Exposed: Selectively Sharing Your Life on Social Media

Even in an age when sharing mundane details online is standard, it’s easier than ever to control the way others see usuntil, as people often say on social media, someone’s been “exposed.” Welcome to Exposed, a monthly column where author and activist Chris Stedman invites you to get a little more vulnerable.

This month Alana, an author who lives in upstate New York, shared her story with Chris over the phone.

Alana’s Christmas wasn’t supposed to be like this.

She and a guy she’d been dating for five months had made Christmas plans to see a matinee of Selma, then get an early dinner in his neighborhood. On Christmas Eve, Alana continued their ongoing text conversation as usual from her office in Chelsea and asked to confirm the next day’s plans. He didn’t text back.

That evening, as she grew more concerned, she stopped by the hair salon where a good friend worked and they went to a bar. Worried that something might actually be wrong with him, Alana had her friend text him: “Hey, are you coming through tonight?” He wouldn’t know the number and was easily enticed by the prospect of plans. He replied to the stranger’s number within a minute, proving that he was intentionally blowing Alana off.

By the time Alana realized she’d been ditched, it was too late for her to make other plans. Her family lived on the opposite coast, and most of her friends were out of town visiting their families. So she spent the next dayher favorite day of the yearwith her cat as her only company.

Yet Alana’s family and friends had no idea, because she spent Christmas posting selfies previously taken with her friend in front of the shiny red bows and tinseled trees of midtown Manhattan holiday decorations. Alana didn’t want her friends and especially her family, who knew of her deep and abiding love for the holiday, to worry about the fact that she was celebrating it alone. The holiday season can be a particularly sensitive time of the year, when feelings of stress and isolation often increase sharply even among those who have loved ones to gather with, and Alana felt an especially strong desire to shield her family from the difficulties of her life.

But she also did this for herself. Long before that Christmas, Alana decided that her social media feeds couldn’t and shouldn’t be completely accurate depictions of her life. Instead, she started thinking of them as aspirational spacesplatforms to put forward a better version of herself, like most of us do when we clean up our apartment before having friends over or put on our fanciest dress before going to a party.

Like Alana, I believe there is something very genuine about posting images and text on social media that some people might consider “trying too hard.” Sharing curated highlights from your lifeas people have always done, whether through family photo albums that mostly document the fondest memories, or Christmas letters describing new grandchildren and the vacation to Disney Worlddoesn’t have to be intentionally deceptive. So often our social media feeds are an avalanche of bad news, and there’s nothing wrong with using them to celebrate your joys and lift up your best moments (or best angles).

Sharing highlights can also be a way of casting a beacon out to the people you care about to say: Yes, I’m going through some hard things, but things are alright. Look at these moments of happiness! I’m alive.

When Alana is having a really tough time, she’ll post on social media as proof of lifeeven something simple like a picture of a salad she made, with a beautiful filter that makes the red tomatoes from the farmers market pop and shine.

I’ve done this during difficult periods, too. People aren’t always very responsive to posts that are raw and sad, and if a vulnerable post goes unanswered, it can compound feelings of isolation. This summer, when I withdrew from the world during a particularly awful experience with parasitic scabies and wasn’t ready to share all of the details of my physical and psychological agony, I would sometimes post on social media just to remind myself and others that I still existed. While they were occasionally a way to hide my pain, a funny tweet or an Instagram post of my dog grinning happily also allowed me to show myself and others that, even in this dark time, I was having moments of levityjoy, even.

Sharing highlights can be a way of not only being generous toward those you care aboutof protecting them from difficult experiences they can’t help you with, like Alana’s Christmas alone or my scabiesbut also a way to be kind and caring toward yourself.

For Alana, treating social media in a manner protective of herself and others felt especially important after an experience she’d had earlier that same year. In July, after ending a relationship, her ex had become violent and threatening. While he had never used her job at a strip club against her before, he began insinuating that there were various harmful ways he could use that information. He was also in possession of both suggestive and explicit photos of her.

Determined that no one but her would profit socially or monetarily off of her body and her story, Alana casually tweeted about her experiences with sex worka facet of her life that she had only shared with a few friends up to that point. She also revealed herself to be the person behind a Tumblr account where she mostly posted funny anecdotes about her work in the club, as well as the occasional NSFW photo with her face blurred. When she hit post, she felt a profound sense of relief that she would be the one to determine how her own history was used.

While that experience might have understandably driven some off of social media for good, Alana still regularly posts pictures of herself on Twitter and Instagrameverything from the honest truth to the highlights. And just like her ex did, men continue to use her image as a weapon against her. Because of her writing on feminism, she’s had “Men’s Rights Activists” and “Pick-Up Artists” target her with elaborate takedowns on popular forums and websites. One of the milder posts called her “a case study in the feminist-fueled, decay, rot and decline of Western culture and society.”

Often they will upload pictures she has taken of herself in order to collectively pick apart her appearance.

Even outside of these jarring attack posts, if Alana posts a picture with no makeup, some men will say she’s ugly. And if she puts makeup on, or uses a filter on her photo, men will give their unsolicited preference that they actually like a “natural look.”

While these kinds of responses are uniquely or at least more commonly directed at women, all of us experience elements of this on social media. If you post that your life is falling apart, some people will suggest that maybe you should keep that stuff to yourself. If you post only the highlights, people will call you fake. So the best you can do is attempt to strike a balance.

I’m still learning how to do that, but posting selfies has actually helped.

For years, I would sneer and roll my eyes at them, considering them narcissistic or self-involved. But after my longest relationship ended last year and I wanted to start putting myself out there again, I finally joined Instagram. I found that posting pictures of myself and events in my life helped me grow in confidence and connect with others as I re-entered the world.

Taking and sharing selfies began as a way to work my way through a break up that left me devastated, but it has since become a powerful means to push back against my body dysmorphia, insecurities, and the heteronormative cultural narratives I’ve internalized about what men are supposed to look like and who we are supposed to be. Selfies can sometimes be a tool for hidingfor curating a self that is hyper-real or even intentionally deceptivebut for members of marginalized or demonized communities, like LGBTQ people and sex workers, they can also be a vehicle to radically assert that you exist and that you belong.

Social media can often feel dehumanizing and disembodiedwe don’t have to see the physical reactions of the people we’re talking to, how our words cause them to wince, shrink, or even crybut it doesn’t have to feel this way. It can actually be a space to share our bodies with one another; to take back some of our power in a world that wants to weaponize our bodies against us and shame us for how we use them, pushing back against these narratives by unashamedly treating social media as an embodied and aspirational space can be a powerful gift to yourself and others.

For many who celebrate it, Christmas isn’t about Jesus or Santa. It’s about bringing light to the darkest season of the yearabout creating time to gather with loved ones and focus our thoughts on the things we have to celebrate. It’s just one day, and life will still be hard on the other side. But there’s nothing fake about carving out space for joy, whether through a holiday or the words and images we choose to share on social media.

This Christmas, Alana will be decidedly not alone, instead surrounded by the loved ones she wanted to protect a few years ago. And as she unwraps presents under glowing lights, you better believe she’ll be posting lots and lots of pictures.

Want to get exposed? Email Chris at [email protected] with a short description of a time when you felt truly vulnerablein either a positive or a painful way (or both).

Want more? Check out previous installments of Exposed here, here, and here.

Image via Getty

Eminem Is Still Not Gay-Friendly

When Eminem flooded my Twitter feed earlier this week, I wondered if I had stepped on anything and fell back into 2010. I soon learned that what triggered so much chatter about Slim Shady was that during an interview with Vulture, not only did he reveal that he can be found out dating apps like Tinder, he can also be spotted on Grindr.

The exchange went as follows:

Do you date?

It’s tough. Since my divorce I’ve had a few dates and nothing’s panned out in a way that I wanted to make it public. Dating’s just not where I’m at lately.

When you were dating, how’d you meet people? Tinder?

I mean, yeah.

Are you being serious?

Yeah, Tinder.

Really?

[Laughs] And Grindr. I also used to go to strip clubs.

I think a lot of long-term relationships start in strip clubs.

What can I say? Going to strip clubs is how I was meeting some chicks. It was an interesting time for me.

Is fame lonely for you?

Am I lonely? No, I’m good. Thanks for asking though.

Immediately, speculation went rampant. Did Eminem just casually admit he’s bisexual? To many, it would explain the frequency of ass shots Eminem has provided us over the course of his career. The same goes for the doth protest too much indeed with respect to his use of the word faggot and her anti-gay rhetoric found in his rhymes.

For others, it was obvious that the man was clearly joking. After all, you see more of his sarcasm in his response to an inquiry over whether or not he was lonely because of his famous. Shout out to the interviewer for failing to offer a follow up on the little nugget that was one of the most popular rappers of all-time casually mention he goes on a sight known for men interested in other men. I would if this man ever interviewed President Sweet Potato Saddam and he casually mentioned that he just finished slurping Vladimir Putin in the back of the Oval Office, he wouldn’t quickly turn to a question about whether or not he feels like John Kelly is the big bro he always wanted.

Anyhow, I’m inclined to believe Eminem was saying that in jest. However, regardless of whether or not he meant it, no matter how you slice it, either Eminem suddenly admitted to trashing what is apparently a part of him or once again is he making a joke about something associated with gay people. Maybe I lost too many ounces of my sense of humor, but of all people who shouldn’t get too comfortable with gay people, it would be Eminem.

I guess this is the part where I point out that Eminem was criticized for his homophobic comments way back in the aughts. That led to Eminem performing and later befriending Elton John. Recently, John appeared on The Graham Norton Show and defended Eminem from accusations of homophobia.

“I just adore him When David [Furnish] and I did our civil partnership, I got this package from Eminem,” John told Norton. “It shows you how homophobic he isn’t! It had two diamond encrusted cock rings on velvet cushions. I have to say, they have remained unused!”

In a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone in 2013, Eminem tried to rationalize his use of the word faggot, claiming that he used so in a “tongue-in-cheek” way and arguing that its usage had nothing to do with an anti-gay bias. “Those kind of words, when I came up battle-rappin’ or whatever, I never really equated those words [with homosexuality],” he said. “It was more like calling someone a bitch or a punk or asshole. But the real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all.”

But as Rich Juzwiak laid out for Gawker at the time, Eminem never made his stance on gay people clear, and despite claims to the contrary, very much equated gays, lesbians, and trans people with words that weren’t exactly complimentary in any fashion. For Em, a lot of his remarks about the LGBTQ community weredone for shock. That’s long been a shtick of his and now he casually once again stirs the spot by name-dropping Grindr for what? Attention. Attention his boring ass songs no longer command.

I hope Eminem finds whatever it is he’s looking for. Nevertheless, he should Grindr and anything else designated for our community out of his mouth because he never been man enough to own the insults he’s hurled our way much less apologize for them. Find a new gimmick, latest pop-pop of rap. This is as a tired as that imitation Macklemore song he tragically got my glorious queen Beyoncé to be a part of.

In sum, you can continue showing your ass, Eminem, but can you finally stop being one already?

Unisex Jecca Makeup Addresses Trans Women’s Beauty Needs

It’s almost 2018, and it’s officially time to do away some of society’s long-held and highly problematic standards. One of which being the gender binary that says that clothing should be specific to either men or women and that makeup is only for cis women. With a blossoming franchise of drag queens, beauty boys, and trans influencers, the beauty industry has finally started catching up to its diverse consumers.

British makeup artist and LGBTQ ally, Jessica Blackler has recently launched a unisex cosmetic line, which was designed specifically to meet the needs of transgender women. Blackler was inspired to create Jecca Makeup after receiving numerous requests for makeup tips from trans women all over the UK. She found that the industry often overlooks their specific needs, and most products are not equipped for issues like beard shadow and scarring.

“I want to help everyone to feel better in their own skin by celebrating their uniqueness and individual beauty,” Blackler told Curve.

Over the past 12 months, she’s developed a range of products that are vegan, cruelty-free, and PETA-approved. The line provides a proper amount of coverage for trans women without feeling heavy on their skin. When she was developing the line, the Delamar Academy of Makeup alum volunteered with charities like Stonewall, Sparkle, Umbrella Cymru, and Race Equality First, in order to gain a better understanding of the LGBTQ community’s needs.

She also plans to expand the line to include products for genderqueer and male-identified people.

“Everyone who wants to wear makeup should be able to openly buy and apply it without fear of judgment or recrimination,” she said. “I want everyone to look and feel fabulous in their own body.”

Jecca Makeup launched this week and is now available online. And yes, we will accept belated Christmas presents!

How Catwoman and Kink Helped Me Discover My Queerness

When I was a kid, I watched Batman Returns over and over and over. I was never into superhero movies and even now, the only other superhero movie I’ve watched more than once is the new Wonder Woman. I’m not sure if my family ever wondered why I watched Batman Returns so much and if so, if they ever figured it out. I didn’t realize the answer myself until many, many years later: Catwoman.

I was mesmerized by her totally femme apartment, her transformation, her acrobatics, her whip, the way she talkedat once both velvety and gravelly. If one of my earliest crushes was on Michelle Pfeiffer in a latex catsuit, is it any wonder I ended up queer and kinky and partial to red lipstick and double entendres?

Despite this and other feelings I explained away“I just really want to be friends with that girl, I don’t like like her”I didn’t realize I was queer until I had my first boyfriend in college. Between his being a kind, compassionate listener and both of us being in a theater group full of queer folx, I put the pieces together. I told him things I hadn’t told other people and named feelings I’d had for others (mostly girls) in the past that, through conversations with him and questions from him, I realized were actually crushes.

When I think about the awkward adolescent girl who thought something was wrong with her because she didn’t like boys, I feel sad for her. She didn’t know what was possible.

It was as though, as a teenager, my sexuality had blossomed and I’d missed it. It was not the sexuality I expected to haveor was “supposed” to haveso I didn’t even know it was there. In college, I labeled myself as bisexual for the first time.

But because I discovered that queerness so lateand during a “straight” relationshipI still never had the opportunity to explore it. Even though my boyfriend (now partner) and I were non-monogamous from early in our relationship, I avoided exploring my queerness. I felt “too old” to be a baby queer with little experience dating queer folx.

But if there is one thing that’s helping me overcome those feelings, it’s my kinkiness.

After moving from small town Pennsylvania to Chicago, my partner and I started exploring the kink/BDSM scene and I was finally able to dip a toe into the queer and kinky pool. It was my eventual comfort level in kink spaces that finally gave me the courage jump in. Attending my first “women only” play party was an incredibly huge and terrifying step. It at least gave me the space to meet others without feeling on display for the cis male gaze.

I saw a woman sitting by herself, wearing very high black heels, skinny jeans, a black and white wool poncho, and matching glasses. She looked like someone I would like to meet so I got up the nerve to walk over to her.

“Hi, I’m Nicole.” I reached out to shake her hand.

“I’m Katrina* and I’m really bad at doing what you just did,” she responded, laughing.

I pulled up a chair next to her and didn’t really think about her age until she told me she’s 14 years my senior, using her age as a gauge for how long she’s been in the scene.

We spent much of the party chatting, and eventually I got up even more nerve to ask her, “How do you feel about electricity?” Then we spent probably an hour or more playing with my Neon Wand, a device that basically creates varying levels of electrical discharge across the skin.

She had been out of the scene for several years after a bad relationship and because that was her first night back and she was the first woman I’d ever played with, it was a significant moment for both of us. The next morning, she sent a message checking on me, making sure I was OK with everything that happened between us the night before. I had been in a safer and more familiar space, so I was able to take a risk with someone new. I had felt heard and cared for by her, despite the fact that I barely knew her.

At another play party, I ended up in a scene with two other women and a pro-domme, participating in what became known as the “butt buffet” of the evening, so called because the three of us were lined up side by side, bent over a table, bottoms exposed for a spanking. It wasn’t supposed to be a competition, but I won, tapping out last. I let my competitiveness get the best of me and I was left blushing and bruised for days after.

If it wasn’t for my kinkiness (and the understanding of a supportive partner), I don’t know how or when I might have ended up actually exploring my queerness. Rather than just being an outlet for a different side of myselfthe masochistic and sensually curious onekink has given me the space and confidence to explore the queer part of myself that has been present for decades.

Part of kink, for me, is about toying with my boundaries and playing with my “edges”those things that seem scary and dangerous, but can actually be exciting and empowering if explored cautiously and consciously. Being queer has been more of an edge for me than I ever would have liked it to be but it’s not entirely my own faultI partially blame living in a tiny, conservative town during the pre-Internet days. It unfortunately stayed an edge for me as I felt shamed for writing about it during essay workshops and unwelcome by a few people I actually knew in the queer community because of my primary relationship with a cis guy.

But kink gives me a strength and confidence and audacity that I don’t know I would have discovered otherwise. Now when I think back to that shy little girl feeling lost and wrong, watching Catwoman literally whip pistols out of the hands of two policemen, I am not so worried about her. It might be a long time before she finds herself, but she’ll figure it out. And maybe learn how to throw a whip herself along the way.

*Not her real name

Matthew Dean Stewart Puts Fragile Masculinity On Display

Portland-based photographer Matthew Dean Stewart gets frustrateda lot.

“I am constantly frustrated by anybody who says that we’re supposed to be doing something or that this is how we should be doing things,” he tells INTO. “With pretty much everything that I hear: relationships, marriage or any of that. There’s all these things that we’ve built to be expected of living a full life.”

And while that contrarian attitude no doubt can cause debate, it served as vital inspiration for Stewart’s first photography book, Fragile Masculinity, a series of male portraits that explores rigid notions of what is masculine through portraits of the male form.

“I like to challenge what society expects of us,” the 30-year-old says. “Challenge what we’re trained [to think] and how media has shifted our perception of reality.” And for Stewart, the book, which is the subject of a recently launched Kickstarter, offers that challenge. For three months the creative shot 30 men in Portland, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.

“Within a lot of my self portraiture work, I like to play with gender and challenge myself to do something different,” Stewart says. “The idea of fragile masculinity or just masculinity in general is playing such a huge part in the gay community, but it clearly is a bigger issue in the straight communitybeing scared of something that you’re not familiar with.”

Stewart is obviously not alone in seeing the effects of fragile masculinity and creating work to combat its prevalence. Other queer artists also have addressed it, most notably Tarell Alvin McCraney who wrote the play that would go on to become Moonlight, the Oscar-winning coming of age tale revolving around toxic masculinity. But others like Andy Simmonds, the artist who goes by the name Rooney, have also dug into the space. Rooney’s graphic based work include “Masc 4 Masc” tees written in pink bubble letters as well as “Make America Femme Again” merch in a series specifically targeted at the gay community.

Stewart, though, wants to divorce sexuality from his project, working with ideas of masculinity over all.

“It’s inherently queer work because I’m a queer photographer and everyone that I shot happens to be queer,” Stewart says. “But if I were to have shot 10 straight men and put those in, you wouldn’t or shouldn’t be able to tell because I would shoot them no different.”

Each model is shot nude and also wearing a dress.

“I wanted it to be super simple,” Stewart says. “So the idea was to shot all of these men wearing a very feminine type of dress as opposed to like a big ball gown or something that’s extreme.”

Stewart says that though he loves and respects draghis career began shooting drag queens in New Yorkhe purposefully wanted this to not be of that genre.

“Drag has an elevated sense and it’s about impersonating a woman but for this I wanted it to be a man wearing a dress,” he says.

So he sourced bargain bins and thrift stores for the self-funded venture, selecting strappy, camisole sort of dresses and even slips in some cases.

“I knew if I put these dresses on a body that it wasn’t designed for, it would give it a really different look,” he says. And that look varies throughout the book as Stewart used a variety of body types, celebrating the beauty in all cis-male forms.

Some of those models pulled double duty as both subjects and artists. While the first half of Fragile Masculinity composed of the dual portraits, the second half of the 100+ page soft-bound book is a collection of work from queer artists around the world.

“When this started to become less of a zine and more of a book, I knew I wanted to put more people in it, so I just put the word out there,” Stewart said. What he received was submissions from poets, creative writers, and illustrators all riffing on their own personal ideas about fragile masculinity. The result is a collection of voices that the artist hopes can change thoughts and perceptions about who men should be.

As part of the campaign, Stewart released a video that questions why we continue to believe that a piece of fabric should be what makes someone a man or woman. That messaging is already resonating with people.

“The day I launched my Kickstarter, I had a friend who had just gotten a text message from his mom,” Stewart says. “Basically it was about the fact that he likes to play with gender in his every day, and he switches it up. His mom sent him a text that day saying ‘So are you a woman now? Are you going to start dressing like a woman?’ He was super frustrated, and I had just posted my video [on Kickstarter] and so he sent it to her. And he said just that video of me talking for three minutes sort of shifted how she saw and felt.That’s what I want.”

The “Fragile Masculinity” Kickstarter runs until January 15. The book is expected to release March 2018 and will be available for purchase after completion.

Britney Spears to Perform Her Vegas Residency on ABC’s ‘New Year’s Rockin’ Eve’

Britney Spears has had quite a year. Not only did she complete an epic run at Planet Hollywood for her Vegas residency, but she became our favorite model/artist/Instagrammer of 2017. Whether she was putting on amateur fashion shows in the halls of her mansion or auctioning off one of the beautiful paintings she created on her balcony (raising $10,000 for an art piece memorializing victims of the Vegas massacre), she made our years just a little brighter.

So, who better to help us say goodbye to 2017 and ring in 2018 with a bang? The pop icon and all-star mom is performing at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest on ABC. Bidding farewell to the year and her Vegas residency, she’s putting on a special performance of Britney: Piece of Me for all of us who couldn’t make it to the Strip. She confirmed the upcoming performance this week on Twitter.

The last time she performed on the classic New Year’s special was 2002, and she sang “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” Now more of a woman than any of us could hope to be, she’ll perform yet again with such hits as “Toxic” and “Work Bitch.”

In case you weren’t sure, Dick Clark’s New Years’ Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest airs December 31 on ABC. Don’t miss Britney Spears perform Britney: Piece of Me during the special, co-hosted by Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy. Other performances include Kelly Clarkson, Sugarland, Shawn Mendes, and Nick Jonas.

Watch the promo below:

For Some Reason, Darren Criss Felt the Need to Explain His Naked Selfie

There are many things that we question about the upcoming American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Can Ricky Martin act? Why would you not cast Lady Gaga as Donatella? How much ‘90s nostalgia can Ryan Murphy fit into nine episodes?

One thing we don’t understand why anyone would question is Darren Criss’ lack of clothing. The former Glee star portrays Andrew Cunanan, the serial killer responsible for the death of the iconic fashion designer. Back in May, he was spotted by fans in Miami Beach, filming a scene that called for a wardrobe only consisting of a red Speedo.

Afterward, he took to Instagram with a very risqué photo of himself sunburnt and completely naked, dangling the red Speedo in front of his crotch. The caption read, “So what’s more red? My sunburn, my Speedo, or YOUR FACE?? #ACSVersace”

‪So what’s more red? My sunburn, my speedo, or YOUR FACE??? #ACSVersace

A post shared by Darren Criss (@darrencriss) on

If you’ve seen the photo, you can probably agree that the third option is the correct answer. It was certainly a welcome addition to everyone’s Instagram feeds for that day. But for some reason, someone felt the need for Criss to explain his public nudity during his recent appearance on the Ladygang Podcast.

“I was wearing this ridiculous red Speedo thing and thank god it was for the show because pictures had come out, the paparazzi had caught us,” he explained. “We’re shooting a scene on the beach and it’s Miami. It’s fair game, we’re out in the open so there are photos of me in a scene with Max Greenfield, and I’m in this red Speedo and I look kind of ridiculous. We’re all kind of giggling about this on set, like, ‘Oh my god, this is getting picked up.’ And I kind of wanted to take it back for myself. At the end of that day, I was completely sunburned and was essentially the same color as the Speedo, and so I’m looking at myself in the mirror thinking this is too funny. So, after those photos went out, I was like, ‘I have a better photo.’ So that was that.”

We assure you, Darren, the only thing people think you look in that “outfit” is ridiculously sexy. But way to take back your body and show it the way you want. Feel free to do it as much as you feel comfortable!

The Bechdel Test Is And Always Has Been Queer

Alison Bechdel’s surname is arguably more famous than she is.

The Dykes To Watch Out For comic strip creator had no way of knowing that a 1985 storyline for her illustrated lesbian characters would inspire a new notion of feminist film-viewing. In “The Rule,” Bechdel draws a conversation between two dykes where one explains that she has a rule for the kinds of movies she’ll watch.

“One, it has to have at least two women in it,” she says, “who, two, talk to each other about something besides a man.”

That very simple idea has since spawned The Bechdel Test, a way for critics and viewers alike to decide if a film is going to be women-friendly. And yet, there are still too many movies that can’t pass this basic outline, which largely has to do with the same gatekeeping that has kept women directors from being hired, or for stories focusing on a womanbut especially, more than one woman.

“It was just a lesbian feminist joke of the ’80s, the kind of stuff we were all saying to each other,” Bechdel said in a Recode interview earlier this year. “And it, you know, it just disappeared. But then, 20 years later, these young feminists resurrected it. I think it started with women in film school who were being told the exact opposite. ‘If you want to sell a movie to Hollywood, don’t put more than two women in it, etc.”

The Bechdel Test has proven very useful in calling out the continuous sexism permeating both classic and modern cinema, but as things have improved (slightly), there is much more to consider. Recently, FiveThirtyEight challenged women directors, writers, producers, and reporters to propose additional tests that might help weed out films that pass in theory, but are still not quite up to par when it comes to representation of women in front of or behind the camera.

Actress/writer Rory Uphold proposed that we ask if the on-set crew is 50 percent women, a test surely many films of past or present would fail indisputably. Lena Waithe’s test would judge the representation of women of color, specifically that a black woman included in a film would have a powerful position and also be involved in a happy relationship. Boys Don’t Cry filmmaker Kim Peirce proposed that there be a female protagonist with her own story, and that she has dimension (“and exists authentically with needs and desires that she pursues through dramatic action”), leading the audience to empathize with her as they might a typical male hero.

But despite queer inclusion of Waithe and Peirce in this discussion, the proposals for new Bechdel-esque Tests leaves out any notion of LGBTQ-ness, a bizarre oversight considering the test’s origins.

If you consider that the original comic strip came out at a time when lesbian-themed films were few and far between, and queer women largely had to make do with subtext (thus the Alien reference), not only was The Bechdel Test a way for women to enjoy films, but for queer women to seek out films that were not all heterosexual-themed love fests.

Gay film historian Vito Russo inspired a similar test for LGBTQ visibility that is now named in his honor. The Vito Russo Test requires a film contain a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender, and that character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity. They also must be a part of the larger plot and not just a colorful side character used to set up a punchline (or, worse, be the punchline).

In theory, these two tests can and should coincide for not just women and/or queer viewers, but for moviegoers seeking authenticity and truthful representation of the tapestry of human life in general. This should certainly extend to representation of POCs and the calling out of harmful tropes and stereotypes that will otherwise continue to permeate the work available on all size screens. But if a conversation about The Bechdel Test touches upon all other facets of women-friendliness and leaves out any kind of queer inclusion and representation, then it is already a failure. Besides that, every single lesbian-themed film that exists passes the Bechdel Test, something that should not be ignored.

Queer women have long been champions of women having something other to talk about and do than something related to men, and The Bechdel Test has inspired this ultimately queer and feminist reading of the movies we accept, allow, and support. Even non-queer specific films that pass The Bechdel Test are part of a legacy that was inspired by the queer feminist lens, a way of consuming media with a discerning eye and ear tuned into the insistence of not only misogyny but heteronormativity and racism, along with other problematic notions that have existed far too long in the boys club that is the industry.

Forgetting where the Bechdel Test came from does a great disservice to not just Alison Bechdel, but any woman who doesn’t identify as 100 percent straight. We’ve already subsisted on crumbsif it’s time to update the tests films must pass to be women-friendly and watch-worthy, then it’s surely time that queer women be not just included but welcomed into the fold that they helped to initiate in the first place.

“It’s really funny to me that the idea hadn’t got much traction in the popular culture until now,” Bechdel told The Atlantic. “Like, finally, 30 years later, the world is ready for basic lesbian, feminist principles.

Images via Alison Bechdel and Getty

Dear Gays: Franklin Graham Doesn’t Hate You, He Just Wants You to ‘Know the Truth’ About Your ‘Lifestyle’

Franklin Graham would like everyone to know that he doesn’t “hate” gay people. He just disagrees with their “lifestyle.”

Graham, son of the late televangelist Billy Graham, posted on Facebook about a court case in California in which a Christian baker denied to furnish a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding. David Lampe, a judge with the Kern County Superior Court, declined the state’s request for a restraining order in the case, claiming he wasn’t able to make that decision based on the information provided to the court.

The evangelical minister lamented the fact that Cathy Miller, owner of Bakersfield’s Tastries Bakery, was put in this position to begin with.

“Why can’t Christians have the freedom to say ‘No’ to what they want to say no to?” Graham claimed in a Wednesday post linking to a news report from Las Vegas station KTNV. “The LGBT community continues to target Christians to try to get us to accept their lifestyle. It ain’t gonna happen. God calls homosexuality sintake it up with Him if you don’t like it. He is the one who defines sin, not me.”

Graham added that his opposition to same-sex relationships isn’t motivated by bigotry.

“As a Christian of course I don’t hate gays, I love them and want them to know the truth,” the 65-year-old told his Facebook followers, which number more than 6 million. “If they choose to live that lifestyle, they certainly have the freedom to do so in this countrybut don’t tell me what I have to believe or participate in.”

Graham’s post was “liked” 81,000 times.

The California court battle is strikingly similar to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case heard before the Supreme Court earlier this month. Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Masterpiece, Color., declined to offer services to Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012. He claimed that baking a cake for a same-sex wedding would be an affront to his Christian faith.

Mullins and Craig brought the incident to the attention of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and won in 2013, with Phillips ordered to undergo sensitivity training. But his attorneys argued before the Supreme Court on Dec. 5 that the ruling violated Phillips’ rights to freedom of speech and artistic expression.

Miller’s lawyers have argued similarly. The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, a San Diego-based firm, has claimed that creating wedding cakes for LGBTQ individuals “would violate her sincerely held religious beliefs.”

But for Graham, this is about more than a debate over Constitutional rights. Contrary to what he says on Facebook, he just really doesn’t like queer people.

The minister has claimed that the LGBTQ rights movement is the literal work of the devil, called same-sex marriage “detestable,” believes gay people “recruit” kids into homosexuality, and supports Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws, which have caused hate crimes against queer and trans people to double since 2013.

Graham has also claimed he loves the LGBTQ folks “enough to… warn them that if they want to continue living like this, it’s the flames of hell for you.”

Tiffany Haddish Blessed Us With an Image of Her Hanging Out With Beyonce

What has been a banner year for Girls Trip star and should-be Oscar recipient Tiffany Haddish got even better on Friday, according to the comedian’s Instagram.

On Friday afternoon, Haddish let the world know that she hung out with none other than Beyonce Knowles.

What did they discuss? How much better they are than me?

According to her caption, Knowles told Haddish that Haddish’s wig was slipping. (No, she was just kidding.)

“But for real she told me to have fun and I did!” Haddish exclaimed.

If anyone wants to know where I am, I’ll be like Matilda at the library xeroxing some adoption papers so that Haddish and Knowles can get the long legal process of becoming my mothers started.