Fashion Photo RuView and Bro’Laska) are available for free on YouTube. On WOW Presents Plus, these episodes are uncensored and ad-free.

Admittedly, sometimes it feels like WOW Presents gets desperate for content and juices the crap out of any queen – the lifeblood of the service – who visits the production company’s offices. Shows like 20-Minute Makeup Challenge, Drag Queen Video Dates, Drag Queens React and Gown The House Down are ultimately Trinity The Tuck levels of filler. This clear lack of preparation can be painfully obvious at times.

Wow Presents Plus is certainly not without its faults. There are striking shortcomings and obstacles they need to overcome for a more worthwhile experience, but I’m confident it’ll happen. RPDR was similarly amateur at its inception and is now one of the biggest reality series on the planet with awards under its belt. I have faith that WOW Presents will continue to learn and improve on the service as more people subscribe. Now, is WOW Presents Plus worth the money? I say yes. Per month, it costs about the same as a cup of coffee. But does it compare to Netflix and other popular streaming services? Not even close.

Nashville Police Appoints LGBTQ Liaison in Wake of Anti-Trans Scandal

The Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) is rolling out changes in the wake of an anti-trans scandal that has rocked the city’s LGBTQ community.

The department has appointed an official LGBTQ liaison and sanctioned seven officers for denigrating a transgender person on Facebook in 2017.

Several officers snapped photos of a transgender person during their lunch break in September 2017 and uploaded the images to Facebook, according to Nashville Scoop. The officers took turns mocking and misgendering the individual.

“He sure has a purdy mouf!” wrote Sgt. Kimberly Forsyth.

Forsyth is among the seven officers to be slapped with sanctions by the department’s Office of Professional Accountability in the wake of the incident, a spokesperson for the office told INTO. Her penalty includes a demotion to officer. The sanctions are as follows:

Kimberly Forsyth:  Demotion from sergeant to police officer.  

Melvin Brown:   Demotion from sergeant to police officer.  

Ofc. Brandon Wood: Ten-day suspension.   

Ofc. Craig Oakley: Five-day suspension.   

Ofc. Andy Esqueda: Three-day suspension.  

Ofc. Tim Morgan: Two-day suspension.

Ofc. David Snowden: Two-day suspension.

All of the employees are also required to attend remedial trainings related to law enforcement and the trans community, diversity inclusion and social media. Officers have the option to accept the consequences or request disciplinary hearings.

The department is taking the incident a step further. On Thursday, MNPD announced the appointment of its first full-time LGBTQ liaison.

Officer Catie Poole, a five-year veteran of the department, has been tasked with outreach to the queer community and creating a safe reporting system for hate crime victims.

Poole most recently worked in the city’s Central Precinct as a downtown bicycle officer.

“I am excited and honored to take on this new responsibility for our police department,” Poole said in a statement. “I love being out in the community and helping people. I joined the Nashville Police Department to make a difference.”

Poole has vowed to support LGBTQ employees internally at MNPD and to make it easier for hate crime victims to report crimes.

She said she will be launching a Safe Place program in Nashville. Safe Place is Seattle’s police program that aims to tackle underreporting of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.

California Governor’s Wife to Go By ‘First Partner’ in Tribute to Gender, LGBTQ Equality

Jennifer Siebel Newsom wants you to know she’s more than just the California governor’s wife.

As her husband, former lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, was sworn in as the 40th governor of California on Tuesday, Siebel Newsom made a small but significant change on her Twitter account. She listed herself as the Golden State’s “First Partner,” forgoing the more traditional honorific, First Lady.

The change was largely viewed as a subtle hat tip to gender equality. Siebel Newsom told Politico last year that she doesn’t want to be “typecast as a trophy wife.”

“The work I do really parallels and complements Gavin’s work, because it’s about awakening people’s consciousness, shifting hearts and minds, attitudes and behaviors,” she added in comments shared with the Los Angeles Times.

A section recently included on the California governor’s website elaborates on Siebel Newsom’s own background. The 44-year-old helped women to develop “socially and environmentally responsible businesses” in South and Latin America after graduating with her MBA from Stanford University.

Siebel Newsom has since written, produced, and directed two documentary films: 2011’s Miss Representation and 2015’s The Mask You Live In. Both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The former, which examines the messages fed to women by mainstream media, inspired Siebel Newsom to start The Representation Project in 2011. According to its website, the nonprofit organization challenges “gender stereotypes and [cultural] norms” through the use of film and media.

While Siebel Newsom has yet to make a public statement since the change was formally announced, she has said she prefers “First Partner” because it’s “more inclusive” than the standard moniker bestowed on political spouses.

That sentiment is particularly appropriate during a week which also saw the inauguration of America’s first openly gay governor, Colorado’s Jared Polis. Polis referred to his longtime partner, Marlon Reis, as the Centennial State’s “First Man” during a Tuesday swearing-in ceremony.

Others have called Reis, a fiction writer, the “First Gentleman” of Colorado.

Siebel Newsom’s husband has long been an advocate of LGBTQ equality in office. As mayor of San Francisco in 2004, Newsom allowed more than 4,000 same-sex couples to tie the knot during a one-month window. At the time, marriage equality had yet to be legalized by either the state of California or the federal government.

The 51-year-old Democrat highlighted his status as an LGBTQ rights trailblazer during the 2018 gubernatorial race. In a campaign ad, he pledged to continue that legacy as governor.

“I’m an idealist,” he said. “I embrace that.”

Even in the early days of the administration, it seems as if the couple is likewise being embraced by political leaders in their home state and at the national level. Both former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, Christine, used the “First Partner” title when referring to Siebel Newsom.

Image via Getty

Do Queer Artists Deserve to Control Their Legacy?

Who gets to dictate your legacy?

If you’re Dr. Don Shirley, it’s straight white men. The late queer Black musician is the subject of the Golden Globe-winning and Oscar favorite Green Bookdespite his family’s speaking out about how the fictional film depicts Shirley, and how hurtful it was to see the erasure of his relationship with his family and the glorification of his relationship with his white driver, Tony Vallelonga. 

“I remember very, very clearly, going back 30 years, my uncle had been approached by Nick Vallelonga, the son of Tony Vallelonga, about a movie on his life, and Uncle Donald told me about it,” Shirley’s nephew Edwin Shirley said. “He flatly refused.”

“God knows, this is the reason that he never wanted to have his life portrayed on screen,” Edwin continued. “I now understand why, and I feel terrible that I was actually trying to urge him to do this in the 1980s, because everything that he objected to back then has come true now.”

But with the star power of leads Viggo Mortensen (playing Tony Vallelonga) and Mahershala Ali (Shirley), and the palatable it-will-play-in-Peoria White Savior narrative, Green Book has mostly eclipsed any feelings Shirley and his family have had about his life being brought to the screen. The same can be said for Mary Poppins and its creator P.L. Travers.

The lavishly marketed The Return of Mary Poppins has only banked $102.3 million in the first few weeks of the year (a disappointment by Disney box office standards), but the real travesty is its existence, as Travers would never have wanted it to be made in the first place.

Travers (nee Helen Goff) passed away in 1996, and it was then that Disney went looking for a way to convince her estate holders to let them make a sequel. It was well-known that Travers voiced her dislike for the original film (despite her love of Julie Andrews) and never granted the rights for another to be made. She only allowed for a stage musical to go forward on the understanding that no one involved with the film be a part of the show (it was supposed to be based solely on her books), and no one American, either. (The producer, Cameron Mackintosh, agreed initially but ignored her requests after she passed, making a deal with Disney so he could use the songs from the film.)

Travers was not a fan of most of the music in the original Mary Poppins, nor the animation sequences. She infamously asked if they could be removed after attending the film’s premiere. 

Sadly, creators rarely get to have a say on the adaptations of their work. More upsetting than the continuation of Mary Poppins was the 2013 Disney-made film Saving Mr. Banks in which Emma Thompson portrays Travers as initially wary but eventually thrilled with the Disney version. And like Green Book, Saving Mr. Banks also erased pivotal relationships she had while alive, as well as her sexuality — most notably her relationship with Madge Burnand, her longtime live-in companion who she was thought to be involved with romantically during the time she was working on Poppins. 

“I don’t know whether they were lovers or not, but she did live with Madge for a long, long time, and she certainly had very complex, passionate relationships with both women and men,” Thompson once told The Advocate. “She was an explorer of her own condition, and very possibly her own sexuality.”

Another woman, Jessie Orge, detailed a relationship with Travers in her own diaries, as well as their gal palling around with known lesbians like Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson, Georgette Leblanc, and Elizabeth Gordon, a group which called themselves The Rope. Orge also wrote about the tumultuous relationship between Travers and Burnand.

In a New York Times interview in 1994, two years before she died, Travers was noticeably irritated by being asked about herself, saying, “I would rather not discuss my personal life.” Similarly, Shirley was said to respond to questions about his sexuality with a tongue-in-cheek, “Why? Are you interested?”

Despite Travers and Burnand having lived together during the time Saving Mr. Banks covered, the relationship was left out of the film entirely. Akin to the moment in Green Book where a brief gay sex act is mentioned, there is a fleeting blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-moment in Saving Mr. Banks in which Travers is thought to be checking out a woman’s butt. 

“She would absolutely hate it!” Thompson’s co-star Tom Hanks once said of what he believed Travers would think of Saving Mr. Banks. “She would say, ‘Why don’t you make a movie about the poetry I wrote?!'” That poetry was highly erotic. (A select line from The Triad: “The silky hush of intimate things, fragrant with my fragrance, steal softly down, so loth to rob me of my last dear concealment.”)

Travers is hardly the first person to have her life and her life’s work crafted into an unrecognizable and erroneous narrative under the guise of someone else’s creative project, but it’s especially frustrating considering she’s been both desexualized and ignored several times over 53 years. Instead, the narrative about Travers became that she was difficult, a spinster, who was too precious with her creation, a figure based on her aunt who came to take care of her family after her mother attempted suicide. In the Disney version, Mary Poppins became now a fashionable, pretty nanny who danced with singing penguins.

“They had to wait for her to die, and she did die, and then her estate were suddenly much more up for it,” Ben Whishaw said in an interview with Yahoo UK

“She’d probably dislike it just as much,” Dick Van Dyke said of the sequel in which he makes a cameo.

The trustees of Travers’ estate gave the rights to Disney for Saving Mr. BanksMary Poppins Returns, and even spon-con such as Aqua Shard’s Mary Poppins-themed tea. Travers would have most likely detested it all, but does anyone care?

“I think I was disturbed at seeing it so externalized, so oversimplified, so generalized,” Travers said in a 1967 interview reprinted in her New York Times obituary. “I think that Mary Poppins needs a subtle reader, in many respects, to grasp all its implications, and I understand that these cannot be translated in terms of the film.”

Decades later, Travers and Shirley’s wishes are still being ignored, but they’re not alone. Currently, a version of Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues is in the works, despite the trans author’s explicit wishes for the novel to never be adapted after a botched first attempt. Bohemian Rhapsody, also a Golden Globe winner, takes a revisionist approach to the life and sexuality of Freddie Mercury. The movie versions of people’s lives and creative work may more often than not disappoint (Stephen King still hates the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining to this day; Anne Rice wasn’t a fan of the casting for Interview with a Vampire), but when someone like Travers was so synonymous with her creation, so often referred to as “The Real Mary Poppins,” it’s all the more frustrating to see her wishes explicitly ignored and her public persona and legacy becoming that she was a difficult woman.

Mary Poppins is the story of my life,” Travers once said. How sad that it keeps being rewritten.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop Plaintiff Is Suing Colorado For Anti-Religious Hostility

Jack Phillips can’t stop, and he won’t stop.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop plaintiff is suing the state of Colorado for “clear and impermissible hostility” toward religion after winning his Supreme Court case last June.

In a narrow 7-2 ruling, the bench claimed the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not given neutral consideration to his faith in weighing a complaint filed by Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

In 2012, Phillips declined to bake a cake for the couple’s wedding, citing his Christian beliefs. The Commission sided with Craig and Mullins, but SCOTUS effectively overturned that decision.

Now the two parties will face off in court yet again. The same day that SCOTUS said it would hear an appeal in Phillips’ case, a transgender attorney in Denver, Autumn Scardina, requested a cake to celebrate her gender transition. The proposed pastry was blue on the outside and pink on the inside.

Phillips again declined the request. In legal briefs filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, his attorneys claim “the custom cake would have expressed messages about sex and gender identity that conflict with his religious beliefs.”

The right-wing law firm says the Lakewood baker was “surprised” the Commission allowed a complaint against him to proceed after the SCOTUS verdict.

As that case proceeds, Phillips has filed suit against the state.

ADF claims the state is “acting in bad faith and with bias” by “finding probable cause to believe that Colorado law requires him to create the requested gender-transition cake.”

“The same agency that the Supreme Court rebuked as hostile to Jack Phillips has remained committed to treating him unequally and forcing him to express messages that violate his religious beliefs,” ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell alleged in a press release.

Initially, Phillips sought damages from each member of the Commission, as well as Colorado Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis and former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

But on Tuesday, Judge Wiley Y. Daniel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed punitive claims against the majority of defendants in the case. Only Cynthia H. Coffman, the state’s attorney general, was deemed a “proper defendant” in the suit.

The district court allowed the suit to proceed, despite Colorado’s motion to dismiss.

Daniel further signaled the court is sympathetic to Phillips’ argument. The senior judge wrote that the Commission had engaged in “disparate treatment” by allowing “other cake artists to decline requests to create custom cakes that express messages they deem objectionable.”

In other cases brought before civil rights commissioners, Colorado allegedly allowed bakers to turn down cake requests which expressed racist or anti-LGBTQ messages.

Phillips says the double standard violates his Constitutional right to religious freedom.

But while the Supreme Court ruled narrowly in his favor last year, the nation’s highest bench declined to weigh in on whether Phillips’ faith beliefs permitted him to decline services to same-sex couples, as so-called “religious liberty” advocates have argued. That issue could be decided by future SCOTUS rulings.

Image via Getty

Facebook Met With Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups to Discuss Content Moderation Policies

Facebook reportedly met with anti-LGBTQ hate groups to consult on its content moderation policies.

The social media giant “privately sought the advice” of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, which is generously described by the Wall Street Journal as a “conservative Christian public-policy group.”

The Journal reports the D.C.-based lobby organization is among “hundreds of groups” consulted by Facebook in recent months as it attempts to strike a balance in moderating “offensive” speech on its platform. “A growing number of [those groups] lean to the right,” the newspaper claims.

Family Research Council, though, is interested in more than mere “public policy.” It has spent decades fighting equal treatment for queer and trans people.

Founded in 1981 by James Dobson, Family Research Council fought against the decriminalization of homosexuality. In the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, the organization filed an amicus brief arguing that same-sex intercourse is “deviate” and homosexuality is not a “fundamental right.”

Family Research Council lost that case. As of last year, Perkins lamented that the ruling, which struck down anti-sodomy laws in all 50 states, was a “mistake.”

In the more than 15 years since Lawrence v. Texas, Perkins has remained one of the loudest voices on the right opposing equality. He has advocated for conversion therapy, claimed homosexuality is linked to pedophilia, likened LGBTQ rights advocates to terrorists, and called the It Gets Better campaign “disgusting.”

An advisor to President Trump, Perkins is widely believed to have been a driving force behind his policy banning trans troops from serving openly in the military. He has called trans inclusion in the armed forces “social experimentation.”

Perkins, though, took issue with the Journal’s claim that he served as a consultant on Facebook’s hate speech policies. In an interview with the cable news show Fox and Friends, the 55-year-old said he was “surprised” by the report, alleging that he’s only had “one conversation” with the platform.

Nonetheless, Perkins concluded Facebook does “have a problem.” He accused the world’s largest social media company of “censoring conservative speech and the free flow of conservative ideas online.”

“[W]e just saw the recent example of this a couple weeks ago during Christmas where my friend, Franklin Graham, had a two-year-old post removed for a 24-hour period,” he said. “They said it was an accident. And one of the things I communicated was that, you know, these accidents appear more and more frequently.”

As INTO previously reported, Facebook apologized to Graham after temporarily blocking him for a post about North Carolina’s House Bill 2.

In response to Bruce Springsteen canceling a scheduled concert over the since-repealed anti-trans “bathroom bill,” the evangelical preacher and son of Billy Graham referred to the movement for LGBTQ rights as “godless secularism and political correctness.”

“[W]e need to go back!” he said. “Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands. Back to common sense.”

After Graham called the temporary ban a “personal attack” in a Fox News interview, Facebook reinstated the post and claimed it had “made a mistake.” The company wrote: “We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action.”

While the platform of 2 billion users has been kowtowing to conservative lobbyists, it’s begun cracking down on LGBTQ people. Since October, it has banned users from discussing “sexual preference” or “sexual roles.”

But Facebook isn’t the only tech firm that has been negotiating with right-wing groups, according to the Journal.

“Twitter’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey recently hosted dinners with conservatives, including Grover Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, which advocates for lower taxes,” the outlet reports.

Twitter recently unveiled new hate speech policies banning users from misgendering or deadnaming trans people.

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Florida Is Trying to Appeal A Ruling That It Must Recognize A Trans Inmate As Female

A dozen advocacy organizations are going to bat against Florida for trying to appeal a court order that it must affirm a transgender inmate’s gender.

Alleging that prison staff denied her prescribed hormones for more than two years and refused to allow her to transition socially, Reiyn Keohane filed suit against the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2016 and won in federal court. The case sought to throw out the state’s “freeze-frame” policy, which prevents transgender people from accessing gender-affirming care they were not receiving prior to incarceration.

Advocates say the 2016 ruling by Chief United States District Judge Mark Walker is among the most substantial trans-affirming decisions in a transgender prison discrimination case.

“Ultimately, this case is about whether the law, and this Court by extension, recognizes Ms. Keohane’s humanity as a transgender woman,” Walker wrote in 2016. “The answer is simple. It does, and I do.”

Keohane was issued hormones after her suit, but the DOC is now appealing the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of appeals.

Keohane claims that DOC refused her medical transition, denied her female undergarments and repeatedly forcibly shaved her head. Her complaint alleges that DOC’s refusal to allow her to transition resulted in suicidality and self-harm.

Daniel Tilley, staff attorney at American Civil Liberties of Florida, is fighting Keohane’s case and said that DOC’s continued refusal to allow her to transition exacerbates her suffering.

“It’s been a really long and brutal journey for her,” Tilley told INTO, noting that Keohane’s request for social transition has dragged on for five years.

In a letter published by the ACLU, Keohane says she has been beaten in custody and was called “a punk, a sissy, and a faggot.”

“I have been denied at every level, told by doctors that I’m not transgender, refused hormone therapy even though I had taken it on the streets, and had to go weeks without being able to shave after being put in confinement for wearing women’s clothing or standing up for my rights,” she wrote.

Tilley questions Florida’s compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which requires correctional facilities to place transgender inmates on a case-by-case basis where they will be safest. According to Tilley, DOC has defaulted to housing transgender women based on genitalia alone. Keohane is housed in a men’s facility but wants to be housed with women, Tilley said.

The Florida Department of Corrections said it was working on a response to INTO‘s media inquiry, which included the number of transgender women inmates housed in women’s facilities and its PREA compliance. 

Eleven advocacy organizations joined the ACLU on Keohane’s behalf Wednesday, filing a friend-of-the-court brief. They include Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, Black and Pink, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, among others.

Last year, Missouri’s “freeze-frame” policy was also thrown out in federal court after transgender inmate Jessica Hicklin successfully sued for gender-affirming hair removal and canteen items.

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