Russia Bars Prominent LGBTQ Rights Supporter From Running For President

A leading supporter of LGBTQ rights in Russia has been banned from running against Vladimir Putin in next year’s presidential elections.

Officials with the Kremlin announced on Dec. 25 that opposition leader Alexei Navalny would not be allowed to campaign against Putin, who has held power off and on for close to two decades. The government decides who is permitted to run against the Russian president in the intermittent elections, which were last held in 2012. Putin was re-elected with more than 63 percent of the vote.

The Kremlin has declared the 40-year-old ineligible to challenge the incumbent in the 2018 race due to charges of embezzlement from four years ago, a conviction which The Economist has described as “trumped up.” The AP calls the sentence “political retribution.”

Navalny could have joined the race with special permission from federal authorities, but that was denied.

The attorney-turned-presidential-hopeful has previously been arrested several times for protesting the Putin regime, which has branded itself as the only option for the Russian people by extinguishing dissent. At a rally earlier this year, Navalny told supporters that their “biggest enemy” is neither the president nor a government powered by corruption: It’s “the belief that we cannot change anything.”

Navalny, who might be considered a libertarian in the U.S., has campaigned on modernizing Russia’s autocratic rule. Among those reforms is a major push for LGBTQ rights in a nation viewed as unfriendly toward queer and transgender people.

A major tenet of his campaign platform is the repeal of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, which was passed by the Duma with near unanimity in 2013. That legislation bans the spread of any information viewed as promoting “nontraditional sexual relationships” to minors. In truth, the four-year-old law has squashed LGBTQ life in the Eurasian country, while causing hate crimes against queer and trans individuals to double.

An HIV/AIDS advocate, Evdokia Romanova, was fined earlier this year for posting news articles about LGBTQ rights on Facebook.

Navalny has called the anti-gay propaganda law “pointless.”

“[The law] does not lead to anything, except that it puts people in jail for likes on social networks,” he told RBC in December of last year, an interview which has been translated from the original Russian. “There is no such thing as gay propaganda. It was invented in order to find some kind of enemy distracting society from problems.”

The dissident, who supports marriage equality, has also said he would put the legalization of same-sex unions to a public votesimilar to Australia’s controversial 2017 referendum.

The Kremlin has used Navalny’s LGBTQ rights advocacy in attack campaigns smearing his embattled bid for the presidency. Fake posters for his campaign hung in the Southeastern town of Khabarovsk claimed that Navalny favors “gay parades instead of victory parades,” as The Economist reports.

While the opposition leader supports LGBTQ equality, Putin has yet to condemn the forced detainment of more than 100 people in his own country following Chechnya’s anti-gay purge.

At least four people have been killed as a result.

The upcoming presidential elections will be held on March 18, 2018.

Iconic: Two Straight Men Marry to Avoid Inheritance Tax

Heterosexual men have learned how to scam and we applaud it.

Two straight best friends Matt Murphy and Michael O’Sullivan married in Dublin earlier this week in order to avoid an inheritance tax equal to about $59,000.

According to the Irish Mirror, Murphy, 83, wanted to leave his home to O’Sullivan, 58, in his will. O’Sullivan is Murphy’s caretaker and the two have lived together for almost 30 years. However, Murphy realized that the tax bill that O’Sullivan would have to pay after he died would mean he’d end up losing the house.

“The equality gay and lesbian people did for this country, that they fought hard for, they were discriminated against for most of their lives, they got equality for themselves but also for everybody else,” O’Sullivan told the Mirror.

Murphy described O’Sullivan as his best friend: “I would have loved to have had a brother or sister.”

He added, “He’s always so concerned about me. He’s my best friend.”

Here’s to (legally) scamming your way to a house!


Here Are The Resolutions You’ll Probably Break

January is almost here, which means another new year. It’s as inevitable as spilling something on your favorite white shirt or encountering alt-right trolls in the comment section of a Facebook page intended for teen girls. And just as with every new year, you’ll spend the hours leading up to it frantically trying to find someone to kiss at midnight, likely ending up watching the ball drop on TV, and drafting the typical list of new year resolutions.

They’re usually the same every year. And although you mean well by attempting to improve yourself, it’s just inevitable that you probably won’t end up holding yourself to your own promises. Whether it’s the gym getting too crowded or that cigarette you so desperately need or just the sheer lack of willpower, you’ll lose that beginning-of-the-year momentum and fall back into your usual routine. But it’s cool, because you were awesome to begin with.

So, when you’re making this year’s resolutions, just remember that you’ll probably end up breaking these. But no worries, we have some alternate options for resolutions you can make instead.

Break It: Lose Weight

It’s like the Beyoncé of the Destiny’s Child that is New Year’s resolutions. Everyone wants to look sexy, based on whatever Kardashian or Marvel movie star we’re told is the gold standard of physical beauty that month. But let’s be honest, if it’s a holiday like New Year’s that pushes you to go the gym, you’ll probably give up that routine by the time Valentine’s comes around and you look nothing like Chris Evans.

Make It: Love Your Body

Instead of trying to attain the virtually unattainable, embrace the body you have and make it the new Kendall Jenner or Captain America. If exercising and getting active makes you happy, do it for that reason. If eating fresh and healthy foods makes your body feel better, do it for that reason. Don’t deprive yourself of the little pleasures, and certainly don’t do it to look how other people think you should look.

Break It: Fall in Love

Once you reach a certain age, you feel that you’re no longer the Samantha of your friends and you suddenly find you’re the Charlotte. You didn’t mean to become the dud, but you’re at that point where you want to settle down and start a family with the ideal mate. It’s totally natural. You just can’t expect every Grindr hookup or cute bartender to fulfill that goal.

Make It: Make Friends

If you want to fall in love, let it happen. Don’t make it happen. Instead, focus on the platonic loves of your life. Figure out who your true friends are, and cut out the toxic relationships in your life. The people who love you regardless will remind you why you’re so great, and you won’t be wasting time changing yourself to please others. When Mr. or Ms. Right comes along, they’ll see that and they’ll love it too.

Break It: Travel More

We all want to see the world, whether it’s to culturally enrich our lives or to build our Instagram followers to surpass that basic bitch you used to hang out with who suddenly refers to himself as an influencer. And as much as this is a resolution that everyone should strive for, it’s just not that logical unless you have a trust fund or enough followers to consider yourself an influencer. If you’re the average millennial, you’ll be lucky to make two or three domestic trips in a year, given you have a friend’s spare room or (most likely) couch to crash on.

Make It: Love Your City

Although everyone should travel when they get the chance, don’t forget about the cultural beauties of your own city. If you live in small town USA, you probably feel bored with the same old bars and restaurants, but surely there are new places worth checking out or even hidden treasures that have been around for a while. Become an influencer in your own town, and make the rest of the world see it as culturally relevant. But don’t forget to enjoy it for yourself too, not just your followers.

Break It: Quit Smoking

Although cigarettes have become a bit of a ‘90s throwback with the revolutionary innovations of e-cigs and vaping, it’s still a vice that many struggle with quitting. And although it’s a retro habit, you have to have the desire and willpower to make the commitment. It has to be more than just a New Year’s resolution.

Make It: Smoke Pot

Try replacing one vice with another. If it’s just the oral fixation, perhaps a different kind of smoke will suffice. And given the medicinal properties of marijuana, it can cure the stress and anxiety that constantly drive you to that next Virginia Slim. Plus, it’s much better for you than cigarettes and alcohol.

Break It: Volunteer

If New Year’s resolutions mean bettering yourself, then it’s no new concept to want to give back. Sure, you’ll justify it by finding a cause that you actually care about or at least heard about once. But if volunteering is just a New Year’s resolution, there’s at least a part of you that’s doing it to feel better about yourself and to give the perception of being a decent human being, which you’ll get bored of after a couple of shifts at the soup kitchen.

Make It: Embrace Community

If you actually want to do good, it’s not enough to just volunteer your time or money. You have to become a part of your community. Whether it’s making friends with the same interests as you or just joining an online conversation about an issue you care about, if you actually want to help, it’s important to immerse yourself in the cause. The legwork will come when it’s time to organize.

P.S. We’d never actually discourage someone from volunteering at something like a soup kitchen. But they get plenty of volunteers around the holidays. Check in to see when they need help the most, and commit to coming back then.

How To Walk Into A Gay Bar

Hello there bbs,

New year, new us. JK, JK we’re staying exactly the same and we’re cruising into 2018 with a very “us” episode. And can we just say it might be our favorite from the season. We the Thots discuss “consent” which is more than a buzzword for all y’all’s think pieces, okurrr? What do we consent to when we walk into a gay bar? How do we as queer folk cultivate systems of sexual harassment and rape culture? What are our responsibilities when we enter these spaces, whether we are the flirter or the flirtee?

Also, we bring back our very-requested advice segment “Penny For Yr Thots” and discuss why y’all gotta stop using the word “bitch,” how we navigate toxic attractions to masculinity, and when it’s totally okay to exploit your relationships for art and/or Twitter fodder. And to ahem top it all off we discuss our New Year’s resolutions and it gets personal. Tune in and find out what (and who) the Thots are cutting down on next year.

Auld Lang Syne n’ Shit,

Xx The Thots

Are Gay Men Becoming Wealthier Than Straight Ones?

It’s well known that some people are paid less than others for the same job, so it should come as no surprise that gay men have traditionally been paid significantly less than straight men with similar jobs.

It’s also unsurprising that the shortfall gay men saw in their pay narrowed as acceptance grew: 92 percent of LGBTQ adults believe that society is more accepting of them than it was even 10 years ago, and it’s natural that this would drive up wages some.

But what is surprising is that gay men seem not only to have narrowed the wage gap but may have surpassed straight men entirely.

According to a new study out of Vanderbilt University, gay men now earn as much as 10 percent more than straight men in the same type of job, on average, even when taking into account factors like education and experience.

Gay women already had a pay advantage over straight women in the past, so as gay men’s pay has gone up, it has brought about the same kind of pay premium lesbians already hadbut lesbians haven’t seen further growth. Whatever the cause, growing LGBTQ acceptance isn’t the full answer.

So what’s going on?

“My initial reaction was: ‘Well, this is obviously wrong,’” says Dr. Christopher Carpenter, the professor of economics who authored the study with his Ph.D. student Samuel Eppink. “[But] once we were convinced there was no data or statistical error, my reaction has been, ‘This is really interestinghow can this be?’”

And no wonderwhat the data shows is a bit baffling. Some obvious explanations are quickly ruled outpeople who identify as queer are more likely to pursue higher education, for instanceand while this is an interesting correlation (are queer people especially inclined to pursue more education, or are people with more education more likely to feel comfortable identifying as queer?), it can’t fully explain the phenomenon Carpenter found.

“If you didn’t account for the fact that sexual minorities have more education,” Carpenter says, “then you’d incorrectly attribute the earnings association uniquely to being a sexual minority.”

But his study doesn’t compare all gay men to all straight men; it compares gay men to straight men with similar levels of education. Same goes for years of experience, skill sets, and the responsibilities of the job.

The associations that emerge from this type of number-crunching are relativethat is, the bump in pay they found won’t look the same for everyone.

“There are important interaction effects going on that we couldn’t explore in this paper,” Carpenter explains, “so we can’t say that this is true for all subgroups within the sexual minority population.”

There’s simply not a large enough sample size to say for sure how the correlation is affected by race and ethnicity, for example. Even so, the data they do have suggests that the effect is most pronounced among (you guessed it) white men. Once you start making comparisons across age, across race, and so on, you’re no longer comparing apples to applesthe differences these other factors introduce will drastically change the differences you can expect to see in pay.

The question remains: Why is this happening? “We don’t have a great way to explain it,” Carpenter says. They can only rule out theories that the data doesn’t supportlike how the fact that men and women are affected differently rules out the possibility that this is simply an LGBTQ thing.

We can also rule out the possibility that discrimination is over. “I want to be very clear: I don’t think these results mean that gay people are not discriminated against,” Carpenter says. “There’s a lot of evidence to show that there’s quite a bit of discrimination.”

Gay and lesbian households are more likely to live in poverty, for instance, and more likely to grapple with unemploymenteffects that hit non-white families especially hard. That’s not to mention that a majority of states still offer LGBTQ workers no legal protections.

So, as nice as it sounds, nobody is getting paid more simply for being gay. Instead, there must be something about being gay that’s leading to a concentration of gay workers in some higher-earning positions, even if it’s not indicative of the community as a whole. Remember, this finding only applies to gay-identified men in the workforce; the survey can’t tell us anything about men who sleep with men but don’t identify as gay, or who don’t claim an income.

“It’s like throwing spaghetti at a wall,” says Carpenter. “What are the plausible explanations that don’t seem first-order crazy, and that might be consistent with the facts?”

Still, he has some theoriesnot so much answers as possible areas for future study, suggested by gaps in what we already know. For one thing, the initial survey didn’t correlate its data to location. “There’s lots of research showing that people in cities earn more than people who aren’t,” Carpenter says, “and there’s lots of research to show that sexual minorities are more likely to congregate to urban areas, relative to heterosexual individuals.” So by choosing city life in higher numbers, gay men may be pushing up their average pay.

There’s also some evidence to suggest that gay men relocate to cities at higher rates than gay women, but because it can’t be correlated directly to the dataset used in this study, this is still in the realm of speculation.

Another sweeping change that seems to have a lot of explanatory power is the shifting composition of gay families. As gay male couples start to form and formally recognize their relationships in greater numbers (getting married, hopping on each other’s health insurance plans), it increasingly gives one partner the option of dropping out of the workforceand it makes sense that it would be the lower-earning one who does.

Over time, lower-earning gay men selectively dropping out of the workforce would drive up the average pay for the gay men who remain. Interestingly, lesbians have traditionally formed and formalized relationships at much higher rates than gay men, so this theory also has the ability to explain why the premium is now showing up among gay men, even while lesbians are holding steady.

We also can’t rule out the possibility of some other indeterminate factor related to gay psychology or socialization, but while we can speculate about intangibles like the existence of a gay temperament or creativity gene, it’s not possible to demonstrate their effect on payat least, not using this type of analysis.

Carpenter’s study raises as many questions as it answers.

“The response that we’ve been getting from academics is a bit head-scratchy, a bit can-this-be-trueand as somebody who wrote many papers finding the opposite, I agree with them,” Carpenter says.

“We absolutely need to see if this result replicates.”

Here Are The 7 States That Did Right By LGBTQ People In 2017

In the beginning of this year, Trump found a new home in the oval office with a notoriously homophobic vice president at his side.

Much of the country braced for the worst; a regime that would turn the clocks back on LGBTQ rights and protections including the gains made during Obama’s two terms as President. It wasn’t long before the suspicions were confirmed that this administration was bad news for progress. From Trump’s executive order discriminating against LGBTQ persons in the name of religious freedom to his attempt at a transgender military ban, an imperial dark cloud seemed to creep in over the country.

While the ripple effect of the administration’s values was seen in states like Mississippi and Tennessee, another wave of change happened on a state and local level throughout the year, giving hope to the masses in a time of uncertainty for the future of equality. Here is a list of seven states that did something that mattered to the LGBTQ community in 2017, proving that America is not powerless in the face of a threatening administration.

California Correcting History

While the Golden State has long been emblematic of equality and progress for the LGBTQ community, this year it did something to alter the future generations of Californians for the sake of inclusion.

In accordance with California’s 2011 FAIR Education Act, state officials approved the first K-8 LGBTQ-inclusive history curriculum. Now children will learn about the variety of parental models (like two moms or two dads) as well as important historical figures like One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst, a notorious stagecoach bandit who lived as a man but was biologically female.

It’s a victorious end to a six-year battle to implement the act in full included fighting off attempts from conservative groups to thwart the rollout. The curriculum also rejected two textbooks in their current curriculum (published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) that refused to alter their content for the new demands of the state.

“By including LGBTQ history in textbooks, California is allowing students to get a fuller picture of some of the most important social movements in America,” says Cheryl Greene, Deputy Director, of Welcoming Schools for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

“It also allows LGBTQ students to more completely understand the context of today’s fight for LGBTQ rights,” she continues.

The impact of the mandate is huge as it’s estimated that by 2020 California will have 6.5 million K-8 aged students in school.

Florida Fighting Conversion Therapy

The third most-populous state has a contentiously conservative record, but in 2017 sweeping changes at the local level defined the state’s commitment to LGBTQ rights as 13 cities across Florida outlawed gay conversion therapy, bringing the total to 18 municipalities.

“The fact that Florida’s municipalities have taken the lead to end conversion therapy, despite the state’s government unwilling to hold responsibility and protect LGBTQ youth,” Mathew Shurka, spokesperson for the #BornPerfect Campaign with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, recently told INTO, “is the true power of democracy and shows that local constituents have the power to make a difference,”.

The practice, also known as “reparative therapy,” is still legal at a state level in Florida, as well as in 40 other states.

District of Columbia and Oregon Making Government IDs Inclusive

This June, Oregon and our nation’s capital became the first in the U.S. to issue gender-neutral driver’s licenses, a win for gender non-conforming residents. Residents in both D.C. and Oregon can now designate an ‘x’ instead of male or female as their gender marker.

LGBTQ artist, community organizer, and long-time D.C. resident Josef Palermo told INTO, “I’m proud of the District for its leadership on recognizing gender identities beyond the binary of male and female.”

“With this move, DC is really telling those residents that they matter,” they continued. “I hope this inspires other jurisdictions across the country to take similar steps in providing inclusive government services to their residents.”

Similar policies exist in Canada, India, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, and Nepal.

Virginia Electing LGBTQ Folks And Their Allies

Virginians overwhelming voiced their demand for progress this year by electing a governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general who are all pro-equality.

“Hate isn’t a Virginia value. Ralph will be a brick wall against the discrimination of the Trump Administration,” the governor-elect Ralph Northam’s campaign page states. “Ralph has a long history of standing up for LGBT Virginians, from opposing bathroom bills that discriminate against transgender people, to fighting to protect LGBT people from workplace and adoption discrimination.”

Virginia also made headlines this year for electing its first transgender official, Danica Roem.

The 33-year-old former journalist defeated republican, Bob Marshall, who had served in the House of Delegates for 25 years. Marshall, who has referred to himself as a “chief homophobe” is an outspoken opponent of transgender rights. He refused to debate Roem during the election and repeatedly used “his” pronouns when referring to her.

Marshall also introduced a “bathroom bill” this year that would have required schools to inform parents of any student who “ask to be recognized or treated as the opposite sex” and prohibited transgender students from using bathrooms of their choice.

Roem, who was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden, among others, has focused fixing local traffic issues and crowded schools in her county while being a champion for inclusion.

Utah Allowing ‘Gay’ To Be Said Everywhere

Not quite as progressive as California, but still a step in the right direction, in March, Utah repealed it’s regressive “No Homo Promo” law, restricting discussions of homosexuality in schools.

According to research by Human Rights Watch, the law has “discouraged school personnel from intervening to stop bullying and harassment, deterred teachers from providing basic information, and limited students’ ability to form and organize LGBT groups.”

Support to repeal the measure was strong from both the House and Senate, with a vote of 68-1 and 27-1 respectively in favor of repeal. Seven other states, all in the South, have active “No promo homo laws” and advocates are hopeful those states will follow the example Utah is setting with the repeal.

Utah also made history in November for electing to LGBTQ member’s to the Salt Lake City City Council, giving the city four LGBTQ elected officials total, as it’s current mayor Jackie Biskupski is a lesbian.

Alabama The New Rainbow Tide

The state where Roy Moore almost won has a long way to go to become a role model for equality, but this year, it made some important strides.

While HRC endorsed Doug Jones (who has a gay son) had a margin of victory of only 1.5 percent, the implications for the LGBTQ are not minimal. Some thought Jones’ campaign was over when he publically publicly denounced President Trump’s transgender military ban, but the votes proved critics wrong.

According to Equality Alabama, there are more than 60,000 LGBTQ voters in the state and advocates are hopeful that Jones’ win means change where it’s most needed.

This year Birmingham also became the first city in the state to enact an all-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, making it illegal for any housing or employment entity to discriminate based on factors including gender and sexual orientation.

Future hope exists for an end to Alabama’s “No Promo Homo” law and laws that allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny placements based on religions, which can be problematic for LGBTQ adoptive parents.

The places above are by no means a conclusive list of the state and local efforts to protect and empower LGBTQ Americans, but as long as Trump is in office, we must continue to look for leaders at every level to fight for the protection and freedom of our communities.

YouTuber Sailor J Is Politicizing Beauty Videos For The Better

Since the dawn of time, of at least since like 2006, beauty vloggers have dominated and shifted the cosmetics industry. In 2016, beauty vloggers received over 55 billion views on YouTube and collectively have a way larger social media following than major beauty brands.

If you’ve been on the internet, you know the format of these videos, which is what makes it even funnier when you see one of Sailor J’s videos.

JJ Smith, known as Sailor J online, has taken the formula of the traditional beauty vlog, and created hilarious political commentary on gender and appropriation. And while she’sfairly new to the YouTube scene, only starting her channel in October of this year, she’s been given quite the warm welcome with one video even receiving over a million views.

If you’ve seen Sailor J’s content before, you might have been introduced to her from her “Contouring 101” video that includes catch phrases like “If they find out we can shape shift, they’re going to tell the church.” or“Beautiful women don’t have foreheads if you have too big of a brain, it means you have ugly things like opinions and thoughts of your own.”

It’s this social critique wrapped up in slightly self deprecating humor that I think makes Sailor J so engaging to wide audiences. But according to Sailor J, she felt viral “when it got more than like five shares, I was so excited.”

I was lucky enough to chat with Sailor J via Twitter and she explained that having a YouTube channel wasn’t really part of the plan. In fact, it seems even some of her videos are unintentionally political.

“Some videos I’m like, ‘this is definitely commentary. I’m here to shake the fucking table’ but other times they just come out as I’m speaking.”

One of her most popular videos about Thanksgiving and cultural appropriation was actually only intended as a gift to one of her subscribers, “I didn’t think it would get as big as it did. She’s Native American so she was sort of venting to me and she sort of sarcastically was like, ‘I’d die if you could make a video for me to throw at all the appropriators.’”

Although I think the topics of her videos are relatable, I don’t think they are the main reason she’s interesting to watch. Rather, there are a few personal things that I think set Sailor J apart from other channels.

For one, she reminds her viewers over and over again that she isn’t going to be like other YouTubers, “Before you get your comment’s ready, I already know that my room’s not up to par. I watch some different YouTubers they all have the same headboard. I’m not buying that shit.”

Unlike other YouTubers that make a brand off of having an enviable lifestyle, Sailor J is your girl she’s your best friend that’s always ready to talk shit over some tea. And although she makes content about topics we’ve seen covered before, her style of comedy makes them uniquely memorable.

After talking to Sailor J, this seems very intentional. “I’ve always told myself I don’t want to become a generic YouTuber there’s nothing wrong with that, they’re making crazy money and have huge fan bases.”

“But when I make videos, I think of who I want to laugh at them. They’re not for 12 year olds and they’re definitely not for racists or misogynists,” she continued.

This is what makes her so significant as a content creator and why it’s so important that she’s repurposed the template of the beauty influencer.

Popular YouTubers spend a lot of time trying to not make political statements as to not divide their fan base. By extension, what ends up happening is that they end up making content catered to the cultural majority. Sailor J has made a channel for specific groups of people, the often forgotten people.

“I hope the channel continues to grow, and I hope people who maybe aren’t as conventionally attractive can see that they deserve to be in front of the camera too,” she recently told me,”they can gain confidence, and they can speak out about things they care for.”

Sailor J is just getting started and she mentioned a lot of ideas for the future of her channel, including book reviews and a genuine attempt at learning and teaching makeup techniques.

She mentioned that she doesn’t want to shy away from uncomfortable topics, but she also wants to create things that can just be humor and nothing more. But whatever she grows into, it’s safe to say that watching Sailor J’s videos will always feel like an act of self care.

Racer Lewis Hamilton Mocks Nephew on Social Media for Wearing Princess Dress

British F1 racer Lewis Hamilton is under fire on social media after posting a video mocking his young nephew who received and wore a princess dress for Christmas.

On the video, which had an “eyes covered” monkey emoji on it, Lewis said, “I’m so sad right now. Look at my nephew.” He then shows his nephew wearing a purple and pink princess dress.

“Why’re you wearing a princess dress?” Hamilton asks his nephew. “Is this what you got for Christmas?” Hamilton then asks. The boy nods in response.
“Why did you ask for a princess dress for Christmas?” Hamilton then raises his voice and yells, “Boys don’t wear princess dresses!” His nephew then covers his ears and runs away.

People on social media excoriated the star not only for his backwards view of gender roles, but for forcing them onto his young nephew.

Some people on Twitter took this as an opportunity to remind the racing star that he too makes some *interesting* fashion choices.

Hamilton has yet to address the matter on social media, though he could be steering clear of going online right now.

The Problem With ‘Born This Way’

I was 21 when I came out to my mother for the third time. She was visiting me in Tucson for my college graduation, and we were in the car, her driving. We were stopped at a red light and she said “Are you dating anyone?”

“Yes,” I said, taking a deep breath. “It’s not too serious, but we’ve been on a couple of dates.”

“So tell me! What’s his name?”

“Her name is Sarah,” I said.

I remember several decades of silence, but in reality it was probably a moment or two.

“Oh, okay,” she finally said, and there was another long pause before she added, “I hope you know that I don’t have a problem with that.”

“I know,” I said, although I had been worried.

“There’s nothing wrong with being gay,” she said. “I love you no matter what. I just worry that your life will be so much harder than other people’s.” She sighed. “It’s not fair, but it’s true. When I think about what gay people go through–it just isn’t what I would choose for you.” Another pause. “But I know you don’t have a choice.”

There’s no way this all happened in the span of one red light, but that’s how I remember it. I stared out the window. I was relieved that my mother wasn’t angry, wasn’t freaking out or threatening to disown me or insisting my queerness was a phase, but I was still obscurely disappointed by her reaction. It felt a little bit like she said, “Well, I know you’d be straight if you could.”

The coming-out narrative we’re all most familiar with goes like this: Queer and trans people know from an early age that we’re not like everyone else. We try desperately to conform, to make ourselves what the world would have us be, but we can’t be happy in fitting into those clothes. We’re miserable and constrained and living half a life, and the only way to be free is to embrace our true selves even if society rejects them.

The story is set against the backdrop of our suffering. It argues that, having paid our penance, having done everything in our power to fit into the cisgender heterosexual paradigm, we now deserve to be excused. But what about those of us who could fit in, but didn’t want to–or who never bothered to try at all? While it’s unquestionably true that some LGBTQ people remember a deep sense of their own identity or orientation dating back to early childhood, and many of us do struggle mightily to suppress that aspect of ourselves, this narrative leaves out more people than it includes.

Claiming that LGBTQ people are “born this way” has indisputably been useful for the equality movement. It’s helped our society as a whole let go of the misconception that queerness is due to a failure in parenting, or a trauma, or some other stumbling block in the road to heterosexuality that can be corrected for or removed. The Human Rights Campaign has used “being gay is not a choice” to argue against harmful conversion therapy practices intended to “cure” queerness. Several of my LGBTQ friends deployed it during their own coming out process to help their families move toward acceptance.

But is that enough? There’s a huge chasm between “grudging resignation to what can’t be changed” and real support for LGBTQ people. If our equality is predicated on the assumption that it’s less good to be queer than it is to be straight, doesn’t that undermine the potential for creating our own, authentic, fully realized queer lives? Will we always exist in the shadow of the heterosexuality that could have been?

When we fight for our rights on the grounds that we can’t be any other way, we’re letting bigots get away with the assertion that if queerness were a choice, it would be a wrong choice. As a bisexual woman in a same-sex relationship, I find that particularly painful. Gay people and straight people might not have a choice in the gender of person they fall in love with, but bi folks do–at least, we have a choice in which of our attractions to pursue. I might have been born bisexual, but I made a conscious choice to stop dating men, and devote my energies to the kind of love I really wanted. I am attracted to people of all genders, but I chose my queer love, my queer family, my queer life.

Remember when Cynthia Nixon said “I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better”? Oh my GOD, people were so mad. Everyone was losing their shit about how she had reified the worst accusations homophobes could make about us, that she had cost us decades of progress by saying in public that, nope, she wouldn’t rather be straight. Has enough time passed that I can tell you my soul sang when I read those words? Nothing else has ever so succinctly captured how I feel, as a bisexual in a wonderful same-sex relationship. There is so much joy in being queer. We shouldn’t have to pretend there isn’t just because some assholes don’t like it.

From the viewpoint of the zealous homophobe, there’s no excuse for me: I chose to marry my genderqueer partner instead of waiting to fall in love with a man. Who knows? It might have happened. I can picture a life where I would have been happy and satisfied in a long-term relationship with a man (specifically Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). The life I have now is not something I was forced into for lack of another option.

Do I deserve fewer rights, less support, more oppression, because I could have found love with a dude and I didn’t? Should I be harangued and marginalized until I suppress my bisexuality and shove myself into the status quo? Or is it perhaps the case that my relationship is valid because it is valid, not because I am incapable of experiencing boy-girl love and this is my consolation prize?

The idea that our equality is contingent on our inability to change doesn’t just hinder queer self-actualization; it casts aside bisexual, pansexual, gender-fluid, and other people without clearly delineated identities. It suggests that you don’t have a right to your LGBTQ identity unless it’s been steadfast since time immemorial, and that struggling and failing to change who you are is a fundamental milestone. This is such an unhealthy thing to teach our LGBTQ kids. When Mary Lambert sings, “I can’t change, even if I wanted to,” I wish someone were singing about not wanting to change, even if we could.

I write an LGBTQ advice column, and I have gotten a handful of letters over the years from young bi or pan people whose families don’t understand why they don’t just choose straight relationships. These letters and the confusion and pain that radiate from them have stayed with me for longer than just about any question except for the one about whether it’s safe to finger-bang with nail polish on. Lest we forget, bisexual people comprise a larger percentage of the LGBTQ community than those who identify as gay or lesbian. If the story we’re telling about queer equality leaves that many of us behind, or allows straight people to see us as less deserving of liberation, something needs to change.

Those who arrive at a realization about their identities or orientations at a relatively later point in life are also ill served by the “born this way” rhetoric, emphasizing as it does the longevity of a trait as proof of its validity. Orange is the New Black writer Lauren Morelli wrote that she struggled with coming out as gay after marrying a man, thinking “If I was really gay, I would have known when I was younger. There was a prescribed narrative, and everything about my own story challenged the accepted one.”

Of course, some people will always say “I had no choice in being queer or trans. This aspect of my identity has existed as long as I can remember, and nothing could have changed it.” That experience, which many people share, deserves to be recognized and celebrated. But it’s not the only experience, and it’s not the reason LGBTQ+ people deserve rights and protections and safety.

The science on orientation and gender is still in its infancy. Evidence suggests a genetic component, but our DNA alone doesn’t explain who we become. We may never really know why some people are LGBTQ and others aren’t, and individuals may always answer that question in a whole spectrum of different and equally legitimate ways. But I don’t think “born this way” is the hill to die on even if there is eventually scientific consensus that queerness is innate and immutable. “[W]hy play their game and pretend the only forms of difference that deserve justice are those we were born with?” asks Brandon Ambrosino in an article for BBC Future. And why oppose conversion therapy on the grounds that it doesn’t work, instead of on the grounds that it’s inhumane and horrific? The actions described in this article would still be monstrous even if the child exposed to them had become straight afterward.

If someone invented a drug tomorrow that would turn everyone who took it heterosexual, I wouldn’t touch it, and I think most of the queer folks I know wouldn’t either. The truth for most of us is that we’re not just queer because it’s that or die inside. We’re queer because our queerness is an inextricable part of our beautiful, weird, creative, funny, sad, painful, brilliant lives, and to change that would be to change who we are, and we like who we are.

As the movement for LGBTQ liberation struggles forward in a society where hostility toward us is on the rise, I believe we need to be cautious about embracing a slogan for short-term gain without considering its broader implications. We need to make room for complexity, and not let those who hate us set the terms of the debate. Whether nature, nurture, or ineffable chance made us the people we are, we deserve to be seen for our unabridged, authentic selves.

Image via Getty

Armistead Maupin Wants You to Watch ‘Tales of the City’ This Christmas

What’s your favorite thing to watch with the family on Christmas?

Many Americans tune in on the holiday to watch time-honored classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, which are all but playing on a loop on cable throughout the month of December. Maybe you’re the kind of person who prefers to celebrate the Yuletide with a darker choice: Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and Batman Returns are all set around Christmastime. (Hey, even Eyes Wide Shut is technically a Christmas movie.)

But Armistead Maupin has another idea for this season: Tales of the City.

I sat down with the beloved author ahead of the Independent Lens showing ofof The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, a documentary about his life and career airing January 1 at 10:30PM on PBS. We discussed his beloved book series turned television show, which first debuted on PBS in 1993 before being brought back by Showtime for two additional installments in 1998 and 2001. A hallmark of queer TV, the show follows the residents of 26 Barbary Laneincluding Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney), a secretary who moves to San Francisco to find her destiny, and her eccentric landlady (Olympia Dukakis).

A planned Netflix reboot is reportedly set to debut in 2019.

In a condensed version of a much longer conversation, Maupin talks the upcoming documentary, his return to the small screen, the ongoing importance of LGBTQ representation, and why longtime fans seek out his work around the holidays. As he explains, the lovable misfits of Barbary Lane represent the family you createnot the one you’re born into.

You say in the documentary that your success as a writer was concurrent with you coming out sexually. How do you think your coming out influenced the way you saw the world and, thus, wrote about it?

Well, as anyone will tell you who has gone through the process, it’s a huge weight lifted off your shoulder. I was full of joy and self-discovery. I was young, living in San Francisco, and enjoying the life that I was writing about. I was surrounded by people that realized their openness as gay men and women was the best thing they had going for them. Harvey Milk felt that wayand a number of women within the city government in San Francisco and elsewhere. It made you special.

I knew I had a great thing going for me because there was this whole story going on in San Francisco that was ripe for the telling.

There’s a great passage in the film where you say that you were writing about something that wasn’t being coveredalong with a lovely little montage of gay couples. What did it mean to you to be a chronicle for LGBTQ life at a time in which queer people had so little representation?

It was thrilling because I got to provide it. Every morning I came to work and thought, “What am I going to write about today? What do they not know about?” Even something so simple as writing about the gay night at the roller rink, it was a revelation to many people.

I remember a very handsome, strapping lawyer that I knew. He said that I had betrayed him because everybody in his law office knew he went skating on Tuesday night. And now they knew why.

You accidentally outed him!

I had outed him with the roller rink.

A lot of the things that you were writing about hadn’t really been written about in literature before, like the HIV/AIDS crisis. There was also Anna Madrigal, who was one of the first transgender characters portrayed in a really affirming way. There was also Myra Breckenridge, but I would not hold that up as an example of anything, as much as I like Gore Vidal.

Myra is not gonna beat my transgender woman.

And oh God, and that movie! But how did you approach the subjects? There were so few roadmaps or blueprints for you to figure out how to do this. As a fellow writer, I’m just wondering how you got into the headspace.

I just assumed the humanity of everybody I wrote about. I used my grandmother for Anna Madrigal. I used her to create a loving, accepting, interesting woman. And then I began to educate myself about all of it. But I’ve always said, writers by nature are transgenderor they should be. Because we have to inhabit everyone’s skin and we have to do it convincingly. We have to feel them from the inside out.

So I always felt like a woman when I was writing my female characters, all of them. That’s one of the reasons that Laura Linney and I became instantly close. When she was playing Mary Ann Singleton, she was understanding the character so well that I realized she kind of understood me on a certain level.

The documentary discusses the fact that you really had to push for Anna to be transgenderso much so that you had to delay gratification in finding out that information about her. Why was it important for you that Anna be trans?

Well, nobody had done it before. It would be a complete surprise to the readers because I could have a character who had once been an unhappy man who is now a very evolved woman. And I could open their eyes to that. It was an opportunity to write about something that other people hadn’t written about.

As you said, Gore Vidal did in Myra Breckinridge, but I think Anna gets credit for being the first likable, fully evolved person. The Myra fans may disagree with me.

Your writing is a Trojan horse for readers, where you sneak in certain issues or themes disguised in your very good writing. Did you look at your work that way?

I made them like characters and then oh my God, Mona’s got a girlfriend. In those days, everything was taboo in terms of what could be discussed. The newspaper had cut out a segment where I had DeDe at a women’s music festival looking at her lover’s face in the firelight and really realizing how much she means to her. The paper tried to cut that. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why. That doesn’t make any sense anymore.

But I think that my chief aim was to show that everyone was capable of love in all sorts of different ways. And my job was to examine that.

When I introduced a trans man 10 years ago in The Tales of the City book series, my editor at Harpercollins cut out the sex scenes. They weren’t very explicit, but she said, “They make me uncomfortable, and I think they would make other people uncomfortable.” I said, “Well, that’s what I want to do. I want to make them examine why they feel that way about two people making love.”

That’s so interesting. Were there any other storylines that editors wanted cut out of your columns?

It was often just petty stuff. They would say, “You can’t say ‘shit.’” And I would say, “I said ‘shit’ last week!” “Well, that was shitkicker. That was part of a word.” You know, just completely irrational stuff. You just dealt with the whims of the editors. I wrote a column in which Michael [Tolliver] reacts to the referendum in Floridathe anti-gay Anita Bryant referendum. And Michael said, “When I came out of the closet, I nailed the door shut.” It’s as firebrand as I ever got.

I was told by someone behind the scenes that the newspaper was pulling that column. They thought it would upset some of the readership. I had to put my foot down and say, “I’m not gonna write anymore if you don’t leave that column in there.”

I won that battle. The editor called me up and said, “OK, we’re gonna do it.” As a gay man who was out and comfortable with himself, I was always about five steps ahead of everyone else I worked with at the newspaper. I had to just be patient and wait for them to catch up.

Tales from the City is headed to Netflix with a planned revival, which will debut at a different time from either the original novel or the television series. What do you hope that your work will offer to a new generation of LGBTQ people?

AM: It’s a chance to see themselves and their own lives reflected. The new series will be very much set in the here and now, with a much more diverse cast than I originally created. And the single word I come back to with Tales of the City and how people respond to it is that it celebrates decency. People in these stories are pretty nice people. They are trying to be decent. They’re trying to be good people. And there’s not a lot of meanness in Tales of the City. I hope there won’t be in the [Netflix] miniseries, per se.

I like for viewers to be able to watch something that lifts their hearts, makes them happy to be members of the human race. I’ve worked with a lot of people recently, and they say they watch the old miniseries at Christmas because it gives them that experience. It takes their mind off of the Orange Orangutan.

So much of the show is based around family that I think at the holidays, this idea as you describe in your work of a “logical family” really resonates with people. I was telling my partner the other day that I hate Christmas movies because I feel like that dynamic was never my experience.

But watching Tales of the City well, that seems like a great thing to do on Christmas.

Some of my favorite Christmas movies don’t mention Christmas. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is something I love to watch during the holidays. You can actually notice on television that some shows are clearly chosen because they have a certain quality, even though they’re not about Christmas. And God knows, you want to slit your wrists if you watch the Hallmark Channel.

My sister and I were talking about it because I was confessing that I had watched a few of those. And it’s very I wouldn’t say addictive, but it does give you this sense of “all is right with the world” when every frame of the movie has Christmas decorations in it. And every single frame of those movies has some sort of Christmas decorations in it.

I think it’s probably doing some good. I think watching the stories and people are getting their minds off the deterioration of the country when a lot more people are watching that channel than ever.

It provides people a sense of comfort. I think people find comfort in lots of different ways, whether that’s the Hallmark Channel or reading your books or watching your show. It feels like home.

Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.