20 Queer Q’s with Matt Rogers

The 20 Queer Qs series seeks to capture LGBTQ+ individuals (and allies) in a moment of authenticity. We get to know the subjects, what makes them who they are, and what they value. These intimate conversations aim to leave you, the reader, feeling like you just gained a new friend or a new perspective.

This week, get to know comedian, entertainer, and co-host of the Las Culturistas podcast, Matt Rogers. Learn about his hopes for the LGBTQ+ community in the future, what his queerness has given him, what he feels insecure about, and more.

Name: Matt Rogers

Age: 28

Preferred Pronouns: He/Him/His

Sexually Identifies As: Gay

1. What do you love about the LGBT community? The various point of views you get within it. I think something you think before you’re actually in the community, is that everyone is the same. You see a kind of antiquated image of the gay community on television, especially in the 90’s when I grew up. The community is so varied, interesting, dynamic, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

 

2. Do you think it’s hard to make queer friends? I don’t think it’s hard, but I definitely think you have to get over yourself. We make it harder for ourselves, and I think one of the symptoms of being gay is that you second guess yourself all the time because that’s what we’ve been told to do and that doesn’t make friendships easy. I’m lucky I’ve had my friends that I’ve been close with for 10 years and having people to go out with and meet people with has made it easier, but when you meet someone new when their super interesting, you feel like you want to make sure you’re good enough for them and I think the insecurity that we all have that is ingrained in us just due to the experiences we’ve been through. That’s what makes it hard to open up to people in terms of friendships and romance.

3. What does pride mean to you? It’s the sense of safety in operating in your full potential as a human being and that’s expressing your joy to the max and having that received by the people around you.

4. Do you think LGBTQ+ youth have it easier now? I don’t like this hierarchy of struggle. Every individual is going through something and I think we need more compassion across the board. I don’t like it when my generation scolds the younger LGBT community. I think we have a lot more in common than we think. I’m so reverent and appreciative of the older generation. They had to go through something I couldn’t even imagine. It’s tragic what this community went through during the AIDS crisis and I think that’s trauma that’s with this generation and they’re angry because they never had to go through that.

I think we look at the younger generation and think, “Wow you’re allowed to be gay at 11 years old.” But at the same time, we don’t know what it’s like to have social media surround us at all times. When I say I don’t like the hierarchy of struggle, I don’t like to compete in terms of pain. I think everyone is entitled to their experience and what’s important is that we have compassion, it’s not that we remind each other that we’ve had it harder than anyone else, even if it’s true. Because it is, there are sects of this community that have had it extremely difficult. Specifically speaking about trans women of color, [they] are the most persecuted, disrespected, berated, and pursued negatively people on this planet. I think it would be ridiculous on this planet to say that they didn’t have it rough every single day. But I also think we should have compassion for everyone. In terms of these younger kids, they’re still grappling with their identity and are still in the minority and still need compassion.

5. What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ youth? Don’t be afraid of other individuals that are also different. Foster relationships with people that you find a connection with. If you feel a connection, foster that, because your community is going to be your family one day.

6. Do you believe in love? Yes.

7. What are values that you look for in an ideal partner? Patient, non-judgemental, gets it in terms of humor. You don’t have to be funny, you just have to get it.

8. Describe what being queer is like in 3-5 words. Girl, we are getting there.

9. What are your thoughts on people who say “masc4masc”? They’re people who are not going to get my attention or anyone’s attention who’s worthwhile. It’s a ridiculous thing to say which is a gross symptom of our community which is the app culture. It’s one of the ways in which the ugliness in our community is living out loud. It’s so gross and we’re so much better and [more] beautiful than that.

10. What hopes do you have for the LGBTQ+ community in the future? Happiness. I hope that for everyone, I hope that everyone can just get to a point where they say I love myself as much as I pretend to or as much as I see. I hope we can walk the world and be safe.

 

11. Is there a LGBTQ+ TV show or movie that has had a great impact on you? RuPaul’s Drag Race had the greatest impact on me, because the concept of “You’re born naked and the rest is drag” changed my life. … I realized that there are no rules, the only rules that you make are the ones that you impose on yourself. And that is so liberating.

12. What’s your earliest memory that you felt you were different? When I was little, the characters that I wanted to act out in the yard were all female — and my parents acted weird about it. My mom even asked our doctor about why I was doing that and the doctor said,  “It’s because he’s very smart, he wants to take on different personas.” I was perceptive enough to understand that my instincts were not “normal,” and it was gauging that from the reaction they had.

13. What do you feel most insecure about? My body,

14. What do you feel the most confident about? My sense of humor.

15. What’s your relationship with your family like? Very good, very positive, I’m very lucky in that regard and I see them often.

16. Have you found your chosen family? How do they make you feel? Absolutely 100%, and I’m so lucky. Oftentimes when I’m at Thanksgiving with extended family I’m like, “Why aren’t i with my real family?” It’s so true what they say, it’s such an integral thing for a gay person is to find those people

17. On a grading scale from F-A, how is life for you right now? A-. In the grand scheme of things, I can eat, I’m out here pursuing my goals, I do what I want, I have good family, my family and friends are healthy.

18. Have you ever felt/do you still feel uncomfortable holding another guys hand in public? Yes, unfortunately because no matter where you go, you are exposed and you hear horror stories. This is something I think people need to understand. You cannot fully understand the full experience of someone who is different or a minority because you don’t have those small instincts. Like when I hold someone’s hand in public, that’s marking yourself vulnerable and there’s a lot of crazy people out there.

19. Who is someone in your life who gets you? Bowen Yang, my best friend understands me 100%. We have a sort of sixth sense with each other, we’re very empathetic to each other, we often speak in the same cadences at the same time.

20. What value/quality has being queer given you? What have you gained? It’s given me my sense of humor and that’s everything to me. It’s given me my point of view which is great to pair with a sense of humor.

Listen to Matt’s podcast Las Culturistas wherever you listen to podcasts. Keep up with him and his upcoming shows in NYC and LA on Twitter and Instagram.

Which ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4’ Queen Is Most Likely to Return?

Welcome to Drag Race Power Rankings! Every Saturday, we’ll debrief the previous night’s new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4 to determine which queens are riding high, and which need she-mergency care. This week, we’re processing the twist-on-twist-on-twist delirium of the final six episode, and determine who has the best chance of returning to the competition this week.

10. Farrah Moan — POTENTIAL RETURNEE (last appearance: 9)

A note before we get too deep into this: According to VH1’s description for the next episode, the return challenge is a Lip Sync for Your Life battle royale, in which all the returning queens will get a chance to come back to the competition. So, with lots of love to Farrah, who looks amazing in her red return look, but I would be shocked if she were to win a lip sync.

9. Gia Gunn — POTENTIAL RETURNEE (last appearance: 8)

I actually think Gia has the lip-syncing skills to get back into this competition, depending on her opponent. But she spent the night of her elimination cursing out RuPaul … so yeah, she’s not getting back in.

8. Jasmine Masters — POTENTIAL RETURNEE (last appearance: 10)

All Stars 4

If there were to be just one returnee, I’d say Jasmine had no shot at coming back. But the description is clear that all the eliminated queens have the chance to come back. Jasmine is a talented lip syncer, and if she gets the right opponent, who knows! All that aside, though, I’m betting on just one returnee, and it’s not her.

7. Valentina (last week: 4)

Valentina

Time to go, Val. You’ve done what you needed to do here — got your lip sync redemption, endeared yourself to scores of fans — and now you’re just blowing up your spot. I enjoy Valentina’s delusions of grandeur as much as the next gay, but let’s send her on her way to Rent Live and narrow down to the strongest competitors left.

6. Naomi Smalls (last week: 5)

I actually don’t think Naomi will get sixth in this competition — in fact, I could see her making top four — but she’s this low because there is just no way she can win. She’s been all but invisible in the edit, and there aren’t enough episodes left to craft a compelling winner’s arc. Naomi is destined to be a bridesmaid in this competition, and considering how strong she’s been overall — though admittedly not this week — it’s kinda sad to see.

5. Latrice Royale — POTENTIAL RETURNEE (last appearance: 7)

The redemption challenge is a lip-sync tournament? Oh bitch, just put Latrice back in the competition right now. That said, if she can’t turn it out after winning her way back in, she’ll be back out the door right away.

4. Monique Heart (last week: 3)

The ooh-ah-ah sensation really did get screwed by the judging this week, earning a bottom placement despite being one of the clear best in the challenge. That’s the tough thing about All Stars‘ final weeks: If you’re not a winner, you’re a potential loser. While she was kind of mopey about it in the workroom during deliberations, I admire her for not getting too defensive on the runway. She’s learning how to work the judges, slowly.

3. Trinity the Tuck (last week: 2)

Trinity really threw Valentina under the bus after practically citizen’s arresting Manila for considering sending her home two weeks ago! Good lord. Trinity’s biggest issue is her inability to keep her eyes on her own paper. When she’s focused and working hard, there’s no one performing better in this competition. If she can get that focus back, I think she’s a lock for the finale, but that’s a big if at this point.

2. Monét X Change (last week: 6)

The biggest rise of the week goes to Ms. Change, who really, truly, and finally pulled her shit together. Both her challenge performance and runway were strong, and while I would’ve personally put Monique in the top two above her, I can’t quibble with the quality of her output this week. If she can keep this energy up, she could truly win this whole thing. But she has one massive obstacle standing in her way,.

1. Manila Luzon (last week: 1)

I mean, come on. If you’re not on the Manila train at this point — which, I’m very open that I wasn’t until recently — what are you doing? She’s slaying this competition, putting forward the most complete package of runway, challenge performance, attitude, and damn good TV of any queen left. In my mind, she’s the winner. Which probably means she goes home in two weeks. But we’ll cherish every moment until then.

Traveling Solo as a Trans Woman in London

It was when the cashier converted my US Dollars into British Pounds that I knew the trip was real. I was going to London, alone. I had never been and didn’t know anyone there. How would people react to me? My accent? I considered adjusting my look. How do British people dress?

The one thing I couldn’t adjust was my transgender identity.

The UK and I have always had a long distance relationship. We stayed connected through my obsession with Robbie Williams, Doctor Who, and British Bake Off. We needed to be together. One morning, I impulsively booked the cheapest flight I could and secured an Airbnb. I was going. Not even Brexit or reports of increased violence against the LGBTQ community could keep me away.

My makeup was perfect and I wore a feminine floral dress. I was afraid to disturb binary gender standards while abroad. After the six-hour flight from New York, the first person I spoke to was an immigration officer. I feared being detained and somehow ending up in a cell full of men. Mercifully, I breezed through and had my passport stamped.

One of my first stops was Buckingham Palace. I felt compelled to take a selfie. As I took the photo, I noticed a man staring at me. I followed my first instinct and fled. Through the Canada Gate and past Green Park, I thought I lost him. I was wrong. His clothes and demeanor told me he was a business traveler looking to get laid. He matched my frantic pace and wore a diplomatic smile.

“Are you a man or a woman?

“I’m a woman, obviously.”

“I’m so sorry, I was on a trip to Thailand before and needed to know. Can I walk with you?”

“…..”

“I’m so sorry I asked you that. You are very beautiful. I wanted to meet you. Do you live here?”

“Yes. On the other side of the Thames. I have friends coming soon.”

I walked fast but he kept up. He grabbed me and forced me to locked arms. I considered if I should pull away and risk a struggle. I decided to lead us to a public place. We ended up in pub called the Silver Cross. As long as we stayed in the pub there was nothing he could do.  We sat down and he ordered a bottle of Italian Rosé.

“I want to fuck you. I have a hotel nearby. If you are a woman, I want to fuck you.”

His eyes slowly scanned my body as if he were making a map. He took another sip. I hardened myself and look him in his eyes.

“I only have sex with people I love. Unless we have an emotional connection, that would never happen. Have you ever been in love?”

I disarmed him. His forehead started to sweat. I figured he was married and I made him think about it. I started to mention children. How wonderful they are. How I want to have a child.

“Excuse me for a moment. I have to go to the toilet.”

I intentionally sat close to an exit. As soon he was out of my range of vision, I ran out the door. I ran several blocks until I was comfortable with the number of people and buildings between us.

Shaken, I made my way to the Hungerford Bridge to see the London Eye. While taking pictures from the bridge, a man with a German accent must have clocked me as a tourist. He put a necklace in my hand and asked me to help him put it on. While I was savvy enough to keep my valuable near my breasts, I made the mistake of clasping the necklace around his neck.

The man turned to me screaming, “Thank you!” He wrapped his arms around me tightly. I put my hands on my boobs. My wallet and passport were safe there. A warm, prickly kiss touched my cheek and he walked away.

My valuables were with me but my sense of safety was gone. What’s next?

I headed back to my AirBnB. With the door locked behind me, I was safe again.

My eyes glazed over as I stared out the window. The view of the apartment parking lot became darker as the sun went down. I couldn’t stay hidden in my room forever. I decided to venture out again.

Close to my building was a place called Paya and Horse. I mistakenly assumed it was a restaurant. Immediately, I was offered a drink for five pounds. I couldn’t refuse. The owner was a Serbian man with a collection of hats hanging behind the bar. I noticed him change hats at least three times although he wouldn’t admit it.

One by one, a regular would approach the bar. Each time, the weathered pub owner would introduce them as sketchy or shifty; not to be trusted. Then the owner would playfully encourage them to flirt with me.

“Don’t be shy! There is a pretty girl here! Talk to her!”

Each time, they would walk off, red-faced and defeated. I was equal parts flattered and terrified. Halfway through a pint of Fuller’s London Pride, a younger man with shaggy blond hair and thick-framed glasses walk in. He carried a confidence that the other men didn’t. I watched him walk to the bar and hoped that the pub owner wouldn’t tempt him to talk to me. He did.

As he approached me, I noticed his Tapout tank top gently draping over his muscled shoulders. Fighting sports are very popular in the UK. Through conversation, he revealed that he was half Scottish and had been living in London for the last decade. His eyes revealed that he was attracted to me.

We shared stories about Mary Berry and Simon Pegg. He gave me a tutorial on how to speak with a proper British accent. We revealed that we both scream-sing “Angels” by Robbie Williams on car rides. Our eyes met as we both reached down to play with his friend’s dog. I was disarmed.

My sides started to hurt from laughing and the pub owner had to quiet us several times. My mind was playing different scenarios. One was of another life where I was born a cisgender woman and we had several blonde, muscular babies together. The other was me fighting for my life because he learned I was trans.

Several beers later, my legs were shaky. Beer is stronger in the UK. It was time to escape. I knew the way back the Airbnb, but I needed to get there without being followed. I was planning different scenarios when the pub owner started to turn off the lights. He was closing early.

We were all outside and my new half Scottish friend stayed close to me. The entire pub said goodbye and I was alone with him, his friend, and their dog. So many of my rules were already broken and I was incredibly vulnerable.

“Let’s see the Buddha! It’s in Battersea Park! We can take the dog for a walk, then take you home. We have a job in Scotland tomorrow. Where are you staying?”

“Um… around the corner. I can just find my way.”

“Don’t worry, we’re going that way, too. We can walk together so you won’t get lost.”

It was like being confronted by a coiled snake, I was afraid to make any sudden movements. I decided to walk with them.

Battersea Park at night is pitch black. The lack of visual clues allows other senses to take lead. The texture of the ground. The cold crisp wind from the Thames River hitting your skin. The smell of hay from the park zoo.

As we walked down a trail, I felt his shoulder and elbow touch mine. He wanted to lock arms. I pulled away and asked about the zoo. Anything to create space while we walked home. We walked through darkness and I used his friend’s dog to divert any physical contact between us.

My voice. My pitch. We were engulfed in darkness. I had to raise it higher than usual. Under no circumstance could I be read as a trans woman. I never hide my transness. I’m proud of it. This was different. I had to keep it a secret. My life could depend on it.

We started to see street lights and I asked questions about the city. As long as they are talking, I’m not the focus. I’m safe. They started telling jokes about movies like The Matrix. Lilly and Lana Wachowski’s transition from masculine to feminine came up. I braced myself.

“Maybe I’ll cut my balls off. Then I can make a solid film.”

I looked at them and burst into laughter. Laughing at the situation I was in, not the joke. I couldn’t believe what I heard. This wasn’t the place to defend my position on transphobic jokes.

Finally, we made it through the park. It was time to say goodbye. We all hugged and I said goodbye to the playful shepherd dog.

My half Scottish friend wrapped his arms around me and before I could react, kissed me on my lips. It was a gentle kiss that begged me to move to London and start a new life. I stood in shock, I watched them walk away.

He was so sweet to me while assuming I was cis. Would he still be sweet if he learned that I’m trans? I’m still the tall, olive-skinned beauty that sings “Angels” in the shower. I never want to know the answer.

I made it back to my Airbnb in one piece. Behind the locked door, I sat on the bed and fell into a trance. My mind had trouble processing the day. All the adrenaline flowing through my body made my hands tremble. Hundreds of what if scenarios speed through my mind. I started to question whether solo travel abroad is a good idea. Would I ever travel like this again?

The answer is a resounding, yes. Is it more dangerous for a transgender woman to travel alone? Absolutely. I can’t stop being transgender. The dangers I face are real everywhere I go although they change based on the environment and the culture I’m in. I won’t let discrimination based on my identity stop me from living life.

I will see the world and the world will see me. Trans-identity included.

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4’ Recap: Nobody Was Killed at Lady Bunny’s Funeral?

Usually I prefer to proceed somewhat chronologically in my RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4 recaps, but this week, I think we have to start at the end. And what an end it was! Double lip sync win! Non-elimination! All Star rules finally suspended! A mirror message from Ru herself! Lady Bunny recreating the mirror gag from All Stars 2! And, of course, the inevitable return of the eliminated queens.

It was kind of the kitchen sink approach to reality TV production, and I wasn’t not entertained by it! It was just, you know, a lot. I’m still processing. Here, let’s process together.

Drag Race

The main challenge this week (well, only challenge, the mini-challenge drought continues) is a roast of Lady Bunny framed as a funeral. It’s a fun twist on the RuPaul Roast challenge, which previously appeared in seasons 5 and 9. Season 5’s roast episode was one of the all-time great Drag Race episodes, while season 9’s was … mostly just okay. Better than you’d expect in a season with zero comedy queens.

Two of the worst performers in that roast, however, were Trinity the Tuck (back in her days as Trinity Taylor) and Valentina. Trinity was bottom three, while Valentina was, ahem, lucky to be safe. The stakes are high for both of them going into this week, and they promptly make all the same mistakes they did the first time — despite guest judge Cecily Strong’s attempts to help them during rehearsal. Valentina completely ignores Cecily’s notes to avoid starting too mean, starting her set bitter and never letting up. Trinity, on the other hand, never gets a handle on her comic timing. The two contestants barely elicit a sincere laugh from the judges or audience.

I’m not going to lie to you, dear reader: It’s extremely satisfying to watch the season 9 alliance fail this week. While I enjoy Valentina tremendously as a TV character, and I think Trinity is playing in this competition with a level of technical prowess only previously matched by Alaska and BenDeLaCreme, they’re both carrying around big egos. Valentina has a warped sense of how she performs; she thought her performance in the season 9 roast was good (to quote Ru, “Was it?”), and completely misinterprets the judges’ comments this week. Meanwhile, Trinity once again whines about Manila Luzon’s deliberation process, after the season 3 queen reveals she would’ve sent Monét X Change home last week. It’s satisfying to see them brought back down to earth a bit. I think they both have what it takes to win this season, but I prefer a more self-aware Valentina and a laser-focused Trinity.

Speaking of Manila: She may never be my favorite in the challenges, but I am firmly Team Manila at this point in the race. Positively ridden with guilt that she once again couldn’t save Latrice Royale in a lip sync, Manila cries trying to explain her reasoning for wanting to eliminate Monét. Monét refuses to show Manila even an ounce of empathy for wanting to save her friend, and all but tells Manila that she’s not allowed to sit at the cool girls’ lunch table anymore. Seriously, she and the other girls all join hands in front of Manila as she’s crying, and don’t get up to leave when she does. It makes them look so damn petty.

The girls gang up on Manila again in the workroom, when she says she’ll choose who she wants to eliminate moving forward on a case-by-case basis. (Getting to choose who you want to send home if you win is, you may recall, the literal format of All Stars.) I admire Manila for sticking to her guns — but then again, it’s pretty easy to do when you keep winning. She does again this week, and it’s probably her hardest-earned win of the season. (Though I would’ve also given Manila the win way back in week 1, when she was just safe.) Her roast performance is perfectly pitched, with just enough sight gags — the umbrella! the will! — to balance out her battery of jokes. Her look is perfect, and she’s the only queen to roast most of her fellow competitors plus the judges. It’s surprising that she’s the only one to turn that trick, considering that roasting the full assemblage is usually a staple of these challenges.

Joining Manila in the top is Monét, who maybe wouldn’t be my choice, but I get why she wins. From a pure comedy perspective, she has the most jokes, and they all land. I prefer the Southern preacher caricature her season 10 sister Monique Heart puts on, even though Monique swallows a few of her jokes in her delivery. Monique was the emotional choice; Monét was the comedy-as-art choice. The panel is particularly technical this week — more on that in the final thoughts — so their decision makes sense.

That leaves us with Naomi Smalls, who is just a disaster this week. I’ve been high on Naomi all season, but her lack of wins has left me wondering if she’s really cut out to win this competition. Sadly for the leggy season 8 queen, she falls into the bottom before ever rising to the top, on the back of a one-note performance and shockingly underwhelming funeral drag look. Luckily for her, she is one of four queens in the bottom, as RuPaul puts everyone who didn’t win onto the chopping block. This is likely done for two reasons: to scare the girls, and because Ru already knows no one is going home this week.

Bottom Four

Deliberations are, to be frank, a fucking mess. Trinity immediately seems to realize she’s screwed up by being so aggressive with Manila, and both firmly stands on the strength of her report card while also being conciliatory toward the queen with the power. Naomi is clearly bummed to be in the bottom, and worries her lack of wins will take her out. Despite this, Monét and Manila don’t really seem to consider her a legitimate choice for elimination, though — in fact, the winners practically ask the other one to take on the responsibility of sending someone home this week instead of them.

The consensus choice among the other queens, though, is for Valentina to go home. Trinity immediately names her as the correct option (guess that season 9 alliance only goes so far), while Monique — who outright refuses to do one-on-ones, that’s how certain she is she doesn’t deserve to go home — goes off on Valentina in her confessional for not having a full face of makeup for the main challenge.

I personally don’t care about the makeup issue that much, though it is worth noting how it comes about, and how she responds to Ross Mathews’ criticism. Apparently Val runs out of time in the workroom, unable to finish her set and her face. So she wears sunglasses as part of her costume — but then tempts fate by making a Maskgate callback. She practically dares RuPaul to tell her to take the glasses off, which RuPaul promptly does. This backfires big time, revealing her face is incomplete.

Upon presenting her excuses to Ross, he promptly takes no shit. “I still wish your eyes had been done,” Ross says with the exact right blend of sweetness and bitchiness. The look Valentina shoots back at him could kill, and probably has. So, yeah, Monique’s pissed about that, and while it doesn’t matter as much to me, I can understand being mad if you think you might go home over someone who didn’t even finish beating their mug.

It is hilarious to watch the other queens insist that eliminating Valentina is the only fair thing to do, when just two weeks ago they were lecturing Manila for even considering sending Val home. My guess is Trinity fans will justify her throwing Valentina under the bus by citing Val’s record, but that doesn’t wash for two reasons. One, Val has a win, which should conceivably put her ahead of the winless Naomi. Two, Trinity insisted in that episode that she wanted to take Valentina with her all the way to the top four. Now she wants Valentina to go home in sixth?

The truth is, there is no “fair” when it comes to making elimination decisions on All Stars, and it behooves no one to pretend like there is a particularly “moral” way to do it. Alaska eliminated Tatianna twice and Alyssa Edwards once over Roxxxy Andrews in All Stars 2. Kennedy Davenport eliminated Milk the second she got the chance during All Stars 3 because, to put it bluntly, she just didn’t like Milk. Manila saying she doesn’t want to adhere to one kind of elimination style is not new or novel, and she shouldn’t be ostracized or judged by the other queens because she doesn’t want to pretend.

The lip sync to Aretha Franklin’s “Jump to It” isn’t exactly a close one. Manila has a couple of good moments, but clearly fumbles words here and there, and Monét just really nails it. However, Ru declares a joint win — a head-scratcher of a decision that makes more sense if you look at the other lip sync ties in All Stars seasons. Be it Raven and Jujubee on “Dancing on My Own,” Tatianna and Alyssa Edwards on “Shut Up and Drive,” or Shangela and BenDeLaCreme on “I Kissed a Girl,” double wins tend to come when the performers mostly work together versus against each other. Considering the amount of interplay between Manila and Monét on “Jump to It,” the tie makes a bit more sense. (But make no mistake: If one girl was winning, it’d have been Monét.)

Ru’s other big motivation for declaring two winners is that ultimately, who they chose to go home doesn’t matter. No one goes home this week, and All Star rules are promptly put on hold. What that means — and what the returning queens’ challenge to get back in will be — will have to wait for next week. A return for Latrice or we riot!

Dearly beloved, we have gathered our thoughts here today:

• Cecily Strong and Yvette Nicole Brown both make for good guest judges this week. Alongside Michelle Visage and Ross, they really turn the judging session into an artist’s critique, getting granular about both jokes and looks in a way I love. I’m still holding onto Jenifer Lewis as the best guest judge of the season, but these two are easily the runners-up right now.

• I didn’t talk about the angelic-themed runway this week, but the girls are uniformly very good! Special shout-outs go to Naomi for a Prince-inspired getup, Monét for a gorgeous bleeding heart detail on her chest, and Manila’s dewy Grecian outfit, which makes her look younger than anyone else on the stage. Age 37 looks really damn good on her.

• I have some thoughts about Valentina naming Monique and Naomi as the worst of the week, but I’ll be as generous in my reading as possible and say she just didn’t want to name her friend Trinity. (Even though Trinity didn’t exactly show her the same kindness.)

• With “Jump to It,” Aretha joins Paula Abdul, Britney Spears, Madonna, and Whitney Houston with four songs performed as lip syncs. Getting crowded at the top! (After I included this stat in a previous recap, someone asked why Ariana Grande doesn’t also have four, the long and short of it being that she’s just a featured artist on “Bang Bang.” So you can place her in the same echelon, but definitely give her an asterisk.)

• Naomi’s shade that she’s the only queen left who can give a millennial’s point of view is funnier than any of her roast jokes.

• Monique practically racing off the stage after Ru saves them all, saying “She ain’t gotta tell me twice,” is the biggest mood.

• In the preview for next week’s episode, we see each of the eliminated queens picking a lipstick from one box. My guess? We’re getting a full set of Lip Syncs for Your Life next week, with the eliminated queens getting to choose who they want to face off against. Winners earn their way back into the competition; losers face elimination. That might be too complicated — plus, Drag Race always seems reticent to shell out more money for lip sync song royalties — but we’ll see!

• So both Monét and Manila were going to eliminate Valentina, right? That would certainly make a certain piece of intel season 4 bad girl Willam leaked before the season started airing more interesting…

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4 will air Friday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. Eastern on VH1.

Liberty Counsel Says It Doesn’t Want to Lynch LGBTQ People After All

Liberty Counsel would like the record to reflect that it doesn’t want to lynch gay people.

The evangelical law firm drew controversy last week after President and Founder Mat Staver opposed the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act. He claimed language on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the Congressional bill was a way to “slip” in federal nondiscrimination protections.

“The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can’t stop them from coming the rest of the way in,” Staver told the right-wing website One News Now on Tuesday.

According to Staver, the anti-lynching legislation would represent “the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation as part of this anti-lynching bill.” (This is false: LGBTQ people were included in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act a decade ago.)

While the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act unanimously passed the Senate last month, Staver claimed Liberty Counsel had been meeting with House lawmakers to remove the LGBTQ provisions ahead of a vote.

But just days later, the Orlando-based advocacy group is rolling back its own president’s statements—saying they were mischaracterized by the media.

In a Thursday press release, Liberty Counsel claimed many outlets “have falsely reported that Liberty Counsel is opposed to banning lynching, or, opposes banning lynching of LGBTQ people.” It called those allegations “false, reckless, and offensive” and claimed they were pushed by “those with a political axe to grind.”

“No one can or should oppose a bill that bans lynching.” Staver stated. “We oppose lynching across the board for any person. Period!”

Staver then attempted to clarify his earlier remarks. As he now claims, he does not specifically want LGBTQ people cut out of the law. He merely believes that enumerating a “list of protected categories” would weaken the legislation by limiting the application of the law.

“Lynching should be prohibited no matter the person’s reason for committing this violent crime,” he concluded.

At the risk of editorializing, that assertion makes no sense and is flatly untrue. The legislation merely recognizes that the vast majority of lynching victims are members of marginalized groups. The NAACP notes that between the years of 1882-1968, 73 percent of the 4,743 people who died as a result of lynching were black.

As hate crimes have surged in the U.S. in recent years, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community have been among the groups most targeted for violence. In 2016, LGBTQ people accounted for 17.5 percent of hate crimes.

Nonetheless, Liberty Counsel accused journalists of pushing “unrelated political agendas by hijacking a serious issue.”

“False reporting endangers lives,” it said.

The lobby group further claimed the fake news campaign against it had led to “death threats” against its employees. Liberty Counsel allegedly received an angry message saying, “All LC leaders must die.”

The individual’s “identity is being traced,” the organization claimed.

Liberty Counsel first gained infamy after defending Rowan County, Ky. clerk Kim Davis for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The law firm—which believes LGBTQ advocacy is satanic, fascist, and pro-pedohilia—has fought against banning conversion therapy and opposed Planet Fitness’ trans-inclusive locker room policy.

Image via Getty

The Weeknd’s New Song is Not Sexy, It’s Boring and Biphobic

Can you believe that in 2019 we still have to deal with the same stale bi- and lesbophobia? 

The Weeknd’s new song “Lost in the Fire” not only sounds like most of his other songs post-“Starboy,” but also puts its listener through an annoying and tired narrative. In the first verse, he’s singing about being sad and alone (again!), but in the second, he starts to opine about a woman who is interested in women, before promising to “fuck her straight.”

The entire stanza is as follows:

You said you might be into girls

Said you going through a phase

Keeping your heart safe

Well, baby, you can bring a friend

She can ride on top your face

While I fuck you straight

Let’s just clarify something here, Mr. Weeknd: No one can be fucked straight. I don’t care how big or powerful you think your dick is, it’s just impossible. Queer women are queer, whether they identify as a lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or sexually fluid. No amount of your D will fuck up her life into thinking she’s strictly dickly from now on. Should she somehow fall for you, she would not be “straight.” There’s not a switch in our G-spot (should you be able to find it).

Secondly, this shit has been done over and over again. Rappers, in particular, have enjoyed this idea of turning lesbians. A few choice examples:

I take a dyke chick if she like dick I kissed the dyke chick and I liked it Fucking each and every Katy Perry for the night bitch, light this.” A$AP ROCKY
 
I be fuckin’ broads like I be fuckin’ bored/Turn a dyke bitch out, have her fuckin’ boys; beast.” A$AP ROCKY – repeat offender!
 
Girls kissin’ girls, cause it’s hot right? But unless they use a strap-on then they not dykes/ They ain’t about that life, they ain’t about that life.” KANYE WEST – another repeat offender!
 
Black girls say they like girls, say they dyke girls/ Type girls lose their boyfriends to them white girls.” JOEY PURP
 
It’s not just rap, of course — misogyny and homophobia knows no genre — but this brand of braggadocio has been the most consistent there.
 
And yet in 2019, we’re still singing the same old songs about queer women as conquests. As if those same ideas don’t connect to the corrective rapes happening in places like South Africa, or the hate crimes taking place in America as well as the rest of the world. The idea that a queer woman’s sexuality can be changed or fixed is the same faulty, fictitious narrative laid out by those who believe in conversion therapy, which, if you didn’t learn in 20Gayteen, STILL DOESN’T WORK. As if we can’t be trusted to know ourselves and our own bodies.
 
When #MeToo started to go viral and Cara Delevingne spoke out about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual advance on her and how homophobic it was, I wrote about my own experience with a rapper who attempted to challenge my identity, chastising me and my relationship with my partner, and eventually cornering me and forcing me to look at his dick.
 
Reader, I am still gay.
 
That dick was not enticing nor life-changing. In fact, it made me gayer. I was so repulsed by this man thinking he had the magic dick — and, for the record, I am not at all dickphobic — it’s all about the person behind the appendage, and the ones who think their dick is magic are delusional and not great role models. His  Louis C.K. act did not convince me to be something other than what I am because cis dudes, despite the power dynamics they so often utilize to their sexual benefit, do not have this magic ability they’ve convinced themselves they have. And furthermore, if a woman wants to have a threesome with you, it won’t be because you are giving her permission and then dictating how it’s all going to go down. Unless you’re coercing her, which, if you haven’t heard, is not fucking cool. 
 
Frustratingly, media outlets and Twitter are paying attention to “Lost in the Fire,” sussing out clues about ex-girlfriends or Drake disses. We’ve become so used to hearing “dyke” tossed around and boasts about girl-on-girl for the sole pleasure of a dude that perhaps it seems like old news, or something easily swatted away as tongue-in-cheek or some kind of funny song fodder. But compared with how little mainstream representation we have of songs by queer women about queer women, the prevailing storytelling done in popular songs that get major radio play dictates how our sexual identities are framed in the larger picture. Yes, we have Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani and King Princess and more visibility than we’ve had ever before, but The Weeknd’s reach is massive, not solely because of his artistry but because of the women that he’s been connected to romantically.
 
The way popular music frames sexuality is often problematic because it insists women’s queerness is so fleeting. The Weeknd literally calls it “a phase”; exactly the kind of language lesbian and bi women have been trying to do away with since, like, Sappho. Men just can’t stand that women don’t want them, and songs like this just prove as much. I’m honestly surprised he wasn’t added to the mix of Rita Ora’s “Girls.”
 
Queer women have to endure a special blend of homophobia and misogyny that seeks to invalidate us in the name of keeping a man from feeling emasculated, and as a card-carrying member of Lesbian Club, I can say that these kinds of bi and lesbophobic song lyrics are embarrassing — not just for us, but for you Weeknd. For you, ASAP Rocky and Kanye and Eminem and anyone else who needs to use our identities in order to feel better about their manhood. That is pretty much the exact opposite of our collective job, which is to make sure women are treated with love and respect and to actually have orgasms. 
 
And just in case The Weeknd says, “This was based on a real woman! She said those things!” I have a message for that woman, who believes dating another woman wouldn’t and couldn’t end in heartbreak: You’re probably straight.

More LGBTQ Chechens Detained Amid Fears of Another Anti-Gay Purge

Arrests of LGBTQ people in Chechnya have reportedly surged amid fears authorities are launching another campaign targeting queer and trans people.

Advocacy groups have witnessed a concerning “spike in detentions of men and women suspected of being gay,” as activist Igor Kochetkov told the Associated Press. Kochetkov, head of the Russian LGBT Network, did not cite specific numbers.

The report arrived just hours after a warning to Chechnya’s LGBTQ community was posted on the social network Vkontakte.

“We ask anyone still free to take this message seriously and leave the republic as soon as is possible,” the bulletin reads. “I ask you to turn to human rights activists, the media, [and] friends who can help you.”

The message includes an email contact for the Russian LGBT Network and the number to its hotline.

Little is known about the arrests. As the Independent reports, the surge in detentions may have resulted from “contacts of LGBTQ Chechens [finding] their way into the hands of the authorities.”

The Russian LGBT Network is expected to provide more information in a Monday report.

More than 100 people were arrested in 2017 after Chechen police reportedly began imprisoning and torturing suspected LGBTQ individuals. Maxim Lapunov, a survivor of the purge, claimed his jailers would flog him until he could no longer stand. When he collapsed from the pain, they would stand him back up and keep beating him.

At least three people have died as a result. This tally is believed to include Zelim Bakaev, a gay singer who disappeared while visiting the southern Russian republic.

Chechen leaders have continued to deny a crackdown is taking place, even after the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) released a report in December claiming “indisputable” evidence of human rights abuses.

A spokesperson for Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov told the Russian news network RBK TV the new claims are “untruth and misinformation.”

“In the Chechen Republic, there are no prisons and places of detention,” said Alvi Karimov, who has previously said Chechen men “have only one orientation and the country’s highest birth rate speaks of its effectiveness.”

Kadyrov has dismissed the reports as “provocation.”

Image via Getty

‘Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club’ is a Mess, and I’m Not Sure It’s in a Good Way

Lindsay Lohan isn’t a regular boss — she’s a cool boss.

In her new MTV reality show, Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club, we see the former child star in a novel role: reformed messy celebrity-turned-business owner. Beach Club tells the story of Lohan and her horny new brand ambassadors recruited from all over the United States to come work at her beach club in Mykonos — the very same beach club where Lohan was filmed doing her strange dance a few months ago.

The cast members all sleep in the same place, some sharing rooms, in the style of MTV’s reality show classic, The Real World. Before I watched the pilot, I accidentally watched a promotional episode that showed brief vignettes to introduce us to Lohan’s new employees. If I hadn’t, I would have absolutely no idea what makes any of these people distinct, because besides one of them having blue hair, they’re virtually all the same. They’re all used to working in nightlife as promoters and bartenders, and now they’re traveling to Mykonos together.

The first episode of Beach Club basically follows the brand ambassadors on their first couple of days in Mykonos, meeting Lohan and training for their first day of work. All of the ambassadors are straight aside from Mike, who is the hunky bisexual from New Jersey. I sense that we’ll get one experimental kiss between Mike and another castmate by the end of season two.

On the first night, we watch the brand ambassadors enjoying dinner at the table before undressing and jumping in the pool for some flirty tension. But then — surprise: Lindsay shows up at their residence to meet them for the first time. Perfectly natural for your boss to show up at your house at night for a surprise visit after you and your coworkers get hammered. Not at all produced. In this scene, Lohan expresses some doubts about how serious some of her new ambassadors are, but really it’s just badly-manufactured tension.

Throughout the entire pilot, the producers frame Lindsay both as a reformed mess and also as an authority figure — and that’s a weird balance to try and strike. While an unannounced visit is something that might happen on a more competitive show like America’s Next Top Model or The Bachelor, that is not what Beach Club is supposed to be. It’s moments like this that make it extra hard to find Lohan convincing as a boss.

BILBAO, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 04:  Lindsay Lohan poses at the MTV EMAs 2018 studio at Bilbao Exhibition Centre on November 4, 2018 in Bilbao, Spain.  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/MTV 2018/Getty Images for MTV)
Reformed mess Lindsay Lohan hawking for the brand.

The first day follows one brand ambassador in particular. Brent, the resident douche of the cast, is put in charge of managing the pool’s VIP cabana area while everyone else is… off doing other work things? It’s unclear and the show doesn’t really care. A lot of the episode revolves around the flirty relationship between him and the female VIP client — they go swimming together, into dressing rooms together, they kiss. This later comes up when another ambassador, Jonitta, points out that if she were doing anything that Brent was doing with a man, she would get attacked for it, and she’s annoyed at the double standard. That is pretty much the main drama for this episode.

And that’s kind of the problem. Aside from Lindsay, we don’t know these people and none of them know each other, so it’s hard to understand what the stakes are. In contrast, there are many reasons why Vanderpump Rules works as a show centered around Lisa Vanderpump’s employees. First, the cast members all knew each other before the show started. In fact, according to a profile in Vogue, Lisa Vanderpump pitched the show with “an outrageous diagram of hookups, breakups, cheating, and fights between her servers, bartenders, and bussers, all of whom, as in Los Angeles restaurants at large, were very good looking.” The point of the show is that the story was already baked-in, and the audience is just along for the ride. Plus, the heart of the show comes pretty naturally because Lisa Vanderpump herself fits very nicely in the role of omnipotent ruler. She’s believable as an authority figure and as a boss, which is super important for a show centered around a workplace and its ensuing staff drama

One of the better scenes of the Beach Club pilot is when Lindsay is comforting May, another new ambassador, who is feeling overwhelmed on her first day. It’s the one time in this episode Lindsay seems convincing as a boss. Then, just a couple scenes later, Lindsay is trying to tell Gabi, one of the other castmates, that May is feeling down — and asks Gabi to check in on how May is feeling. The problem is, Lindsay literally doesn’t remember May’s name. She keeps describing her as “one of the other ambassadors,” and all the heart that they put into their tender moment kind of goes away.

These scenes serve as a nice summary of what Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club feels like so far. The premise, the cast, the Lindsay, all of them feel too removed from each other. I’m not asking for authenticity in my reality television, but I would appreciate an attempt at believability.

One of the Only Federal Laws That Protects LGBTQ People Expired in the Shutdown

The U.S. is three weeks into what is about to become the longest federal government shutdown in history, and a whole lot of people are angry. Caused by the congressional impasse over President Trump’s insistence on getting millions of dollars to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, the shutdown has forced roughly 800,000 workers to go without pay since before Christmas.

Over a thousand of those workers have turned to GoFundMe to raise money for rent and food, two federal employee unions have filed lawsuits demanding pay, and government workers protested outside the White House today, yelling: “Pay the workers, furlough Trump.”

But amid all the chaos — and there is chaos, with food safety inspections going unperformed, people destroying unsupervised national parks, and TSA officers quitting en masse — there’s also an important federal law that quietly expired about two weeks ago. And that law is one of the only federal laws that explicitly includes LGBTQ people in nationwide protections.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows federal funds to be distributed to programs that work to end sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and harassment. Despite the name, it applies to people of all genders, and when it was reauthorized in 2013, a nondiscrimination clause included sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2018, $553 million was appropriated for VAWA programs, a massive amount of money that funds things like domestic violence shelters, rape crisis groups, campus programs, emergency housing, and other programs.

But the Violence Against Women Act was set to expire in December unless Congress voted to reauthorize it — and the federal government shut down just before that could happen.

“This is important for LGBTQ people in part because VAWA is one of the few federal laws with SOGI nondiscrimination protections written into the law explicitly, and that recognizes LGBTQ people as an underserved population,” said Lambda Legal’s law and policy director Jennifer Pizer in an email to INTO on Wednesday. “These aspects of VAWA represent important breakthroughs in federal lawmaking.”

But Pizer stressed that inclusion isn’t the only reason the law should matter greatly to LGBTQ people. VAWA is especially important for queer and trans people because they  are so often victims of violence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in three women and one in six men experience sexual assault within their lifetimes. But those numbers are even higher for some segments of the LGBTQ community; studies have shown that around half of all bisexual women and transgender people say they’ve been sexually assaulted.

Lesbian and bisexual women are particularly vulnerable to intimate partner violence, according to a 2017 report by the National Center for Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) — with lesbians being five times more likely to report violence at the hands of a current partner. More than 60 percent of bisexual women reported violence at the hands of a current or former intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

The response of law enforcement is crucial to the safety of survivors. But nearly half of all LGBTQ survivors of domestic violence surveyed for the NCAVP report said police were “indifferent” when they reported, showing the need for more education on the unique needs and experiences of queer and trans survivors of violence.

For trans women, the protections offered by VAWA are especially important in light of recent comments made by Department of Housing and Urban Development head Ben Carson, who in March said the agency would back away from LGBTQ-inclusive policies because cisgender women were not always comfortable sharing shelters with “somebody who had a very different anatomy.”

But according to the NCAVP report, transgender and bisexual women were two times more likely to experience violence or harassment at a domestic violence shelter.

“The programs and shelters funded by VAWA are crucial resources for transgender people of color, in particular, too many of whom are frequently the targets of violence, marginalization, and erasure by our society,” National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling told INTO. “The temporary expiration of VAWA is a betrayal of the some of the most vulnerable people in our country today, and yet another immoral price Americans are being forced to pay for this President’s reckless shutdown.”

The expiration of VAWA doesn’t mean programs all over the country have to close immediately. Many have already received and allocated their federal funding. But for those which depend on upcoming funds, the shutdown could mean a host of obstacles. And it’s not entirely clear which programs will be impacted first. According to a December Roll Call story published the day VAWA expired, most of the act’s funding is administered through two federal agencies: the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In September, Congress approved 2019 funding for HHS, meaning that most VAWA programs administered there will receive money allocated for this year only. But the Department of Justice is effectively inoperable during the shutdown and has not been funded for this year. In an ironic twist, Trump’s stubborn insistence on keeping the government from operating until Congress approves his border wall, which he says is needed to stave off a national security crisis at the border, has resulted in at least 5,000 FBI agents being furloughed — which the FBI Agents Association told The Atlantic this week is the real national security crisis.

On Friday, Congress voted to authorize some emergency funding to a handful of federal agencies despite the shutdown. But even that last-minute measure is unlikely to pass through the Republican-controlled Senate, especially because the agencies Congress asked to immediately fund are the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service — not exactly GOP priorities. And VAWA was not on the table at all today.

Lambda Legal’s Pizer recalled “distressingly overt anti-LGBTQ (and anti-immigrant) hostility from conservative Republicans” in 2013, as Congress battled over the most recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act with provisions added to protect those communities.

“But the fact that those callously ideological voices ultimately failed to block the bill is due to leaders of goodwill in both parties, all of whom deserve credit for caring about victims of violence and other terrible abuse,” said Pizer. “Those who are still in Congress should look in the mirror, reflect on those in fear and pain who need VAWA-supported help, and act immediately to reopen our federal government and reauthorize this essential statute.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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