Facebook Appears to Enact Ban on Discussing “Sexual Partner Preference,” Provoking LGBTQ Anger

Facebook has been under fire this week for two revelations impacting the LGBTQ community: past donations to Republican political candidates that support conversion therapy, and a broad new policy that appears to ban users from discussing “sexual preference,” roles, and making “sexually suggestive” statements.

Facebook’s community standards regarding “sexual solicitation” have been drawing criticism this week from LGBTQ users of the platform as well as from sex workers — both groups that are likely to be the most impacted by the guidelines.

According to its community standards, Facebook bans content which uses “sexual hints such as mentioning sexual roles, sex positions, fetish scenarios, sexual preference/sexual partner preference, state of arousal, act of sexual intercourse or activity (sexual penetration or self-pleasuring), commonly sexualized areas of the body such as the breasts, groin, or buttocks, state of hygiene of genitalia or buttocks.” The sweeping language caused an uptick in panic as people began to slowly discover the new policy that dates back to October 15.

The reference to “sexual partner preference” has caused immense confusion, with many people noting that Facebook gives users the option to identify their sexual orientation, gender identity, and preferred sexual partners in their profile settings. The move also raised questions about why a company that has traditionally made overtures to the LGBTQ community in the form of Pride month filters, partnerships with groups like Trevor Project, and a perfect score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index would create a policy that appears to ban users from saying something as simple as “I’m a woman who has sex with other women.”

For queer people, it’s not entirely possible to separate frank discussions of sexuality and partners from issues of politics and equality. When your “sexual partner preference” is the very thing that prevents you from accessing full social and political equality, it’s direly important to be able to discuss it — and difficult to come out of the closet without referencing it in some way. For trans people, not being able to discuss breasts, genitalia, or other “commonly sexualized areas” means in some ways not being able to discuss transitioning, surgery, feelings of dysphoria, or access to appropriate healthcare.

LGBTQ youth are especially dependent on social media when it comes to learning about and discussing sexuality, said Lincoln Mondy, a spokesperson for the organization Advocates for Youth.

“LGBTQ young people have questions about their identity, health, and future. However, their questions are often ignored by the schools, communities, and families that are supposed to support them,” Mondy told INTO. “Abstinence-only sex ed curriculums across the country already silence LGBTQ youth by denying them access to critical information, and Facebook’s new guidelines are no different.”

Mondy pointed out that youth advocates from his organization have used Facebook in recent months for the express purpose of widespread sexual education. In April, youth advocates held a Facebook Live program called #SexEdLive in response to a rightwing nationwide protest of school sex-ed programs that was driven by anti-LGBTQ sentiment.

“Young people recorded condom tutorials, videos on how to get tested, spoke about pleasure, and more. If Facebook’s new guidelines were in effect then, young people across the country wouldn’t be able to receive factual information,” Mondy said.

In response to a prompt (posted on Facebook, no less) about the new Sexual Solicitation guidelines, several queer Facebook users expressed concern.

“Really looking forward to the comeback of all those early ‘80s in-the-closet euphemisms like ‘a friend of Dorothy,’” said Kate Huh, referring to the code lingo that gay people used to employ to identify one another in the days before it was acceptable to be out.

Toronto-based queer artist GB Jones wondered how the policy would impact her ability to post her work on the platform. Jones, one of the founders of the ‘90s homocore movement that in part grew out of her filmmaking partnership with Bruce LaBruce and her seminal riot grrrl band Fifth Column, is probably best known for her illustration series Tom Girls. The drawings, a dyke homage to Tom of Finland, feature punky, muscular girls performing rebellious acts in a hyper-sexualized and fetish-heavy format.

“Obviously this means I won’t be able to post any of my older drawings of the Tom Girls on Facebook,” said Jones. “I do think this ruling will adversely affect LGBTQ artists. I think we can be almost sure that any nudes that Picasso or Matisse or Monet et al painted will be allowed; the straight male gaze is normalized, permitted, acceptable. All other gazes, other vantage points, are not.”

Other users said the policy affects them in multiple ways, not just in terms of LGBTQ identity.

“As a sex worker and dyke (just inviting a ban) this feels like erasure,” said Amanda LaFollette, in response to the prompt posted by INTO on Facebook. “Total erasure — this is not a ‘place for friends,’ it is a place run by enemies of the norm. Sex workers told everyone that FOSTA would impact the entire net, and here we are.”

FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act that was voted into law this past April,  launched an immediate crusade against online forums employed by sex workers — the April seizure and shutdown of Backpage happened just days after the bill was passed — but its effects continue to blanket online sexual expression in much wider ways. When Tumblr announced Monday that it was banning all adult content, an entire generation mourned the ways Tumblr porn had empowered their sexual discovery, especially for queer people.

So when Facebook’s October policy began to circulate this week, LGBTQ people seemed to awaken all at once to the new anti-sex rules of the internet. Is it true that Facebook has banned users from talking about sexualities? Not entirely. But it’s possible that many LGBTQ users will be impacted and, in some ways, silenced by the guidelines.

In a surprisingly frank phone call, Facebook policy communications manager Ruchika Budhraja told INTO, “I don’t think everyone will be happy with where we draw the line.”

“Just saying ‘I’m gay and I’m a bottom looking for a top,’ that won’t come down under the policy,” said Budhraja, who works on content policy issues that impact LGBTQ users. “But then f you said ‘I’m a bottom looking for a top, call me’ that would come down under this policy.”

It all comes down, Budhraja implied, to whether a post about sex is trying to solicit a real-life encounter.

Budhraja explained that Facebook’s Sexual Solicitation policy isn’t new, but used to be part of the policy against sexual exploitation (think: revenge porn, upskirts, bestiality). A copy of the former policy sent to INTO made it clear that it was intended to prevent the platform being used for prostitution and other paid forms of sex work such as BDSM.

So basically, the intent of the policy is not to prevent people from talking about sex writ large, but from using Facebook to find customers to pay them for sex. Hence terms like “sexual partner preference” causing confusion since the policy was revamped and published October 15 in a separate section from the anti-exploitation rules. In rewriting the policy, the entire payment context was removed — and the current policy appears to broadly ban discussion of sex and sexuality, period.

It’s puzzling to try to discern where Facebook is drawing the line, and the explanations the company provided to INTO didn’t help clarify much.

“Stating one’s sexual preference or partner preference would not violate our policies,” reads the Facebook statement emailed to INTO. “Implicit sexual solicitation as we have defined it also requires ‘offering or asking to engage in a sexual act.’”

According to this statement, one doesn’t need to imply a cash exchange in order to violate the policy. Simply using the platform to try and hook up appears to be out of the question, too.

“In writing our Community Standards, our goal is to ensure the safety of the people that use Facebook, people who vary in age, come from different cultures and maintain different sensitivities. We also may lack the context necessary to establish consent, which is why some of our policies – particularly those specific to nudity and sexual activity – may appear less nuanced than we would like, leading to an outcome that is at odds with their underlying purpose,” the statement reads.

The company also acknowledged that its Sexual Solicitation policy is overly broad and confusing, and said it plans to adjust the language.

“We are always working to improve our policies and provide clarity and additional context where necessary,” says Facebook’s statement to INTO. “In the coming months, we plan to add more detail to our Sexual Solicitation policy based on feedback we’ve heard to date.”

In a phone call with INTO, Budhraja emphasized that Facebook isn’t likely to turn into some kind of broadly anti-sex censorship zone in which language is policed the moment it posts. Facebook doesn’t employ teams to constantly troll people’s profiles for content violations, she said. Instead, someone would have to report a post in order for the platform to then consider taking it down. And even then, said Budhraja, there is an appeal process that allows users to lobby for removed content to be replaced.

“If your profile is private, the report would have to come in. And only the people you are friends with or have allowed to see that post would have to report it,” Budhraja said.

Regardless of intent, the Sexual Solicitation policy’s broad language continues to cause confusion and worry among Facebook users. And until the company rewrites the community standards, it’s not entirely clear what can and cannot be posted on the platform when it comes to sex.

Image via Getty

A Trans Woman Has Been Killed, Three Years After Speaking Out Against Anti-Trans Violence

 

Three years ago, after a trans woman in her neighborhood was killed, Keanna Mattel lamented that police didn’t understand the challenges facing trans people.

On Friday, Mattel herself  became the latest transgender victim of violence.

Mattel was 35-years-old, an active member in Detroit’s ballroom scene, and loved by many. She died two blocks away from the spot where her transgender neighbor Amber Monroe was gunned down in August 2015.

On Friday morning, police found Mattel dead in her Palmer Park neighborhood, the victim of a gunshot wound.

Detroit Police Department spokesperson Dan Donakowski declined to identify Mattel. Instead, friends and LGBTQ advocates spread word of her passing through the grapevine. Donakowski did confirm that police found the body of a transgender female at 6 a.m. on East McNichols Road between Brush and Omira on Detroit’s East Side.

Police have arrested a 46-year-old male in connection with the shooting, said Donakowski. He would not release the identity of that person.  

“It may be a case of self defense, possible robbery,” Donakowski told INTO, adding that police were in the process of interviewing suspects, but believed that the shooter may have been the victim of an attempted robbery. “So the investigation continues.”

LGBTQ advocates, however, declining to speak on record, said some who knew Mattel said she may have been picked up by the person who killed her, suggesting she may have been targeted.

Donakowski said it was unknown whether Mattel knew the shooter.

In 2015, The Guardian quoted Mattel in its coverage of Monroe’s death.

“The police are unaware with (sic) our struggle so they have no sympathy for us,” Mattel told the Guardian. “Nobody ever asks, what happened to that person to get here?”

On social media, Mattel’s friends mourned her passing. Mattel was active in Detroit’s ball scene and a member of the Legendary Iconic House of Ebony.

This is a breaking story. INTO will update as details become available.

If you’re LGBTQ and have experienced or witnessed violence, report to the Anti-Violence Project’s hotline at 212-714-1141 or online.

Trump’s New Attorney General Pick Believes LGBTQ Rights ‘Led to America’s Decline’

Just like his old one, President Donald Trump’s new choice for Attorney General is no friend to the LGBTQ community.

The POTUS nominated William Barr to replace the outgoing Jeff Sessions, who resigned earlier this year at Trump’s request. In comments delivered to reporters on the White House lawn, he referred to Barr as a “highly respected lawyer” and a “terrific man.”

“He was my first choice from day one, respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats,” Trump said of Barr, who previously served as Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. “He will be nominated for the U.S. attorney general and hopefully that process will go very quickly, and I think it will go very quickly.”

The 68-year-old’s decades-long record in public life includes working on domestic policy under the Reagan administration and serving in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel under Bush. Barr quickly rose the ranks to the DOJ’s top position.

But while supporters of the nomination lauded it as a comparatively “mature” pick for the president, critics noted Barr’s well-documented history of anti-LGBTQ remarks.

During a May 1992 speech at a dinner thrown by Agudath Israel of America, Barr lamented a “steady assault” on “the moral values that have sustained this country” since the mid-1960s, which he believes has “led to America’s decline.”

“We have lived through 25 years of permissiveness, sexual revolution, and the drug culture,” he claimed while accepting the group’s humanitarian award. “People have been encouraged to cast off conventional morality and old-fashioned restraints. The emphasis has been on individual fulfillment and the unbridled pursuit of pleasure.”

“Moral tradition has given way to moral relativism,” Barr continued, calling it a “doctrine which… [gives] full leeway to the pursuit of individual appetites.”

While the former CIA official didn’t specifically name the LGBTQ community in that address, compare those to comments he made in an October 2017 journal article penned for The Catholic Lawyer. He bemoaned a 1987 decision from U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia compelling Georgetown University to “treat homosexual activist groups like any other student group.”

Barr used the same language as before—on the “moral relativist viewpoint”—to condemn that ruling. He claimed granting equal footing on campus to LGBTQ student organizations “dissolves any form of moral consensus in society.”

In a subsequent passage lamenting that fellow Catholics do not follow “traditional morality,” Barr again harped on his criticism of the so-called “homosexual movement.”

“If the Catholic faithful do not take the hierarchy seriously, why should anybody else in the political structure?” he wrote. “It is no accident that the homosexual movement, at one or two percent of the population, gets treated with such solicitude while the Catholic population, which is over a quarter of the country, is given the back of the hand.”

“How has that come to be?” Barr continued. “We need to go back to basics and reassemble the flock. We may be frittering away our limited moral capital on a host of agenda items.”

The watchdog group GLAAD suggested his comments should immediately disqualify him from the position of Attorney General.

“William Barr… is the latest in a long line of replacements who President Trump has appointed to his Cabinet who are just as anti-LGBTQ as their predecessors,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, its president and CEO. “If confirmed, there’s little doubt that William Barr would continue the Trump Administration’s objective of erasing LGBTQ Americans from the fabric of this nation.”

DNC Chair Tom Perez also issued a statement in response to the nomination:

“Our next attorney general must be able to stand up to the president and act as an independent law enforcement official. Trump has consistently shown a corrupt disregard for the rule of law and used his office to undermine civil rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and voting rights.

“William Barr must assure the American people that he will resist any attempt by the president to interfere in law enforcement matters, and he must unequivocally commit to protecting the special counsel’s investigation and defending our constitutional rights.”

Human Rights Campaign’s Director of Government Affairs David Stacy also released a statement:

“The Trump-Pence White House and the Justice Department have been pursuing a policy agenda to undermine the legal rights of LGBTQ people since day one. From his views around HIV/AIDS during his tenure as attorney general to his more recent writing promoting extreme views around religious exemptions, William Barr looks ill suited to be our country’s top law enforcement officer. The Senate has a solemn responsibility to advise and consent on this important nomination and his troubling views on LGBTQ equality and the law must be thoroughly vetted.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Barr would seemingly fall in line with his predecessors in the DOJ.

While Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions fought to keep an LGBTQ conference from meeting at the University of Alabama. During his nearly two-year stint in the Trump administration, his DOJ argued Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect workers from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

Shortly before tendering his resignation, Sessions’ office also argued that trans employees aren’t protected under federal civil rights law.

After the former Alabama Senator announced he would be stepping down from the DOJ in November, Sessions was replaced by Matthew Whitaker. As U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, he allegedly persecuted openly gay Iowa State Sen. Matt McCoy because of his pro-LGBTQ activism.

While Senate Democrats could choose to oppose yet another anti-LGBTQ pick to the DOJ, it’s unlikely they would have the votes to do so. They will be outnumbered 53 to 47 when Congress reconvenes in the new year.

Grindr’s Head of Communications Resigns: ‘I Refused to Compromise My Own Values’

Grindr may not be available for comment.

On Friday afternoon, Landen Zumwalt, Grindr’s head of communications, quit his position in an open letter to Grindr’s employees on Medium, saying that he’d no longer “compromise my own values” to work at the company.

“As an out and proud gay man madly in love with a man I don’t deserve, I refused to compromise my own values or professional integrity to defend a statement that goes against everything I am and everything I believe,” Zumwalt wrote on Medium. “While that resulted in my time at Grindr being cut short, I have absolutely no regrets. And neither should you.”

He continued by saying it has been a “privilege” to come to work every day.

“I am — and will continue to be — immensely proud of the work we were allowed to do during my time at Grindr,” he said. “I will never forget the heart-tugging messages, emails and more that we received from the queer community as a result of our Kindr initiative. Nor will I forget being a witness firsthand to the amazing activism work Grindr for Equality is doing globally or working alongside the award-winning reporting team at INTO.”

Zumwalt’s departure follows a week after INTO first reported that Grindr’s president Scott Chen posted on his public Facebook page that he agrees with those who “believe that marriage is a holy matrimony between a man and a woman.”

In a follow-up internal email, Chen said that the words he used “related to marriage between a man and a woman were meant to express my personal feelings about my own marriage to my wife – not to suggest that I am opposed to marriage equality.”

In a statement, Grindr said they “wish him the best in his future endeavors and appreciate his contributions to the company and the Grindr community.”

Hate Crime Forces Gay Couple to Leave Las Vegas Home

Charles Clements and Vincent Shaver can’t go home. They can’t make rent, and even if they could, they don’t want to stay.

“Every time we opened the door and heard steps, I would get scared,” Clements told INTO. “So we had to leave immediately.”

Last Thursday, Clements and Shaver said they were victims of a brutal anti-gay hate crime at their Las Vegas apartment. The incident has left them staying with Shaver’s uncle, trying to raise enough money to move.

Shaver said the trouble started at his job at Walmart when a coworker and his friend started targeting him for being gay.

“They told me I was an abomination and a faggot,” said Shaver.

Shaver said he reported the harassment to supervisors and thought that would be the end of the problem.

But on Thursday when Clements picked him up from work, the two followed them home.

“I guess he waited in the parking lot for three hours,” Shaver said. “I didn’t think he was going to take it to the extreme and follow us home and try to hurt us.”

Clements said he didn’t even realize they had been followed until they were home and he heard Shaver call out his name from the front of the house. Two guys were hitting Shaver. When Clements moved to intervene, the two started to attack him, he said.

They knocked over a table, shattering glass, which the attackers then used as a knife.

“I was leaking blood and that’s when they went over to my boyfriend and started kicking him and stabbing him,” said Clements.

When the attackers saw the blood they fled, said Clements. The attack lasted about 10 minutes, he said.

The couple said neighbors watched the attack but didn’t intervene or call police. One neighbor shut the door in the middle of the beating. Shaver had to call 911 himself.

Both were hospitalized Thursday night. Shaver suffered a punctured lung, seven stab wounds in the back and two broken ribs. Clements had to have stitches for a cut to his head. The two are home and recovering. Shaver has taken a temporary leave from Walmart, but Clements said he will return to his job at a local nursing home.

The couple said they don’t have health insurance, and costly medical bills have forced them to vacate their apartment. They have launched a GoFundMe, asking for help with moving to “a different area where they have security 24/7 and a gated area.”

“When I met Vincent is when I wanted to be out and proud of myself,” said Clements, who notes they have been together a year-and-a-half.

“We were living comfortably, and now this tragedy has cost us our place,” added Shaver.

Walmart is working with Las Vegas law enforcement to investigate the incident, which they categorized as workplace violence, the company confirmed. A spokesperson would not provide details on the ongoing investigation.

Las Vegas Police Department did not respond to requests to comment by press time.

Image via YouTube

Poland and Hungary Veto Statement of Support For LGBTQ Youth in EU Policy

Poland and Hungary reportedly rejected a declaration of support for LGBTQ youth in a European Union policy on creating internet safe spaces for young people.

On Thursday, the two countries were the lone holdouts in a vote on a joint statement on “gender equality, youth, and digitalization” authored by ministers with the EU’s employment and social affairs bureaus. As Politico was first to report, the proposed policy was “intended to promote gender equity in the digital era.”

However, Poland and Hungary rejected references in the document to the LGBTQ community.

The original version of the text referred to “young people of low socioeconomic status, young people from ethnic minorities including Roma, young persons with disabilities, young people in rural areas, young people with a migrant background, and young LGBTQ persons” as vulnerable minorities in the digital age.

In the United States, research from GLSEN has consistently shown that LGBTQ youth are three times as likely as their cisgender and heterosexual peers to be harassed, bullied, or targeted online.

A compromise declaration put forward by the Austrian delegation to the EU, however, replaced mention of this marginalized group with a reference to “sexual orientation.”

The watered-down proposal enumerated characteristics like “age,” “color,” “disability,” “ethnic or social origin,” “genetic features,” “language,” “membership of a national minority,” “political or any other opinion,” “property,” “race,” “religion or belief,” and “sexual orientation” as protected characteristics under the EU’s digital policy.

However, that list of characteristics does not include “gender identity.”

References to LGBTQ individuals were eventually included in the final version of the document, although with a symbolic asterisk placed next to them. Protection on the basis of LGBTQ identity was designated as a “presidential conclusion.”

That status doesn’t “carry the legal weight of formal council conclusions,” according to Politico.

The erasure of queer and transgender people from EU policy was met with widespread condemnation from member states that have long been supportive of LGBTQ equality. Wouter Koolmees, the Dutch minister for social affairs and employment, claimed “inclusion and equality are core values” of the EU.

We will never compromise our principles,” he said in a statement. “This is not up for discussion and should have never been an issue for any member state.”

Regina Doherty, Ireland’s Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, noted this week’s controversy is a reminder that the EU cannot “be too complacent” when it comes to furthering LGBTQ rights among the 28 nations joined to the interstate partnership.

“[M]ore effort needs to be done to address the marginalisation and wellbeing of LGBTQ persons and to ensure that vulnerable groups are not left behind,” she said in a statement.

In response to the compromise declaration, 19 EU member states put forward their own statement in support of equality. Spearheaded by Malta, the document calls upon the European Commission to draft a comprehensive plan safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ individuals within the next two years.

That entreaty was signed by Belgium, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain, among others.

Following backlash, Poland and Hungary have maintained the decision to remove queer- and trans-inclusive language was intended to reflect majoritarian values in societies which have yet to fully embrace equality. According to ILGA Europe, the two countries rank 38th and 20th on LGBTQ rights in Europe, respectively.

Two months ago, Poland courted similar controversy after torpedoing Europe’s Fundamental Rights Charter over LGBTQ rights provisions.

Milo Yiannopoulos Banned From Crowdfunding Site Within 24 Hours, Still $2 Million in Debt

Milo Yiannopoulos’ self-described comeback was cut short this week when Patreon pulled the plug on his crowdfunding campaign within 24 hours.

Yiannopoulos had hoped to fundraise his way back to financial solvency following a report from The Guardian that showed the disgraced gay alt-right darling is more than $2 million in debt. A Patreon page set up by the former Breitbart editor on Dec. 4 promised that supporters could join “Milo’s Big Gay Army” in exchange for just $2.50 a month.

In return for donating more money, followers would be designated as a “Cheerleader,” or “Sassy Bitch,” while others could be a part of his “Trigger Squad.”

But for a monthly contribution of $750, individuals in the “elite tier” would be gifted a personal thank-you letter handwritten by Yiannopoulos and a coffee mug. In addition, he promised top-level donors “exclusive invitations to drinks when Milo is in your city (you’re buying).”

If begging for free cocktails from strangers weren’t humbling enough, the 34-year-old penned a woeful plea for assistance following a “miserable year or two.”

“After two years of relentless, dishonest attacks on me by the press, I got roughed up and lost my way,” Yiannopoulos claimed. “I’ve never asked for money like this before. But I need you to help me get back to work.”

The enfant terrible claimed the fundraising effort would be used to “support my family, pay essential staff and service providers.”

Yiannopoulos also said he was planning to create his own TV show.

Patreon, however, quickly disabled the controversial figure’s crowdfunding page after claiming that it violated the platform’s community guidelines. In a Dec. 5 tweet, the company claimed his campaign “was removed from Patreon as we don’t allow association with or supporting hate groups on Patreon.”

The website cited Yiannopoulos’ “past association” with the Proud Boys as a breach of its policies, although it noted he recently cut ties with the white supremacist group.

Patreon’s guidelines forbid “serious attacks, or even negative generalizations, of people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or serious medical conditions.”

At the time his page was removed, a reported 250 patrons pledged to donate to Yiannopoulos on a monthly basis.

Yiannopoulos attempted to make light of the situation on his Facebook page by posting a screenshot of an email from Patreon notifying him that he would no longer be permitted to raise money on the site. “Back to square one, I guess!” he said, with a faux-upbeat attitude.

His current predicament, though, is allegedly quite dire.

According to the aforementioned Guardian report, Yiannopoulos owes more than $1.6 million to his own media enterprise, Milo, Inc. The company was his last failed comeback attempt after his termination from Breitbart over comments defending clerical abuse in the Catholic church.

Yiannopoulos is also allegedly $400,000 in debt to Breitbart’s backers, the billionaire Mercer family. He also owes $153,000 in legal fees, $52,000 to Four Seasons, and $20,000 to Cartier.

The far-right personality attempted to discredit the Guardian’s reporting by saying he is bringing in $40,000 a month.

Image via Getty

Schools Should Be Able to Expel Students For Being Transgender, Says Former Australia Deputy PM

Former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce ignited national controversy this week after saying religious schools should be able to expel students for being transgender.

In comments made to Sky News, the National Party lawmaker claimed that cisgender students shouldn’t be burdened with being forced to use the restroom or locker room with children that identify as trans or gender nonconforming.

“If I send my child to an all-girls’ school, I don’t want the complication and the possibility… that if someone turns up and says, ‘I want to identify was a woman, I want to identify as a girl, I want to go into your bathrooms, [and] I want to go into your change rooms,’” Joyce told the U.K.-based news channel.

“That might be that person’s right and wish, but everybody else says, ‘Well, that’s an affront on our rights and we want that issue dealt with,’” he continued.

Joyce added that this scenario is “unfair” to cisgender students and their parents.

“You cannot send a student whose genetic makeup is XY … to a school established for people who are XX,” he claimed. “It is not fair on the larger school unit that they have to change and accept all because of the desires of one.”

To the parents of trans students, the conservative had a message: They can just “choose a different school” for their kids.

Joyce’s remarks were made in response to a debate in the Australia Parliament over whether faith-based schools should be permitted to remove LGBTQ students from schools. The discussion was triggered by a leaked report showing the government intended to strengthen “religious freedom” protections for private institutions.

Following widespread backlash over the federal proposal, current PM Scott Morrison claimed the plan was mischaracterized by media. He claimed Parliament would introduce legislation to clear up “confusion and anxiety for parents and students.”

“I will be taking action to ensure amendments are introduced as soon as practicable to make it clear that no student of a non-state school should be expelled on the basis of their sexuality,” said the evangelical Christian, who declined to vote in favor of a same-sex marriage bill following last year’s marriage equality referendum.

But under current law, religious schools do have the ability to discriminate against students “on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationship status.”

Legislation to address potential discrimination against LGBTQ students, though, has stalled in Parliament. According to The Guardian, Labour Party Senator Jacinta Collins voiced concern that a proposal put forward by the Australia Greens does not sufficiently recognize “the right of religious schools to be run in accordance with their beliefs.”

Collins claimed the government must “respect the ethos, values, and principles” of faith-based institutions.

But as the national legislature continues to come to a consensus on the issue, the parents of transgender students warned the contentious dialogue is scapegoating some of Australia’s most marginalized youth.

Jo Hirst, author of The Gender Fairy and parent of a trans student, claimed Joyce is “publicly insulting children” in a tweet.

“Barnaby Joyce has shown zero understanding or compassion for transgender students,” she added in an interview with the Australian website The New Daily. “When a parent and a school support a trans child, it is on the advice of that child’s doctors and psychologists.”

Hirst further called on the former deputy PM to resign from Parliament over his comments.

“When we have a federal minister blatantly flouting the recommendations of our health professionals, and publicly shaming and disparaging our vulnerable kids, I think it’s time for our Prime Minister to step in and say enough is enough,” she said. “These children deserve better than this. He should be asked for his resignation.”

Joyce, though, is unlikely to step down amid the near-universal backlash.

When criticized by the mother of a transgender seven-year-old who informed Joyce that “what is in her pants is nobody’s business,” the politician told Tom Elliott of the 3AW Drive radio program that a child knowing they’re trans is “blatantly absurd.”

“At seven they’ve decided they’re transgender?” he asked. “Are you for real?”

This Texas Student is Raising Money to Move Out of the Dorm That Banned Her Girlfriend

A Texas college freshman is trying to raise enough money to move out of her dorm after administrators told her that her girlfriend was not allowed to visit.

Kaj Baker, a freshman at University of Texas in Austin, says she no longer feels safe in the privately-operated Scottish Rite Dormitory (SRD). That’s because SRD Director Mary Mazurek told her that her sexual orientation made the other 314 residents uncomfortable, and she was no longer allowed to have guests.

Baker’s story made national headlines last week after she recorded the November 14 meeting with Mazurek and other administrators. On the recording, published by The Daily Texan, Mazurek told her that “sometimes it takes compromise on both sides” to make sure all residents are comfortable.

When Baker asks why people are uncomfortable, the dorm director makes clear that the issue is Baker’s LGBTQ status.

“Because some people are not comfortable with your sexual orientation,” Mazurek responds.

The all-women dorm does not allow male guests to stay overnight, but female guests are welcome under the policy. SRD is owned by the Scottish Rite Freemasons, an extension of the secret fraternal organization that has a complicated anti-LGBTQ history.

“I think that if more girls in the dorm got a chance to really get to talk to me and my girlfriend, they would realize that we are good students who follow the rules and are just like anyone else living at the dorm,” Baker said in an interview with LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD. “At the end of the day, we are more than what is happening at my dorm.”

In a series of emails to INTO, Mazurek admitted that SRD had failed “to treat all students fairly,” and is “working to make the situation right.”

“We are investigating fully what happened, and also contacting Kaj to address her situation directly, which we regret not doing as soon as we learned of her broader concerns,” Mazurek said in a statement. “Pending the outcome of our investigation, we are committed to taking the steps needed to ensure our residents are safe, welcomed and supported — including sensitivity training for all staff and resident assistants, and clarifying SRD’s visitor policies.”

Pressed on what exactly was being investigated given that Mazurek herself was the administrator to block Baker’s girlfriend from visiting, Mazurek repeated that the dorm failed to ensure all students were treated fairly.

“We are addressing this now in a number of ways and are committed to making it right,” she wrote.

Mazurek told INTO that the Scottish Rite Dormitory doesn’t have a policy regarding LGBTQ residents or guests.

The fallout has forced Baker to move out of the dorm. In the meantime, she is temporarily staying with her girlfriend Carlee (whose last name has not been reported), returning only to get personal belongings, she said. In the meantime, Carlee has launched a GoFundMe to help Baker move out of the dorm.

“She doesn’t deserve to feel ridiculed or isolated for simply existing and being who she is,” wrote Carlee on the fundraiser page.

South Africa Advances Bill to Prevent Kim Davis-Style Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples

South Africa is one step closer to protecting same-sex couples against Kim Davis-style discrimination following approval in the lower house of its parliament.

On Thursday, the National Assembly passed the Civil Union Amendment Bill, which closes a loophole in South Africa’s 2006 civil unions bill allowing officiants to refuse to solemnize same-sex weddings. Under Section 6 of the legislation, marriage officers are permitted to object on the grounds of “conscience, religion, and belief.”

Lawmaker Deidre Carter claimed the exemption is against the values of democratic governance.

“It cannot be in our constitutional democracy that civil servants can be afforded the right in law about whom they would like to serve,” Carter, who authored the private member’s bill, told colleagues in the Parliament of South Africa.

The Congress of the People (COPE) representative claimed the “religious freedom” provision has led to widespread discrimination against same-sex couples.

“I received complaints that couples were being turned away from a number of Home Affairs offices as there were no marriage officers that were prepared to solemnise same-sex marriages,” she alleged. “My investigations revealed that this tendency was in fact more widespread than initially thought.”

Of the 412 local branches of the Home Affairs office in South Africa, only 111 currently have officiants on staff who are willing to marry LGBTQ partners. That’s less than 27 percent.

Carter said that addressing this problem “goes beyond the mere repeal of Section 6 of the Civil Union Act.”

“It touches upon the genesis of our constitutional order,” she claimed. “It touches that which is most sacrosanct in our Constitution, our Bill of the Rights: the right to equality and dignity; that the state may not unfairly discriminate; and that it has the responsibility to promote, respect and fulfill these rights.”

Supporters of the Civil Union Amendment Bill claimed religious exemptions to same-sex marriage violate Article 9 of the South African Constitution, which forbids bias on the basis of characteristics like gender, sex, and sexual orientation.

The bill was opposed by the National Freedom Party (NFP) and African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP). They claim it infringes on the rights of people of faith.

That argument was a common one in the United States after the Supreme Court passed same-sex marriage in a landmark 2015 ruling. Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, Ky., went to jail for five days after claiming that she could not sign same-sex marriage certificates as an Apostolic Christian.

But as in the SCOTUS ruling, the legislation would not compel ministers or other religious officials to endorse marriages that go against their faith. It merely applies to government employees.

The Civil Union Amendment Bill will now head to the upper house of the legislature—known as the National Council of Provinces—for approval. After that, President Cyril Ramaphosa must sign the pro-LGBTQ legislation before it becomes the law of the land.

But should the president approve the amendment, it would not take effect right away. The bill mandates a two-year training period for Home Affairs Officers previously granted exception under the law.

During the transition, officers who have no issue with marrying same-sex couples must be present in cases of religious objection.