The Meaning of Katie Sowers

Katie Sowers recently became the first ever coach in the NFL to come out as gay. I’m not a diehard football fan or anything, but when I saw that headline on my Facebook newsfeed, I felt an impassioned joy. It is always beautiful to see members of the LGBTQ community stand up and declare who they are, especially when doing so requires an unimaginable amount of courage and can have a positive effect on so many people.

I may not know all the rules or the name of every player, but I do regularly attend Chicago Bears games. I love Soldier Field, the smells, the crowd, the way we get to sing every time the Bears score a touchdown. There’s something so enchanting about sitting out there in the middle of winter, bundled up in layers and sipping hot chocolate out of a massive souvenir mug while light snowflakes drift down from the sky. It’s a wonderful place to be, and I wish I could say I felt one hundred percent comfortable being gay there. While I haven’t experienced any outright homophobia in the stands, I am definitely more careful with how I act when I am there with my girlfriend–or when the two of us are in any large sporting arena for that matter.

The concentration of intense heteromasculine energy feels threatening in a way that makes holding her hand or sitting too close seem a bit dangerous. I don’t see myself represented anywhere. There’s no sign that if we did act out and open, we would be okay. Beyond the absence of any out players or coaches on the field, there are activities like Kiss Cams run by people who always seem to forget that kisses are not just shared between man and woman.

If I had the opportunity to sit in that arena knowing that somewhere down on that field was a gay coach being embraced by the team, I would feel more welcome at Soldier Field. I would breathe a little easier sitting beside my girlfriend at a game. And if that’s the kind of comfort it would give someone like me, who is out and proud and regularly writes about her sexuality for the world to see, I can’t even imagine what it might do for someone in the closet, still ashamed or confused or afraid of who they are.

This is one reason Katie Sowers coming out is so important. I don’t know if it will make others in the league feel more comfortable coming out, but I do feel it will help those who identify as gay, whether a fan or a player or a coach, feel at least an ounce of comfort knowing that there is someone else nearby who would understand.

Representation matters. As a gay person, it is difficult to find public spaces in which to feel one hundred percent comfortable being yourself. Katie Sowers has brought a little bit of that comfort to a world where there has been virtually none of it. And the thing about Sowers is that she had to do it all on her own, without the presence of another out gay person to make her feel a little safer or a little more okay. Sowers didn’t have anyone to help her breathe a little easier, and she came out anyway. That is more than brave. That is god damn heroic.

It’s especially incredible considering the challenges she more than likely faces on a regular basis just for being a woman. As Cyd Zeigler emphasized in a recent Outsports article, “It is not easier for Sowers because she’s a woman. It is actually harder, making it all the more powerful that she is not shying away from her role as role model and inspiration.” I am sure Sowers has to prove herself every day in a way her male counterparts do not. I know that coming out over and over is always scary and always hard and will always be accompanied by challenges and homophobic jerks. Sowers, I imagine, knew this, too, and despite all the other challenges she’s already facing, she still came out because it mattered to her. She told Outsports, “The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day.”

The fact that we are still celebrating firsts like this demonstrates how much work there’s left to do. My jaw doesn’t physically drop often, but it did when I read that Sowers is not only the first coach to come out in the NFL, but she is also the first ever coach, male or female, to come out in any professional men’s sports league in America. It’s a shame that this is the case in 2017. It seems there is still a huge barrier to coming out in men’s sports, and I find it pretty awesome that one of the people attempting to kick it down is a woman.

Right now, Sowers is an island, and hopefully it won’t always be that way. I hope that Sowers represents the beginning of a new era in football, where coaches and players of any gender will feel comfortable being true to themselves. I hope Sowers’ unapologetic outnessand her role as a woman in football in generalis the beginning of the end of an environment that fetishizes dirt-rubbing, chest-bumping, woman-loving heteromasculinity rather than merely being good at football.

According to an article in Outsports, published in June 2017, there are seven known gay players in NFL history who have played during the regular season. Seven. And all of them only came outaftertheir time in the NFL. That, plus the fact that Sowers is the first coach in any professional American male sports league to come out, is a problem. There is still so much work to be done.

Michael Sam, the controversial first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, was supposed to be the beginning of something new. The problem was he got cut before the regular season began. I do not know enough about his skill level to form an opinion about whether he got cut because he wasn’t good enough or due to discrimination. I do know enough to feel that in general, trailblazers are usually the stars, those who are truly exceptional and already stand out for their skills. Of course, you should be able to be true to who you are whether you are the starting quarterback or a second string player, but someone who is already in the spotlight might make a larger impact.

Sowers has already been in the spotlight for being the second full-time female coach in the history of the NFL, and her skills sound truly exceptional. They would have to be for the boys club that is the NFL to even hire her as a female coach. Interviews with players and coaches alike discuss her incredible talent.

Marquise Goodwin, 49ers Wide Receiver, told San Francisco radio station KNBR, “Katie is a baller, 100 percent. She understands the game. She’s very familiar with the gameshe definitely has the attitude it takes to be in that room. She brings a great vibe and she understands so I’m happy that she’s on staff.” Head Coach Kyle Shanahan told the station, “She’s a hard worker. You don’t even notice her because she just goes to work and does what’s asked and because of that she’s someone we would like to keep around.”

Now that Sowers’ extraordinary ability has paved the way, hopefully more coachesand playersof any skill level will feel safer coming out.

Malta Becomes Latest Country to Allow Non-Binary Option on Passports

Malta is the latest country to allow trans and nonbinary individuals a third option on their passports and legal documents, signified by a neutral “X.”

In a Monday press conference, Minister for European Affairs and Equality Helena Dalli claims that the addition is a sign that LGBTQ citizens will no longer be treated like “second-class citizens” in the majority Catholic country. Instead the Maltese government, Dalli says, will recognize “whoever you want to be.”

“No legislature should impose their views on an individual’s right to choose,” Dalli continues.

Although Malta still officially recognizes the existence of two genders, what this change allows is for trans people to not identify their gender on official documentation. Although the term “transgender” is widely viewed as the transition from one gender to another, many people within the wider trans umbrella fall along a spectrum of gender expression. These individuals may feel neither male nor female, a phenomenon signified by terms like “agender, “genderqueer,” or “neutrois.”

There’s little research from Malta on the subject, but a survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) found that 35 percent of the U.S. trans population identifies as neither of the two most widely recognized genders.

Arli Christian, policy counsel for NCTE, claims that updating the policies on trans documentation serves an important purpose for this large subsection of the LGBTQ community. These guidelines, he tells INTO in an email, help to “ensure that non-binary individuals have better access to accurate IDs for use in their daily lives.”

Transgender Law Center executive director Kris Hayashi adds that having consistent paperwork which matches an individual’s gender identity can help prevent the daily discrimination faced by trans people.

“We’re asked for identification everywhere from banks and bars to airports,” Hayashi says in a statement to INTO. “It can be difficult and even dangerous for nonbinary and transgender people to navigate life with an ID that doesn’t reflect who they truly are, opening people up to invasive questions, harassment, and sometimes violence.”

Although affirming identification isn’t a panacea against bigotry, the existing research backs up this assertion. In a 2015 poll of more than 27,000 trans people living in the U.S., the NCTE found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents didn’t have their documents fully updated. Of this group, nearly a third (32 percent) claimed that they had experienced discrimination or abuse as a result.

A 2015 case from the U.S. exemplified how dangerous it can be for trans people to have paperwork that doesn’t align with their sense of selfor their outward appearance.

Shadi Petosky, a writer and cartoonist, was detained by TSA officials at the Orlando International Airport after the body scanners detected an “anomaly” in her anatomy. Although the 42-year-old explained that she’s transgender, Petosky claims that she was detained for 40 minutes while officers debated policymissing her flight. The TSA subsequently stood by its conduct.

To prevent this maltreatment, selected municipalities in the U.S. have begun to update their trans documentation guidelines in recent years.

Oregon and Washington D.C. already allow trans people to identify themselves with a neutral “X,” and the state of California moved closer to recognizing non-binary identities when a bill to allow a third-gender option on identification passed its Senate this year.

Although Canada isto datethe only country in North America to officially recognize neutral gender markers, numerous nations have long blazed that trail. Countries like Australia, India, Ireland, Nepal, New Zealand, and Pakistan allow for a separate option outside of the male and female boxes. In Germany, all official documentation is gender-neutral.

Malta, meanwhile, made waves in 2015 with a historic gender recognition bill that allowed trans people to update their birth certificate without proof or surgery.

The once-conservative nation has become a leader in LGBTQ rights in the years since. Malta, which currently ranks in first place on ILGA’s 2017 survey of the most queer-affirming nations, became the first European country to outlaw conversion therapy in 2016. A year later, the country’s parliament passed same-sex unions by a near-unanimous vote. Just one legislator voted against.

The July vote was a strong statement from a country where divorce was illegal until 2011.

But LGBTQ advocates warn that even with the new policies in place, trans people will continue to be targeted for discrimination. When Canada passed its nonbinary law in August, Toronto attorney Adrienne Smith told Global News that the “X” marker could serve to out LGBTQ people in countries where it’s still unsafe to be open about one’s identity.

“I’m really worried that in countries like Uganda and Jamaica, where being LGBTQ is illegal and there are laws on the books that prosecute people for identifying as trans, that this could leave people open to arbitrary detention,” Smith said at the time.

Dalli, however, recognizes that more work must be done to ensure the safety of LGBTQ people.

“We feel this is another important step towards giving people rights and obligations, irrespective of how they were born,” she claims, noting that the country’s legislature has convened for less than 100 days.

To receive updated paperwork, trans people must present a notarized statement to Identity Malta, the government office which handles passports, visas, and other identity documents. Parliamentary Secretary for Reform Julia Portelli Farrugia claims that the process shouldn’t take any longer than other requests.

Nearly 75,000 LGBTQ Immigrants Face Deporation Following Trump’s Repeal of DACA

President Trump has announced that he will be ending a program allowing the children of undocumented workers to remain in the United States. That decision was quickly condemned by LGBTQ advocates as “discriminatory,” as well as an attack on the LGBTQ immigrants who rely on the program as a pathway to citizenship.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated in a Monday press conference that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program will be officially shut down in March. That leaves six months before the estimated 800,000 undocumented youth enrolled in the program, which Sessions referred to as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch,” face deportation.

He claimed, however, that those currently enrolled in the program have until October to reapply.

But in the meantime, LGBTQ advocacy groups warned that there are too many lives hanging in the balance. A recent report from UCLA’s The Williams Institute, a pro-LGBTQ think tank, estimated that 75,000 queer and trans people receive support from DACA. That number doesn’t factor in the number of immigrants who are not enrolled in the program.

Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation, claimed in a statement that these LGBTQ immigrants could be sent back to “countries where their lives could be in jeopardy.”

“That any young person could be ripped away from their parents, siblings, friends, loved ones, and colleagues is the antithesis of the American promise of fairness and opportunity for allthe very reasons why many immigrants move here to provide a better life for themselves and their children,” Isaacs said, adding that the consequences for LGBTQ people may be “especially dire.”

Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the decision’s impact on queer and trans immigrants “chilling.”

“In an announcement that lasted only minutes, this administration just turned the lives of tens of thousands of our community members upside down, putting their dreams, their futures, and potentially their safety at risk,” Kendell said in a statement. “We join with the millions of others who pledge to do all in our power to resist this brutally vicious and depraved directive and to stand with these young people.”

But Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, claimed that Trump’s repeal of DACA is just his latest strike against the LGBTQ community.

In August, Trump announced he would be reversing a year-old policy allowing trans troops to serve openly in the military. Prior to that decision, the Justice Department claimed that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is permissible under federal law, breaking with recent trends in jurisprudence. The White House also backtracked on allowing trans students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity in schools.

“Whether it’s transgender troops or young immigrant Americans, President Trump appears bent on singling out and harming people and families that he sees as different,” Kiesling said in a press release.

Sessions claimed that the decision is not based in animus toward undocumented workers.

“The nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all can not be accepted,” Sessions claimed. “This does not mean they are bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way. It means we are properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them.”

In a statement, the POTUS further called on Congress to pass legislation before March to preserve the five-year-old policy. Trump, who repealed DACA in an executive order, has previously cited it as an example of Obama’s overuse of executive orders.

“We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion, but through the lawful democratic process,” Trump claimed. “It is now time for Congress to act!”

Barack Obama Just Dragged Trump’s “Cruel” DACA Decision: “This Is About Basic Decency”

After Donald Trump’s Tuesday morning announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would end, former president Barack Obama has released a stirring statement on his landmark executive order.

In a post released to his Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, Obama defended his executive order and condemned Trump’s decision to close the DACA program, leaving 800,000 DREAMers under the threat of deportation.

“These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” Obama wrote.

Obama also wrote that he had hoped that undocumented youth might be helped by an act of Congress, but one never came, which moved him to act. He wrote that he enacted DACA to “lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country.”

But, he decried, Trump’s decision has brought that shadow back.
“But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel.”

Ultimately, Obama said, DACA is about “basic decency.”

“This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated,” Obama said. “It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.”

In less than an hour, Obama’s post has been shared over 85,000 times and garnered over 200,000 likes.

“Whoa, forgot what it’s like to have an eloquent president,” one commenter wrote.

“I wish you were still our leader,” another person wrote. This person’s comment got about 14,000 likes.

In a written statement, Trump said, “I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents.”

He added, “But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”

Undocumented young people who were registered under the DACA program will now have to wait to see if Congress can pass legislation before the program phases out on March 5, 2018, according to the New York Times.

Transgender Person Kashmire Redd Stabbed to Death in Domestic Dispute

During a dispute in the early hours of Monday morning, Doris E. Carrasquillo allegedly stabbed and killed her partner, 28-year-old Kashmire Nazier Redd, inside the couple’s apartment in Gates, New York, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported.

According to WHEC, local police indicated that Redd identified as a transgender man. However, several outlets like the Democrat and Chronicle did not indicate Redd’s gender identity, referring to them only as a transgender person. Gates Police told INTO that they were not releasing any information about Redd at this time.

Carrasquillo has been charged with second-degree murder for Redd’s death.

Gates Police Chief Jim VanBredrode told reporters that Redd was brought to Strong Memorial Hospital in Gates, New York, where Redd eventually succumbed to their injuries. VanBredrode also indicated that police had been called to the couple’s apartment several days ago after a call from a neighbor. No one answered the door when police arrived.

In a press conference, Jaime Saunders, president of the Willow Domestic Violence Center, told reporters that Redd did identify as transgender, though Saunders did not indicate Redd’s pronouns or gender identity. Saunders said that while intimate partner violence affects all populations, transgender people are especially vulnerable.

According to the Williams Institute, 30 to 50 percent of transgender people experience intimate partner violence as opposed to 28 to 33 percent of the general population.

Redd’s death is the 19th reported murder of a transgender person in 2017. In August, Kiwi Herring, a Black trans woman, was killed in St. Louis, Missouri. During a vigil for her death, 59-year-old Mark Colao drove a car through the proceedings, injuring several people. Colao was charged with resisting arrest, leaving the scene of an accident, and operating a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner.

Trans Rights = Worker’s Rights

“You can’t feel it from the front. You have to feel it from the back.”

My manager at McDonald’s barked these orders over a staff-wide headset moments before my coworker groped me.

As a transgender woman of color, my time working at McDonald’s in Redford, Michigan was filled with horrendous moments like this.

I was barred from using both the men’s and women’s restrooms and relegated to using a supply closet with an old toilet in it. My manager would refer me to as “boy slash girl.” I would get asked “How big is it?” My manager once remarked “you think I don’t know what you are because of how you dress and look?”

This job was my only source of income, so to try to avoid the constant harassment, I began to dress more like a man thinking it would stop – it didn’t.

All this took a toll on me. I often wondered if my only escape would be to kill myself. Instead, I decided to speak up and report the abuse to management. When my hours were cut, I took my complaints to the franchise owner. A week later, I was fired.

But I wasn’t going to allow myself to be bullied into silence. When I was at McDonald’s I joined the Fight for $15 – the national movement to win $15 an hour and union rights. By joining the movement, I learned more about my rights and realized I had the power to stand up for myself. So, I filed a civil rights lawsuit against McDonald’s hoping my story would shine a light on the issues trans workers face and to force the company to enforce a non-discrimination policy.

My experiences at McDonald’s are sadly the norm for workers like me – 97 percent of trans people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment, or discrimination on the job.

And, a 2015 National Transgender Discrimination Survey reveals some ugly truths about what it means to be a Trans worker in America: we are three times as likely to make less than $10,000 a year than the average worker, and three times as likely to face unemployment.

In our fight for equal treatment and dignity on the job, unions are one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Union contracts for example do what federal and state laws do not: prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

That means union workers can’t be fired without just cause and they often have access to grievance procedures and arbitration. With unions, workers’ right to organize for better wages and working conditions are not impeded. With unions, we wouldn’t have to wait for politicians to speak to our issues, we would have a voice of our own.

Across the country, trans rights are under fire. According to an analysis done by MAP, there are 23 states that have laws that actually strip away the rights of trans people, and a majority of states simply don’t have laws that prevent employers from discriminating against trans workers.

We’ve seen this play out in North Carolina where HB 2 has stripped transgender citizens of their dignity and rights. Even at the federal level, Donald Trump has attempted to ban transgender Americans from serving their country.

It doesn’t matter if you are an officer in the military or a cashier at McDonald’s; our politicians and corporations treat transgender workers as second-class citizens.

Trans rights and workers’ rights are undeniably linked. The labor movement has won protections for generations of workers that have been exploited – immigrants, women, Black and brown and LGBTQ Americans. But there is still much progress to be made.

That’s why on Labor Day we LGBTQ workers will raise their voices along with underpaid workers from coast-to-coast to deliver one clear message: America needs unions.

Common Enemies, Common Causes: Queer People and the Labor Movement

The labor rights movement in America is about economics. And the US fight for queer liberation is about civil rights and sexual liberation. But, while they may seem totally different on the outside, these movements do intersect. Queer women, men and trans people have all played a significant part in US labor rights history, and the fight for fair wages and benefits has often been a fight for better working standards for queer people.

To illuminate further just how much queer people were a part of the US workers rights’ movements, INTO spoke with Miriam Frank, author of Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America.

I’m very interested that you draw this parallel early in the book between states historically with anti-sodomy laws and states with anti-union laws. You point out that in 12 states that continued to have anti-sodomy laws until the 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia there are also present day anti-union or “right to work” laws. Beyond those both being conservative talking points, are there any ways these are related?

There is a heritage in the states that have right to work laws that also had sodomy statutes. There is a heritage of anti-liberal, anti-free it is not obviously misogynistic but it is misogynistic.

The reason I wrote the book was to show how these two movements, which are very different the gay movement is about a way of being sexual and the labor movement is about making a living. Unless you’re doing sex work, they aren’t really the same thing at all. They don’t really have the same reasons, they don’t have the same history, they don’t attack the same kinds of people, they don’t have organize the same way, they are not restricted by the same laws. But, because they have the same enemy the hostile anti-gay, the anti-sex, anti-liberal laws Christian Right, you can define it anyway you want to we have common enemies, and so we have common causes. My intention in the book was to show how that worked out in the process of working for a living and being out at your own workplace in the form of working a union.

Everyone believes there should be a union and they should negotiate with the boss and then they find out that the guy you’re working next to is trying to get domestic partner benefits in their union contract and this guy doesn’t think queers are good people. How does someone struggle with that? How does someone make an alliance with someone who isn’t exactly like them? The cause has to be a forethought.

So, you touch on a lot of different industries in the book, but you do say that a lot of unions learned from the teacher’s union. Would you say that was the earliest and most vociferous defenders of queer union members?

Yes, because a flashpoint, a shining point of homophobia, is “Those queer men are going to turn my little boy into a fag!” You know, the whole thing about pedophilia, that thing is a livewire issue today but the teachers unions have really pushed that back and have campaigned. They didn’t really want to. They started out wishing, “Just keep quiet and we won’t have any problems,” and then we did have problems. Again if you go to california and you go to proposition 6, the Briggs Initiative, which was a huge campaign in California in 1978, the briggs initiative was defeated by an amazing coalition of liberal coalitions. Not only unions, but liberal religious groups, the Girl Scouts, everyone got on the bandwagon and thy pushed back the hostile initiative. Six years later in Oregon, another group of people were trying to do the same thing. They kept running these bogus campaigns about pedophilia. The teachers’ union, having learned from the Briggs initiative said “it’s not going to happen.” And in fact in Oregon, in the state of Washington, in a lot of places where there were strong teachers union movements, that’s never went anywhere.

Let’s talk about secrecy. In your book, there seems to be this parallel experience between the pressure to stay closeted in the workplace about your sexuality, and for a long time, the need to be secretive about organizing. How are these similar phenomena?

With the Wagner act of 1935, it really made it possible for workers to have the right to bargain collectively through an agent of their own choosing. That’s what that law said. That was a right that wasn’t granted until 1935 and before that if people wanted to unionize, you had to go to the outhouse or the barn of some guy, and maybe he said he didn’t know you but he did know you. It was just like going to a gay bar and trying to find someone to love. They kept the lights out, they kept the lights out during the union meeting so if someone grabbed you and made you tell who was there in the room, you could say “I was there in the room, but the lights were out.” It was a forbidden way of life and there weren’t laws to protect unionization.

You open with a story about an early transgender union member, Bill the Boilermaker in St. Louis in 1902, and you follow trans rights in the union for a while. It turns out that trans rights have been on the union docket for like 30 years. Why is the rest of america so slow to catch up?

Because it was workplace issues. A lot of trans issues are workplace issues, what bathroom you use. In a workplace, the flashpoint is the toilet. And the conflict is in the workplace. If I’m taking a subway to work and there’s a trans person sitting next to me, I’m never going to see that person ever again. But if I go to work every day and there’s a trans person there, I see that person every single day. If you have a regular forty hour a week job, you see the people you work with more than you see your own family.
The workplace is very important and the things that you do at work like going to the break room or using the bathroom are also very important. Or going to the locker room, if you’re in an industrial job, you don’t come home with your filthy clothes, you change.

There’s a story later in the book, the name of the trans woman is Donna Cartwright. She had a job at the New York Times as a copy editor in a very important department. She had been working at the New York Times for many years. She makes the transition and she says to the bosses, this is what I’m going to do. And this was in like 1999 and they said, “OK, what do you want?” and she said, “OK, during the time I go through the transition, I need a bathroom of my own. And they said “OK, we have a janitor’s closet, we’ll change that.” This was not the union, thi was the bosses. So they just did fine with it. And she sent a letter out to all her workmates, she sent a memo out we used to put things on bulletin boards, saying “I’m about to go through my transition. I’m about to change my name, my name will be Donna Cartwright. Nothing will change about me except things you don’t get to see anyway.”

Everyone said, because they had known Donna for so many years as a leader in the union, because she had negotiated contracts, she had run grievances, she had been a really stand up person in the union, no one messed with her at all.

I want to know, after researching this book, I want you to talk about how you feel the nature of being closeted, having to suppress yourself at work, has changed.

There are so many out people in so many workplaces, they find each other more easily. There are certainly places where they are not true. In fact, it’s those places where you have a matchup between sodomy laws and anti-union laws.

I’ve been working for wages since I was maybe 22, so that’s like, almost 50 years of being a worker. Everything has loosened up. My parents, my mother said “When I was training to be a nurse, I was living in a dorm and there were these two girls who were roommates and they pushed their beds together. I never felt that way myself, Miriam, but I’ve seen this. I thought, “Wow!” She was training to be a nurse in 1932 in Germany and she saw this. Of course, Germany was a pretty gay place before it wasn’t.

But, you know, we aren’t that odd. All those terrible things they’ve been saying about is, they really aren’t’ true. We’re just people who screw differently.

The Offensive Midfielder: Homophobia and Football

There are more than 5,000 male professional footballersin the UK. Not one of them is openly gay.

One of the many reasons why not a single professional footballer is out could be down to the fact that the sport is highly associated with homophobia, particularly from fans attending matches.

Homophobia is still hugely prevalent in the game. In fact, a survey by Stonewall found that 72% of fans had heard homophobic abuse from other fans during a game.
The same survey also found that one in five 18 to 24-year-olds admitted they would be embarrassed if their favorite player was to come out, with Stonewall’s Chief Executive, Ruth Hall, saying in 2016 that “there is a persistent minority who believe this sort of abuse is acceptable.”

At a time where many other sportspersons, such as rugby player Gareth Thomas, diver Tom Daley, and mixed martial artist Jéssica Andrade, can be out and remain respected in their field of sports, why does it seem so difficult for football to keep up with the times?

The UK’s track record with professional LGBTQ players in football isn’t great. In 1990, Justin Fashanu became the world’s first openly gay professional footballer. He was faced with homophobic comments from his coaches, while fans would chant abuse during matches. In 1998, he committed suicide.

In October 2015, The Mirror newspaper published a front-page headline which stated the two Premier League footballers were ready to come out. Despite talking about the “footballer’s courage,” they sensationalized the decision as if it were an expose. This kind of behavior from the media only helps to add extreme pressure on those in football that may be considering coming out.

In its current position, football is still seen as a masculine game – perhaps the core reason for a lack of LGBTQ professionals. David Mooney, a gay football fan and host of The Blue Moon Podcast, believes there is an issue with gender identity in football, stating that “being gay is often associated with being feminine and that is still viewed as a weakness by many” and that he himself had been surrounded by homophobic comments. In a locker-room, the players were overheard saying that “only fucking queers want to shower with other men.”

Steps are being made to actively tackle homophobia in the sport, albeit very slowly. In 2013, Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organization, launched a smartphone app allowing fans to report any discriminatory abuse. During 2015/16, 68 incidents of discrimination towards sexual orientation were reported.

Di Cunningham, the chair of the Pride In Football alliance, believes that it’s been up to LGBTQ fans themselves to tackle the homophobia and lack of inclusion within the sport, stating that “by forming groups like Gay Gooners, Proud Canaries, and Canal Street Blues, we’ve achieved a visibility that seems to be helping change behavior as fans and stewards realize there are LGBTQ people in the stands.”

A report by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee found that the sport, in general, is not doing enough to tackle homophobic abuse, singling football out for having an out-of-step attitude towards homophobia.

Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Committee, stated that sports authorities need to adopt “a zero-tolerance approach to the use of all homophobic language and behaviors must be implemented with standardized sanctions across all sports.”

One concern that may be shying professional LGBTQ footballers from coming out is the risk of losing out on corporate sponsorships once out. More needs to be done to highlight the duty of care sponsors should have in reassuring players they will be protected, with the Committee report stating that “major sponsors should come together to launch an initiative in the UK to make clear that, should any sportsperson wish to come out, they will have their support.”

Just recently, two Leicester fans at a game against Bolton were arrested for homophobic chants. Supporters were seen to be chanting homophobic abuse and making homophobic gestures. A spokesman for Leicester City told The Guardian that “everyone is free to enjoy the matchday experience” and that they are committed to creating a passionate, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all.

So, what needs to be done to tackle football’s disturbing relationship with homophobia? It all starts with the governing bodies, those with the power and authority. Di Cunningham believes that, to become fully inclusive, “we need the game’s authorities to insist that all clubs ensure a systematic approach to ride the terraces of hate and prejudice” through correct policies and procedures.

The 1991 Football Offences Act forbids indecent or racist chanting at football matches. This act needs to be amended to include the use of homophobic abuse and have a severe penalty, such as banning orders, to those who continue to discriminate.

Since 2015, FIFA, the international governing body of football, has implemented an Anti-Discrimination Monitoring system which observes and reports on all 871 matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Through this system, various Member Associations have already been sanctioned by FIFA due to homophobic chants. FIFA has worked closely with these associations to develop measures which address these incidents.

Speaking to INTO, FIFA’s Head of Sustainability & Diversity, Federico Addiechi said that:

Over the past two years, we strengthened and expanded our work to fight discrimination and promote diversity in football. As a result, we have seen many positive responses and efforts from our Member Associations to tackle issues such as racism and homophobia in football and inside stadiums. For FIFA and football globally, this is a very encouraging development which confirms we are on the right track and motivates us to resolutely continue this fight.

Circling back to the Stonewall report, it’s positive to also see that 88% of fans would be either “proud” or “neutral” if their favorite player came out as gay. The research by the charity also found that 59% of those surveyed agreed that offensive language towards LGBTQ people in the sport is a problem.

It’s clear to see that changes within football are happening. The sport is clearly open to becoming more inclusive, but it’s still quite a while away.

Governing bodies, players, and clubs need to work closely with the numerous support groups and charities out there, such as Football V Homophobia and Pride In Football, to create a truly inclusive and safe place for all players and all fans – whether they are members of the LGBTQ community or not.

Daniel Franzese Corners the Market for Stylish Men of a Certain Size

In Daniel Franzese’s seasoned career, he’s made his name known as a talented openly gay actor. From Bully to Mean Girls to Looking, we’ve become instant and dedicated fans, consistently ready for more. But his latest endeavor takes him beyond the stage and screen.

The performer has recently become the face and creative director of Winston Box. A monthly subscription-based clothing brand for plus-size men, the collection brings style and function to a niche market. With pieces specifically curated for men overlooked by conventional standards of fashion, Winston Box alleviates the struggle of shopping in an industry that favors often impossible body types.

We recently caught up with Franzese on the rooftop of a friend’s high rise in Midtown Manhattan. With an up-close view of the Empire State Building, we bonded over our common experiences as big boys in the gay community.

As a plus-size gay man, do you ever feel overlooked by the community?

Well at 6’4″ and big and bearded I don’t exactly blend in a crowd. (LAUGHS) I used to feel overlooked, especially younger and dating. There’s definitely the vibe of toxic masculinity surrounding all of our media. The idea that a big guy isn’t masculine (whatever that means) is ridiculous. I know there was a huge uproar a short time ago about guys putting “no fats, no fems, no (insert race here)” on their dating profiles. I know why people were outraged but I prefer someone to let me know they are total loser by posting that before I talk to them. These days, I don’t think I experience being overlooked. Once I learned how to look at myself in a loving and, quite frankly a sexy way, I saw an immediate difference in the way others looked at me.

Have you felt limited by options in the fashion industry?

Everyday. I don’t know why it has been so hard to find certain trends in larger sizes. I can walk through an entire mall with $2000 in my pocket and not find one item of clothing that fits properly. As an adult, I just know not to shop there but as a teen, this crushed me. The only thing I love more than having new clothes is spending money.

How did you get involved with the Winston Box?

My business partner, Wil Cuadros wanted to get a monthly clothing club subscription but was frustrated that none of the current ones offered anything in his size. He decided to start his own with his former colleague, Amit Patel. One day I was halfway through ordering The Winston Box and I knew what a great idea it was. There were definitely clear ways I could bring something to the table with my experience of having clothes made for me for film and television. Randomly, I was also assistant to a pattern maker at a women’s plus-size clothing company in New York for a few years. It was one of many odd jobs I had early on in my acting career but it’s proven really useful in understanding fabrics and how they work. Plus, my mama got hooked up with a few gowns.

What aspects of the line do you find particularly convenient for plus-size men?

It’s a sad truth but if I need a white dress shirt, I need to drive about 25 minutes to get one, and I live in LA. Not every store carries our sizes, so the convenience of it coming right to our door is incredible. I also love a surprise grab bag or mystery box so the fact that you get something fresh and new every month is super fun to me. It’s like sending yourself a surprise gift every month. Treat yo’ self!

How do the models of the Winston Box campaign represent the brand?

Well for starters, every size is represented. A lot of times, in average fashion campaigns or even big-and-tall catalogs, you can purchase extended sizes or large sizes but you can never see a model in them. We have one of the most diverse groups I have ever seen in a campaign. Sizes up to 6XL, athletes, big dudes like me, all age groups and even a female. We have women clients so I wanted to see them represented too. We are probably the first big-and-tall menswear company to feature a woman. Even though we are a menswear brand, we realize clothing has no gender, therefore every one of our members should see themselves represented. We also have burgers for lunch on shoots. I’m sure they never saw that at Milk Studios before.

Is there anything else you hope to do to provide a platform for other plus-size queer people?

The mission here is to pave the way for the youth. Lack of clothing options in stores can be traumatic to a young person. It certainly was to me. Even as an adult, we always have to pay a premium. Anything above XL is an extra $5. We have to pay a premium for the space in the store to even display us. I want our members to know that they aren’t an afterthought. They are who we are thinking about every step of the way. Each garment has exquisite details, and the inside of the garment is focused on inner beauty, both with the lining and patterns hidden in the clothing as well as a secret ‘affirmation tag’ hidden somewhere in the garment that sends a message of love to the wearer. You might turn a t-shirt up in front and it will say something like, ” Wow! What a cute belly!” or ‘You’ll knock ‘em dead, tiger!’ next to a pocket the perfect size of your business cards. We are also removing the term “Extra Large” from our sizing. All our dudes are big. They aren’t extra anything to us except extra sexy. If there is anything I hope to accomplish from this, it would be to let young teens and kids know that the future is bright for them. They can express themselves with style anyway they want. We want to expand on the palette for them to be able to have more choices to do so.

Can you tell me anything about your modeling or the work you’re doing with Bear World?

I have been modeling for years. From movie posters and ads to fun artistic collaborations with friends. My first professional photoshoot ever was with Steven Klein, and my first movie Bully was directed by Larry Clark, so it’s safe to say I have been working a camera one way or another for decades. The idea that plus-size men, or as I like to call us “above average,” are finally becoming en vogue is no surprise to me. It’s soon going to be 2018, and the final frontier of fashion is big men. Everything else has been done before and even plus women have been in and out of style over the years and are so hot right now. It makes total sense it’s our turn. That’s one of the reasons I found it appealing when Bear World Magazine asked me to write my new column. The word “bear” is becoming more mainstream every day and even straight-identifying burly dudes are embracing it. Kevin smith and Seth Rogen love the bear community and do more than have sex as do all LGBTQ people. As the world becomes more knowledgeable to the LGBTQIA+ rainbow, they are realizing not everything is as it seems and not everything is based around sex. Bear World Magazine has the approach towards its contributors that we are the bears so anything we do or are interested in is relevant. Bears are travelers, doctors, architects, designers, comedians and we have voices.

Do you have any other movies or shows coming up?

I currently am in plans to do a college standup tour, and I also filmed a comedy movie called Hypnotized about five people who are hypnotized and the hypnotist has a heart attack and we all get stuck in a trance. My character thinks he is a pregnant woman.


Follow Daniel Franzese at @whatsupdanny and Winston Box at @TheWinstonBox. Use code: danfranfans when signing up for $15 off.

Israel Court Rules That Same-Sex Marriage Isn’t A Fundamental Right

LGBTQ rights were dealt a blow in Israel this week when its high court ruled that same-sex couples do not have an innate legal right to marry.

On Thursday morning, justices Anat Baron, Neal Hendel, and Elyakim Rubinstein unanimously ruled against a petition from the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association to recognize marriage equality under the country’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. The judges felt that to do so would amount to legislating from the bench.

“Essentially, the petitioners are asking from the court to recognize same-sex marriage via legislation, despite the fact that they are not recognized by Israeli law,” the judges claimed. “On the matter of recognizing marriage that was not conducted in accordance to the religious law including same-sex marriageit was ruled in the past that it is better that the issue be determined by the legislative branch.”

Although the issue of marriage equality was decided by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, the court noted that the majority of countries who have legalized same-sex unions have done so through the legislature. These include Canada, Spain, Belgium, and The Netherlands.

Most recently, Germany passed marriage equality through a free vote in its parliament.

Although 79 percent of Israelis supported legal recognition for same-sex unions in a recent poll, previous attempts to pass marriage equality through legislation have been unsuccessful. A bill to permit civil partnershipswhich was put forward by openly gay MP Nitzan Horowitzwas voted down in 2012.

By effectively punting the issue to parliament, Israel’s high court is following in the footsteps of Northern Ireland, where judges made a similar argument against same-sex unions last month.

“It is not difficult to understand how gay men and lesbians, who have suffered discrimination, rejection and exclusion, feel so strongly about the maintenance in Northern Ireland of the barrier to same sex marriage,” wrote Justice John O’Hara in an Aug. 16 opinion. “However, the judgment which I have to reach is not based on social policy but on law.”

Haaretz, the Israeli and Middle East news publication, noted that Israel’s high court likewise “expressed empathy” for marriage petitioners but “refrained from taking a stand on the issue.”

Despite widespread support for same-sex marriage, the past few years have been challenging for LGBTQ people in Israel. Numerous Pride parades have been targeted for violence, mostly recently a festival in Beersheba. Two Orthodox men were arrested for provocation, one of whom was carrying a knife. The Pride event, the city’s first, was also subjected to terrorist threats.

Six people were stabbed in the Jerusalem Pride parade two years ago by a man who had recently been released from prison for a similar attack committed 10 years prior.