‘Just Like The Confederate Flag’: Bigot Wants To Ban Rainbow Pride Flag In Schools

After students at an Alabama high school petitioned to remove a rainbow flag, religious extremist Bryan Fischer has a solution: Ban them all.

Fischer, a former spokesperson for the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association, took aim at the iconic symbol of Pride in a Friday broadcast of his radio show. He equated the flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 as a symbol of inclusion, to the Confederate stars and bars. That flag is an overt symbol of white supremacy, a reminder that it used to be legal for humans to own other humans.

Fischer thinks the two are one and the same.

“If we are going to ban the Confederate flag because it is divisive, how about we ban the LGBT flag at school?” he proposed. “It is offensive, it is contrary to our most deeply held values, it divides people, it does not bring them together. It’s time to have the LGBT flag banned right alongside the Confederate flag.”

“If we’re going to ban one, I submit we need to ban the other,” Fischer added.

Students and parents at Auburn High School in Auburn, Ala. made national headlines last week after launching a petition on Change.org calling to excise pro-LGBTQ displays from classrooms. The signatories took aim at Dr. Shannon Pignato, a teacher at the school who hung the Pride flag in her classroom. The petition claims that the banner creates a hostile and provocative learning environment for students.”

“We believe it is unprofessional and distracting for a teacher to be so openly displaying their political views in an unbiased and socially neutral public setting,” the statement reads.

The petition is 1,638 signatures shy of its 5,000 goal at the time of writing.

This isn’t the first time that Fischer, who believes that homosexuality should be criminalized and conversion therapy should be mandatory, has equated the Confederate flag with the rainbow Pride banner. When the stars and bars were removed from the grounds of the South Carolina capitol building in 2015, he compared the LGBTQ community to the Nazi Party.

“If we come to the point where we say any flag that represents bigotry… needs to be removed,” he claimed at the time, “then I want to suggest to you that the next flag to go ought to be the rainbow flag of the Gay Reich.”

Fischer made headlines earlier this year when he claimed that the LGBTQ community “stole the rainbow from God.”

Chile Looks To Legalize Marriage Equality

Chile has sent a landmark bill to its legislature that could legalize marriage equality in the Catholic country, as Reuters reports.

Michelle Bachelet followed through on a 2013 campaign promise Monday by pushing to make Chile the fifth nation in South America to legalize same-sex unions. LGBTQ couples already have the right to marry in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay. Marriage equality is also legal in the territories of French Guiana and the Falkland Islands.

“We do this with the certainty that it is not ethical nor fair to put artificial limits on love, nor to deny essential rights just because of the sex of those who make up a couple,” Bachelet said in a speech delivered at La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace, earlier today.

The bill was part of an agreement with the LGBTQ rights organization The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, which filed a lawsuit in 2012 on behalf of three same-sex couples to challenge the country’s marriage laws. Although civil unions were legalized in 2015, Bachelet’s government agreed to lobby for full marriage rights as a result of the suit.

An earlier draft of the bill reportedly read: “Marriage is a solemn contract by which two people, of the same or different sex, unite themselves, and for life, in order to live together, to procreate and to help each other.”

It’s unclear whether the legislation will cover same-sex adoptions.

Bachelet has until March, when she leaves office, to push the bill through the country’s legislature. Its passage would appear to be a done deal at first glance: Bachelet’s party, Nueva Mayoria, holds a majority.

But legalization may be easier said than done. The party’s electoral coalition, as Reuters notes, is “severely fractured.”

In addition, the grandson of former dictator dictator Augusto PinochetAugusto Pinochet Molinais the leader of Orden Republicano Mi Patria (“Republican Order My Country”), a right-wing opposition party. Founded on “patriotic” values in 2014, the group opposes marriage equality and reproductive rights. Abortion was legalized in Chile earlier this year following a 30-year ban.

The same-sex marriage bill is one of a number of pro-LGBTQ reforms proposed in the historically conservative nation. Bachelet is in favor of legislation that would allow transgender people to change their name and gender marker without receiving surgery or hormone therapy.

‘F***king Fraud’: Trans Activist Confronts Caitlyn Jenner For Supporting Trump

Caitlyn Jenner got a piece of the LGBTQ community’s mind this weekend when trans activist Ashlee Marie Preston confronted the reality star for her support of President Trump.

Preston, who would later post a three-minute video of the altercation on Facebook, approached Jenner at a performance of the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles on Saturday night. Jenner apparently thought that the woman coming from behind her was a fan, going in for a hug.

But Preston was not here to make friends.

“It’s really f***ed up that you are here,” Preston told Jenner, who was clearly taken aback by the criticism. “Some people may be afraid to confront you for being here, but I am not. You are directly responsible for what has happened with transgender soldiers and the military. I am not afraid to say it to you, I am not. I am not afraid.”

“It’s really fucked up that you continue to support somebody… that’s erasing our fucking community,” Preston added.

The activist, who recently made history as the first trans editor-in-chief of a national publication when she was tapped to lead Wear Your Voice, called attention to Trump’s recent ban on trans military service. On Friday, the president signed a memo effectively barring transgender troops from enlisting. He also gave Gen. James Mattis the discretion to remove those already serving.

After Trump initially announced that policy in a series of July series, Jenner was spotted wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat while driving in Los Angeles.

She later apologized for that gaffebut has yet to officially rescind her support for Trump.

As Preston confronted Jenner, the one-time gold medal Olympian tapped Dena Williams, who co-chaired the event, on the shoulder. It seems that Jenner hoped Williams would be able to deescalate the conflict, which had begun to draw a crowd. But Preston then turned her criticism on the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles for accepting what she would later claim on Twitter was a $25,000 donation from Jenner.

“We are complicit,” Preston told Williams. “Taking her money and doing all that? It makes us complicit. How are we gonna fight anyone if she’s giving money to the people that are destroying us?”

Although Jenner was largely silent throughout the standoff, she did attempt to vindicate herself. “You don’t know me,” Jenner said in a hushed tone. Given that Jenner has appeared in two reality shows and came out in a well-publicized interview with Diane Sawyer, this is a bizarre line of defenseto say the least.

Preston wasn’t having it. “Yes I do!” she shot back. “You’re a fucking fraud and a fake.”

The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles later defended the event, which was a tribute to the David Bowie album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, in an interview with PinkNews. The organization claimed that Preston, a former board member, “said nothing” when Caitlyn Jenner’s foundation “offered the chorus a grant last May.”

But Preston has refused to back down in the days since, calling Jenner “trash” when video of the confrontation was posted to Facebook.

After that video racked up hundreds of thousands of views on social media, Preston tweeted on Sunday, “Desperate times call for desperate measures. A loud, angry black trans woman is more effective than a dead one.”

LGBTQ actors including Scandal’s Guillermo Diaz and Angelica Ross of Her Story have voiced support for Preston. Jenner has yet to make a statement.

Descendant Of Robert E. Lee Calls Out ‘White Supremacy’ In Powerful VMAs Speech

The most surprising moment at Sunday’s VMA ceremony wasn’t Pink riding on a classic car over the audience or Fifth Harmony bidding a symbolic goodbye to ex-member Camila Cabello. It was a speech from Robert Lee IV, descendant of the Confederate general, calling out “white supremacy.”

“As a pastor it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin,” said Lee, who is Robert E. Lee’s great-great-great nephew. He is a pastor at the Bethany United Church of Christ of Winston-Salem located in North Carolina.

Lee’s short but poignant speech was extremely timely following the violence in Charlottesville, Va. Three people were left dead following a violent clash between alt-right supporters protesting the removal of a Confederate statue and anti-racists. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a car plowed through a crowd of counter-protesters. Several more were injured.

The Confederate general’s namesake appeared on stage to introduce Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro.

“We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women’s march in January, and especially Heather Heyer,” Lee said before Bro appeared on stage to rapturous applause from the audience.

During her brief appearance, Bro announced that a foundation would be started in her daughter’s name to fight white supremacy.

“My daughter was killed as she protested racism,” she said, holding back tears during her speech. “Today I’m announcing the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation, a nonprofit organization that will provide scholarships to help more people join Heather’s fight against hatred.”

“I want people to know that Heather never marched alone,” Bro added. “She was always joined by people of every race and every background in this country.”

In honor of Heyer’s memory, Bro announced that all six of the artists nominated in MTV’s “Fight Against the System” category would win. Nominees included Big Sean, Taboo, Alessia Cara, and John Legend. The award recognizes musicians who used their public platform to send a political message.

The Impact of a Queer Prime Minister?

When Ireland’s governing political party, Fine Gael, elected Leo Varadkar as its leader andeffectively appointed the first openly gay Taoiseach(Irish prime minister) in early June, it was widely seen as a major milestone for the country’s LGBTQ community. This onceCatholic-dominated countryhad joined the ranks of Iceland, Belgium, andLuxembourg, as the only nations to have had a gay or lesbian head of government.

While Varadkar’s election demonstrates how progressive Ireland is on LGBTQ issues, this is hardly a new development. In the 24 years since homosexuality was decriminalizedin Ireland, virtually all political and legal barriers to equal rights have been eliminated, leaving little legislative progress to be made on LGBTQ rights in the country.

But can a gay prime minister help change attitudes in a country lacking basic rights and protections for LGBTQ people?

Two weeks after Varadkar took office, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučićappointed openly gay Ana Brnabić to the position of prime minister. Serbia may have legalized same-sex sexual activity just a year after Ireland, but homophobia is endemic in this Balkan country, with pride marches in the country’s capital of Belgrade being mired by violent attacks and same-sex marriage banned by the Constitution. LGBTQ progress in this Baltic state is an uphill battle, with Brnabić doing relatively little to change the dire situation.

Predrag Azdejkovic, editor-in-chief of Serbian gay magazineOptimist, is concerned the government will use Brnabić as a distraction and an excuse for not doing anything regarding LGBTQ rights. “They always can say that having a lesbian prime minister is enough for the LGBTQ population in Serbia. Before that we had a similar excuse, ‘you have a Pride parade in Belgrade, that’s enough,’” he says.

In an interview soon after her appointment, Brnabić told Vice Serbia: “I’m not a spokesperson for the LGBT communityI don’t want to be branded as a gay minister.” The American and British-educated Prime Minister not only has limited interest in pushing forward equality laws but her political power and influence are also somewhat lacking. Although President Vučić’s position is supposed to be largely ceremonial, he wields great control in the country and has been cracking down on press freedom as he moves Serbia closer to autocracy.

Critics view Brnabić as a virtual puppet for Vučić. “It’s pinkwashing,” says Azdejkovic. “Like the Putin and Medvedev scenario, all the power is still in Vučić’s hands. Vučić’s government gave a promise to Serbia’s LGBTQ population that they will regulate same-sex partnerships and address trans issues by the end of 2017, but there is no evidence this will happen,” he adds.

Nominating a lesbian prime minister may have been a calculated move by Vučić, but this is not to say Brnabić will have no impact on how LGBTQ people are perceived in Serbia. “The most important thing about the first lesbian prime minister is visibility. Everyone in Serbia now knows that she is a lesbian, and they see her every day on television and in the newspapers. On a symbolic level, we can say that we have a lesbian in the most important position in the country,” Azdejkovic tells INTO.

The landlocked WesternEuropean nation of Luxembourg, on the other hand, has no issue with LGBTQ visibility. Home to less than 600,000 people, Luxembourg made history by having both a gay prime minister and deputy prime minister. The coalition government, led by openly gay prime minister Xavier Bettel pledged to introduce legislation to equalize marriage for gay couples in late 2013 and just over a year later, gay marriage was legalized.

In such a tiny country like Luxembourg, regardless of the fact if someone is officially out or not, being gay and having a public profile means sexuality is often an open secret. Much like Serbia’s Brnabić, Bettel doesn’t believe his sexuality is anything to do with how he governs, telling Buzzfeed News: “I’m not a gay minister – my sexual orientation is no reason whether I’m elected or not elected.People don’t care what you do at the end of the day.”

Roby Antony of Luxembourg City-based Centre d’Information GAy et LEsbien (CIGALE), agrees. “These ‘details’ regarding their personal life don’t seem to be of any major interest to the Luxembourgish population in general. This might be different elsewhere, probably even very different. Here I feel this doesn’t really matter at all. Sexual orientation just doesn’t play a role in being competent.”

Gay prime ministers also get the opportunity to interact with foreign political leaders and use their position to campaign for LGBTQ issues. Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar recently attended gay pride celebrations in Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast, using his profile to push for equal marriage rights in the only country in the UK not to offer gay marriage.

Not all forays on the international stage turn out as expected with some countries not being as forward-thinking on gay prime ministers. Gauthier Destenay, the husband of Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, saw his name omitted from a caption of a photograph of NATO leaders’ spouses by the White House. Althougha White House spokesperson said the exclusion was merely an “oversight” and corrected the caption, some saw this as an example of casual homophobia.

(Photo by Turkish Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Money matters

Financial factors can play a significant role in how LGBTQ people are treated, at least on a social level. Luxembourg’s status as an economically prosperous country is probably anextremely decisive elementin this discussion, according to Antony.

“In a daily world where most people don’t have to worry about existential problems, it is definitely easier to not care about what your neighbor is or does. Just look around you, whenever safety and the general well-being of a society is threatened and endangered, there is social unrest and riots. And guess who’s being targeted first? Women’s rights, ethnic minority’s rights, and LGBTQ rights.So yes, money does matter in a way,” he says.

In this regard, a gay prime minister can improve the living conditions of LGBTQ people in the same way a heterosexual one can; by increasing prosperity for all their citizens. While this is hardly groundbreaking news, it underlines the fact that LGBTQ rights don’t just progress in a vacuum, with political leaders only being able to influence change to a limited degree.

Voters in Luxembourg may not care about a politician’s sexuality, but this is not the case elsewhere. A 2012 UNDP survey found that 48% of Serbs believe homosexuality to be an illness, with almost 80% minding if an LGBTQ person was part of their family.

A country like Serbia, which is one of the poorest in Europe, is impacted by a weak economy in potentially unexpected ways. Poor job prospects mean a majority of LGBTQ people, regardless of their age, still live with their parents, and studies indicate poverty and employment are the biggest issues for LGBTQ Serbs.

“Because of these problems, the majority of LGBTQ people in Serbian want to leave the country, as they don’t see the situation changing in the near future,” adds Azdejkovic. “That’s the reason why we don’t have enough LGBTQ activists, nor out LGBTQ people. They don’t want to risk nor to invest in the country that they want to leave.”

‘F***ing Queer’: Guess Which VMAs Performer Has A Nasty Homophobic Past?

James Arthur gave a subdued performance of “Say You Won’t Let Go” at Sunday’s VMAs, but fans may be surprised that the British breakout has a nasty history of homophobia.

Prior to breaking into the U.S. with his Billboard Top 20 single, Arthur ignited controversy in his native United Kingdom after attacking rapper Micky Worthless with a slew of anti-LGBTQ slurs. The 29-year-old singer, who won The X Factor in 2012, referred to Worthless as a “fucking queer” in a diss track posted to Twitter.

Arthur later instructed the little-known rapper to “shoot himself.”

Those comments later led to Arthur being dropped from SyCo, the record label managed by Simon Cowell. The American Idol judge made his name on the U.K. edition of The X Factor before becoming a household name in the United States.

Arthur would later backpedal on his remarks, telling the BBC Newsbeat in 2016 that they were “taken out of context.”

“I didn’t mean to offend anyone at all,” he offered in a faux-apology.

After claiming that his remarks were a result of depression, anxiety, and drug use, Arthur offered his support to Stonewall, a U.K.-based LGBTQ organization. The singer claimed that he would make a “long-term commitment” to queer and trans equality. (Stonewall was not available for before press time to comment on whether he has followed through on that pledge.)

Arthur has also been criticized in the press for using his public profile to sleep with fansincluding a 17-year-old girl. The young fan claimed in an article in The Sun that Arthur broke up with her after having sex

James Arthur gave a subdued performance of “Say You Won’t Let Go” at Sunday’s VMAs, but fans may be surprised that the British breakout has a nasty history of homophobia.

Prior to breaking into the U.S. with his Billboard Top 20 single, Arthur ignited controversy in his native United Kingdom after attacking rapper Micky Worthless with a slew of anti-LGBTQ slurs. The 29-year-old singer, who won The X Factor in 2012, referred to Worthless as a “fucking queer” in a diss track posted to Twitter.

Arthur later instructed the little-known rapper to “shoot himself.”

Those comments later led to Arthur being dropped from SyCo, the record label managed by Simon Cowell. The American Idol judge made his name on the U.K. edition of The X Factor before becoming a household name in the United States.
Arthur would later backpedal on his remarks, telling the BBC Newsbeat in 2016 that they were “taken out of context.”

“I didn’t mean to offend anyone at all,” he offered in a faux-apology.

After claiming that his remarks were a result of depression, anxiety, and drug use, Arthur offered his support to Stonewall, a U.K.-based LGBTQ organization. The singer claimed that he would make a “long-term commitment” to queer and trans equality. (Stonewall was not available for before press time to comment on whether he has followed through on that pledge.)

Arthur has also been criticized in the press for using his public profile to sleep with fansincluding a 17-year-old girl. The young fan claimed in an article inThe Sunthat Arthur broke up with her after having sex.

Queering Wedding Traditions

Marriage is a beautiful tradition between a man and a woman. At least that’s what every wedding tradition we’ve been taught and served by movies, television, and the media would lead us to believe. But it’s 2017, and we’ve come a long way as a society that has actually begun to recognize the whole equality thing. So why should we be stuck in the same heteronormative practices that weddings and marriages revolve around?

As a queer kid, it’s commonplace to grow up in a world that expects you to marry a person of a certain gender and to conform to a certain set of rules. If you’re a man, you ask her parents’ permission and buy an engagement ring. If you’re a woman, you pick out a white dress and take his last name. But if you’re a man not marrying a woman or vice versa, what do you make of these traditions?


One tradition that feels a bit outdated is requesting permission from the bride’s parents. Since we don’t live in Victorian England, parents don’t exactly own their adult spawn anymore. Nonetheless, it’s still seen as a courtesy.

But as queer people, our family isn’t always the people who birthed or raised us. If bringing your other half home is a bit daunting because they don’t support same-sex marriage, let alone you having a same-sex partner, perhaps it’s not their approval you need.


“Put a ring on it” has become a popular phrase thanks to Queen Bey and millions of women ready to lock down a man. But that also suggests a bit of inequality and a power imbalance that a woman should depend on a man to pick out an engagement ring.

As a same-sex couple, the rules are ultimately off. If the woman gets a ring in a same-sex couple, who gets it when there are two women or no women? Instead of opting for one engagement ring, just pick out rings for each other that can celebrate both the engagement and the wedding.

And if you want to spend the rest of your life with that person, tell them. Does it have to be a grand gesture that one-half of the couple is totally responsible for? Not at all. In 2017, it’s just as mature to come to a mutual agreement.

But a queer marriage proposal is ultimately a chance for a public statement of love and equality. So why not take advantage of the moment?

Bachelor/bachelorette parties

Before you get married, it’s only fair you get one last night as a single man or woman. Whether you’re throwing singles at strippers or getting drunk off wine with your sorority sisters, it’s that one night when you get to pretend you’re not spending the rest of your life with one person.

Some same-sex couples have opted for joint bachelor/bachelorette parties. If you’re into the same thing, you’ll save money on the stripper. Also, you’re more likely to have the same friends, which means they won’t have to choose whose party to attend.

If you want to preserve the sanctity of the bachelor/bachelorette party, separate parties are still the way to go. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a boys’ club or a “no men allowed” event. Have your parties on separate nights so your friends don’t have to choose.

Wearing white

The wedding is always about the bride. And the bride is supposed to wear white. Some say it represents purity, but the trend began when Queen Victoria opted for a white gown instead of the traditional red at the time. It was pretty unconventional since white represented mourning.

As queer folk, we have an entire rainbow of symbolic colors to choose from. And since we’re often frowned upon in the eyes of Christians, who are we trying to appear pure to?


The wedding party is a group of friends and family curated by the bride and groom. It’s a symbol of support, having those closest to you prepare you for that walk down the aisle. The groom traditionally picks a group of men while the bride chooses women.

For queer people, those closest to us rarely belong to one gender. So, feel free to add some bridesmen and groomsmaids to the mix.

But do away with the assigned dresses and tuxedos. Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, they’re rarely comfortable. Instead, choose a color scheme and let them put together their own outfit (with your final approval of course).

Bride reveal

Everyone knows you’re not supposed to see the bride before the wedding. Some associate it with bad luck. In actuality, it originated with arranged marriages when couples weren’t allowed to see each other at all before that moment. It was also to deter the groom from calling it off if he thought his bride was unattractivehow romantic.

These days, that tradition just seems a little unnecessary, especially if there’s no bride. Take that walk down the aisle together. Do away with the power imbalance and the archaic idea of parents presenting their daughter to a man as if she’s a piece of meat.

Bouquet/garter toss

It’s one of the most entertaining moments of the reception. When you toss the bouquet, 20 single ladies form a mosh pit and gladiate to the death. It’s another superstition that they hold onto for the hope that they’ll be next to walk down the aisle.

Although it’s superstitious, it doesn’t mean we can’t keep enjoying it. But why not make it queer friendly? Form a lesbian bouquet toss. Toss two bouquets and whoever catches have to go on a date together.

Last names

When you get married, the woman takes the man’s last name for herself and their new family. This tradition began because married couples were seen as one person. And because for so long, the man was the only one who could vote or own property, his name was superior.

For gay couples, it’s one of the most confusing parts of marriage. Who takes whose last name? Do they just hyphenate? Some even make their own new last name. What better way to start a new life together as equals?

How We Knew You Were Gay Before The Apps

We as gay men are lucky to live in the time that we do. Although much work is still to be done in terms of fighting social stigma and achieving equality, it’s never been easier to live an open and active life. With apps like Grindr and what remains of queer nightlife, there are plenty ways to meet a guy, whether for love or something more temporary.

Younger generations might not fully understand that it wasn’t always this convenient. Only decades ago (before apps and websites), gay men had to know where the bars were hidden away or had to risk cruising in public parks and restrooms for action, all while remaining suspicious of cops and violent homophobes.

During this era of pre-Grindr pursuits, there were various ways to tell who else was looking. For instance, the “look-back” or the “1, 2, 3, turn” states that if you walk past a guy, count to three, look back, and he’s looking back too, he’s interested. But even in the simple accessories we wear, there are ways to signify what team we play for. It’s a stylish way to say you’re looking.

Green carnation

A man far ahead of his time, Oscar Wilde was an outspoken queer literary icon. A notable eccentric, his trademark accessory was a green carnation worn as a boutonniere. He’d once arranged for an actor in one of his plays to wear the flower, as well as some of his friends in the audience. In both the character and Wilde himself, it represented rebellion against society, being an unnatural color for the flower. Since then, the author’s followers and fellow queer creatives have often sported the green carnation as a symbol of their queerness.

Red necktie

Even during the early 20th century in New York City, gay men were present, no matter how down low that presence may have been. For those who weren’t as flamboyant with their representation, a simple red necktie was worn in various gay circles. If you wore it in cruising areas, it was a signal that you were on the hunt. These days, it’s more notably a popular fashion accessory in the political scene.

Pink triangle

This symbol is rooted in a much more dire part of our history. During the Holocaust, the pink triangle was used by Nazis to identify queer prisoners. But in the same style as many symbols of oppression, this one was taken back by the oppressed. Since then, it’s been used a symbol of resistance, particularly by groups like ACT UP.

Hanky code

Something that still holds up today is the handkerchief color code. Having begun in the ‘70s, gay men have long worn various colored bandanas in their back pockets. Although it’s a cute accessory, each color expresses a different sexual desire, so a knowledge of the hanky code is crucial. You can let guys know if you’re into licking armpits, tit torture, or piss play, and you can even clarify if you prefer to give or receive by wearing it in the left or right pocket.


Plenty of us millennials remember this gay code from our youth. Although male earrings have popped in and out of style for centuries among various cultures, for a short time during the ‘90s, it was an obscure way to signal you were gay. More recently, the jewelry accessory has become a bit more mainstream for men, both gay and straight.

Trump’s Transgender Ban Has Been Signed

A ban on trans military service introduced Friday gives Secretary of Defense James Mattis “wide discretion” in removing active duty troops, as the New York Times reports.

President Donald Trump signed a memo that put into practice a promise he made on Twitter in July to prevent trans people from enlisting in the armed forces. The Commander-in-Chief tweeted that the military “must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory,” alleging that allowing trans people to serve would entail “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

Reports indicate that the memo instructs the Pentagon to begin executing the president’s wishes. The target date for full implementation is March 23, 2018, just shy of seven months from today.

But what’s unclear from the ban is how it will impact trans troops already serving.

The memo suggests that Gen. Mattis will be charged with judging whether service members should be removed from active duty on a case-by-case basis, as hinted at in an earlier report from the Wall Street Journal. The criteria reportedly include “military effectiveness and lethality, unitary cohesion, budgetary constraints, applicable law, and all factors that may be relevant.”

An official from the White House who spoke with reporters Friday failed to spell out how Mattis would use his removal powers. The unnamed source “declined to comment on the possibility that many or even all transgender individuals could continue to serve if Gen. Mattis declined to remove them,” the Times claims.

It’s unclear given Gen. Mattis’ previous comments on Trump’s intention to remove trans troops what his position on the policy is.

An initial report from the Times described the general, who was on vacation at the time that Trump first tweeted his proposed ban, as “appalled” by the policy. But in an interview with CNN published on Aug. 14, Gen. Mattis appeared to backtrack on his earlier opposition, referring to the issue as “complex.”

“There’s a host of issues and I’m learning more about this than I ever thought I would and it’s obviously very complex to include the privacy issues which we respect,” Gen. Mattis.

The Secretary of Defense referred to trans troops as “transgenders” in that interview.

A 2016 study from the RAND corporation showed that allowing trans people to serve openly in the military is not all that complex. Commissioned by the Department of Defense and former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, it found that transgender service members had “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.”

Earlier this week, MTV caused a stir afterinviting transgender service members to attend their annual Video Music Awards. After much speculation on whether or not this would be allowed,sources confirmed with INTOearlier today that they would be allowed as civilians.

Military Will Allow Transgender Troops To Attend MTV VMAs

Officials with the Army, Air Force, and Navy confirmed exclusively with INTO that transgender troops will be allowed to attend Sunday’s VMAs ceremony “in a personal capacity.”

The annual music video awards made headlines earlier on Wednesday when MTV president Christopher McCarthy extended an invite to trans military members in protest of Trump’s plan to remove them from active duty.

“Any patriot who is putting their own life at risk to fight for our freedom and stands for equality is a hero at MTV and to young people everywhere,” McCarthy said in a statement.

Since then, there have been questions about whether transgender troops would be permitted to participate. The armed forces initially claimed that the request was being processed. Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick, a spokesman for the Pentagon, told CNN that the Department of Defense was “reviewing the parameters of the request.”

Timothy Hyde, deputy director in the U.S. Army Public Office, confirmed that trans troops will be in attendance.

“They have been told that they can accept the invitation, but they have to do so in a personal capacity and be in civilian clothes,” Hyde tells INTO over the phone. “They will be representing themselves, not the military.

Representativeswith the Navy and Air Force also confirmed to INTO that service members with their branches would be authorized to participate as civilians.

Trans soldiers tell INTO that they’re ecstatic at the news.

“It is immensely gratifying to see that America is going to stand up for groups of people who just want to do their jobs, serve their country, and take care of their families,” says Brynn Tannehill, a veteran who served in the Navy for 17 years. “It sends a clear and unambiguous message that we will not allow discrimination against trans people.”

Kimberly Morris, who served in the Marine Corps for 20 years, calls it an “incredible opportunity.”

“Most of the people who project an anti-trans attitude is because they don’t see, know, or come into contact with anyone they know who is transgender,” Morris claims over the phone. “To have someone in the crowd who is being recognized, it gives us much needed visibility.”

“Transgender people aren’t that different than anyone else,” she adds. “We’re not monsters, lunatics, or pedophiles. We’re dedicated, hard-working, patriotic Americans.”

Trump is expected to outline a proposal for re-upping the ban on transgender military service in the coming days, reversing a 2016 decision from the Obama administration allowing trans troops to enlist for the first time. This decision was first announced in a series of tweets on July 26. At the time, the president claimed trans service would be a costly disruption.

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” Trump stated.

That claim has been debunked.

The Palm Center, a pro-LGBTQ think tank, found it would be 100 times more costly to remove the estimated 15,500 transgender people currently serving in active duty than to provide them with health care. An earlier study from the RAND Corporation estimated that medical care for trans service members would cost the armed forces a maximum of $8.4 million yearly.

With that policy set to go into effect, former West Point cadet Riley Dosh hopes the presence of trans people at the VMAs on Sunday will encourage others to speak out.

“One of the most important points in a movement is when alliesthose who are not directly involvedjoin and voice their support,” says Dosh, who was the first out trans person to attend the prestigious military academy. “Seeing faces of real soldiers that Trump wants to discharge will hopefully sway people who are silent about this issue.”

This would not be the first time the music awards have been used for LGBTQ advocacy.

Lady Gaga made headlines in 2010 when she brought LGBTQ members of the military who had been discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as her guests to the VMAs. Jason Collins, the first openly gay basketball player in the NBA, appeared at the MTV awards three years later. He introduced Ryan Lewis and Macklemore for a performance of the pro-marriage equality tune “Same Love.”

You can tune into the VMAs on Sunday at 8pm ET/7pm CT.