People Really Want Cardi B to Knock “Despacito” From Top of the Music Charts

She makes money move and now her fans are looking to help her make major moves on the Billboard charts.

On Monday, Billboard announced that Afro-Dominican rapper Cardi B’s summer trap anthem “Bodak Yellow” rose to #3 on its weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart. Concurrent with that news, Billboard announced that the inescapable Spanish-language smash “Despacito” had reached its 15th week at #1, putting it only one week away from the record set by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day.”

In response, Cardi B and Carey’s fans have devised a plan: if Cardi B can hit #1, not only would a woman have the #1 song for the first time in 2017, Carey’s record will remain intact.

A lot of fans on Twitter have been calling for “Bodak Yellow” to nab the top spot.

Some fans even pointed out that, like “Despacito,”“Bodak Yellow” is available in Spanish for those who are looking for their Cardi B fix in another language. Along with two versions of the single, Cardi B will get some major promo this weekend when she performs at MTV’s 34th annual Video Music Awards during the preshow.

With versions in two languages, a televised performance, and the combined forces of Cardi B stans and the Lambily, can “Bodak Yellow” stop “Despacito” in its tracks and give a female rapper the number one song in the country?

If fans are able to pull this off, they’ll have everyone saying the same thing:

via GIPHY

Peppermint Is Just Getting Started

It’s been just months since Peppermint captivated audiences worldwide with her charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent on the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

On screen, she had a twinkle in her eye and a warmth in her voice, which when teamed with her legendary lip-sync skills, propelled her straight to the final. But while this is the moment she became an international household name, Peppermint has been burning up the streets of New York for decades; now, her profile looks set to further erupt with the upcoming release of an in-depth, crowd-funded documentary, “Project Peppermint.”

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker and close friend Oriel Pe’er, the documentary promises an intimate glimpse into the life of Peppermint both pre and post-Drag Race with some great tidbits that many fans may have never known.

“I used to go to her show at Barracuda religiously, and we became friends,” says Pe’er of the long-standing friendship, which became professional when he worked on a series of Peppermint’s music videos.

“About a year ago, she reached out to tell me she was about to go through her gender reassignment surgery and she wanted to talk about documenting the process,” he told INTO. “The timing was perfect – a few days later, I came up to her apartment and we started filming. From that first night, I could really feel how ready she was to tell her story, and that excited me even more.”

Speaking over the phone during a hectic day of travel preparations, Peppermint confirms a desire to document her journey with the help of her close creative friends.

“There was so much about my life that I didn’t have documented,” she says. “I didn’t have old photos in scrapbooks or home movies of my formative years. I wanted to rectify that in some way. I can’t turn back time, but I can make a documentary.”

Despite her increasingly packed schedule (“This is how my life has changed after Drag Race,” she laughs), she juggles tasks flawlessly and immediately puts me at ease. We talk for an hour, although it feels like longer; not only is she endearingly candid, she has a razor-sharp wit which makes her impossible not to love.

Born in Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware, Peppermint speaks of a liberal childhood, which enabled her to experiment with drag from an early age. “My grandmother was a seamstress and she used to make costumes for me – she would dress me as Boy George when I was a child,” she recalls fondly. “My first time in drag was Halloween when I was a teenager, but I even did a high school cross-dressing competition, which I won!”

“I was pretty confident, but for me it was never about being a man dressing in drag,” she continues. “I was communicating who I really was, which is a woman.”

Now, decades later, the star is using her public platform to dispel the myth that trans women can’t be drag queens.“Trans and drag are two different things,” Peppermint explains. “One is an identity and one is a job, but they can be related if they exist in the same person obviously.” And hours of taped performances show just how much of a job this was for her and promises interviews with other trans stars including Trace Lysette and Laverne Cox who have had similar experiences.

“We were dancing around on beer-soaked stages in New York City before anybody knew who we were,” she reveals before unleashing her trademark cackle. “It was very natural for me to involve her because she’s been involved in my transition very closely. I would ask her for advice on personal things that I was going through – she’s always been there.”

She describes this support network as crucial, and urges LGBTQ youth to seek out representation within their own communities, both online and in real life like she did with Cox and Lysette. “Humanity is all about humans,” she explains. “I don’t think that stops existing when we talk about minorities – it only amplifies that.”

Unfortunately, varied depictions of trans people – specifically trans people of color – in mainstream media are still difficult to find. Things are slowly changing for the better, and Peppermint remains optimistic that representation will continue to improve: “The treatment of trans people and our community has not been the most thoughtful in Hollywood – in housing, in film and television, even in the romantic sector,” she admits with a chuckle.

“Everyone in the world is learning more about what it means to be trans than they knew even a year or two ago, so I think every show on television is changing. It’s just a matter of time not only until you see a trans person on your favorite show, but until you see them referred to in a respectful manner,” she says.

This lack of representation is exactly why “Project Peppermint” is so vital even though it is a passion project. Because it would be naive to underestimate the importance of “Project Peppermint” and of Peppermint herself: she’s entertaining yet eloquent, charming yet informed, and able to color even the most difficult discussions with her infectious sense of humor. And her representation is inspiring.

I ask if she ever gets nervous about the influential platform she’s created for herself, at which point she laughs and admits that she often switches off with a tub of ice-cream and a good movie.

“No, I’m not scared,” she laughs. “I’m up for the challenge!”

Aphrodisiac Kitchen: Coconut Lime Avocado Fries

We sat at the edge of my bed acquainting ourselves, discussing the loss of Amy Winehouse.

When our eyes met, we both smiled, aware of the palpable tension that started in the vocal chords of the venue. We kissed. And kissed. And kissed. Strong yet compassionate- as if we were trying to lick the plaque off each other’s tongues. We were hungry for each other and it felt like days since we last ate. Our bodies, loose with soft muscles, melted together.

He was my first harvest, and the change of season brought heat. I peeled back his clothes like the meat of a coconut. His flesh was sweet and supple. His scent was an olfactory pleasure: a mix of bergamot, tar, and peppermint. He was beautiful.

We threw all formalities out the window and welcomed the fruitful messiness of our actions. I buried my face anywhere and everywhere, feeling satisfied yet hungry for more. No fast food. No instant gratification. It was to be full, not heavy. Nutrient dense and thought about. Something that leaves you satiated and satisfied. A meal that lingers with pleasure. We took a break to catch our breath. Our bodies still touching, he hugged my neck with his. And just as our heart rates fell, we picked up where we left off, in a bountiful harvest.

The following day, I made us a recent favorite of mine: coconut lime avocado fries.

Unfortunately, he was visiting from Israel, so I knew there was an expiration date on this unusual connection. He laid in my bed as I prepared us an afternoon snack. Buttery. Fatty. Nutritious and delicious. After our evening together, indulgence only made sense. I dipped the avocado flesh in a repetitive mix of milk, flour, milk, coconut and grated the skins of lime to make our lips pucker. He met me in the kitchen as I set the oven to 400F.

____


Coconut Lime Avocado Fries

2 avocados
1/4 c coconut flour
1/2 tbs nutritional yeast
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2c almond milk
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 c grated coconut
zest of two limes
2 limes juiced

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
  2. In a bowl, mix together flour, yeast, and spices.
  3. In another bowl, add coconut flakes and the zest of both limes.
  4. In a third bowl, pour almond milk.
  5. Cut avocados in half, remove the see, and cut into 5 or 6 slices.
  6. Remove skins and sprinkle the juice of one lime over the meat.
  7. One at a time, dunk your slices into the repetitive mix: milk, coconut flour, milk coconut flakes.
  8. Make sure your slices are getting a nice even coating of each and add to a greased baking sheet.
  9. Repeat this process until you have coated every slice.
  10. Add to heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
  11. Flip halfway between cooking time.
  12. Once the coconut is beautiful and golden, remove from the oven, sprinkle with your leftover lime juice and ENJOY (I eat mine with sriracha or vegan mayo).

The Aphrodisiac Kitchen is an online based journal that explores plant based cooking and human interaction through a romantic narrative. Teamed up with INTO, you can expect this food column to be a mix of storytelling and recipes to not only teach you how to make a delicious dish but also have a delicious time.”

Why Reclaiming ‘Gal Pals’ is a Double-Edged Sword

One of my most prized possessions is a green shirt with the words “GAL PAL” printed at the top. Much like scissoring iconography or femme-flagging, the term “gal pal” has come to be a tongue-in-cheek symbol for queer women and femmes.

In early 2015, the Daily Mail posted a number of articles about Kristen Stewart and her girlfriend, Alicia Cargile. Despite the fact that Stewart and Cargile were incredibly affectionate, the Daily Mail referred to them as ‘gal pals’ and – in one particularly hilarious case – “live-in gal pals.” It wasn’t just the Daily Mail: many other outlets avoided acknowledging that their relationship was anything more than platonic.

The term “gal pal” blew up when the Daily Mail used it to describe Kristen Stewart’s relationship, but the term dates back earlier. Tabloids did the same thing to Ireland Baldwin and Angel Haze as well as Cara Delevingne and Michelle Rodriguez back in 2014.

Queer and feminist media rightfully pointed out why this response is both amusing and heterosexist: If one of those celebrities had been photographed in the same situation with a man, tabloids would have assumed they were romantically involved.

With the media’s hesitance to acknowledge romantic relationships between women and femmes felt a lot like erasure a longstanding issue whenever lesbians are discussed in public. But can “gal pal” be reclaimed in a way that doesn’t erase us and truly honors the complicated relationships queer women have?

Writing for the New Statesman, Eleanor Margolis explains: “There’s this lingering notion that lesbians are just women going through an experimental phase, in which they finger their closest mates. The same certainly doesn’t apply to gay men, around whom there’s hardly ever any perceived ambiguity.

‘Boy pal’ isn’t a thing.”

“If two men are seen kissing in public, they’re gay,” she continues. “Two women doing the same are confused. Or attention seeking. Or ‘on a break’ from men.”

Much like the word “queer” has been reclaimed by our community, the term “gal pal” is in the process of being reclaimed, too. It mostly started as a Tumblr joke, with users ironically referring to girlfriends, lovers, and married couples as “gal pals.”

In January 2015, the Tumblr justgalpalthings was launched. The Tumblr deliberately posted pictures of women with captions describing romantic and sexual situations ironically watermarked with the phrase “justgalpalthings.” The term became ubiquitous in online queer communities and publications, most notably the queer women’s site Autostraddle.

Nowadays, queer women and femmes all over use the term “galpals” to ironically refer to romantic relationships. The term has gone so mainstream that many straight people use it, too. Using the term acknowledges how the media erases queerness, as in Kristen Stewart’s case.It’s a term the media uses to erase us, and we’re reclaiming it – there’s something deeply powerful about that.

Here’s the thing though: not every close relationship between women and femmes is romantic and/or sexual. Sometimes we are just gal pals, no sex or romance at all. People are using the phrase too liberally, and that leads to another kind of erasure. We use it to refer to female sex partners, best friends, and roommates to suggest their relationship is romantic – even when they say it’s not.

A few of the items inthis Buzzfeed listexemplify this problem. Like, hello Buzzfeed? Why can’t I go down on my best female friend? Why can’t I live with my best friend, too? Why can’t I join Her just because I want to make friends?

My friendships with other femmes, women, and non-binary people are important to me. They’re validating. They’re beautiful. They’re essential in fighting patriarchy. Sometimes, these friendships aren’t traditional. We might cuddle, or hold hands, or kiss, or plan on growing old together, or even sleep together. It doesn’t mean that they’re not friendships, though: we’re the only people who get to define our relationship.

Weshouldcall out the media when it erases queerness, but we can’t erase friendships between women and femmes simply because they differ from our traditional ideas of friendship. Why can’t two women consider their relationship a friendship even though they’re raising a child together? Why can’t two women live together as friends? Why can’t two women have no-strings-attached sex (especially since straight people do this all the time)? Why can’t two queer women have a non-sexual relationship without others sexualizing us?

Queer women, femmes, and people who are assumed to be women, face contradictory reactions from society. On one hand, our romantic and sexual relationships are erased by the media. On the other hand, our close friendships are often sexualized by the world around us. Both responses are rooted in heterosexism, and both responses deny our right to define our own relationships.

It’s important that we reclaim terms like “gal pals” when they’re used against us, but it’s also important that we’re mindful of how we reclaim it. Our assumptions about people’s relationships are often rooted in harmful ideas about love and friendship. Whether we’re tabloid journalists or random individuals watching two people hold hands, it’s probably best that we don’t make any fleeting assumptions about the nature of their relationships.

Trump Decries ‘Bigotry and Prejudice’ In Military After Banning Trans Troops

President Donald Trump claimed that the military is no place for “bigotry and prejudice” in a Monday speech, but critics claim there’s a problem with that statement: His anti-LGBTQ policies promote the intolerance he condemns.

Trump delivered a televised address to the public in which he said that the military would be reinvesting in the Afghanistan conflict, sending an additional 4,000 troops to the war-torn country. But during that speech, the president appeared to offer yet another statement on the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va. Three people were killed over the weekend as a result of a clash between Confederate apologists and anti-racist protesters.

In response, the president alleged violence on “both sides.” Many noted that statement failed to take a stand against white supremacy.

Trump did not change that tack Monday.

“When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate,” Trump said, now the third time that he has publicly commented on Charlottesville in a press conference. “The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.”

That statement was lambasted by LGBTQ advocates, given that Trump called for a ban on trans military service in a series of July 26 tweets.

“[T]he United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S.,” he wrote. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming military victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said that as the Oval Office works to make Trump’s tweet into policy, the president’s Monday speech is “laughable.”

“His administration has repeatedly tried to move policies that discriminate and to promote prejudice against LGBTQ Americans and other marginalized communities,” Ellis said in an email statement provided to INTO. “From trying to ban transgender troops who just want to serve this country to filling his administration with known anti-LGBTQ activists, Trump’s words are disingenuous and embody fake news.”

Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, also wasn’t impressed.

“The president’s remarks on racism and bigotry within the military were misplaced and not believableespecially only a month after he unilaterally and without expertise or consultation attack transgender troops,” Kiesling wrote in a press release. “The U.S. military has always been a leader in advancing acceptance, integration and equality, yet it is the President called in July for the persecution and purging of transgender troops.”

Although Trump has claimed that removing trans military members would save the armed forces money, that claim has been routinely debunked.

A 2016 study from the RAND corporation found that providing health coverage for transgender service memberswould cost between $2.4 million to $8.4 million. This is far from the “billions” that Trump has cited. Meanwhile, discharging trans troops has a price tag of $960 million. UCLA’s The Williams Institute has estimated that 15,500 active-duty personnel are transgender.

The White House has yet to comment on LGBTQ criticism of the president’s Monday remarks.

A Queer Weekend in Baltimore: Pink Flamingoes & A Divine 10-Foot Drag Queen

Hey listen, I never thought I would take a trip to Baltimore (on purpose), and actually like it. It’s not that I had a preconceived notion about the city, but it just was never on my radar.

But with its close proximity to cities we love (NYC, D.C., Philly), a weekend escape to Baltimore is actually worth exploring. What once was a city tarnished with a bad reputation of being crime ridden, Charm City has cleaned itself up and is quickly rebranding itself as a more visitor friendly destination.

My first stop on my Charm City tour was the American Visionary Art Museum, a most odd collection of absurd art. The official museum description says, “the museum specializes in the preservation and display of outsider art,” with outsider being the key takeaway from that statement.

It’s one of those places that one can get lost in while easily questioning what they are actually seeing. In one of the exhibition rooms, I found myself surrounded by a larger than life works of art. The one that caught my eye in particular, was a 10-foot statue of the famous Drag Queen: Divine. “Divine” has a permanent home now at the AVAM, and is a showstopper, to say the least.

The gift shop was also a great time waster, as it’s filled with nothing but treasures and upstairs, in the main building is Encantada, a gem of a restaurant that focuses heavy on healthy eating, so expect lots of veggies and vegan/vegetarian options, although they do also serve more traditional options as well.

When traveling through domestic cities, I always try and find the best barbershop, since they are so on trend and it’s always fun to compare different shops around the country. I remember asking around and each time I did, I would always get the same referral, so I decided to carve out some time for a visit.

Opened in 2005 as a four-chair grooming shop, and reimagined in 2015 and reopening as a one-stop destination for those who appreciate the finer things in life, the QG can easily fill up an afternoon. The 6-floor classic department store includes a barbershop, tailor, clothing retail for both men and women, a cigar shop, spa and even an unpublicized speakeasy on the top floor with a food menu to pair with the extensive bar list. Of course I started my experience at the bar, with a stiff drink, while I waited for my barber.

When it was my turn, I was so pleased to see that that my barber was a female. This (besides the bar) was a good indication that this was a more progressive barbershop. After gabbing about our favorite pop songs currently on the radio and once my fade was beyond fixed, we made plans to meet up later that night, as she revealed to me that she was a lesbian and also moonlights as a bartender, so it was a match made in heavenas I love drinks and lesbians.

Needless to say, that evening was a success, as she was able to show off her barbering skills to her friends at the bar, while I enjoyed deeply discounted cocktails.

A visit to Baltimore wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Hampden neighborhood, which once was a blue-collar mill town that has since risen as the epicenter of Baltimore hipsters. Made famous for its starring role in John Waters’ films and known as the place where everybody calls you “hon,” the centerpiece of Hampden is 36th Street, where you will find original shops, cafes and lots of randomness.

Café Hon is must and easy to spot, just look for the massive pink flamingo. For some really cool gift shopping, head to Brightside Boutique, it’s the kind of place where all the knickknacks sold will somehow speak to you, as they are all really kitschbut it also has stylish on-trend clothing. And if you have ever written fan mail to John Waters, you know that all his fan mail goes directly to Atomic Books, a much needed and iconic bookstore with a bar in the back.

During my time in the city, I noticed that a lot of people had the same tote bag, it was a stylish one, so of course, I had to have one. Turns out, the bag is a local favorite and is also locally made. Inspired by their hometown of Baltimore and their surroundings, the owners sought out to create a product that could carry the goods of the traveling craftsman, made strong enough for delicate iPads to heavy hand tools.

The Treason Toting Company has expanded beyond the tote bag, and now has a storefront, making it convenient to see their products and spend some money. My bag has traveled the world with me and always gets me some compliments, so I’m definitely happy with my purchase. I’m currently saving up for the matching backpack.

Where I Stayed: The main reason I decided to head to Baltimore was to check out the new Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, which recently opened (late March 2017), and is part of a new luxury brand that comes from Montage International. This is their second hotel in the new collection and it’s a much-welcomed addition to Baltimore. What once was a dilapidated pier and community center is now a beautifully restored masterpiece, and the hottest ticket in town, for both rooms and dinner reservations.

The 128-room property is just stunning, and the finishing details and artwork will have you mesmerized. The handsome décor is paired with a well-trained, top-notch, 5-star staff, which are always all smiles and eager to ensure everyone is having a great stay. The Rec Pier Chop House is the centerpiece of the hotel, and offers a progressive, seasonally focused menu. Additionally, the hotel has The Cannon Room, an American whiskey bar.

The hotel’s outdoor pool has cabanas, a restaurant/bar and is set right on the waterfront on the Inner Harbor, offering panoramic views of the harbor, marina and city skyline.

Cooking Up Community in the NYC Queer Scene

While New York City’s LGBTQ scene is commonly associated with nightlife, three creative queer chefs have decided to forge a new path for the scene to flourish outside the clubs.

Alex Koones of Babetown, Mantra Mundana of Remedi Food, and Slater Stanley of Slater G. String’s Kitchen have all launched new culinary ventures providingan affordable, accessible way for NYC’s queer community to come together and be nourished.

And while their endeavor is quite trendy, it does something incredibly important by highlighting an under discussed reality: 1 in 4 LGBT adults have experienced not having enough money for food in their lifetime, according to the Williams Institute.

Alex Koones’s popular Babetown dinner parties, hosted in private homes, are for queer women, trans people, and nonbinary people. Prioritizing these groups feels especially crucial when spaces for queer women continue to decline and trans women of color are being killed at rapid rates.

“I’ve had a lot of experiences with parties or bars that I like really becoming filled with men,” Koones explains. “I think there’s still a lot of empowering that could happen from building a really strong network of queer women, trans, and nonbinary people.”

Koones studied at the Institute of Culinary Education and cooked in acclaimed restaurants like The NoMad. She began throwing dinners for friends at Smith College but had far less time when she began cooking full-time, leading to a hiatus from restaurants and a job at an event planning company. Soon after, Babetown was born.

Slater G. String’s Kitchen is a vegan cooking web series. Remedi Food throws full moon dinner parties of locally-sourced and foraged food; with a menu decided day-of. Koones is not vegan but ensures Babetown is vegan-friendly.

Remedi Food and Slater G. String’s Kitchen subvert the “elitist vegan” stereotype. Slater, a longtime vegetarian, chose veganism while working in a dessert restaurantthe eggs and milk became “grotesque” to him. He realized veganism would only be affordable if he taught himself to cook.

“I would have my friends over because I knew so many people in our community that were struggling for meals or wouldn’t mind having a free meal,” Slater explains. “I could both help my friends be fed for a day and try out some new recipes.” But if someone offered free non-vegan food, he wouldn’t refuse.

“There’s no ethical consumption under late capitalism, so I’m just trying to minimize my footprint as much as possible,” he adds. “I find that some vegans are kinda snooty; that’s not my agenda at all. I’m moreso about educating people through experience.”

Mantra Mundana prefers the term “ethical eater,” explaining that plant-based foods can still come from mistreated workers and big corporations, which is why she prioritizes foraging.

Attending Mundana’s dinner at Ridgewood’s Trans-Pecos, it was clear she sees food as sacred. After our dinner of zucchini noodles and before our dessert of fruits, we breathe together while cradling our plates, effectively praying to our food.

“Autonomy is founded in community,” Mundana says. “These dinners are meant to remind us to celebrate the love and abundance we generate for ourselves.”

Babetown and Remedi Food typically cost $20-35, but have work-trade opportunities. Slater doesn’t hold formal dinners, but frequently feeds people for free or trade. Alex Koones tells INTO that trans women of color do not pay for Babetown, and no one is refused due to finances.

“People often chide me; they’re like, you should raise the cost of the ticket, you should do this and that to make more money off of it,” Koones tells INTO. “The money is not really what this thing is about.”

“My queer community is pretty low-income and paycheck-to-paycheck,” explains Arthur Kay Singleton, producer of Slater G. String’s Kitchen. “I think it’s really important to care for each other. Something Slater taught me before we were even [collaborating] was the importance of feeding your friends and the community that comes from eating together.”

Singleton adds that eating in groups isn’t merely a fun way to eat cheaply.

“There’s a huge overlap with eating disorders and trans people because a lot of us feel uncomfortable in our bodies but didn’t know early on why,” they say. “And it’s so important, I think, as one of the layers of healing, to try and eat together, and normalize eating healthy meals and making it affordable.”

A drag performer and makeup artist, Slater hosts Slater G. String’s Kitchen in a look and chats with a guest while cooking. The show’s second episode, “How To Make Vegan Quiche And Support Trans Women,” features trans model Maya Monès.

“I wanted to showcase the intersection between food and… Everything, really,” Slater tells INTO. “Having different people talk about their lived experience while teaching them how to make a basic vegan meal seemed a very clear way to reach a lot of different types of people effectively.”

Singleton attended NYU with Slater. (Full disclosure: I did too.) They saw this as an opportunity to make something different from the typical queer and trans media.

“A thing with basically all media is that I often feel really isolated from it. Even if I can enjoy it, it feels like I’m watching alien culture, way more now that I’m living with other trans people,” Singleton tells INTO. “A thing that my girlfriend and I say to each other all the time, especially when we were in film school, [was] ‘I just want to watch trans people eat breakfast.’ I’m so sick of coming out stories.”

Production has been slow; they’ve only released two episodes in over a year of work, which they attribute to budgetary constraints.

“We want to set a precedent with this show that queer labor and aesthetic is appreciated and compensated,” Slater adds. Remedi Food specifically employs femme, queer, and gender non-conforming individuals, an attempt to banish the misogyny that can permeate commercial kitchens.

Writer David Mehnert placed foods like BLTs and Twinkies among the ranks of “queer food.” Not in these chef’s kitchens. Mundana values “bizarre” produce like lotus roots and rambutans. Slater likes “weird-looking food,” preferring intuition to recipes. Koones, Mundana, and Stanley have effectively created a network outside of what Mundana deems “conventionally patriarchal Michelin kitchen hierarchies.”

“I understand that not everyone has the time to create a bunch of vegan meals because sometimes people have to work 60 hour weeks just to get by,” Slater says. “But with my show, and these dinner parties and catering opportunities that my friends Alex and Mantra specifically have provided, I think people can start to take on a few things and fit them into their own life in a way that seems more realistic and practical.”

Bisexual Men Exist And Are Dealing with Lots of Stigma

Bisexualmen are always stereotyped as just being gay men who are afraid of coming out of the closet and subsequently erased by society. However, we are here to tell you that they do in fact exist so we’ve gathered a few to share their stories.

In our latest video from INTO, we sit down with a group of bisexual men in London to hear what their experiences are like while living openly as bisexual men, and what different hurdles they must jump everyday when it comes to love and sex.

“Sometimes I don’t want to be the big spoon.” one man shares in the video directed and produced by Lexi Kiddo. But I do want to be the small spoon as well! I can be vulnerable.”

CREDITS:
Director/Producer: Lexi Kiddo
DOP/camera: Kostis Fokas
Studio Assistant: Valentina Vasilatou

Models:
Matilda Oliver
Marlon Kameka

Resistance at Work: Queer Employees at NYC Sex Toy Stores Organize a Union

The Pleasure Chest isn’t your typical workplace.

Employees at the sex toy store’s two New York City locations are mostly queermany of them trans and gender non-conforming. And in late June, they did something few retail workers across the country dare to do: they formed a union, voting 16-0 to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), an affiliate of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

“We want more safety and stability for ourselves,” says Sloan Eckhardt, a four-year-veteran and sex specialist at the West Village store, which sells everything from blue raspberry flavored lube and anal beads to feathers and nipple clamps.

“I think that in the current political environment,” Eckhardt continues, “one that’s hostile to women, queer people, transgender people, immigrants, people of color, and Muslims, just the fact that a group of queer people want to get together and create more stability and safety for ourselves, it’s not separate from that [environment].”

By uniting at the workplace, Pleasure Chest employees aren’t just bringing the much-heralded “resistance” to President Trump and to what’s arguably one of its most overlooked arenas. They also mark a rareand resoundingsuccess story for a U.S. labor movement that has long struggled to gain a foothold in the retail sector.

The campaign kicked off last year, propelled by the sorts of issues retail workers face nationwide: low pay and inconvenient, unpredictable scheduling.

“For years now, we’ve been told there’s just no way to solve the challenge of people being unable to call out sick or take vacation or take personal days without putting the store and our co-workers in a bind in terms of the schedule,” says Eckhardt, who identifies as a non-binary trans person and prefers the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them.’ “I don’t believe that. And most of us do not believe that this challenge is unsolvable.”

Eckhardt and their colleagues also face a set of issues specific to the work they doand ones closely intertwined with their various identities as sexual and racial minorities.

If retail workers across the country are accustomed to a certain amount of disrespect from clients, then queer ones of color selling sex toys suffer from it at especially amplified levels. Pleasure Chest employees told INTO they often deal with homophobic and transphobic verbal abuse; they described incidents of co-workers being hit on by clients; they also say they regularly have to confront intoxicated customers.

LeNair Xavier, 46, a customer assistant at the Upper East Side store, recalled one instance of especially drunken shoppers.

“I had this couple inyou could smell the alcohol on them like it was their new perfume,” says Xavier, who is a black man. “The girl was talking about going in the corner and putting the toy on. You could tell she wasn’t really kidding. He tried to be all macho, like ‘That’s my lady, you gonna help us out or what?’ I said, ‘Yeah that’s your lady, that’s not my problem, that’s on you.’”

Eventually, a manager overheard and intervened. And while Xavier has since taught himself to stay calm and lower his voice in these types of situations, he says they’re all too common.

In response, staffers say they’ve repeatedly asked management to hold trainings on security and de-escalation measuresbut without success. As a result, the demand became a pillar of the union campaign.

While queerness is not a job requirement, the work tends to attract a certain kind of sexually and politically-inclined person. That means tight bonds tend to exist among staff. And it means the foundations of a successful union campaign were already well in place before it officially took off.

“They hired very politically savvy, forward-thinking, mostly radical queer people who were left-leaning,” says Eckhardt. “This is a staff of people who are inspired by courageous examples of resistance to oppression, from our past and from our present. And then, we too believe in sorting out nonsense from reality.”

While Pleasure Chest management also exudes a progressive visionof the bedroom, at leastit did not react positively to the union campaign.

After employees asked the company to voluntarily recognize the union, it declined to do so, instead forcing a federally-supervised election through the National Labor Relations Board. In the run-up to the vote, bosses enlisted the services of notorious anti-union forcesthe employer-side law firm Jackson Lewis and the anti-union consulting firm Labor Relations Instituteboth of them widely and more popularly known in the labor world as “union-busters.” By all accounts, these efforts backfired.

Workers say they attended 10 hours of mandatory anti-union meetings pitched as “information sessions,” sitting through presentations that included dubious statistics, graphics, and charts. Before one gathering at the West Village store, according to employees, a consultant with LRI announced that he was going to misgender workers and apologized for doing so in advance.

“What a sensible person would’ve done under the circumstances was ask!” says Eckhardt. “It just shows they didn’t know anything about usIf anyone had been on the fence about voting ‘yes’ to the union, the anti-union campaign solidified those votes.”

In a statement following the election, Pleasure Chest defended its employment practices and rejected charges that it is not doing enough to protect employee safety.

“We support our workers and will engage in negotiations with the union in good faith,” the company said. “We also strongly value the integrity of our business, which we have spent the past 46 years building, and we will continue towork hard to maintain our core values,progressiveprinciples, and our company mission.”

Representatives from the Labor Relations Institute did not respond to requests for comment.

In any case, the campaign shines a light on the largely unorganized retail sector at large. Just 4.3 percent of workers in retail trade belong to unions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than half the already meager national union membership rate. The absence of a significant presence in the growing sector weighs heavily on a labor movement that has lost density for decades and anxiously seeks relevance in the twenty-first century.

“Since this is a growing sector of the labor market, yes, it’s vital for unions to grow there if they are going to survive,” says Ruth Milkman, a labor sociologist at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and expert on the U.S. labor movement.

For the New York City-based RWDSU, which also represents workers at department stores Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, the Pleasure Chest campaign wasn’t its first venture into sex toy retail. Last May, the union won an election to represent workers at three Babeland stores in New York City, the first sex toy shops in the country to organize.

“We’re going to continue organizing retail workers who want a union,” says RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum when asked if the union has plans at other sex toy stores. “And we’re going to encourage workers at other adult entertainment to consider the advantage of working in an organized environment.”

That would be quite alright with Eckhardt.

“I don’t want to benefit at the expense of anyone else,” they say. “I actually would like to see more of retail to become unified, for retail workers to be respected and to be paid fairly for what we do, whether that’s here at the Pleasure Chest or Walmart or Starbucks or Whole Foods or Amazon, all these other places.”

White Supremacy and Transmisogyny Are Cousins

My stomach dropped when I first heard about the events unfolding in Charlottesville last week.

I thought I had been transported back in time when I saw images of tiki-torch bearing white supremacists chanting around a statue of Confederate villain Robert Edward Lee. It was jarring, but it wasn’t particularly surprising as a native Southerner. I went to undergrad with white students who proudly adorned their dorm walls with Confederate flags and donned the image on hats and t-shirts without a second thought. Let’s just say I’m used to the mindset that accompanies this type of ignorance.

Seeing the counter protesters boldly denouncing them gave a bit of relief. However, the little hope I had on Friday night quickly dissipated by Saturday afternoon. My emotions grew deeper when I read about Heather Heyer’s murder after Neo-Nazi James Alex Fields, Jr. rammed his car into the crowd. Since I’m always interested in other people’s takes, I hopped on social media and noticed the shock waves sent by this senseless violence.

I was struck by the swiftness by which people denounced white supremacy since many people have called for less discussions on identity and boiled down the unrest to economic instability after the 2016 election. I guess now that another tragedy has happened “well-meaning” White America can’t ignore America’s deep-seated racial issues.

Donald Trump’s accountability-skirting remarks on the tragedy deepened the demands from the public and I am proud that people are speaking out about his complicity by not staunchly denouncing the actions of the white supremacists. However, I am disappointed in how people are willing to rally around white supremacy in ways that they don’t when transmisogyny is being discussed. In truth, both of these forces are cousins.

A week before Charlottesville, TeeTee Dangerfield became the16th known trans woman murderedin 2017. Her death came on the heels of a days-long online debate after comedian Lil Duval appeared on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” andjokingly referred to killing trans women. Much of the discussion I saw, particularly from cisgender people, dismissed the connection between hate speech and the actual violence that it influences or justifies. Before the Black trans community could even move the needle on that conversation, there was another tragedy on our hands.

As a Black trans woman, both white supremacist hate speech and transmisogynistic hate speech — that is discriminatory or violent speech targeting trans women, trans feminine or femme-identified gender nonconforming folks — both alarm me similarly. When a white supremacist like Richard Spencer openly supportsBlack genocideand when a comedian insinuates that Black trans women should be killed, they feed into dehumanizing cultural biases that already exist. I don’t get to pick and choose which force is more evil when my life and the lives of my sisters are at risk.

Though discrimination, hate speech, and violence towards the trans people isn’t new, it’s actually increased alongside the visibility and awareness of the community. In 2017,numerous pieces of anti-trans legislationhave been introduced in states across the United States. The number of reported trans murders continues to grow larger with each passing year, and it doesn’t help that Trump openly refers totrans people as burdens. Hate speech targeted towards the trans community can’t be downplayed.

The actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville and the transmisogyny occurring across the United States can’t be extracted from the hostile environment that Trump and conservatives have fostered. Since 45’s election,Communities Against Hate, an initiative that documents and responds to hate violence in the United States, has documented a major spike in hate violence.

At rallies during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump is on record saying things like, “In the good old days, this doesn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily,” in reference to Black protestors. There’s no doubt his words echo for all of the groups he has come after — Latinx immigrants, Muslims, disabled people, women, and LGBTQ people.

For the few who dare to ignore the political mess we’re in, the hood was permanently lifted when Trump advocated for Neo-Nazis to protest the removal of a statue that invokes a deeply painful and traumatic time in U.S. History, particularly for Black Americans. His toxic investment in supporting hate of all kinds will no doubt lead to more violence.

We’re certainly living in dark times, but glimpses of light are found when we begin to hold the hateful accountable. We can’t continue to give a free pass to bigots who raise their voices and fists in the name of xenophobia. They are complicit in how it affects marginalized communities and how all hate speech works in tandem to create a hostile environment for all of us. I’ll never be able to disconnect the damage that white supremacy and transmisogyny does to our society and neither should you.