Take a Look Inside Folsom Street Fair, the World’s Biggest Leather Event

Whips and cigars and puppets, oh my. Welcome to Folsom Street Fair, the famous and infamous San Francisco celebration that stands tall as the world’s largest leather event.

Founded back in 1984, the event brings together leather, BDSM, and other kink enthusiasts across the globe every September. Some have been coming to the festival for nearly the entirety of its existence. Others are newer converts, drawn into the scene out of sheer curiosity.

INTO went to Folsom to talk with attendees from all walks of life. What we found was a sense of community, of belonging. As one puppet (!) told us, for those who don’t feel they belong elsewhere: “This is where you fit in.”

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What is Going on With Ruby Rose’s Career?

Ruby Rose is an enigma—but not in that sexy, mysterious, bad boy in a worn leather jacket type of way. She’s certainly mysterious, but mostly because every turn in her career has me asking, “Wait, what?” Rose is versatile, I guess, if her acting choices are any indication. The Australian actress has tackled many mediums, including TV, film, and music videos, and her career has spanned numerous genres, from thrillers to musicals to superhero dramas. As the 32-year old gears up for her leading role as the lesbian titular character in The CW’s Batwoman, she has me reminiscing on that infamous Cher tweet, in which the singer wrote: “Whats going on with mycareer.” Instead, I’m wondering: What’s going on with Ruby Rose’scareer?

This week, the first picture of Rose as Batwoman was revealed. The role marks her first return to TV in a recurring role since 2015, when the actress exploded on to America’s radar as Stella in Orange is the New Black. As the queer inmate dripping with lesbian sex appeal, she notoriously swept “straight” women off their Jason Derulo-loving feet. Before appearing in the popular Netflix series, Rose had nabbed scant roles in TV and film, but was a well-known model in her native country of Australia.

But after OITNB, her career took a dark turn.

Well, not a dark turn, as I’m sure she’s comfortable financially, but a strange one, nonetheless. Rose appeared first in the Resident Evil series as Abigail in The Final Chapter. She then continued down a rabbit hole of campy action thrillers that look like The Rock or Vin Diesel should be starring in them — actually, Vin Diesel did star in one of them. In 2017, she played the role of Adele Wolff in Vin Diesel’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage. That same year, things really went off the rails: she appeared in another action movie, John Wick: Chapter 2, and then — wait for it — took a musical role in Pitch Perfect 3. Aca-what the fuck?

I wouldn’t exactly call Ruby, err, musically “inclined,” but she did pull her weight enough in the a cappella movie as the leader of the Bellas’ biggest competition, a definitely queer girl group called Evermoist—which like, same, after seeing Ruby Rose shred in a leather jacket. After mastering the art of movie-musicals, she went back to her roots in another action-thriller, this time alongside Jason Statham in 2018’s The Meg.

It seems like Ruby Rose’s goal in life is to secure a small-scale role alongside every single male action star—like Vin Diesel, Keanu Reeves, and Jason Statham. If that’s the case, where’s her movie with The Rock? I’d love to see her in torn muscle tee, dirt staining her angular cheeks, swinging from one airborne helicopter rotor to another on a simple bungee cord, which is one gust of wind away from tearing in half, or something.

And where’s her Bruce Willis movie? When do we get to see Ruby Rose drive a car off another car by using the other car as a ramp, and land the aforementioned first car on a speedboat, which is set to explode in just three seconds, which is no problem, seeing as she’s already escaped the car and is hurtling over the railing of the yacht — or speedboat, or whatever. On a more serious note, I’d love to see Rose star in her very own The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-adjacent franchise — something gay, vengeful, and also gay. My lesbian body is ready.

But it’s not just Rose’s career choices I’m worried about, it’s the whole package. As you may know, she truly excels at being a celebrity. Yesterday, she posted an Instagram with Hayley Kiyoko and Taylor Swift after the AMAs—she is really giving the people what they want. She also wrote, directed and starred in a Veronicas’ music video, while she was dating Jess Origliasso of the band, as well as accruing a roster of famous female exes. She currently boasts over 13 million Instagram followers, and with good reason, given the lewks she serves daily, but all the attention she’s garnered over the last three years has put the actress in a pretty precarious situation.

Earlier this month, Rose was named the “most dangerous celebrity” by a cybersecurity firm. The firm, McAfee, conducted a study that was meant to illustrate the danger of clicking on suspicious links — and according to their findings, Rose’s internet presence has accumulated the most “suspicious” activity from websites that carry viruses or malware. Thanks a lot, Ruby! Apparently, so many queer women (and “straight” women) are googling you that scammers have caught on, and it’s actually become unsafe to do so. This is why we can’t have nice things, internet lesbians!

Hopefully, 2019 will bring us even more shadiness, gay Instagrams, and bad action movies from the Australian multi-hyphenate. Her new DC series Batwoman has no official release date, but the character is expected to cameo in The Flash and Supergirl as a part of DC’s annual crossover event in December. Rose is set to play the nominal character, AKA Kate Kane, who will mark DC’s first out lesbian leading superhero — which is exciting. But personally, I’ll be waiting for her cameo in Mission Impossible – Fallout 2: Back in the Habit.

Header image via Getty

Are Gay People Having Better Sex?

Sex is strange.

I’m a femme queer person who has, on multiple occasions, voluntarily spent time in a Bass Pro Shop, and yet getting naked in front of another person will still top the list of Times I’ve Felt Most Out of Place. Maybe it’s because I didn’t start having sex until I was in my twenties. Or, perhaps it’s a result of the fact that I spent the majority of my life supremely uncomfortable even taking my shirt off at the pool. Either way, the courage it takes to disrobe in front of another person is well worth it because at least I can ensure the sex that follows will be good, maybe even great, and often, spectacular.

In 2018, there aren’t a lot of benefits to being a queer person, so it’s important to take a win when we can find one. According to research detailed in Netflix’s new docuseries Explained, one thing queer folks do have going for us is that if we’re going to have sex, we’re probably going to do it better than our straight friends — a lot better.

It seems it might be better because we’ve got to talk about it from the very beginning — and I don’t just mean ensuring there is clear and enthusiastic consent (because consent isn’t just sexy; it’s mandatory). Unlike with straight couples, there’s not a guarantee that part A goes in part B, or part C or D for that matter.

“There’s a lot more communication. There’s more turn-taking,” says Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah. “[Same sex couples] have to reject what is normal, because what is normal according to society, is being heterosexual.”

And apparently, for heterosexual couples, subpar sex is normal.

According to a recent study, 86 percent of queer women achieve orgasm during sex, compared to only 65 percent of straight women. And while, of course, straight men are the most likely to achieve orgasm during sex, topping the list at 95 percent, gay men are not far behind at 89 percent. Facts are facts, people — by the numbers, queer people are having better sex across the board, and it probably has a lot to do with the openness with which queer folks are talking about and engaging with sex.

“Gay people grow up with fewer scripts about how sex is supposed to be,” Rachel Bloom narrates in Explained, and she’s right.

Bedtime Stories, a video series from them, explores the nuanced, intimate, and often unconventionally exhilarating ways queer people are pleasuring their partners and themselves. There is more to sex than just achieving orgasm; there is intimacy and vulnerability and surprise, things queer people appear more than well versed in.

“This is why kink is so great,” Ashley Young says in one episode, “because before you even touch each other there is negotiation. What do you wanna do? What’s OK to say to you? What’s your safe word? What do I call your genitals? Like, these are conversations you have right before you even start playing.”

Most pre-college sex education is failing the youth of America, and unsurprisingly, not knowing how to talk about sex is one of the primary reasons for a lackluster sex life. A lot of people like to throw around the phrase “good sex takes time.” And it’s pretty universally accepted that when you’ve been having consistent sex with the same person, naturally you’ll learn what the other person likes and dislikes. However, what good sex actually takes is communication. As Explained, well, explains, women with a boyfriend are six times more likely to achieve orgasm than women taking part in a first-time hookup. In the same study mentioned earlier, asking for what they want in bed and praising their partner for something they did in bed were two paramount reasons for a higher reported rate of sexual fulfillment.

Certainly, my Private Catholic School upbringing didn’t equip me to understand sex with another man, but luckily every time I consent to having sex, some additional communication about sex has to occur before it happens. When I had sex for the first time, it didn’t feel strange to talk about what was happening while it was happening, because before it began that door was opened when we decided what goes where. Saying “a little to the left,” or “go faster,” or “slow down, what is this, last call at brunch?” (last line not recommended but effective nonetheless) became a tool for better sex, rather than an inhibitor of it.

I have been shocked by the number of brilliant, successful, straight women in my life who have talked to me about the lackluster sex they are having. Conversely, I have been stunned by the number of hilarious, handsome, straight men I know who are having the same struggle. I’m even more amazed when this Venn diagram overlaps. Time and again, when asked if they’ve tried talking about it to the person they’re having sex with, the response has been varying iterations of, “Oh my God, absolutely not.”

Even psychologists agree that talking about sex can be weird. For straight men, it’s probably some lingering masculinity complex, and for women, it probably has to do with the fact that, even in a post-Samantha Jones America, talking about sex is still taboo. And honestly, if you’re uncomfortable talking about sex, you probably shouldn’t be having it.

Talking about sex doesn’t need to be restricted to an in-act play-by-play. A next day performance review can be just as helpful. I once had someone give me some important feedback about teeth over drinks, which, in the end, paid off for both of us. Stereotypes about effeminate gay men or masculine gay women are pervasive, even in the queer community. However, I can assure you that before a bottom allows themselves to be confused for a top, a conversation will correct that assumption. And once that door has been opened, it can remain open to allow further conversation, inevitably leading to more fulfilling sex.

“Isn’t it weird to talk about, though?” is the most frequent question straight friends ask me when I talk about open sexual communication. Yeah, of course it is sometimes. But the only thing weirder is not enjoying sex.

Image via Getty

But How Gay is ‘A Star Is Born’?

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

What is A Star Is Born? The third remake of William Wellman’s 1937 classic of the same name, A Star Is Born Version 4.0 is perhaps best known as The Lady Gaga Movie. She plays Ally, an up-and-coming singer/songwriter discovered in a Palm Springs drag bar by drunk-and-delirious rock star Jackson Maine. The film charts her rise, his fall, and their love; it’s truly a tale as old as time. Or, at least, as old as 1937.

Who’s in it? Gaga, of course, plus the film’s director/writer, Bradley Cooper, as Jackson. RuPaul’s Drag Race favorites Shangela and Willam appear as friends of Ally’s at the drag bar, while original Hamilton star Anthony Ramos rounds out that crew as friend Ramon. As the movie moves into Jackson’s world, Sam Elliott stands out as his brother and manager, Bobby, while Rafi Gavron pops up as Ally’s new pop music manager, Rez. Dave Chappelle, Halsey, and Alec Baldwin all show up in cameos as well.

Why should I see it? It’s the musical movie event of the year! It’s Gaga! It’s going to be nominated for a raft of Oscars! You’ll be left behind if you don’t see it.

But how gay is it? Well, we need to reframe this question a little bit. Because the answer is different depending on which half of the movie you’re talking about.

Okay, so how gay is the first half? Exceedingly so. The drag bar scene is excellent, so perfectly queer and fun. I wanted to stay in the bar forever. Willam gets some of the biggest laugh lines of the movie, while Shangela perfectly nails her drag mom character. It’s also a delight to see Jackson so interested in learning about their art, their makeup, and more.

It’s also when the movie is the most interested in Ally. Gaga shines when the camera is on her in the first half. She’s positively electric, acting through song in a way we too rarely see in musical films. It’s a performance fully deserving of praise.

But how gay is the second half? It’s not. At all. It’s remarkably focused on Jackson, to the film’s detriment and to Gaga’s extreme detriment. Ally becomes a hybrid saint-cipher, losing her fire and flavor. You can see her acting on the edges, but Cooper’s film no longer cares about the star once she’s been born. It becomes about him exclusively. The drag bar is a distant memory.

Moreover, the movie is exceedingly anti-pop, in a pretty distressing way! Which feels anti-gay, to me. Maybe that’s extreme, but it’s a bummer to watch the movie lean so hard against music that so many gay people find to be a clarion call.

Is the movie anti-pop, or is the character of Jackson anti-pop? Others will argue the latter, but I think it’s the former. We’re clearly supposed to laugh at Ally’s song “Why Did You Do That?,” but here’s the thing: “Why Did You Do That?” is a fucking bop. The song slaps! I’m not rooting against this Diane Warren-penned jam!

Additionally, the movie ends with Ally stripped down, hair color changed again, singing a ‘90s-esque adult contemporary ballad. It’s a sign that she’s returning to who she truly is. Which is a bummer! Plenty of great pop music is authentic and genuine. Signaling pop as the distancing force between Jackson and Ally in all this feels like a case of misplaced blame.

So this is Joanne, the movie? Kind of! It feels like Gaga is firmly rejecting pop by doing so many projects that frame pop as inauthentic and false. Considering I personally feel Gaga was never better than when she was doing pure pop, I can’t get on her level.

Do you recommend seeing the movie overall? For its killer first half, amazing songs (love “Shallow”), and a trio of terrific performances, yes. But maybe lower your expectations a bit.

A Star Is Born is in theaters now.

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Sen. Susan Collins, a Vital Vote to Confirm Kavanaugh, Was Endorsed by the HRC

As you reflect on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as the latest United States Supreme Court justice, remember this crucial fact: Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign in her last election.

Journalist Randy R. Potts noted the endorsement on Twitter in the wake of Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Saturday. Despite putting out a press release condemning Collins’ vote on Friday, HRC did not see fit to mention that they endorsed her in 2014.

“Senator Susan Collins has played a pivotal role in advancing support for LGBT equality — from her dogged support for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ to her critical vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last year, to her proud support for marriage equality,” HRC President Chad Griffin wrote at the time. “HRC is proud to stand with Senator Collins, and with allies on both sides of the aisle like her, because she firmly believes that every American should be evaluated based on their abilities, and not who they love.”

This ignored the fact that Collins actually hadn’t publicly supported marriage equality until after the HRC made their endorsement. HRC chose to endorse her, the incumbent, over the Democratic challenger, Shenna Bellows. Bellows, in comparison, was described by The Advocate as “a longtime marriage equality activist.”

Kiss My Astro: Your October Horoscope

October is the time to collectively slow our rolls. Venus in retrograde this month (from October 5th – November 16th) means relationships are up for review. Missing an ex-lover? It could be the right time to reconnect. Still mad at an ex-friend? Now might be the time for some closure. Unsure where you’re headed in your current relationship? Reassessing what you want and what’s changed since last year can be hella fruitful right now. It’s less advisable to make major relationship decisions (moving in together, their name tattooed on your knuckles, etc.) during this time. Venus in Scorpio can be a little extra brutal, so make sure you fight cleanly if you have grievances to air, and expect some fierce sparks if you reconnect with someone you’ve been wanting back in your life.

Aries

It’s almost a cliché that you can feel trapped in committed relationships, but it’s not that you don’t want love—you just can’t be happy in any relationship that’s gotten stale and boring. Use Venus retrograde as a time to reclaim your own desires and sense of adventure—ideally without breaking any hearts. It doesn’t have to be either/or; you’re looking for the kind of love that will stand by you as you change and learn and grow.

Taurus

Some call it stubbornness, some call it pride, those who love you most call it strength and perseverance—whatever you want to call it, you have the ability to keep going on the path you’ve chosen for a long, long time. When months like this come along, where there’s the pressure to reassess your decisions, it can threaten your entire sense of self. Never fear; what you’re learning right now is worth knowing, and you can act on it as slowly as you need to.

Gemini

Oh darling, you’ve got so much sparkle to bring to the party but this month strands you at home, cleaning up while everyone else hits the clubs. It’s not the worst fate, though. You may even be grateful for some time to tend to yourself, tend to your own life, and get your affairs in order. Your future is still full of bright possibilities; you just need to spend some time sorting through the messes of reality first. Once you have, you’ll be making better choices than you ever have about who’s worth your time.

Cancer

You can get it right now, and the question is only—should you? You’re giving off luscious and sultry vibes, but what you want from the world is both excitement and security at the same time. Practice asking for exactly what you want, even if it seems petulant or contradictory. Practice listening to exactly what someone has to offer, especially if they use the phrases, “you deserve better” (you do) or “I’m not sure what I want” (you don’t have to solve that for them). Choose wisely. Take your time. Bestow your graces only when you feel that enthusiastic “YES” and not a tepid “maybe.”

Leo

Sometimes we need to sit out an inning, or even a whole game. There’s no shame in letting an injury heal, and this is a month when you have a beautiful opportunity to heal something that’s hurt you for a long time. Whether it’s from your family, your adolescence, an old relationship, or just the current state of the world, your mission right now is to let that pain move through you and let it go. I know it’s not the sexiest assignment, but believe me that when you learn this skill you’re also learning how to connect to a lover from a place of courageous, honest intimacy that is hotter than any bravado.

Virgo

We’re all shaped by our environments, and you may find yourself looking around right now and wondering: Who the hell chose those curtains? Who chose this music? Who are all these people, anyway? You may get nostalgic for days of yore when your friends seemed cooler, your haircut hipper, your taste in books more cutting edge—but really, what’s happening is you’re noticing how you’ve been growing away from the past. The answer isn’t to return to a past version of your life, it’s to think more clearly about the present moment. What can you change in your environment now to help you feel more aligned with who you’re trying to become? Who do you know who can help you hold this vision?

Libra

This is your time to shine, but even as you’ve got that extra sparkle in your eye you’re also navigating a tricky time. You want to go full steam ahead, but you may get pulled up short by fears about trust. If you can face these anxieties and work through them, this month will help you grow by leaps and bounds. Remember that you’re stronger than you think, and that you are loved far more than you realize. Focus on what you have when you’re afraid of what you might be missing.

Scorpio

You are probably well aware of the times you’ve lost your power to a relationship—if you become obsessed with pleasing someone, or take on their opinions as your own. Even anger or jealousy are ways of giving away your power, as you get fixated on making someone else as unhappy as you are—or at least want them to understand you and apologize. Both these states leave you unable to connect with what is most miraculous and beautiful in your own life. Getting stuck in them is tragic for you, most of all. This month offers you the chance to get majorly unstuck from anything you’ve been holding onto as a hope or a grudge. Reclaim your right to be happy, to be self-directed, and to live the life of your dreams.

Sagittarius

This month is all about the difference between fantasy and reality. Sometimes our fantasies help us understand what’s missing in our real lives that we need to go find; sometimes they just help us handle the constant dissatisfaction of being an imperfect human and dating other imperfect humans. Fantasies will give you important data right now, so let your mind drift when you can. What are you longing for? What does that tell you about what you don’t have? Are your fantasies blocking you from seeing what you do have? Find a way to enjoy the life you’re in while you figure out where you’d like to be next.

Capricorn

If you’ve lost your inspiration in life, this month is bending over backwards to help you retrace your steps and go find it again. When did you last feel optimistic? Expansive? Excited about being part of something much larger than yourself? Connected to someone who made you feel like you wanted to be a better person for them? Those connections are still there, if you take the time to look for them.

Aquarius

You’re on a roll right now, and while you’re busy crushing it the last thing you want is to stop and reassess your purpose in life and what it’s all for. Nevertheless. Something’s calling to you from the past right now and asking exactly that question. Notice what relationships help you pause and reflect on this situation, and which ones demand that you merely keep being impressive. Don’t waste your time on the ones that can’t give you some room to reflect and experiment. What you come up with afterwards will be worth it.

Pisces

It’s time to get centered, get grounded, and get serious about something really big that you want to do. Those first two steps are vitally important, though. Without them, you’re liable to just keep dreaming about it. This might mean needing a little more time alone than usual—at the very least, protect yourself from too much time with people who need you to listen to them but never listen, who want you to be like them, who don’t know what it means to stop and pay attention to your non-verbal cues. They may be charming, sexy, persuasive, exciting people—but they’re not doing you any favors right now. Make room for the ones who can support your vision, and begin by believing in yourself.

George is Tired…of the Savior Complex

No one person is going to lead us to liberation.

This is something that I’ve had to come to terms with, in my unlearning of all the things I’ve been taught in this anti-Black society. I used to buy into the idea that a person would save me from my existence. In a lot of ways, my family and friends still think this — and it isn’t their fault. They’ve been conditioned to think that the answer lies within one person. I’ve finally grown to the point to know that this isn’t true. The sooner I get others to realize it, the sooner we will get to liberation.

We were all conditioned to see symbolism in figureheads as our messiahs. When you look at how we discuss Martin Luther King, or other civil rights icons, it’s as if we’re waiting for the second coming of them to potentially be saved. I bought into that hype my whole life. I voted for Barack Obama twice, thinking that a Black man as president would “fix” this hell we have been living in since we were enslaved here. But, after seeing 8 years of leadership, I now know that putting a Black face on a white imperialist nation ain’t gonna fix shit.

In God We Trust

I believe that there is a higher power. I don’t know what that is, or what it looks like. But I know we didn’t just show up here one day. I also know what it means to have to believe that there is a God who can just fix anything and everything whenever they wanted.

And I’ve seen the jokes. We have all seen the jokes. “Did God sleep during slavery?” To be clear, this is a valid-ass question. My people have been through so much in this world, yet and still we put our faith in a higher power that seemingly blinks anytime we get closer to “progress.”

As we roll towards these midterm elections, I am seeing more and more of us start to get wrapped up in the savior complex. It’s similar to the Superman complex, in the thought that someone — one person — will save us and relieve us of our oppression. We have time and time again seen the caping for white folks who, when they need our vote, say the right things, only to get in a position of power and do all the wrong things.

I know for a fact that I will never find liberation through the eyes or work of a white person. They can, at best, advocate on my behalf to a point. But the thought that a white person is going to give up their privilege and power has left my mind as ever being a serious thought. I realized that particularly when I saw the white gays for Trump. I had already known the terrible threat that white gays posed in queer community, but that endorsement rang new bells. I realized anew how I felt about white male privilege, and the spaces in which it is used. I was reminded that these folks ain’t gonna save me from shit — but will fetishize the fuck out of me.

When Beyoncé put forth the words “God is God, I am not” during her 2016 MTV VMAs performance, I felt that shit on a spiritual level. When you get to a place where you have some power or platform to make decisions that benefit the people that you are fighting for, it is easy that you can be heralded as their leader — or even worse, their savior.

I am no one’s savior

As I continue to build my platform around activism, I see and understand how people can look to you as their savior. You’re the person who has the words when they don’t know what to say. You’re the person who is in the streets, representing all those who wish they could be there. I now know how dangerous that is — to have people’s hopes, especially queer people’s hopes, resting on the fact that I will always get it right. Or that I will be able to make the changes they need to survive.

We must do much better. We can’t continue to put all of our eggs in one basket and think that liberation is going to be formed. This message is so true, especially for queer people. This system of saviors has never reached us. We must begin to take an approach to the “work” that involves a multitude of voices — a multitude of experiences — that will shape and govern the progress we need to make in liberation. Putting that work on the shoulders of one person has never worked.

I am no one’s savior. No one should be. Not a white person. Not a Black person. Not a Black woman. And certainly not a Black queer person. We all have a responsibility to do our part in the work. We can’t place the burden of our liberation on the shoulders of folks who we know can never please everyone.  

Brett Kavanaugh’s Gay College Roommate Had a Dead Pigeon Nailed to His Door

Following a week of unexpected twists and turns in Brett Kavanaugh’s increasingly embattled Supreme Court nomination, yet another new detail has emerged: The judge had a gay roommate in college.

As his former roommate tells The Cut, the experience made him no fan of Kavanaugh’s.

In a story published Wednesday, Yale University alumnus Kit Winter claims he shared a dorm with Kavanaugh after switching room assignments. Winter, a punk rock devotee with “peroxide blond hair,” shared a triple with Kavanaugh and James Roche, who voiced support for accuser Deborah Ramirez after she claimed the SCOTUS nominee exposed himself to her at a party.

Ramirez is one of at least three women to come forward with sexual allegations against the former D.C. circuit court judge in the past week. A fourth has allegedly approached a police precinct in Montgomery County, Md.

While Winter’s account does not include claims of sexual misconduct, his recollection of their freshman year as roommates correlates with prior accounts of Kavanaugh’s character. He describes the “social dynamic” in the three-man suite as “nonexistent to the point that Winter felt uncomfortable.”

“From the start, Winter and Kavanaugh barely acknowledged one another’s existence,” Winter claims. “He remembers no conversation between them.”

While Winter describes the situation as “weird,” he suggests that his sexual orientation may have had something to do with the “silent and charged” atmosphere. He had recently came out to his parents as gay, living on the Lower East Side in New York City in the months before he enrolled at the New Haven campus.

Lori Adams, a former Yale classmate, says Kavanaugh and Winter were doomed from the start.

“Jocks were often the anathema of gay people at Yale at the time,” she tells The Cut. “They didn’t treat them well. I had gay friends who were stalked, followed home, their doors beaten in, things like that.”

The tension Winter felt in the apartment — and on the then-conservative Ivy League campus — escalated to a boiling point one evening when he allegedly discovered a “dead pigeon nailed to his door.” The bird, he notes, wasn’t pinned to the door of their shared suite but “his own bedroom door.”

“I thought it was a very clear message: ‘We don’t like you, and we don’t want you here,’” he remembers. “I didn’t know who it was who didn’t want me here. I didn’t know who had done it.”

Winter never investigated the incident. But he claims it would have taken “serious intent” to nail a pigeon through “dense wood.”

“It would take some real hammering to get a pigeon nailed to that door,” he says.

While Winter never cites Kavanaugh as being responsible for the vandalism, the report appears to confirm how his accusers characterize his behavior during the judge’s school days. Winter describes his one-time dormmate as one of a cadre of “loud, obnoxious frat boy-like drunks” who prided themselves as being some of Yale’s heaviest drinkers.

In a New Yorker report detailing Ramirez’ accusations, Roche — the third occupant in their dorm — described Kavanaugh as “frequently, incoherently drunk.”

Now the CEO of a tech company in San Francisco, Roche called Ramirez’ allegations credible.

“Is it believable that she was alone with a wolfy group of guys who thought it was funny to sexually torment a girl like Debbie?” he claimed. “Yeah, definitely. Is it believable that Kavanaugh was one of them? Yes.”

Another Kavanaugh accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. The Palo Alto professor, who claims the 53-year-old attempted to rip her clothes off at a high school party when they were teens, will reportedly submit four statements from people she told about the alleged assault.

Meanwhile, Julie Swetnick came forward on Wednesday to claim that Kavanaugh and his friends would spike the punch at high school parties so female students “could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys.”

“I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room,” she wrote in a sworn affidavit.

Swetnick alleges she was assaulted at one such party while Kavanaugh was present.

Kavanaugh was nominated in July by President Donald Trump to fill the spot vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement this year. While Kennedy was a moderate who routinely ruled in favor of LGBTQ rights, critics say Kavanaugh would fall to the right of every sitting Supreme Court justice except for Clarence Thomas.

Very little is known about Kavanaugh’s views on LGBTQ people, although Winter’s recollection may help fill in the gaps for some.

Image via Getty

Pence Touts Trump’s Record on Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination at Hate Group Conference

Mike Pence wants voters to re-elect President Donald Trump so he can continue fighting for the right of religious people to discriminate in the name of faith.

On Saturday, Pence became the first sitting vice president to address the Values Voter Summit, a yearly gathering hosted by the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group, Family Research Council. During his address, the conservative trumpeted the administration’s rollback of LGBTQ rights under the guise of so-called “religious freedom.”

“Our administration has… taken action to protect and promote our first freedom, the freedom of religion and religious liberty for every American,” he said, in comments first reported by the Washington Blade.

From there, Pence highlighted what he believes are the some of the administration’s biggest accomplishments regarding “religious freedom.”

“Last year, President Trump chose the National Day of Prayer to announce new policies to protect the religious liberty of every American regardless of their creed,” Trump’s right-hand man continued. “We’ve taken action to protect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses.”

As INTO previously reported, the POTUS signed an executive order in May 2018 creating the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, an office dedicated to furthering religious freedom.

In a ceremony held at the White House’s Rose Garden honoring the annual National Day of Prayer, Trump claimed the Faith and Opportunity Initiative would ensure religiously affiliated organizations have “equal access to government funding and equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.”

The office will also monitor the White House and hold it accountable for “any failures… to comply with religious liberty protections under law,” the president claimed.

In addition, the Trump administration also announced in January the creation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom division in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its purpose is to defend the right of health workers to deny treatment based on their “deepest moral or religious convictions,” which could include refusing care to trans individuals or people living with HIV.

Pence added that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is critical to continuing this goal, a mission that advocates say erodes basic rights and protections for LGBTQ people.

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a man of integrity with impeccable credentials and a proven judicial philosophy,” Pence told the Washington, D.C. crowd this weekend. “On the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, he wrote more than 300 opinions that reflect a strong record of support for limited government, religious liberty, and our Second Amendment.”

“He’s a conservative who will interpret the Constitution as written,” he added, “and his record and career deserves the respect of every member of the United States Senate.”

In a July letter, more than 60 LGBTQ organizations came out to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation over fears that he will undermine major pro-equality rulings (e.g., Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges) from the Supreme Court bench.

Very little is known about his stance on LGBTQ rights, and GOP leaders have refused requests to access records from the three years he spent as staff secretary under the George W. Bush administration. During that time, the White House pursued a constitutional amendment to limit the federal definition of marriage to one man and one woman.

Two women have come forward since that letter was issued to accuse the former D.C. circuit court judge of sexual assault. The National Center for Lesbian Rights subsequently called Kavanaugh to formally withdraw his nomination.

The vice president stopped short of condemning Christine Blasey Ford, who said Kavanaugh assaulted her during a high school party in the early 80s, in his Values Voter Summit address. Pence did, however, claim that “the way some Democrats have conducted themselves during [the confirmation hearings] is a disgrace and a disservice to the Senate and the American people.”

Fellow White House official Ben Carson was far more explicit in comments made to the same crowd just a day earlier. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary called the accusations “desperate” and likened them to “chaos and destruction.”

“[T]here are two sides to every story,” he told attendees of the three-day conference.

Pence concluded that the treatment of Kavanaugh illustrates the choice Americans face at the ballot box in 2020. Right-wing voters will choose “between a party that celebrates America” (referring to Republicans) and “one that often demeans millions of our neighbors and friends” (a nod to the Democratic Party).

The vice president believes God will lead voters down the right path.

“Let’s keep faith that He who has ever watched over this nation still governs in the affairs of men,” said Pence, who also allegedly thinks that God has called him to be the “president-in-waiting.”

The second-in-command — who signed a swiftly repealed “religious freedom” law as governor of Indiana — was one of several notable anti-LGBTQ figures to attend this weekend’s Values Voter Summit. He was joined by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, and “Activist Mommy” blogger Elizabeth Johnston.

Last year Trump claimed a dubious piece of history when he became the first sitting POTUS to attend the conference.

Header image via Twitter

George is Tired…Of Voting

The politics around voting, our right to vote, and our obligations as voters is likely a more accurate description of what I am tired of. But voting in this day and age isn’t as easy as it once used to be — for me, and for millions of others who can’t see the impact of our vote in a daily life filled with anti-Blackness which in turn equals anti-queerness.

Growing up in Black household in the north, it was always “vote Democrat.” That always made sense to me. Even as a child I could see the Republican party was primarily leaning towards the rich, with subtle and overt hints of racism. Democrats always seemed to be for the marginalized. I remember Black folks saying Bill Clinton was the “first Black president,” even though many of us know now how detrimental his policies were to Black family life.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that party lines are just that — lines drawn that seemingly feed half the nation based on who is in power, while the other half waits for the pendulum to swing the other way. But this country ain’t no clock, and I ain’t no damn tick or tock. My life matters more than who is in power, and it’s becoming harder to trust a politician of any race to help the most marginalized as I do in my work.

Trump being elected has brought out the “get out and vote” battle cry in full force. Oddly, though, I think we often forget that Obama being elected twice sent the same message— only it was to white folks filled with a pride to Make America Great Again. They acknowledged that this nation’s racist, xenophobic past was a much better existence for them — and they continue to show it daily. I feel like the 2016 election flipped the country from the covert racist to the overt — but still a bunch of racists in power.

And I get it. This country would be a much more “comfortable” place if Hillary Clinton was President…but for who? For me, the college graduate who has many privileges that people within my own queer community don’t have. Yes? But what about the people I yell so much that I care about. Would the murders of Black trans people be any less if she were in power? I don’t know. Unarmed Black men were being killed at an all-time high when we had a Black face on the white empire. And that’s not to say it’s his fault, but to say that when we “vote” hoping for this change, what is our avenue when the change doesn’t come?

We all know that our voting system in this country is flawed as fuck. It is anti-Black, anti-queer, anti-woman and a lot of other things. It is based on an electoral college that should have been abolished but won’t be, since it continues to help whites stay in power.

The 2016 election brought a lot of hatred towards non-voters. I want to be clear when I say that non-voters aren’t the issue. 53 percent of white women and 63 percent of white men voted that orange man in office. Nonvoters have very valid reasons for their disenfranchisement — primarily that they don’t see their vote as a way out of their circumstances. Voting doesn’t seem like a pathway to anything greater. When you fear survival in your community, you can’t see anything past making it home every night. And for some, even home isn’t a safe place. And that’s real shit for marginalized people.

But the real issue I take is that people pretend that “not voting” is the issue when it’s really “not voting the way that would make my life easier.” Because a lot of people voted for Jill Stein (even though she wasn’t that girl) and folks were made at them, too. But if the real issue is “non-voting,” why could one be mad when they did exercise that right? It’s because we are often too afraid of envisioning a world outside of the constraints of what voting has done in this country.

We have been conditioned to think we live in a democracy. A country where the person with the most votes loses and the election is really 50 state elections that seemingly comes down to 100,000 votes in four states that really make the determination. When you really understand that, how could one ever continue to feel power in their ballot?

This is what I will say to that: I do think that I will vote again. And I encourage others to keep voting.  I’m just not here for the rule that has made those less marginalized (Black, Queer, etc.) having to choose the lesser of two evils; the person who may be anti-Black but LESS anti-black than the other candidate. The person who may not support gay marriage but will make sure I have health care. That’s not voting me. That’s just another system of oppression. I live for the day when candidates mirror communities and the issues in them. I can see it coming, but it’s not there yet and a vote should still be one earned.

I often think about how hard our ancestors fought for the right to vote. I never wondered, though, what they thought that right would afford them. Hope, I’m assuming. Hope that fed into a faith that has kept us going since our enslavement here began in 1619. Hope that their vote would put people in place that looked like them to ensure they would be seen, heard, and given equity and equality. I wonder if they could see what was happening now, if they would still feel that right was as important as it was then.

One thing I do know is, I’m born of the blood of the enslaved and that regardless of who is in power, it is my duty to fight for us, All of us. That is a vote you can count on.