A Comprehensive History of Problematic Lesbian Jokes In ‘Pitch Perfect’

Lez be honest: Pitch Perfect has always been problematic.

As a queer female fan of the franchise, I can’t help but feel disappointed by the offensive lesbian jokes that were laced throughout each Pitch Perfect movie. The three-quel hit theaters December 22 and tapped into all the nostalgia and lore of the previous films, which of course meant continuing to portray queer women as predatory outcasts. While it’s nice to see queer women of color represented at all, the films are totally tainted by the light in which Cynthia Rose, said token lesbian, is painted.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and the final chapter of Pitch Perfect followed the same insulting tropes.

Admittedly, the derogatory jokes in the third installment weren’t as pervasive as they were in the first and second films. In the original Pitch Perfect, Cynthia Rose, played by Ester Dean, is introduced during an audition when a character misgenders her. She reveals her pink hairdo, to which the character quips, “Oh, not a dude.”

Throughout the entire movie, Cynthia Rose being closeted is a running joke. The other girlsspecifically Fat Amy (played by Rebel Wilson)pick on her and make gay jokes until she comes out. After the aca-initiation ceremony, Fat Amy suggests that one of the 10 girls on the Barden Bellas is probably a lesbian, placing her bet on “Black Beauty.” From here on out, Fat Amy makes it her mission to out Cynthia Rose, and when Cynthia does finally come out, Fat Amy celebrates, “Whoomp, there it is,” like it was somehow a relief for Amy to know the truth.

The Bellas do nothing but make Cynthia Rose feel like a social pariah. At one point, before she comes out, the squad leader Aubrey actually outs her when she says, “No more wasting time on school or work or boyfriendsor partners. I’m sorry, Cynthia Rose.” Cynthia darts her head around in fear, feeling the eyes closing in on her.

As a queer woman, watching this play out is mortifying for multiple reasons. For one, an environment where queerness is made out to be gross and feared isn’t conducive to coming outit’s almost as if the Bellas cosplay as allies while silently making Cynthia feel unsafe. In real life, the effects of LGBTQ discrimination, as portrayed on-screen in Pitch Perfect, are real and can severely damage one’s mental health. Outing someone before they’re ready can lead to suicide.

Even without such grave effects, being the only queer woman in a group of straight women can sometimes be intimidating. We are raised to believe that homosexuality falls somewhere on the spectrum from wrong to uncommon, so at some point, queer people are forced to reckon with our own sense of internalized homophobia. With that being said, queer women typically act oppositely from Cynthia Rose; we’re so horrified at the thought of straight women viewing us as predatory that we shut down. We glance away when you’re changing, we set boundaries, and we don’t try to pressure our friends into doing something they don’t want to do. But in Pitch Perfect, being predatory is basically Cynthia’s sole personality trait.

In the first movie, she randomly gropes Stacie’s breasts during a group argument, to which Stacie snaps, “Get off of me,” and backs away from her in fear and disgust. Cynthia is always ogling Stacie or touching her without consent. In another scene, Fat Amy gets smacked in the face by a burrito and falls to the ground, and Cynthia Rose jumps on the opportunity to straddle Amy, hold her down, and try and force mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Amy, obviously uncomfortable, shoves her off and spits, “No need for that.”

In the second film, when the girls are all forced to sleep in a tent together, Cynthia Rose offers a creepy smirk and quips, “I hope the sun never comes up.” While in the dark, Staciewho at this point is a victim of serial sexual abusefearfully asks Cynthia if she’s touching her goodies, and Cynthia says she is. So, not only does Cynthia Rose make every straight woman in the group feel uncomfortable because of her aggressive behavior, but she’s also committing nonconsensual sexual acts. The scene is revoltingand as a queer woman, it made my heart sink, because it further reinforces a harmful (and untrue) stereotype about lesbians.

Sexual assault aside, Cynthia Rose is always checking out the other girls. In Pitch Perfect 2, we’re introduced to Hailee Steinfeld’s character Emily Junk, whose mother was a famed Bella. She shows up at the Bellas’ house to audition and the women almost slam the door in her face until she yells, “I’m a Junk!” Cynthia Rose jeers, “What’d you say about your junk?” and ushers Emily inside, checking her out along the way. In Pitch Perfect 3, Emily gets all dressed up for a night out and Cynthia can’t help but look her up and down in a sleazy, misogynistic way. Every time Cynthia is confronted with attraction to another girl, it’s portrayed in an icky light that makes the other womenand the audiencecringe.

Stepping away from our out lesbian character, all three movies share another queer throughline: flirting with the idea of a romance between Beca and Chloe, played by Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow, respectively. Chloe is always coquettish and aggressive with Beca, whether she’s getting into her shower with her, pulling her close to say they’re going to be very close friends, or wrapping her arms around her during training. However, Beca always resists in a way that reflects the general tone of the movie’s views toward lesbianism: it’s weird and wrong.

In the same problematic tent scene in Pitch Perfect 2, Chloe offers Beca a back rub and admits that she wishes she experimented more in college, and Beca says, “You’re so weird,” before turning away from her, uncomfortable again. The next movie follows suit: Chloe corners Beca to have an intense chat, and in doing so, gropes her chest and pushes her into a wall. Just then, the other Bellas approach and spot Beca and Chloe extremely close, with Chloe’s hands still on Beca’s breasts. Aubrey asks what they’re doing, and they both surreptitiously reply, “Nothing!” Like all the other queer moments in Pitch Perfect, girl-on-girl touching is displayed as secretive and the product of nonconsensual encounters.

But just because Beca and Chloe never actually happen doesn’t mean the studio can’t promote it as such. Last week, Universal Pictures tweeted out a “Bechloe” montage, including the boob-grab clip in Pitch Perfect 3, luring, “Will Bechloe ever happen?” This storyline has never been an integral part of the film and has always functioned as just a running joke, so Universal’s tweet was an unfair, blatant grab at baiting queer fans into seeing the movie, and queer women were hurt. What’s even stranger: Beca repeatedly denies Chloe’s advancesdespite her character’s own sexual confusion in Pitch Perfect 2.

Beca’s attraction to her opponent Kommissar, the leader of the German acapella group Das Sound Machine, is a major punch-line in the second movie. She repeatedly gets overwhelmed by her opponent’s perfect figure, and even blurts out that she’s feeling sexually confused during a confrontation with her. While the jokes Beca makes about questioning her own sexuality aren’t problematic, it’s arbitrarily placed and confusingly juxtaposed with the rest of the films’ POV on queerness.

At the end of Pitch Perfect 3, Chloe comes to terms with the inevitable; the Bellas as we know them must go their separate ways. Attempting a heartfelt message, she quips, “I am inside of all of you and it feels so good.” Like clockwork, all the women get totally skeeved out.

The Pitch Perfect franchise was disappointing, and queer women are almost never represented fairly in major studio comedies. But luckily, it has been done well before, so I have high hopes for the future of queer female comedies.

Here’s the Absurd Reason Trump Blames Jeff Sessions for Roy Moore’s Loss

Donald Trump is holding one person responsible for Roy Moore’s surprise defeat in Alabama: Jeff Sessions.

A president known for blaming advisors and members of his administration for his own missteps has allegedly begun pointing the finger at the Attorney General. An Associated Press report claims the president believes that if Sessions hadn’t left his seat in the Senate for the Justice Department, Moore wouldn’t have needed to run for election.

The Republican candidate was defeated by Democrat Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 runoff race to fill Sessions’ spot. Jones, who is set to become Alabama’s first Democratic Senator in more than two decades, won by 1.5 percentage points after trailing by as many as double-digits.

But the president seems to have forgotten something: He appointed Sessions to the post.

Sessions, an early supporter of the Trump campaign, was actually one of the very first Cabinet picks announced by the president’s nascent administration last November. The staunch conservative, who once tried to block a LGBTQ conference from being held at a public university, had even been floated as a potential running mate for Trump.

The Alabama politician even helped the Commander-in-Chief select his eventual choice, former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

The absurd attempt at scapegoating Sessions for doing the very thing Trump asked him to do is only the president’s latest attempt to deal with the fallout from this month’s elections, viewed as a referendum on his own presidency. Trump previously claimed that he predicted Moore would lose in a Dec. 18 tweet.

The notoriously anti-LGBTQ figure was defeated after nine women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct during his decades-long career in public life. One of his accusers was 14 years old at the time of their interaction.

He was beaten by a man who put away pedophiles for a living as a federal prosecutor, who happens to have a gay son.

This Choir Director Was Fired For Refusing To Stay In The Closet

After more than three years as the Children’s Choir Director of a North Carolina church, Ryan Mould was recently fired for coming out as gay to his pastor.

“[My sexuality] was not concealed from the church,” Mould recently told INTO. “I don’t introduce myself as ‘Ryan the gay person’, but it’s not a secret by any means.”

The now ex-choir director of Trinity United Methodist Church who began as a organ player and was quickly promoted to the role of director had never been one to exactly hide his identity while being a part of the church. He’d even brought one boyfriend to church service and on his social media where he was open about his life while friends with church leadership and member.

But when he pointed out during a meeting that the church needed to do better to create safe spaces for people like him, things took a turn for the worse and his identity was then used against him.

During a meeting last fall, Mould proposed to create a community based children’s choir that functioned as both outreach and a resource to children of families who weren’t able to attend church. As he explained the concept, Mould was asked why he hadn’t been baptized as a child.

“I told [the pastor] that through my teenage years and early time in college I felt there was a huge wall, because there are large barriers for gay people,” ”Mould said. ”And as a gay person, there were huge barriers between me and the church and I didn’t feel like it was a safe place.”

The admission of his sexuality confirmed to his pastor that Mould was not only a gay man but willing to living openly as one, too.

Two days later, the pastor called letting Mould know he had been praying about the conversation they had. He decided Mould’s admission of sexuality should be brought to the Staff Parish Relations Committee, a committee that acts as a human resource like group for the church and maintains the hiring and firing of church staff.

The pastor concluded that Mould was a spiritual leader of the church, and being a “self avowed, practicing homosexual” meant that he was ineligible to continue in his position. Staff Parish Relations Committee agreed with the decision, citing the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, and relieved Mould of his duties.

However, the passages of the Book of Discipline, which holds governing policies for The United Methodist Church, cites that “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” cannot be clergy. Mould, in his position as the Children’s Choir Director, was not ordained and was a lay person.

Meaning that the church misused policies to unfairly fire a man who was only trying to make his church more inclusive.

“We are deeply troubled by the actions taken against Ryan,” Jan Lawrence, Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ justice within the United Methodist Church said in a statement. “This is yet another painful example of why changing our denominational policies remains an urgent issue.”

“Until all discriminatory policies are eradicated, they run the risk of being manipulated and exaggerated, broadening their potential for harm as evidenced in this painful situation,” she continued.

A request for comment was made to the church, but no response was given at the time of reporting.

Many members of the congregation, especially parents of children who Mould directed in the children’s choir, were upset with the decision, he tells INTO. But despite pushback, Trinity Church held to their decision to let Mould go. “Many people at the church are my best friends. I always considered them ‘framily’ or friend family,” Mould said noting his blood family is in another state.

And it’s because of Mould’s church framily many of whom have stuck by him through the entire ordeal that he continues to go to Trinity United Methodist Church every week even after being fired.

Sitting with the church family that loves and supports him and passes out rainbow cross pins as the pastor who tried to erase him continues to preach.

But How Gay is ‘The Post’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is The Post?

Steven Spielberg read a spec script by a relatively unknown writer named Liz Hannah about The Washington Post’s decision-making in printing the Pentagon Papers. He loved it, and brought on Spotlight scribe Josh Singer to help mold the script into its final form. He cast Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and a coterie of your favorite TV actors as the ensemble. And he got it out just in time for Christmas.

That is The Post, an utter delight and thrill that makes you care deeply about a publishing decision.

Who’s in it?

Streep plays Kay Graham, the publisher of the Post at the time. Hanks is Ben Bradlee, the paper’s editor. Filling out the newsroom and executive board are beloved TV actors like Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), and more. There’s even a couple of theater vets in there: Tracy Letts as one of Kay’s closest advisors, and Jessie Mueller as a style section writer.

Most important of all for our little queer hearts, Sarah Paulson plays Bradlee’s wife, Tony. She’s mostly a side presence, but gets one meaty monologue that radically changes the movie from being a workmanlike bit of historical recreation to something quite feminist and powerful.

Why should I see it?

It’s really terrific. I know that’s not always the end-all, be-all different people have different tastes but it’s nice to see something that’s just so clearly a home run happening in front of your eyes. I’ve seen The Post twice now, once at a screening, and once on a DVD screener copy. It plays equally well on a big screen and on a TV. That’s some well-built, well-oiled cinema.

But I’d also say The Post is vital viewing in Trump’s America. At a time when the press is under attack sometimes literal, physical attack in the United States, seeing this critical moment in journalistic history is arguably necessary viewing. This is the moment when editors and writers learned being friendly with power was directly contradictory to their mission, and thus redoubled their efforts to hold politicians accountable. Spielberg crafts the whole story with love and admiration for journalism; it’s pretty easy to fall under his spell.

But how gay is it?

Oh, it’s totally not.

I mean, sure, Paulson’s presence is wonderful, but there’s no gay content here. Relationships don’t come up much at all, besides Tony Bradlee being a supporting player and Kay Graham talking a lot about her late husband. This is about the work, and it’s to the movie’s credit that it stays so laser-focused.

That said, the movie is remarkably feminist, particularly from a director like Spielberg who infrequently makes movies about women. (The Color Purple remains a landmark, if dated, line on his résumé.) So any queer fans looking to get inspired by Streep taking the reins as the men around her shout her down and discount her opinions will be well-served.

I keep hearing something about a gold caftan?

Oh shit, I can’t believe I almost forgot the caftan! The caftan almost makes The Post gay. That’s how good this fucking caftan is. Streep’s biggest scenes and she gets two pretty amazing scenes, full of the kind of skillful acting Streep’s biggest fans will recognize from her best work take place in this caftan. It is gold, it flows, and it’s exactly the kind of thing you’d imagine Kay Graham would wear. It is spectacular.

Does the tonal shift to being a feminist movie in the last act feel forced at all?

You know, I’d be lying if I said no. There’s a clear moment where you can tell Liz Hannah’s voice takes over in the script. Before, a lot of it feels Spotlight-esque, no doubt in large part thanks to Josh Singer’s involvement. But when Streep and Paulson take over? There are probably half a dozen scenes that so persuasively and memorably argue for why Kay Graham’s identity as a woman was so important to this moment in history, you’ll be hard-pressed not to cry.

Will Streep be Oscar-nominated for this, thus extending her acting nod record to 21 nominations?

You bet your ass she will.

The Post is in select theaters now.

‘Forgotten Entirely’: How This Chicago Organization Is Fighting For Queer Muslims In Prison

Mia Martinez feels like a phoenix about to be reborn from the ashes.

Speaking over the phone from a facility near Chicago, Martinez chronicled her journey that begins in 1995 as a cisgender man entering prison, becoming a Muslim, discovering her gender identity, transitioning from male to female and now looking at an upcoming release date.

“I spent many years here confused and angry,” Martinez told INTO in a recent interview as she prepared herself for freedom. And what’s making this even sweeter is that when released in early 2018, she will walk into the arms of her communityone that she didn’t know before she found herself.

Thanks to the work of a small number of volunteers for Masjid al-Rabia, a women-centered, LGBTQIA affirming mosque in Chicago that organized in 2016 after the Pulse nightclub shooting, support for people like Martinez has been able to transcend any prison walls.

Through their tireless work, they’ve been able to create lifeline to incarcerated LGBTQIA Muslims folks like Martinez who are often isolated from their spiritual communities in prison because of their sexual orientation or gender identity has been created.

“For me, it’s been clear that this is a part of our community that’s at risk of being forgotten entirely,” said Mahdia Lynn, the director of Masjid al-Rabia.

In its first year, Masjid al-Rabia launched a program to connect with incarcerated LGBTQIA Muslims. Partnering with Black and Pink, an organization that broadly supports incarcerated LGBTQIA people, Lynn and Masjid al-Rabia put out a call for interested community members to send letters to the mosque’s P.O. box in Chicago. That was in May 2017.

“I remember, the key kind of stuck,” Lynn recalled when she went to open the mosque’s mailbox after sending out the nationwide call for letters. “And it opened, and it was stuffed, bottom to top [with letters], and compressed. It was exciting and horrifying. And the next week, it was the same.”

In a matter of months, more than 400 incarcerated peoplewho presumably identify as LGBTQIA and Muslimhave sent letters to Masjid al-Rabia, looking for one simple thing: to know that they’re not alone. The mosque has responded by organizing a penpal campaign in more than a dozen cities. They’ve named the program the Black and Pink Crescent.

“It’s affirming to know that these two identities can exist together,” said Cruz June Rodriguez, who is part of Masjid al-Rabia’s leadership team. “You can be LGBTQIA and religious.”

“It’s not a unidirectional program,” Lynn said. “[The volunteers] are overwhelmingly LGBTQIA Muslims, who are on the free side of this equation. It is in service to one part of our community, but it involves the entire community.”

Rodriguez reflected on his own experience as a queer Muslim, recalling moments like breaking his fast during Ramadan alone. Now, as part of Masjid al-Rabia’s work, he helps send Ramadan care packages to incarcerated LGBTQIA Muslims across the country.

“It’s kind of like we’re breaking fast with them,” Rodriguez said. “Even if we’re all celebrating alone, we’re celebrating together.”

“For me, it’s been clear that this is a part of our community that’s at risk of being forgotten entirely.”

But it’s not just celebration but most importantly it’s a form of acceptance that many have never experienced before.

“This is the first time they’re talking to someone who will not shame themjust for someone to hear them and be able to relate a little bit,” he continued. “ It reminds me of when I felt validated as a queer Muslim, and how amazing that was.”

And for Rodriguez this in-turn allows these incarcerated folks to feel at ‘home’ in themselves for potentially the first time.

“What they’ve managed to do is give people who don’t feel accepted,” Martinez said about Rodriguez and Lynn, “they’ve given them a place in their hearts and minds to say, ‘I’m at home right now.’ As a Muslim, I’ve probably felt the most acceptance [now] than I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

A look at the other hundreds of letters reveals similar stories from prisons across the country. Those who have written the mosque tell of being excluded from Muslim communities in prison for their sexual orientation or gender identity”banished,” one letter said. The letters represent a cross-section of the LGBTQIA community and come from people of all ages and backgrounds.

“It’s been very much a blessing, these first couple months,” Lynn said about the rapid growth of the pen pal program. “It was small enough that it could just be me, then suddenly we were getting lots of letters each month. It was sink or swim for a while. Everything we’ve done is completely unplanned and completely learn by doing, and we’ve gotten good at it.”

As for Mia Martinez, she hopes to join the ranks of Masjid al-Rabia’s volunteers as soon as she’s released from prison, likely in early 2018.

“I’m going to spend some time with Mahdia and the gang and see what I can do in the community,” Martinez said after reflecting on her journey from and how this organization has not only saved her, but changed her for the better.

“It’s been my platform in recent years to try and help other people avoid some of the pitfalls that I fell into [and] showing them there’s a better way.”

Madonna’s Estranged Gay Brother Welcomed Home for the Holidays

Madonna may have built her career on appealing to the gay masses of pop music fans. But you might not know that she has a gay brother of her own. That’s because the siblings have been estranged over the last 10 years.

In the past, Anthony Ciccone has been open about his homelessness. It’s believed that he was living on the streets of Michigan until recently. Although his sister paid for him to go to rehab in 2005, addiction has caused a rift in their relationship. In 2008, he wrote about their feud in Life with My Sister Madonna.

“I never loved her in the first place, she never loved me,” he told Daily Mail in 2011. “We never loved each other I’m a zero in their eyes – a non-person. I’m an embarrassment. If I froze to death, my family probably wouldn’t know or care about it for six months.”

Luckily, that wasn’t the case this winter. According to the Sunday People, Ciccone was recently welcomed back home with his family, just in time for the holidays. Madonna’s other brother, Christopher confirmed that Anthony was back home and recovering.

Ciccone had recently finished treatment at Dann’s House in Traverse, Michigan. The unconventional rehab center allows attendees to drink alcohol if they want.

“Anthony loved it at Dann’s House for quite a while, and made significant improvements in his life while he was with us,” Karen McCarthy of Dann’s House said. “Dann’s House does good work with people who are vulnerable. We’ve seen tremendous, positive results.”

Luckily, this story of a gay man’s addiction comes with a happy ending. As the new year approaches, let’s hope the best for Ciccone and his relationship with his sister. It helps to have a strong support system, but it’s a plus if she’s a strong icon like Madonna.

This Thai Lip Balm Commercial Feature Our New Favorite On-Screen Queer Couple

Although TV has made huge leaps in terms of queer representation, it still has a long way to go. Move over Darryl and White Josh, step aside Nomi and Amanita, watch your backs Connor and Oliver, there’s a new TV couple in town, and we did not see this one coming. The last place we thought we’d be shipping our favorite gay onscreen couple was a Thai lip balm commercial.

Much more progressive in terms of queer rights and representation than some of its neighboring countries, Thailand has experienced a boom in queer media. BL (boys love) is a popular sub-genre in Thai Media that focuses on gay relationships and homoeroticism. The dramatic new ad from KA Lip Care parodies the popular BL movement with its short and steamy plot.

The ad starts with one boy confronting another over making his sister cry. The young heartbreaker responds to his accuser, saying, “I told her to forget about me. ‘I don’t think of you like that.’ I prefer your elder brother.”

He then applies some of his lip balm to his young admirer’s older brother and the object of his own affection. “Don’t forget to use it regularly, so you’ll know how my lips feel like,” he says over his shoulder to the stunned and apparently infatuated young man.

The commercial ends with a group of teenage Thai girls, watching along and swooning over the intense gay exchange. That pretty much sums up our reactions, as well as other viewers. Many are asking for a sequel to the 30-minute commercial, and some are even requesting a full-length TV series or movie devoted to this blossoming romance. We’d watch!

Watch the commercial for KA Lip Care and its hot same-sex Thai teen romance below:

Jodie Whittaker Makes Herstory as First Female ‘Doctor Who’

For generations, Doctor Who has brought out the Whovian geekdom of UK fans, and subsequently those across the world.

Since 1963, the show has followed the adventures of a centuries-old Time Lord who goes only by the Doctor, as he travels space and time in his blue police box-disguised TARDIS (time and relative dimensions in space) with his many companions. Over the years, he’s regenerated numerous times, allowing new actors to step into the role, continuing the tradition with the modern interpretation of the show that premiered in 2005.

Although his companions throughout the series have steadily maintained a diverse representation (including Bill Potts, the recent queer female companion of color, portrayed by Pearl Mackie), all 12 Doctors throughout the series has been played by men. That all changed during the recent Christmas special, when the first female Doctor was introduced.

After rumors of Tilda Swinton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge being cast, Jodie Whittaker was announced for the role a few months ago. This came after Bill suggested the Doctor regenerate as a woman during the season 10 finale.

“I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender,” Whittaker told the BBC. “This is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change.

“It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be,” she continued.

“It feels incredible.”

Although the Christmas special was Whittaker’s first episode as the 13th Doctor and first female Doctor, it was also Mackie’s last episode as the Doctor’s companion. So unfortunately, we won’t likely see the Doctor in a queer relationship any time soon. Too bad, because we were really shipping them.

But never forget, this isn’t exactly the first female Doctor. Joanna Lumley of Absolutely Fabulous fame appeared as the Doctor in a skit for Red Nose Day 2007:

Watch the clip from the Christmas special below, in which Jodie Whittaker makes her debut as the first female Doctor:

Catholic Archbishop Compares Gays to Murderers While Defending Ghana Laws Criminalizing Homosexuality

A Ghanaian archbishop has stirred up controversy in the African country after comparing LGBTQ people to murderers in a recent interview.

Rev. Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle spoke out this week in support of President Nana Akufo-Addo, who told Al-Jazeera in November that Ghana is not ready to decriminalize homosexuality. Palmer-Buckle said the backlash to Akufo-Addo’s comments misinterpreted the intent of his statement.

“The president is not God,” he told Ghana’s Joy News in an interview published on Monday. “He cannot say that Ghana will never accept it. He said culturally, it is not an issue that Ghanaians will accept.”

“I don’t think people listened very carefully to the president before they jumped to a conclusion,” he continued.

The Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, described as a major force in the nation’s political life, added that his religion believes LGBTQ people are equal under God, “just like the murderer and heterosexual.”

Homosexuality is currently illegal in Ghana under Chapter 6 of the Criminal Code. The 1960 law, a vestige of British colonial rule, prohibits “unnatural carnal knowledge” as a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to three years in prison. The criminal codes are vaguer on the subject of lesbianism, as the law defines “carnal knowledge” as penetration.

Under this law, gay men are arrested, brutalized, and even publicly shamed.

Two men were outed on social media in March after they were discovered having sex in an Accra hotel room. Photos captured by a security camera were posted on Facebook after their arrest by by Kaneshie Police.

President Akufo-Addo told Al-Jazeera last month that the harsh treatment of LGBTQ people won’t be changing anytime soon.

“At the moment, I don’t feel and I don’t see that in Ghana there is that strong current of opinion that is saying that this is something that we need even deal with,” he claims in the much-discussed interview. “It is not so far a matter which is on the agenda.”

But the president believes that pro-LGBTQ reforms are “bound to happen” in Ghana, citing the recent wave of progress in nations around the world. Even despite a brutal backlash against queer and trans people in countries like Russia, Azerbaijan, and Egypt, at least 13 countries or regional governments moved to legalize same-sex marriage in 2017.

Akufo-Addo says that Ghana just isn’t there yet.

He compares the country to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, a time in which LGBTQ rights weren’t on most of the country’s radar. The leader, who briefly studied at Oxford in the early 60s, says the growing movement for equality in the decades since his schooldays “forced a change in [the] law.” The U.K. ratified marriage equality in 2013.

“I believe that those are the same processes,” Akufo-Addo claims.

For now, Ghana has a lot of work to do if the country hopes to catch up with more progressive neighbors like Botswana, where a court ruled in October that a transgender man had the legal right to be recognized as male.

Just three percent of Ghanaians claimed in a 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center that society should accept homosexuality. A sign discovered at the Accra International Airport in 2010 warned “pedophiles and other sexual deviants” not to enter the country, citing its “extremely harsh penalties on such aberrant behavior.”

“If you are in Ghana for such activity, then for everybody’s good, including your own, we suggest you go elsewhere,” the sign read.

George Michael’s Family Pays Tribute on First Anniversary of His Death

Last year’s holiday season was tinged with sadness as several cultural icons died in a span of few days. Just days before Carrie Fisher and mother, Debbie Reynolds passed away consecutively, gay pop music icon George Michael died on Christmas day. 53 years old, Michael died of natural causes.

The days, weeks, and months following were filled with celebration of the musician’s life. Not only his timeless repertoire of hit music, but his fierce representation as a sex-positive queer man in the face of discrimination was fondly remembered after his passing.

This year, while we were all celebrating the holidays and listening to “Last Christmas” in all its original ‘80s Wham! glory, we were also literally remembering last Christmas and Michael’s unending legacy. On the one-year anniversary of his death, his family posted to his website with a beautiful tribute note:

“This year has been a series of new and tough challenges for those of us close and loyal to Yog, not least of which was steeling ourselves this month, to hear ‘Last Christmas’ and ‘December Song’ streaming out of shops, cars, and radios, as it has done for decades, knowing he’s no longer here with us, missing him.

This Christmas will be hard without him, but we know that we are not alone in our mourning the anniversary of his loss, and that the sadness of our wider family, and true friends, is shared by many of you

Yog, who loved Christmas, and always hoped it would snow would want each of you that admired and loved him, (yeshe knows you did!!) to take a moment, raise a glass, enjoy his music and think of him fondly, making sure to enjoy your time with, and appreciate your family and friends.”

They also thanked his fans for listening to Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, making it number one on the UK albums chart. The album was re-released in October, as was a documentary about his life, entitled Freedom.