All or Nothing: Europe’s Troubled History of Recognizing Trans People

When I started my career as a trans activist in 2003, sterilization was seen as something that just “came with the territory” of being a trans person. Both my native Germany and the Netherlands, where I lived at the time, made it an explicit requirement for legal gender recognition, i.e. my ability to change the gender marker on my paperwork. Sterilization in this context means infertility through surgery, such as a hysterectomy (for trans men) or removal of the testicles (for trans women).

Back then, that seemed logical to most. After all, what was once called “transsexualism” was understood to be a desperate need to transition from one neatly defined gender to the (only) other neatly defined gender, including a desire to get rid of reproductive organs. These notions were internalized by doctors and trans patients alike and went unquestioned, even by virtually all of the trans people I met in support groups.

But how did we get there?

Access to transition care in Western Europe developed something like this: trans people sought hormones and surgeries, then found providers (often outside the mainstream) who were willing to do it. Doctors became convinced by the first narrative they heard, there were only two genders and these individuals required a change from one to the other. Trans people then shared that same narrative with their peers, who in turn used it again to get the health care they also sought. Over time the “standard” trans story became entrenched, including the crucial element that all trans people wanted, or needed, every available surgery so as to be “completely the other” gender. Ultimately, that version of a trans story was not only the desired story but the obligatory one.

Doctors actively rejected those individuals who did not fit, making non-binary trans people, as well as others, unable to access the health care they needed without also undergoing treatments they did not need or want.

Another part of that narrative was the belief that all trans people sought to live as “stealth” a life as possible – i.e. without being visible to anybody as a trans person. To facilitate this invisible life – which was heavily promoted by doctors – trans people needed identity documents that showed their self-identified gender.

There was no real choice between fertility and being recognized as a person before the law. I needed a job, and therefore proper ID – so I did what I had to do.

Parliamentary documentation does not tell us much about the reasoning that went into explicitly requiring sterilization (this would be a fun project for a historian!). But I believe that it was written into law following the same eugenic thinking that forced involuntary sterilizations on other marginalized communities such as Roma, poor people, and people with disabilities. It is rooted in a belief that some lives are socially undesirable and simply not worth living, and so must be prevented, even eradicated. But the act of taking a treatment protocol based on a narrative that fit the identities of some people and turning it into a piece of law that applied to all was a factor as well. Sterilization is a necessary or desired part of medical care for some trans people. This is perfectly reasonable provided that those individuals can make an informed decision about their fertility. For their legal treatment, however, mandatory sterilization or any other medical requirement becomes a human rights violation, especially when it is codified as a precondition for an unrelated benefit – such as an updated identity document.

The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights last month is a major victory and fulfills a vow that I made to myself when I started out as a trans activist: to ensure that no one else was subjected to the coercion that led to my own sterilization. I am deeply grateful to everybody who joined in to make this vision a reality, in ways both big and small – but most of all I am grateful for their work in also envisioning a world free from policing of fertility.

Now that we have prevented new generations of trans people’s exposure to this wrong, our governments must right what was done to us. A full apology and reparations are the least they can do.

—-

Justus Eisfeld is the co-founder of Transgender Netwerk Nederland, Transgender Europe, and Global Action for Trans* Equality, and helped develop the UN interagency statement “Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization.”

Making A Difference Is Easier Than You Think

Shortly after the election, I was talking to a friend about feeling lost. She had been to many political meetings and sought out many volunteer opportunities, but was getting discouraged—where should she put her energy? It was clear that she had to do something to help stop the fascist present from stretching out into a terrifying future, but what? Her work, just then, was to find her real “work.” But how do you join the movement as a non-professional, who has never worked in nonprofits, and isn’t a lawyer?

I’ve been very lucky in finding my way. I grew up using my dad’s hand-me-down work laptops, started learning Photoshop at 12, and taught myself web design and vector graphics at 16 for a student-run environmental nonprofit. I went to college for design and realized that I wanted to always use my skills for good. Today, I pair statistics and stories, working to shift the Overton window of what’s normal and publicly acceptable to encompass and embrace the people I love—queer and trans people, undocumented people, and people of color. I want to create powerful visual arguments for their pressing need and their humanity. I also want to make policy information and research data more accessible to advocates who will wield them as tools in the fight. Sometimes I feel like this work that I love fell into my lap. I forget all the pulling and maneuvering it took to land it there, like a fish on the line: teaching myself, looking for volunteer opportunities, applying for everything.

But there are so many other paths. There are organizers: empathetic extroverts who bring people together for a common cause and have a talent for knowing what role will bring out someone’s best. There are social workers and caseworkers, who help lost and tired people navigate constant injustices and infuriating bureaucracies.

I see queer people in NYC starting food exchanges: they cooked too much stew to eat by themselves, or their work has catering and they can get a few extra sandwiches to give away. I see folks reaching out to their networks, finding housing and employment for undocumented people. They’re throwing postcard-writing parties; hosting political meetings or trans support groups in their living rooms; calling attention to overlooked grassroots organizations; compiling lists of resources and reformatting them for accessibility. I have friends who, somewhat arbitrarily, decided to volunteer at a housing hotline. They were totally unprepared and learned day by day, but then realized they had an affinity for it and were making a difference. Sometimes all it takes is showing up and committing until you and the work grow to fit each other. Sometimes all you have to do is look at what you have, and what others don’t.

Toni Morrison wrote, “I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’”

What do you have? Time, power, energy, resources, connections, or a particular skill or passion? Whatever it is, you are needed. You can help.

5 LGBTQ Executives You Should Know

While Beyoncé and her girls may run the world, who says gays and lesbians can’t run successful companies? Although being “out” in the workplace can present many challenges – only 21 states in the U.S. have laws preventing LGBTQ workers from being discriminated against by their employers – having out and proud LGBTQ professionals and allies in the workplace has led to us having a seat at the table to challenge the status quo. It has also inspired and influenced a generation of non-heteros to climb the corporate ladder while being true to themselves.

Here’s a look at five inspirational LGBTQ executives breaking down barriers and shattering glass ceilings for all of us.

Inga Beale Chief Executive Officer – Lloyd’s of London

Inga is the first female CEO in Lloyd’s of London’s over 300-year history. She’s also one of the only openly bisexual business leaders at her level.

Jonathan Mildenhall Chief Marketing Officer – Airbnb

Remember that time Beyoncé posted a photo at her Airbnb to show us she’s just like all of us? Jonathan did that. He also works to ensure Airbnb is a welcoming and inclusive platform for all of us.

Vivienne Ming Managing Partner – Socos LLC

You think being a non-straight man in tech is difficult? Now, imagine being transgender. Vivienne is a theoretical neuroscientist, technologist, and entrepreneur. She and her wife co-founded Socos, where machine learning and cognitive neuroscience combine to maximize students’ life outcomes.

Torrence Boone VP, Global Agency Sales & Services – Google

Torrence is a top executive in the global business organization and focused on driving digital engagement and transformation for LGBTQ small businesses. Google says his openness as a leader has a huge impact.

Joseph Evangelisti Chief Communications Officer – JPMorgan Chase

Joe is managing director and head of worldwide corporate communications and media relations and reports directly to CEO Jamie Dimon at one of the world’s largest investment banks.Talk about having a seat at the table.

Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie living in Manhattan. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

A Safe Place: To Be Gay, Muslim, and Strong

From Paulo Berberan:

“’A Safe Place’ started out as a follow up to my previous film ‘A Conversation,’ and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to follow the same structure of filmmaking, only this time, I wanted to push the fictional narrative within the film a bit further.

I interviewed three Muslim LGBTQ subjects: Safdar Kayani, Sohail Ahmed, and Asifa Lahore. From their personal experiences, I started writing my script and building my narrative. Initially, I wanted to focus on their experiences from a religious point of view, but quickly I realized that all three of them had one thing in common: their strength. It was obvious to me that by overcoming the pressures their community had imposed on them, they all faced those obstacles fearlessly.

That’s how my main character, Jamal, came to life and how their experiences influenced my character’s journey into self-acceptance. His relationship with his lover and bully, Hamza, and that duality of love and hate was the main center of my story. Jamal’s struggle was embodied through his dance abilities, and it was the mechanism he used to come to terms with his own identity. Through dance, he found within himself, his personal safe place, away from the dangers and trials of the outside world.

To vehicle this story, I decided to make my film mostly about memory. I use Jamal’s older self, reminiscing about his youth through fragments of imagery and glimpses of a poetic monologue, to tell his own story. I was very much influenced by the poetry of gay rights activist Essex Hemphill, and the filmmaking practices of Marlon Riggs, whose quote I chose to open the film with.

’A Safe Place’ is a film that opts for strong visuals and subtle dialogue to tell its story, yet leaves the viewer to interpret its own silence as well.”

Grindr Asks: Going to the Polls in France

All eyes are on France this week in the run-up to their run-off. The election will pit radical right-winger, Marine Le Pen, who would become the country’s first female presidentand has vowed to abolish gay marriage in France, against the centrist newcomer, Emmanuel Macron, whose background is primarily in business.

In anticipation of the election’s first round, Grindr for Equality partnered with the French advocacy group, Inter-LGBT, to encourage political participation among users. The partnership also ensured that those logging on from all around the country knew about the organization’s voter guide, compiling the various French candidates’ stances on LGBTQ issues.

So, after the first round and its historic rejection of the country’s two biggest political parties, the natural next question was: who will Grindr users be voting for in the runoff? Well, we asked and they answered. Or at least 2,814 did.

About twice as many gay, bi, and trans respondents said they would be voting for Macron, but Le Pen got 32.6% of the votes in the informal poll.

Of course, this poll isn’t built on any kind of statistical model and isn’t even approaching the precise truth of this voter pool. But what is clear here is that gay, bi, and trans people are not uniformly backing Macron because of Le Pen’s explicit anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and that’s noteworthy. Evidently at this moment in French history, many in the community are looking beyond issues that are clearly concerned with sexual orientation and gender identity as they cast their vote.

One thing this poll didn’t capture was those who will stay home this weekend, refusing to cast a vote for either candidate. Although the polling currently favors Macron, and almost all the political parties who did not make the runoff are standing firm against Le Pen, those abstentions could play a key role in the ultimate results.

The Fine Print

This survey was fielded in French between Wednesday, April 26 and Sunday, April 30, 2017. Respondents were recruited by way of an in-app message sent to Grindr users logging in from within a 280-mile radius of the French mainland. All percentages in this article are rounded to the nearest tenth.

Jack Harrison-Quintana (@jchq59) is the Director of Grindr For Equality and was recently named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business and Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.

Grindr Asks: Coming Out to Parents in Colombia

For many of us, what our parents will think is an extremely pressing question when we start to consider telling people about our sexual orientation or gender identity. Our parents’ reaction can have tremendous impacts in our life. On the positive side, reassuring us of their love can help in our own process of self-acceptance. On the other side, their rejection can be devastating to our mental health and even have financial or other material impacts.

“Mis padres celebraron mi orientación sexual.”

This week we wanted to get a sense from Grindr users in Colombia whether their parents knew about their sexual orientation, how they found out, and how they reacted. We set up a poll of gay, bi, and trans people logging into the app across the country’s 32 Departamentos as well as the Capital District and got responses from 3,567 users.

Some respondents critiqued the question, saying that in the culture of their region or even the culture of their individual family, “coming out” looks very different. Some said they never needed to talk about being LGBTQ at home for their parents to understand and accept it. Still, almost three-quarters of those who answered the poll said their parents knew.

Unfortunately, many people never get the chance to tell their parents because they’re outed in some other way, which can be a traumatic experience. It strips the LGBTQ person of the chance to make an empowered decision about who gets to know what and when about their journey. Most people in this poll (60.5%) said they told their parents themselves.

Regardless of how they find out, parents can have a wide range of reactions. Of course, we would like to see a world where all parents accept that their children could be gay, bi, or trans before they’re even born, but it was encouraging to see how many respondents here got a positive reaction.

It was particularly exciting to see how many people said their parents had a negative reaction, but have become more open since then. It’s good for all of us to remember that life is long, and people do grow and change.

“Colombia is a fairly advanced country in terms of LGBTQ visibility. I have lived in Barcelona and London, and now I reside in Medellin, and I see the same gay here in Colombia.”

It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t a survey built on any kind of statistical model. We’re not putting it out there to suggest that the percentages here reflect the exact truth of what’s going on with gay, bi, and trans people in Colombia or even with all Grindr users in the country. But it does paint a general picture, so those of us in the rest of the world aren’t under the false impression that our counterparts in Colombia never come out to their parents or that their parents don’t accept them. As one respondent said: “Telling my parents I’m gay opened up a whole new life to me; everything I’ve achieved since then was made possible by their love and support.”

The Fine Print

This survey was fielded in Spanish between Monday, April 10 and Sunday, April 16, 2017. Respondents were recruited by way of an in-app message sent to Grindr users logging in from the country of Colombia. All percentages in this article are rounded to the nearest tenth.

72.3% of respondents said they live in big cities, 22.0% in a medium-sized city or town, 4.5% in a small town, and 1.2% in a rural area.

Jack Harrison-Quintana is Director of Grindr For Equality for Grindr and was recently named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business.

Taiwan Comes Closer To Acceptance

As a 36-year-old gay man, I’ve witnessed great changes in Taiwanese society’s attitudes towards LGBTQ people. I realized I liked boys around age eleven, but back then homosexuality was still a taboo topic, and I didn’t dare tell anyone. I was quite popular in school, but I often felt that my classmates didn’t know the real me. I was very lonely and even considered myself a freak.

Only in 2000, when I started participating in a gay student club at my university and met other people like me, was I truly able to accept the fact that I was gay and start the process of coming out. At the time, the LGBTQ movement in Taiwan was thriving, and I had the opportunity to take gender-related courses in college, volunteer for LGBTQ organizations, and take part in LGBTQ events like pride parades.

But, while my gay life became richer and more colorful, life at home was still a completely different world. I tried to come out to my mother, but she believed that I’d read too much and asked me not to think about such things. For a long time after that, we didn’t mention the subject again. I felt like I was living a double life, active in the outside world but unable to say anything once I was home.

In 2002, I started to volunteer for the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線協會) and became a full-time staff member in 2011. Since then, my personal mission has been to contribute to the LGBTQ community and make Taiwanese society a friendlier place, so younger generations won’t experience the same difficulties that I did.

In 2004, we passed the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法), allowing us to enter school campuses and share with younger students our life stories and the concepts of gender diversity. We are also engaged in social education across the country. With these efforts and thanks to the many LGBTQ-friendly teachers in schools, Taiwanese society has indeed become more welcoming to us, especially among younger generations, which I am very proud to have been a part of.

I am also responsible for HIV/AIDS education and advocacy. I’m working on issues of HIV stigma, which are often even more severe than the stigma attached to homosexuality.

These days, marriage equality has taken center stage in the country. In 2016, because President Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) stated during her campaign that she supports marriage equality, and due to the suicide of a prominent gay professor in the country, marriage equality became an issue that everyone in the country was paying attention to. Legislators from different parties proposed three amendments to Civil Code. My organization, along with other groups, formed a coalition to work with friendly legislators. The marriage equality bill passed its first hurdle, a review in committee, on December 26, 2016, and it is currently waiting for a second reading. In the meantime, the Supreme Court is expected to deliver a ruling regarding whether the current Civil Code is unconstitutional.

But this journey has not been entirely smooth. Our opponents, many of whom say it is their Christian faith that drives them, have mobilized their communities and spread rumors and fear. It has also pushed them to attack other areas such as gender equity education, HIV/AIDS, and transgender rights.

To raise public awareness and support, we organized three large-scale events in one month at the end of 2016, the biggest of which attracted more than 250,000 individuals to rally and show their support for marriage equality in front of the Presidential Office Building. We can even thank Grindr for getting involved and encouraging all Taiwanese users of the app to participate. This was the largest demonstration for LGBTQ issues Taiwanese society has ever witnessed and, of course, it also attracted many of our heterosexual allies to participate.

The marriage equality movement has also empowered me personally. I finally decided to come out to my family. I shared relevant information in our family social media group and invited them to the rally at the end of last year. Although my parents didn’t join me that day, they told me to stay safe, and, to me, that reminder was worth more than anything.

The marriage equality movement has not just been about our ability to get married. It has also been the greatest moment of social education about LGBTQ-related issues in our history, as well as an important step for the democratization of Taiwan. I truly hope that the marriage equality bill will come to pass this year. Either way, my colleagues, volunteers, and I will continue to fight for LGBTQ human rights.

Sean Sih-Cheng Du (杜思誠) is Director of Policy Advocacy at Taiwan Tonzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線協會). He leads the organization’s HIV/AIDS education and international collaboration programs, as well as serving as a member of the marriage equality advocacy team.

Living As An Undocuqueer In Trump’s America

Six years. That’s how long I have been out as a proud gay man. But 23 years is how long I have been an undocumented immigrant in the United States of America. My name is Jesus Chavez, I am 25 years old, and I am an undocuqueer.

As an undocumented and queer person of color, I live an undocuqueer life. I have come out as gay, and I have come out of the shadows as undocumented. These two parts of me have driven me to overcome obstacles, but also to live with anxiety and fear at the tips of my fingers.

During President Obama’s administration, we had hope. Undocumented youth, often led by those who are also LGBTQ, pushed for and won relief through a program called DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This two-year renewable program provided temporary relief from deportation, and a work permit for young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Despite this program, the Obama administration still deported millions and separated families. This will only worsen under the Trump administration, raising even more fear in my community.

Over the past five years, since the beginning of the DACA program, I have been able to get a job, graduate college, and advance in my life. But all of that could be easily erased if the new president chooses to end the program, as he promised to do numerous times during his campaign. The goals and aspirations of almost 800,000 could be dashed away with just one executive action.

I was three years old when my parents decided to immigrate to the United States. What were their reasons… survival! We lived in an adobe home with a dirt floor, and no running water and electricity. Resources were limited, and my dad could not find work. I often think about my parents’ decision and the difficulty they faced for choosing to leave their home.

My experiences of being undocumented, gay, and carrying the weight of my parents’ aspirations have allowed me to be resilient and survive in this country — even though it often feels like many of its citizens would rather I just disappear. While I am lucky to have the support of my family when I came out, my rejection came at the hands of a government that refuses to accept that I am a citizen of this country, even if my birth certificate does not reflect that.

Being undocumented was something I had to conform to, embrace, and sometimes deny. It has complex layers that barred me from the normal parts of life many people take for granted — like driving and getting a driver’s license. For many people, finding a job can be a daunting task in itself. Now imagine working under the table, or having an employer discriminate against you for your immigration status, despite having a work permit.

On a more personal level, even dating can be tricky. You question yourself: should I tell him? Will he be accepting? Will he take advantage? Will he think I want to marry him to adjust my immigration status? Is he a citizen? Does he realize I can’t travel abroad? And so we undocuqueer people sometimes have to survive by going back into the shadows. This is the common ground that the immigrant justice movement shares with the LGBTQ movement. For many years, LGBTQ individuals hid their identity to conform to society and “feel safe.” And the sad reality is, in this administration, neither LGBTQ or undocumented immigrants are safe.

And while many people in the LGBTQ community cannot fully understand what it means to be undocumented, I want people to know that we are in this together and that hundreds of thousands of people like me are facing a significant threat. In my experience, the worst thing one can do is to dehumanize me without getting to know me; label me without understanding what “illegal” signifies, and threaten me with detention and deportation. I want people to know that Mexico is not “my country.” I haven’t been able to visit since I left as an infant. To deport me now would mean sending me to a place I don’t even know.

We may not know what is going to happen during this new administration. But we do know that as LGBTQ individuals, we are diverse. We all come from somewhere; we all have a story to share, and we all are individuals. But as individuals, we must also take the time to learn, to read, to share and grasp these stories, and avoid simple judgments hurtful to me and my undocuqueer community. We are living difficult times, but like many leaders before us, we will continue to fight and prevail to achieve justice for all.

Seeing Myself in S-Town

Spoiler Alert: This review contains details from each episode of the podcast, S-Town.

The newest podcast from the team at This American Life and Serial was not pitched as an LGBTQ story. Some people will undoubtedly celebrate that about the piece – that the creators allowed the figure of John B. McLemore to unfold in all his complexities, neither centering his sexual orientation nor neglecting it. I genuinely hope that tactic worked, bringing in more listeners who might’ve ignored something too narrowly pigeonholed. But I feel somewhat ambivalent, in no small part because, as a result, it took me so much longer to listen than if I’d known this was a show about someone so close to my own experience.

To be fair, my home of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is far from a shit town these days. Since it was awarded “most polluted city in America” by the EPA in 1969, the little southern city has really turned things around environmentally. Plus, being a historic center of shipping (see the big band classic: “Chattanooga Choo Choo”) has meant there’s a lot more economic diversity than in John’s hometown of Woodstock, Alabama.

Still, as my sister in New York said in a text after we both listened to the first episode: “A lot of people are going to find this story fascinating but totally unrelatable, and for us, this is way closer to home.” And it’s not just the regional and sexual specificity of this character that resonates with me. John is whip-smart and deeply invested in questions of injustice, yet he’s emotionally and bureaucratically unable to find an outlet for his social critic. I remember what that felt like and in that Sliding Doors way, I can clearly envision a scenario in which I had grown up to be trapped like he was.

So with the deep feeling of connection I’ve had with this podcast, there are two things in particular I’d like to draw out for LGBTQ listeners – things the creators got right that I don’t want us to miss amidst all the hard feelings brought up by John’s life and death.

First, it must be said that S-Town gets it right when it comes to male bisexuality. John uses the words bi and queer to describe himself repeatedly and even goes so far as to discuss percentages – how much of the time he finds himself attracted to women and how much he finds himself thinking about men. It had to be tempting for the creators to cast this fluidity in terms of tragedy. They could easily have framed him as a pitiable person so overwhelmed by the anti-LGBTQ sentiment he was swimming in that he felt the need to hedge his bets and declare himself open to coupling with a woman. And, sadly, I think there are still plenty of listeners who heard it that way.

But John doesn’t ever seem confused about his sexuality, and I hope we as a community can see his experience for what it is – yet another example in the long line of publicly identifiable bi men that can and should put an end to debates over their existence. Before his death, John gave us the gift of his story and I think our collectively admitting that some guys are bi is one meaningful way for us to honor him.

The second thing S-Town gets spot-on is that, despite its flaws, Bibb County had a place for John as a bi man. We hear several folks in the town comment on John’s orientation throughout the series and we’re led to believe that most people knew or at least suspected it. What we don’t hear are discussions of his sexuality as a basis for expulsion from the community. And I’m pretty sure if the creators of the show had heard those discussions, they’d be in there.

Of course, this means he was doubtless the target for micro-aggressions on a regular basis and even experienced acts of blatant discrimination. But his identity didn’t prevent him from forming meaningful friendships with all kinds of people around town, from the local tattooist to a range of younger straight guys.

This reminds me of the other southern queers we’ve seen on TV in the past decade. I think of the drag queen Alyssa Edwards of RuPaul’s Drag Race, who, despite national notoriety, continues to teach at her dance studio in Mesquite, Texas. I think of Todrick Hall, who is also connected to the RuPaul empire these days and grew into himself in a black-majority agricultural town in northern Texas. I think of Honey Boo Boo’s Uncle Poodle and all the Southern trans women on Toddlers in Tiaras whose gender identities seem to be overlooked at least when their skills as pageant coaches are needed.

All of these characters complicate our image of the South. Even as John’s life came to a tragic conclusion and the success of someone like Todrick always requires leaving their hometown, this acceptance that LGBTQ people exist remind us that the South is not monolithic in its demand that we live in the closet.

Unfortunately, as with both seasons of Serial, I don’t think S-Town quite sticks the landing. For me, each of these has failed to establish the stakes of the story with a finale that takes its themes broader. I keep wanting them to use these stories as vehicles to explore greater questions, whether that’s the state of the South, the state of storytelling, or the state of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. These reporters, though, always seem to want to collapse in on themselves, focusing on the singularity of their story. It always feels a little flat at the end. In this case, the fact that the entire last episode was about mad hatter syndrome just left me wondering if the creators thought mercury poisoning played a bigger role in John’s suicide than his acute awareness of the injustices he lived with. Still, I give these folks a lot of credit. I’m a person who thinks a lot about the impact of growing up with or without media that includes characters that reflect you. But as a queer, social justice-minded boy from the South, it’s been awhile since I got to see someone who so deeply reflected who I am.

Jack Harrison-Quintana is Director of Grindr For Equality for Grindr and was recently named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business.

Sunny and Out: LA Political Queers

The West Coast is called the Left Coast for a reason. Despite pockets of Trumpland, the area is predominantly liberal and not afraid to show it. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. Photographer David Vassalli checked in with three LA queer activists who are helping to inspire and ignite the next LGBTQ generation through dance, fashion, and giving fucks when necessary.

Ryon Wu, 20

How are you speaking out in 2017?
Being queer and Asian, I feel it is important to speak out and encourage others to be more inclusive of people of all types. Whenever I witness any homophobia, racism, or hate of any kind, I make sure to always speak out against it. Some may feel not speaking out avoids conflict, but in the end, staying silent can lead to more harm. Especially with the political climate we are currently in, silence comes close to siding with and enabling the problem. It’s a very crucial time for everybody to support one another and stay strong through this time of chaos. Throughout my life, I have endured hatred, whether it be from homophobia or racism. Experiencing these things from such a young age was traumatizing for me, and it’s heartbreaking knowing that minorities everywhere are suffering because of Trump and the hate he encourages.

What advice do you have for queer youth?
Don’t be afraid to express yourself. As cheesy as it sounds, I don’t feel like I started enjoying life until I stopped caring about what people thought of me and started being me. Go out, have fun, dress how you want, and do what you want (as long as it isn’t causing harm to anyone, of course). Stay brave and don’t ever feel ashamed of being yourself.

Tyler Lazzari, 22

How are you speaking out in 2017?
Given our newly elected POTUS, the importance of speaking out against injustice has become more dire than ever. There are many different ways one can speak out, but my preferred method is through art, performance, and fashion. When I get dressed, I’m wearing a statement. Whether I’m in heels, a wig, or simply a t-shirt and shorts, it’s a statement. You’d be surprised how much impact you can make just by wearing something that truly represents yourself, regardless of what people think. In order for us to break these hateful and backwards views against LGBTQ / POC, we must continue to push boundaries.

What advice do you have for queer youth?
My advice would be to keep your head up, and don’t match hate with hate. Growing up I would get infuriated when people would taunt and tease me, but as the years went on, I realized none of it mattered and that I was above it. The funniest thing about it is that those same boys that used to tease me hit me up on Grindr after graduation. That’s when I realized that they didn’t hate me, they envied my courage to be true to myself. Be yourself. It can and will inspire those around you that are hiding their true colors from the world. Stay beautiful.

Love Bailey, timeless

How are you speaking out in 2017?
By creating an all inclusive platform called the Slather Factory, where we invite all our queer friends to slather love on thick and dance to whatever sets their hearts on fire.

What advice do you have for queer youth?
Your energy is a currency. Use it wisely, and don’t let anyone take your magic without an equal exchange. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, and make contracts to protect yourself against exploitation. Put the power back in your hands, and speak up against discrimination and injustice. The time is now. The future is in your hands!