Torres Gets The Last Word

By this time last year, Mackenzie Scott had just put out her third and most adventurous album.

A well-tooled, urgent, and provocative record, Three Futures seemed a year ago to be a critical and artistic success. Then, this past April, Scott received some unexpected news: Her label, 4AD, had decided to drop her from a three-album contract, citing inadequate sales of her new record. “I wish them all the best,” she wrote on Twitter at the time. “Also, fuck the music industry.”

As Torres, she had already established a guitar-based vernacular across two records, 2013’s folky Torres and the heavier 2015 release Sprinter, which integrated moments of playful art rock and blistering neo-grunge. Three Futures changed her palette. Mixed in with her wiry, bright guitar lines were drum machine patterns and queasy turns of synthesizer—elements inspired by electronic music and krautrock that buoyed the knotty questions of desire she floated in her lyrics: What is it to have a body, and what does it mean to engage with the physicality of others?

A series of music videos accompanied the album, making visual the themes of queer love and desire that subtly inflected Torres’s former work. Carefully parse the lyrics to “A Proper Polish Welcome,” off of Sprinter, and a lesbian encounter emerges delicately couched in imagery borrowed from the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark: “Rocking and holy, we came two by two.”

In the video for Three Futures’ “Skim,” Scott wears a suit, brandishes an electric guitar, and toys with other women’s bodies, her gaze fixed defiantly on the camera. The video for the album’s title track casts her as three distinctly costumed characters; tripled, she has sex with herself. The cover of Three Futures, set in the same ochre-tinged house as the videos, shows Scott (wo)manspreading in Chelsea boots on a horrible couch while a woman, seen reflected in a mirror, dances before her wearing nothing but pantyhose.

A complex power dynamic plays through these images. Scott is the more masculine of the two figures in “Skim” and on the album’s cover, but she hasn’t entirely shed all her feminine signifiers. Her hair is long, and she’s topless underneath her blazer. She stands in two places at once as both the desirer and the desired, glitching the heterosexual erotics that traditionally accompany rock music. The camp and the sleaze of this visual universe, created with help from director Ashley Connor, let Torres complicate the well-worn role of the rock star draped in naked women, putting a sapphic twist on a misogynistic trope.

Regarding her personal identity, Scott tells INTO, “I’ve never been compelled to self-identify as any particular gender or sexual orientation. I have nothing to hide. You can look at what I choose to share with the public and see how I live. I just don’t care about gender or sexuality and I don’t think they’re interesting conversations, so I prefer to do more showing and less telling.”

For two weeks after the announcement, Scott withdrew from her songwriting process.

“I literally did not pick up a pen or open my computer for two weeks,” she tells me now over the phone from her home in Brooklyn. “It was kind of crushing. I had a come-to-Jesus moment. ‘Is this the industry that I was actually meant to put myself through while I’m here on this earth?’ I did question that for a bit.”

But, after what she calls “a solid pity party,” she found herself drawn back to her music. “I had a total change of heart. I was like, ‘Actually, I’m fucking fine.’ I really switched gears, which is how I am. That comes naturally to me, that pivot,” she says. “When I’m in a position of powerlessness or at least one that feels like powerlessness, my superpower is the songs that I write. It is a very neat way to give myself the feeling of having the last word on anything.”

Torres

Torres had self-released her debut album back in 2013; working without a label was not new to her. She still had a Bandcamp account, and by July, she had offered a new song, “Gracious Day,” for sale. Sparse and slicked over with tape hiss, it’s an acoustic track that calls back to the love songs on Torres. While she plumbed the lower edge of her range throughout Three Futures, toying with the way certain voicings can connote different gender positions (the way she pronounces “I’m more of an ass man” on “Righteous Woman” is a treat), she arcs up into her falsetto on “Gracious Day.” She recorded the track at home, “just myself and my guitar on my laptop.” It begins with a surprisingly intimate voicemail—”I left my coat at your house. I’m wearing your perfume,” says a woman’s voice—and as Scott sings you can hear the space of her apartment folding around her. She sounds perfectly at home as she beckons, “I don’t want you going home anymore/I want you coming home.”

“I’m highly attuned to the fact that what I really need right now, what everyone needs right now, is connection,” Scott tells INTO. “It’s not something that I’ve ever really allowed myself too much of. I mean, I’m not a recluse. I have friends, I go out. But I’m a very private person, and I spend a whole lot of time alone. I think in the moment that I decided to record that song that way, I was desperate for some immediacy.”

In September, Scott put up another new song on Patreon, unlockable by way of a one-dollar donation. More upbeat and thornier than “Gracious Day,” “Two of Everything” sees Scott gritting her teeth over a love triangle. “What was it that made her think she could have two of everything?/One of you and one of me/Forever in the in-between,” she sings against the anxious patter of a drum machine.

Torres’s Patreon supporters have access to exclusive content such as the original demo version of “Skim,” the first single from her record Three Futures; a photo of a personal handwritten diary entry; a cover of “Wandering Star” by Porthishead, one of her favorite bands; and more personal work, such as a thank you video made for her Patrons.

Patreon, a subscription service that acts like a monthly recurring Kickstarter donation, has emerged in recent years as one of the more popular options for self-employed artists subsisting by selling their wares online. Freelance journalists use it alongside podcast producers, painters, and musicians. In the United States, where arts grants are few and far between and making a living selling music is one of the most precarious professions among the precariat, crowdfunding services like Patreon can act as a much-needed stopgap.

It’s not a replacement for a record company’s more comprehensive infrastructure, but it can help carry musicians across periods of financial uncertainty. Scott doesn’t love the idea of crowdfunding, but she’s content to use Patreon to share demos and covers with fans who offer a margin of financial support.

Scott doesn’t love the idea of crowdfunding, but she’s content to use Patreon to share demos and covers with fans who offer a margin of financial support.

As a musician in 2018, “you’re not just selling records,” she says. “You’re selling a persona. You’re selling visual art, photographs, videos, you’re selling it all. It’s very hard to know, especially right now, what the best way to do that is.” She’d love to play more shows — she just played a rooftop in New York and a campground in Texas — but the market for touring musicians is oversaturated, given that it’s often easier to make a living selling concert tickets than records. She’d love to make more music videos, but the process is resource-intensive. She says she’s interested in doing a little acting sometime, “off-Broadway, or in a cool movie.”

Mostly, what Scott wants right now is the freedom to make music alongside the freedom to survive. “I would love to just do the basics right now,” she says. “Make a living and keep a home and try and be well while we sit through this major hell of a presidency. Bite our nails hoping that climate change is not really as nigh as it seems. Ideally, I would like to be well. I have big dreams, but right now the big dream is to have my needs met.”

2018 has been a creatively fruitful year for Scott, but it has also been a personally taxing one — an uneasy pairing. The songs are there; the infrastructure for distributing them is hazier. She feels free to make the music she wants to make, but she’s making it in an increasingly precarious environment. The music industry does not favor musicians. Late capitalism continues its steady march to the limits of exploitation, and artists like Torres keep writing songs.

She has written her next album, is about to take it to the studio, and plans to release it in the first half of 2019. The record, she says, furthers the lyrical themes that abounded on Three Futures — music about bodies and desire and pleasure never runs dry — but she expects it to sound warmer, rawer, and less clinical.

“I’ll be going for the jugular more with the new record,” she says. Though the hellish presidency tends to seep into just about everyone’s psychological state, her fourth record won’t in any way respond to contemporary politics.

“I only write music when I feel like I’m about to explode with whatever truth-bomb I need to unleash, and usually it only ever has to do with what’s going on in my interior world,” she says. “This new album will be a love album. Our current administration doesn’t deserve music, even combative music. It deserves eternal condemnation where there is no music and no light.”

If Three Futures was a yellow house in rural America, then Torres’s fourth album will be “a botanical garden,” she says. “It’s going to be lush.”

It’s easy to imagine Torres forging an oasis from scarcity. That’s her alchemy: A vacancy becomes a window, and once she sees it she doesn’t hesitate to climb through. Parting ways with her label didn’t alter her path.

“My world did not end. A record label is just a record label,” she says. “I’m so ready to move forward.”

‘FIST’ Is The Leatherdyke Zine You’ll Want To Hold In Your Hot Little Hands

Unsurprisingly, FIST is the kind of reading material that makes me worry someone could see over my shoulder, even though I’m alone in my apartment. It’s not a bad feeling — FIST, a zine by and for leatherdykes, or, queer women who get off on sadomasochism, is overflowing with photography, illustrations, poems, interviews, and essays exploring leatherdyke identity and culture. Each page cracks with the anticipation and energy that comes from speaking one’s desires aloud.

Although this might sound like a specific kink, the term “leatherdyke” refers to a vast range of activities and dynamics between consenting adults — whipping, wax play, restraints, spanking, verbal humiliation, bootlicking, and mummification, just to name a few.

FIST was founded in 2017 by Cristine, a Brooklyn-based artist, writer, and BDSM educator who saw a need for modern, diverse perspectives on leatherdyke culture and identity. After the runaway success of FIST: Issue 01, Cristine released Issue 02 in May. Both issues open with an intention to be “inclusive of and prioritize the voices of trans dykes and dykes of color.”

FIST celebrates a range of experiences — from “A Poem for the Whip Enthusiast” by Mistress Couple to “I Know Why the Serpent Devours Her Own Tail” by June Amelia Rose — without claiming there’s one way to be a leatherdyke. Cristine’s own essay “Ode to Fingernails/How Do You Fuck With Those?” is a soaring testament to the erotic potential of long, acrylic nails.

Cristine spoke to INTO about creating FIST, Catherine Opie and BDSM in the ’90s, feminist sex wars, and rude Instagram DMs.

FIST
Art by @MarleyKinkead

I spent an evening reading FIST issues one and two. You put so much care into amplifying diverse leatherdyke voices and it really, really shows. What has the response to the zines has been like?

It has been really incredible! It’s still wild to think about all the feedback I’ve gotten from people who say it’s helped them discover their own inner pervert. When I was starting out, I sought out queer-owned printers to take on this project, and the first one I reached out to told me “We don’t print stuff like this.” Luckily I found a really great queer-owned local printer (Publicide) who was happy to print FIST. After issue one sold hundreds of copies, I decided it was worth having a release party for issue two. Here I was also faced with venues who had respectability issues with the zine content. I ended up having the party in a friend’s backyard and 75 people showed up to hang out and hear a bunch of queer perverts read smut out loud. It was amazing and the energy was so loving. I couldn’t have predicted a dyke SM zine would resonate with so many people!

In the introduction to FIST Issue 01, you write “leatherdyke subculture was documented and immortalized in the early ‘90s through zines and documentaries, almost frozen in time. We aim to pick up that tradition and achieve a new moment in time, sharing fresh perspectives through art and writing that encapsulate life as a modern leatherdyke in 2017.” I’ve seen the documentary Blood Sisters (1995), but I know very little about leatherdyke history. Why was there so much leatherdyke art and media in the ‘90s, and why did it stop?

My leatherdyke root was definitely going to a Catherine Opie exhibit at the Guggenheim in 2008. I saw her portraits of queer leather folk and specifically her photo called “Self-Portrait/Pervert” where she is hooded with play piercings down each arm, and the word “Pervert” carved into her chest. This photo was taken in 1994 and I think fits in to the timeline that I have of when the most leatherdyke art was being produced. After the Sex Wars of the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s (did they ever really end?), SM was coming more to light. I was born in ‘86 so I was just a kid in the ‘90s, but I still remember pop culture and that the entire decade was all about sex. At this time we also know there was a huge overlap between the punk and leatherdyke subcultures, and zines were a huge part of the DIY punk scene. A few things happened in the late ‘90s that I think contributed to less leatherdyke art and media after this time — the internet became popular and communities could exist online, and there was not as much resistance from mainstream culture. Mainstream feminism began to adopt sex-positive feminism so lesbians generally became less uptight and eased up on the “all sex is coercive and SM is violence” stance. This is not to say leatherdyke art and culture disappeared, or the fight was won, there just wasn’t as much being documented.

When you were envisioning FIST, were there any particular ‘90s zines or documentaries you looked to for inspiration or guidance?

Because these zines were printed so long ago, they are really hard to find. I have read a lot of books that mention the zines I wanted to emulate, and seen/read excerpts, but when I first printed FIST I had never actually read one. I think in a way that’s good because I got to be creative in making a new zine from scratch. I’ve since been able to purchase a bunch of copies of On Our Backs from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but they weren’t cheap. This magazine had financial backing, which means the production quality and advertising are not as DIY as I wanted FIST to be. There was a more working-class punk zine out of San Francisco called Brat Attack (a zine for leatherdykes and other bad girls) that put out a handful of issues from 91-94. There is now an archived page up online with select articles to read here. They talk about real issues like class, gear, fat acceptance, race, and SM tourism; there’s more of an authentic feel to this zine.

FIST
Art by @KDDiamond

I’m curious about how you, as a young leatherdyke, access your history. Are there archives, digital or physical? Are there older leatherdykes in your life?

My only real access to leather history is through books and media. There aren’t many out there still in circulation, but they are so important and I wish that all the young people coming into the scene could read them. From what I’ve read, the way it used to be is that elders lead the community and there was more formal training for novices. In New York, where I live, there isn’t much of a close-knit scene. It feels like everyone is casually involved in SM, but not many view it as a lifestyle. There are various leather archives around the country (the most notable one in Chicago), but I haven’t been able to make it out there yet. This past September I went to the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco for the first time where I got to attend a documentary screening on the Catacombs (a fisting club active in the ‘70s in San Francisco) starring Gayle Rubin. The screening was obviously in a leather bar, it was honestly just perfect. I knew that Gayle Rubin had gotten a copy of FIST and I got to introduce myself and to thank her for what she’s done for all of us. Meeting one of the trailblazers was life-changing.

FIST
Art by @Luna.Emuna

Are you doing a third issue?

Yes, and hopefully many more! I have submissions open for issue three until November 15 and I hope to have it up for sale along with reprints of one and two by mid-December.

This next question switches directions a little bit. Your Instagram is spectacular. I noticed you field a lot of presumptuous and misinformed comments from randos who are clearly turned on by BDSM, but aren’t navigating their interests with respect or a clear understanding of what it means to be part of a kink community. I’m wondering: how do you protect your time and psychic energy when you’re viewed as a free resource, or an authority on all things leatherdyke?  I know this a huge question, so I understand if you can only stab at it.

Oh, what a question! There was a time when I didn’t post my kinky stuff on social media (I have a vanilla career), but then I realized this was such a huge part of my life that I’d rather risk whatever consequences came about than hide who I am. One of those consequences is, unfortunately, there are always people who think my account (which is just me — Hi! A real person who has a life outside of Instagram) is here for their education. The majority of questions I receive are around BDSM books to read, so I put together a recommendation spreadsheet I share with people that takes just a few seconds. I don’t usually answer DMs asking for advice, but once in a while I do use the Q&A feature on stories and answer people’s questions where I always have one rule: Don’t ask me questions you can easily Google.

Kissing in Public is Still Unsafe for Queer Women

Jack White kicked off his Canadian tour this weekend with a show in Edmonton where two women — a couple — reported being kicked out of the venue for kissing. One of the women, Allyson MacIvor, took to Facebook to write about the disturbing incident, detailing that an employee at the concert venue, Rogers Place, allegedly forcefully placed her hand between them and deemed the kiss “inappropriate sexual behavior.”

“That’s not allowed here,” the usher said as she wagged her finger in MacIvor’s face. According to CBC, MacIvor was watching White perform “Seven Nation Army” when she turned to her girlfriend for a kiss, and that’s when the usher confronted them.

“I embraced my girlfriend, and some staff member came in between us, and she said, ‘This is not allowed here,'” MacIvor said. “It was very violating and invasive. It’s not something I’d ever imagine experiencing, honestly.” The usher brought the two women to the venue’s manager, where they subsequently filed an incident report.

The most heartbreaking part of the story: Allyson’s Facebook post was the first time she announced publicly that she was gay — and under such terrible circumstances.

As a gay woman, this story was hard to swallow, because I — and probably most queer people — have been made to feel this way with a partner in public, even if we weren’t forced out of the venue. I’ve received all sorts of harassment for showing any range of PDA with another woman in public. I’ve held hands with a woman on the street and been questioned by a male pedestrian if we were “just friends” or “together,” which led to further pointed questioning, and both of us feeling extremely unsafe. I’ve kissed a girl in a gay bar, only to open my eyes and see that a straight man, by himself, had been watching us the entire time — and asked us to keep going. I’ve held hands with a girl in a club and been followed out and down the street by a suspicious-looking man. I’ve kissed an ex-girlfriend at a concert and drawn bewildered stares and gapes from other concertgoers.

Each time I choose to engage in any form of PDA, I become hyper-aware of my surroundings, fearful of what might come next, to the point that it becomes stressful for me, and not worth it.

Each experience is disheartening and so discouraging — it makes me feel like I can’t live my life like a “normal” straight couple can. Because the reality is: I can’t. I live in Los Angeles, one of the most progressive cities in the nation, and each of the aforementioned incidents happened here. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for LGBTQ couples in more conservative areas if I, an LA resident, feel like I’m looking over my shoulder everywhere I go — and being made to feel shame for such minuscule and normal displays of affection.

Many LGBTQ people still feel unsafe expressing any type of PDA in public with a partner, and that’s a totally fair assessment — even if you’re OK with drawing unfair stares and attention from onlookers, you have to worry about your actual safety after doing something as mild as holding hands with a partner—something straight couples never lose sleep over. Unfortunately, we are still unsafe in most areas. We never know how a person or a group of people is going to react to a hand-hold or a peck on the lips — will they shout at us? Will they become violent? Will we bleed?

The incident at the Jack White concert is the stark reality of the world LGBTQ people still live in. And it’s commonplace — in June, a lesbian couple reported being kicked out of an Uber for exchanging a peck on the lips. Queer people are not only common targets of public harassment and denigration but also of violent crimes. According to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), 2017 was the deadliest year ever for LGBTQ people, with an 86 percent spike in homicides as a result of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. Of the 36 hate crimes that were counted, 75 percent of those lost were people of color, and an astounding 16 of them were transgender women of color. That should be a hard pill to swallow, not just for LGBTQ people, but for allies, friends, and family members too.

When I first came out and was dating my first girlfriend, there was one night when I grabbed her hand on the street while walking home from a bar. She quickly removed her hand from my grip, and upon watching my face fall, said she “felt weird” about PDA. At first, I was hurt by it. But after years of being out and gay, and walking through numerous bars, clubs, street corners, concert venues, convenience stores, and restaurants with various significant others, I’ve learned to forgive her for that moment. And I don’t just forgive her, I understand where she was coming from. I don’t think I’ve been with one other woman since then who has felt totally comfortable holding hands or kissing in public — and I don’t either. I’m scared of what harassment or retaliations we’ll receive, or even what looks of awe or surprise we might draw — and I have the numbers and the reported horror stories, like Allyson MacIvor’s, to justify such fears.

Of the Rogers Palace incident, Jack White said, “At the next show in Calgary I dedicated the song ‘Love Interruption’ to the two women and encouraged everyone in the crowd to kiss their loved ones.” He added, “Let’s promote love and acceptance wherever and whenever we can.”

15 Key LGBTQ Races to Watch on Election Night

On election night, more than 300 LGBTQ candidates across the country will compete in what is widely regarded as the most pivotal midterm race in decades—if not ever. A great many of these political hopefuls could make history on Nov. 6. If elected, candidates like Colorado’s Jared Polis and Vermont’s Christine Hallquist would be the first out officials to serve in their respective offices.

As the results roll in, INTO put together a list of some of the key races to watch.

BRIANNA TITONE (D-Colo.)

Who is she?

A former volunteer firefighter and environmental consultant, Titone served as a delegate for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election. She is also the secretary and treasurer for the Jefferson County LGBTQ Caucus, as well as the captain-at-large for the Jefferson County Democratic Party.

What position is she running for?

Colorado House of Representatives, District 27

Who is she running against?

Republican Vicki Pyne

What issues is she running on?

Titone hopes to combat pay inequality for women and minorities, believes the internet is a public utility, urges campaign finance reform, and thinks all Coloradans deserve a living wage. She is in favor of an initiative to increase funding for transportation by $6 billion in the state.

How likely is it that she will win?

Colorado’s 27th House District has been held by Republicans since 2010. Current officeholder Lang Sias won the seat by 13 points in 2016.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Titone would be the first trans woman in Colorado to be elected to the state legislature. Virginia’s Danica Roem flew to the state to campaign for her earlier this year.

 

CHRISTINE HALLQUIST (D-Vt.)

Who is she?

The former CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative, Hallquist was one of the first chief executives of a major company in the U.S. to transition on the job. She began transitioning in December 2015.

What position is she running for?

Governor of Vermont

Who is she running against?

Republican incumbent Phil Scott

What issues is she running on?

Hallquist supports a $15 minimum wage, paid family and medical leave insurance, and a plan to achieve 90 percent renewable energy in Vermont by 2050. Should she win, she plans to create an independent oversight board on racial justice.

How likely is it that she will win?

Despite being a conservative in a Blue State, Scott is one of the most popular governors in the country. Polls show the incumbent leading by at least 10 points.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Hallquist would be America’s first openly trans governor.

 

ERIC HOLGUIN (D-Texas)

Who is he?

Holguin is a former candidate for the Corpus Christi City Council. He worked as an intern for New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and in the New York City Comptroller’s office from 2016 to 2017.

What position is he running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, Texas’ 27th District

Who is he running against?

Republican incumbent Michael Cloud

What issues is he running on?

Holguin wants to expand access to broadband cable internet in rural communities, provide free community college for working-class Americans, pass a national nondiscrimination law protecting LGBTQ workers, and lower the voting age to 17. He believes healthcare is a human right.

How likely is it that he will win?

Holguin was defeated by Cloud in a June special election to replace departing Blake Farenthold for the remainder of the year. The Republican won by 32 points.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Holguin would be the first queer man of color and the first gay Latino politician to serve in U.S. Congress.

 

GINA ORTIZ JONES (D-Texas)

Who is she?

Ortiz Jones worked in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence officer during the Iraq War. After leaving the military, she served as the senior advisor for trade enforcement under the Obama administration and later the director for investment at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

What position is she running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, Texas’ 23rd District

Who is she running against?

Republican incumbent Will Hurd

What issues is she running on?

As a member of Congress, Ortiz Jones will focus on job creation for working-class families, ensuring every Texas student has access to quality education, immigration reform, and expanding access to affordable health care.

How likely is it that she will win?

It’s hard to call. Hurd only beat his Democratic challenger by 1.3 percentage points in 2016, and Hillary Clinton won the district by 3.4 points in the 2016 election. However, a New York Times/Siena poll shows Hurd leading by 15.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Ortiz would be the first queer woman of color to serve in U.S. Congress, as well as its first out lesbian Latina.

 

JARED POLIS (D-Colo.)

Who is he?

Since 2009, Polis has served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Colorado’s 2nd District. After co-founding American Information Systems (AIS) while in college, he is worth a reported $400 million—making him one of Congress’ wealthiest members.

What position is he running for?

Governor of Colorado

Who is he running against?

Republican Walker Stapleton

What issues is he running on?

Polis wants to push Colorado toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, establish universal full-day kindergarten and preschool by 2020, pass common-sense gun reform, and rebuild the state’s infrastructure.

How likely is it that he will win?

Polls conducted during the month of October show Polis leading his conservative opponent by 6.7 percentage points. Democrats have held the governor’s office in Colorado since 2007.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Polis would be the first gay man to serve as governor of a U.S. state. To date, Oregon’s Kate Brown is the only LGBTQ person to be elected governor.

 

KATE BROWN (D-Ore.)

Who is she?

Brown is currently the governor of Oregon and the first openly bisexual governor of a state in U.S. history.

What is she running for?

Governor of Oregon

Who is she running against?

Moderate Republican Knute Buehler

What issues is she running on?

As governor, Brown has raised the minimum wage and increased funding for education and guaranteed paid sick leave. Though Buehler wrote legislation giving people access to over-the-counter birth control, Brown is emphasizing her opponent’s votes against legal abortion and Medicare funding.

How likely is it that she will win?

The Oregon governor’s race is considered a toss-up. According to poll averages, Brown holds a slim 4.3 point lead over Buehler — just outside a three percentage point margin of error.

What are the implications of the race?

Brown is America’s only LGBTQ governor.

 

KATIE HILL (D-Calif.)

Who is she?

Katie Hill is a nonprofit executive who served as the executive director of California’s People Assisting the Homeless and has worked to pass legislation to address Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis.

What is she running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, California’s 25th District

Who is she running against?

Republican incumbent Stephen Knight

What issues is she running on?

Hill’s campaign has focused on affordable health care. She also wants to close tax loopholes to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, rebuild the middle class, and address California’s affordable housing crisis.

How likely is it that she will win?

Though Brown is a Democrat in a decidedly blue state, pundits consider this race a toss-up. A recent Berkeley IGS poll had Brown ahead by four, but the results were flipped in tracking from the New York Times and Siena College. Their polling showed Knight winning by the same margin.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Hill would be California’s first LGBTQ representative to U.S. Congress, and one of just a handful of openly bisexual members of either house.

 

KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.)

Who is she?

Sinema is a bisexual woman, a Democrat, and the U.S. congressional representative from Arizona’s 9th district. She’s been serving since 2013.

What is she running for?

U.S. Senate

Who is she running against?

Martha McSally

What issues is she running on?

Sinema is running on her bipartisan record. She’s considered the third-most bipartisan member of Congress. She also wants access to quality healthcare, benefits for veterans and job growth. Just don’t call her a progressive.

How likely is it that she will win?

Polls have been fairly split, with each candidate winning their fair share by a narrow margin. McSally only leads by a percentage point in poll averages tracked by RealClearPolitics, making them statistically tied.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Sinema would be the first bisexual member of the U.S. Senate, which has only had one LGBTQ representative in history: Tammy Baldwin.

 

LUPE VALDEZ (D-Texas)

Who is she?

Valdez is the former sheriff of Dallas County. Before stepping down from her position to run for governor, she served in the position for 12 years.

What position is she running for?

Governor of Texas

Who is she running against?

Incumbent Republican Greg Abbott

What issues is she running on?

Valdez supports the passage of statewide LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections in Texas, comprehensive immigration reform allowing a path to citizenship for DREAMers, expanding voting rights to disenfranchised populations, and paid sick leave for workers.

How likely is it that she will win?

Valdez has a lot of ground to make up on election day: Polls show Abbott ahead by an average of 16.7 percentage points. It doesn’t help that the Republican regularly ranks among the top 10 most popular governors in the U.S.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Valdez would be the first queer woman of color and the first out lesbian to serve as governor of a U.S. state.

 

MARK TAKANO (D-Calif.)

Who is he?

Takano is the first LGBTQ person of color elected to Congress and has served in the U.S. House since 2013.

What is he running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, California’s 41st district

Who is he running against?

Republican candidate Aja Smith

What issues is he running on?

Takano is solidly Democratic as a legislator, voting with the party on most issues. He spent 20 years as a classroom teacher and is running on education and economic issues. Takano also supports reforming campaign finance, voting rights, and the national immigration system.

How likely is it that he will win?

Extremely likely. FiveThirtyEight gave Takano a 99 percent chance of holding the seat, projecting he would win by 36 points. Takano has raised almost $1 million, while Aja has raised only $38,000.

What are the implications of the race?

If reelected, Takano would remain the only openly gay person of Asian descent in U.S. Congress.

 

NEIL RAFFERTY (D-Ala.)

Who is he?

Rafferty is the prevention and education coordinator for Birmingham AIDS Outreach.

What position is he running for?

Alabama House of Representatives, District 54

Who is he running against?

Independent candidate Joseph Casper Baker III

What issues is he running on?

Rafferty’s campaign is strongly focused on issues of community health. As a member of the legislature, he would fight to expand Medicaid in the state of Alabama, work to address the state’s opioid crisis, and increase resources for mental health. He also supports a livable minimum wage and expanding access to affordable housing.

How likely is it that he will win?

Rafferty won by a commanding 34 points in the June primaries and is likely to repeat victory on Nov. 6. Democrats are highly favored in District 54, where current officeholder Patricia Todd won by more than percentage points in 2014. She did not face a general election opponent in 2006 or 2010.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Rafferty would be the first gay man to serve in the Alabama legislature. Todd is currently its first and only openly LGBTQ member.

 

NELSON ARAUJO (D-Nev.)

Who is he?

Araujo currently serves as a State Senator in Nevada’s 13th assembly district.

What is he running for?

Nevada’s Secretary of State.

Who is he running against?

Incumbent Barbara Cegavske

What issues is he running on?

Araujo has said he is running “to help every eligible voter participate in our democracy — whether it’s closing the gap between early voting and election day, or allowing same-day and automatic voter registration.” He also wants to use tech companies to help ease Nevada’s elections.  

How likely is it that he will win?

Polls are scarce, but those that have been conducted show the two in a stalemate or with Araujo at a slight edge.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, he’ll be the first LGBTQ person of color to win a statewide election in Nevada, as well as the state’s first Latino secretary of state.

 

RICK NEAL (D-Ohio)

Who is he?

After entering the Peace Corps, Neal taught public health for five years in Morocco.

He has served as an international aid worker in countries like Afghanistan, Cambodia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he set up camps for refugees and fought for access to clean water.

What position is he running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, Ohio’s 15th District

Who is he running against?

Incumbent Republican Steve Stivers

What issues is he running on?

Neal’s list of campaign promises — which are available on his website — include protecting cuts to Social Security, working to improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and advocating for the expansion of Medicare among Americans 55 and older.

How likely is it that he will win?

Projections by FiveThirtyEight projected Stivers would prevail by a 15-point margin, which would actually be a good result for Neal. The Republican, who has held the office since 2010, typically wins reelection by more than 30 percentage points. A Democrat has only held Ohio’s 15th for one term since 2000.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Neal would be the first LGBTQ politician to represent Ohio in U.S. Congress.

 

SHARICE DAVIDS (D-Kan.)

Who is she?

A graduate of Cornell Law School, Davids is an attorney and former White House fellow.

Her campaign attracted unexpected national attention after a video highlighted her background as a former mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. She’s also a member of the Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk Nation.

What position is she running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, Kansas’ 3rd District

Who is she running against?

Incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder

What issues is she running on?

As a member of Congress, Davids hopes to further an economic policy focused on small businesses, fight for tax cuts for the middle class, expand Medicaid, and treat gun violence as a public health issue.

How likely is it that she will win?

Pretty likely. Although Yoder has held the seat since 2010, the latest Emerson College poll shows Davids leading by 12. In September, the  National Republican Congressional Committee pulled more than $1 million in funding earmarked for Yoder’s campaign—a move which signaled to many that the GOP is not confident in his reelection chances.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Davids would be the first queer woman of color in U.S. Congress, as well as one of the only Native American lawmakers to serve at the national level.

 

TAMMY BALDWIN (D-Wis.)

Who is she?

Baldwin is the first LGBTQ person to win election to the U.S. Senate. Prior to that milestone, she was also the first LGBTQ candidate elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

What position is she running for?

U.S. Senate

Who is she running against?

Republican Leah Vukmir

What issues is she running on?

During her six years in Congress, Baldwin has been a major champion of the Equality Act. The legislation would rewrite national civil rights laws to protect queer and trans people from discrimination in all forms of public life. She’s also been an advocate for veterans’ health care, expansion of manufacturing jobs, and easing the burden of student debt.

How likely is it that she will win?

While polls show Baldwin leading her Republican opponent by more than 10 points, the seat isn’t as safe as many may assume. Conservatives have spent more than $10 million in purple Wisconsin to oust her from office.

What are the implications of the race?

Baldwin is currently the only LGBTQ person to ever serve in the U.S. Senate. Should Vukmir pull an upset and Sinema also lose on election day, the upper chambers of the national legislature would have no LGBTQ representation for the first time in six years.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

King Princess Continues to be Ostentatiously Gay in ‘Pussy is God’

“Your pussy is god and I love it” is the tagline for King Princess’ new single, “Pussy is God.” On Friday, the openly gay singer-songwriter released a new music video for the single, which is overtly queer — from the vaginal lyrics to the androgynous fashion and the topless female keyboard player. Over the course of the last year, King Princess showed us that she’s gay and here to stay — and the new song is exactly the kind of music queer women need from female pop stars.

Though it’s easy to compare the two lesbian pop singers, Hayley Kiyoko and King Princess are nothing alike. Where Kiyoko offers upbeat, Top 40-leaning bops, King Princess has a softer appeal with her mellow beats and droning guitars. But while Kiyoko has been praised — by myself and dozens of other LGBTQ critics — for her brazenly gay lyrics, King Princess has seemingly doubled down.

On her debut EP, titled Make My Bed, the 19-year old sang of love lost on “Talia” (“I can taste your lipstick, I can lay down next to you, but it’s all in my head”), and of dated gender roles in “1950” (“I hate it when dudes try to chase me, but I love it when you try to save me”). Like Kiyoko, the Brooklyn-native spoke openly about her experiences with women, something that other out pop stars have strayed from or danced around in the past. But now, King Princess has brought something new to the table: graphic sexual desire.

Kiyoko dabbled in this on her debut album, Expectations, like on “He’ll Never Love You (HLNY)” when she sings, “I left a mark on her neck, I know that you won’t forget.” However, she focused on the visuals when it came to expressing sexual desire. In her “Curious” music video, she depicted herself draped in scantily clad women, like we typically see from heterosexual male artists in hip-hop videos. On her album cover, we see the artist staring lustfully at a naked woman, seemingly being seduced by her faceless form in a way that we don’t usually see from female artists. But lyrically, she generally keeps it pretty tame when it comes to sex.

King Princess, also known as Mikaela Straus, upped the ante last week when she released “Pussy is God.” It’s rare that we hear female pop artists be so brazen in their expressions of sexual desire, but hearing a female artist talk so flagrantly about another woman’s body almost never happens. It’s raw, it’s explicit, it’s groundbreaking.

In this song, Straus literally sings of “praying” for pussy. In a traditional sense, the desire she expresses is extremely male in nature—as in, historically, we’ve only been able to bear witness to male artists indicating and owning their explicit admiration for the female form. So, to see King Princess bask in her own lesbian libido, without shame, and without needing permission to do so, is breathtaking.

The first time I listened to the song, I sat mouth agape in my car, listening to her repeat the phrase “Your pussy is god” over and over again, because it felt so shocking. But it’s not shocking. It’s normal — or it should be. The way King Princess sings about lusting over a woman is the way men have always been afforded the opportunity to do in film, TV, music, or just in conversation with each other. But thanks to the ever-simmering patriarchal silencing of women, especially queer women, women who love women don’t get to speak this way about their sexual desires, for fear of being—well, dubbed as gross as men.

But there’s a difference between being “gross” and conveying desire for the female form, and that difference is marked starkly by the inclusion of respect. In “Pussy is God,” Straus never crosses any lines of consent, nor does she reduce the female form to an object. In fact, it’s a love song. “Been knocked down for some other love, but their best wasn’t good enough, and you’re number one to me,” she sings. “Your pussy is god and I’m falling.” She’s admiring a woman. She’s in love with her. She’s not objectifying her.

Queer women need more songs like this from mainstream pop singers. Admittedly, I find myself sacrificing word choices in my own conversation with friends—especially straight friends—so as not to sound predatory or “gross.” But it’s unfair — I’ve already been repressed and stifled for a lifetime, hiding my queerness from the world due to homophobia and fear of retaliation. Now that I’m out, I deserve to talk about sex the way that everyone else does. If I, and other queer women, can hear and see more songs and videos like “Pussy is God,” we’ll feel significantly more empowered to use such language in our own lives. Queer women deserve to feel comfortable craving women—and to say “Pussy” as much as we damn want.

New Music We’re Into

INTO’s roundup of our favorite new releases vows to remain purposefully intersectional in highlighting the best in queer music, both emerging and established. Because when things take a turn and you need a lift in spirits or just a distraction, music continues to serve as one of the most practical forms of self care.

 

Robyn’s new album, Kelela’s remix album and Ah-Mer-Ah-Su’s cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats”: These are a few of my favorite things. Including in this month’s playlist is my favorite track from Honey, “Send To Robin Immediately”. Co-produced by queer pop auteur Kindness (Adam Bainbridge), the song samples the song “French Kiss” by Lil Louis who Robyn said on BBC Radio 1 she has always wanted to sample. Among all of the queer people of color Kelela and long time collaborator born-of-the-LA-queer-scene Asma Maroof enlisted to participate in Take Me A_Part, is Detroit harpist Ahya Simone. Of the last remix on the album, Kelela says she was able to unlock something special she’d always desired to with her re-recorded vocals playing over the ethereal sounds from Simone’s plucking of the harp’s strings. She also told PAPER that the entire project was started with the notion of “reaching out to as many people of color as possible.” Other highlights for me included Neneh Cherry’s return, Sega Bodega’s debut EP, and Geotic’s latest ambient release Traversa.

Listen and subscribe to our playlist of the best new releases in queer music below.

Photo by @boychoy.

 

6 Ways This Cardi And Nicki Beef Ends, Based On Fights I’ve Had with Other Queer Women

Tension has been bubbling between Cardi B and Nicki Minaj over the last month, ever since TMZ reported that the “Money” rapper threw a shoe at Minaj during the Harper’s Bazaar party. On Monday, the beef between the female MCs hit a boiling point when Minaj alleged that her friend Rah Ali “really, really beat Cardi’s ass bad” during the now-infamous fashion week party in September.

Soon after, Cardi responded with an 11-post Instagram rant, in which she lobbed multiple accusations at Minaj, including that she was offered the Little Mix song, “Woman Like Me,” before Minaj was (Minaj is currently featured on the single). Little Mix then slammed Cardi’s allegation, and by the end of Monday night, Nicki took to Twitter to call a truce between her and the “Bodak Yellow” rapper, which Cardi agreed to accept. However, if I know queer women, and I surely do, then I know that a long-simmering tension between Cardi, a queer female rapper, and her seeming arch nemesis (who isn’t queer, but is probably down), won’t die this easily. So, based on my own experiences with riled queer women, here’s a few ways I see this playing out.

They Fuck

Why dance around it? There are so many ways to settle beefs: in person, in the media, on Twitter dot com, but all of those are dated beef-settling spaces. The most modern and nuanced way to settle a feud is by getting naked. Queer women have a breadth of emotions more complex and expansive than any other faction of the human race. And because our community is significantly smaller than the heterosexual dating landscape, it’s easy for us to meet another queer lady, have an emotional reaction to them—whether it be romantic and tingly or violent disgust—and have sex with them right away, just cause. So, while emotions are running extraordinarily high for Cardi and Nicki, it’s not unreasonable to think that they might get together to fuck it out.

They Fuck and Continue to Feud

I know fucking often isn’t the answer to our problems. In fact, it often complicates things further. I’m just saying fucking happens. Maybe they jam out with their clams out, realize they have nothing to say to each other during an awkward pillow talk, agree that they actually truly dislike each other as people, and decide to continue being each other’s mortal enemies. After all, this has all been very entertaining. They’re really giving the people what they want, like making girl groups publicly pick a side, and creating the long-prophesied Great American Pop Star Divide.

They Fuck and Fall in Love

This has happened to me more than once—not fucking and falling in love, but rather, being wholeheartedly disgusted by a person, fucking them in a burst of passion, and then falling head over heels like a bumbling moron for a person I have nothing in common with. Internalized homophobia is a bitch: Right after I came out, or while I was coming to terms with my queerness, I would often self-correct when I found a woman attractive by (metaphorically) giving myself a slap on the wrist. It’s terrible and heartbreaking, but I literally trained myself to find women disgusting, even when I subconsciously enjoyed their company.

This one’s a long shot — and I know Nicki doesn’t identify as queer — but I’m just saying: Maybe the source of all Nicki and Cardi’s tension isn’t album sales or competition or the ways in which the media has historically and unfairly pitted women against each other, especially female rappers. Maybe it’s that, deep down, they’re in love. Duh. I’ve been on lesbian Tumblr, I know how this shit works.

They Have Coffee and Settle This Like Two Emotionally Mature, Level-Headed Contemporaries

LOL just kidding, can you imagine? Queer women are smart, but level-headed we are not.

This Just Goes Away

In theory, this could happen — Nicki and Cardi could really call a truce and agree that this is drama they just don’t need in their lives. I’ve done this in breaking up with a girl who was not my girlfriend — because apparently, when you’re gay, you can get dumped without even having a girlfriend. Sometimes, things don’t align as easily as two people may have hoped for, and the platitude “life happens” suddenly makes sense. Unfortunately, many relationships fall apart because the timing isn’t right, or there are unpredictable circumstances that complicate the good stuff — acts of God, if you will. So, maybe it wasn’t in the stars for Nicki and Cardi at this moment in time. It doesn’t mean that, in the future, they can’t mend their relationship and build something cool and new and fun again.

Sadly, this is probably the most unrealistic result of the current feud, because even if the two women agree to disagree, the media will never—like never ever ever—let this go. Like, I’m talking a dystopian E! News broadcast from 2049 where they introduce Cardi B as “the female rapper who once beefed with Nicki Minaj.” Actually, “Nicki Minaj: 2049” sounds much more compelling than that Blade Runner trash.

The Great American Pop Star Divide of 2019

Queer women are many things — intelligent, progressive, unique, beautiful — but we are mostly just petty as fuck. Often times, when a lesbian couple breaks up, it splits a friend group in two, even if it doesn’t happen right away. Sometimes the bitterness of the break up creeps up on those not involved in insidious ways, and months, even years later, you find yourself resenting one of the women involved because of the poison the other has been spilling in your ear since the breakup.

Little Mix already picked a side, and Ariana Grande, a long-time collaborator of Minaj, “liked” Little Mix’s pro-Nicki post on Instagram. By this time next year, who knows what kind of bipartisan popstar hellscape we’ll be living in? Will “Taki Taki” collaborator Selena Gomez go Team Cardi? Will queer R&B singer and public Cardi stan Kehlani swing Cardi? Will SZA be caught in the middle? Will “Swish, Swish” singer Katy Perry lobby for Nicki visibility? Will male rappers somehow escape being accused of siding with either woman because men in the music industry aren’t ever held accountable for their actions, nor are they targeted by the media as subjects of a sexist “claws out” blood feud?

Well, I don’t want to be around to find out. I’m going with “They fuck.”

Images via Getty

Every Opportunity for Queerness in the New ‘Clueless’ Reboot

I want to be clear: I am very anti-Clueless reboot. As a former ’90s kid, I can feel myself turning into a curmudgeon. There’s a recurring, inter-generational phenomenon that, until now, I’ve only bore witness to, and that’s when old people become prickly about reboots of their favorite childhood movies and TV shows. Now, it’s happening to me. My favorite show in the ’90s was Charmed, which was recently chewed up and spit out by the Reboot Monster in terribly gauche and tacky ways. I’ve enjoyed some of the ’80s and ’90s remakes, like the all-female Ghostbusters and Paramount Network’s Heathers, but after I was personally attacked by the new Charmed, I’ve started to fear for the future of ’90s reboots.

Earlier today, the second iteration of the Amy Heckerling classic ’90s movie Clueless was announced. The movie will be penned by the writers of GLOW and Girls Trip, which sounds good, in theory. But just like Charmed, Clueless was one of my most cherished pieces of ’90s pop culture. If the movie has any chance of upgrading what I consider to be a blazing 10, then there’s only one thing they can do to improve it: make it gay. Making Clueless gay is the only chance this movie has at surviving — The CW’s updated Charmed made one of the Halliwell sisters queer, so it’s not out of the question. And between the collared shirts, plaid blazers, bandanas, and mention of The Cranberries, Clueless is the perfect storm of untapped queerness that’s ready to come bursting out of Cher’s electronic closet.

First and foremost, I think we should get the obvious choice out of the way: Tai. Played by the late, great Brittany Murphy, Tai seems like the natural heir to the lesbian throne. She’s a supporting character, which Hollywood loves to dump queerness on so the protagonists can keep their boring hetero garbage intact. Tai shows up to the snobbish Beverly Hills High School with a flannel and a trashy accent, seeking “herbal refreshments.” She’s basically me everywhere I go. Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne (the embattled Stacey Dash) decide to make her over from a frizzy-haired dyke into a curlicued, headband-wearing, plaid-obsessed … bisexual?

When Tai first eats lunch with Cher and Dionne, she actually quips, “Shit, you guys. I’ve never had straight friends before,” which is like, textbook gay people, who naturally gravitate toward others of our ilk before we even realize we’re queer. Plus, Tai is totally crushing on Travis, a charitable Nine Inch Nails stan who skateboards, smokes weed, wears tattered flannels, and has Hanson hair — he’s basically already a lesbian. So, it’d make total sense if the token queer character in the Clueless reboot was Tai, and her love interest was lesbian Travis. But there are other options that are actually significantly more enticing.

Now, any ’90s queer with their head on straight — and by that I mean not straight — would ship Cher and Dionne. Lesbian culture is shipping the two female leads in any given ’90s or 2000s movie. See: Jess and Jules in Bend it Like Beckham, Kelly and Jennifer in Cadet Kelly, Torrance and Missy in Bring It On, Torrance and Isis in Bring It On, Courtney and Whitney in Bring It On… But for me, Cher and Dionne have strictly platonic energy between them. Dionne is a supporting character who can rock an extremely extra hat or plaid blazer and pick a fight or hold a grudge like it’s her job, but… Oh shit, wait. Is Dionne queer?

Think about it: She has a tennis instructor, as is evidenced by the “note” she brings to PE with strict instructions to keep her from training with other instructors — and tennis is the most lesbian sport of them all. (Am I right, Billie Jean King?) Further proof of tennis lesbianism: the PE teacher in Clueless is an angry out lesbian and tennis queen. Cher even describes her as “same-sex oriented.”

But back to Dionne. Her boyfriend Murray, played by the vibrant Donald Faison, could be subtly, metaphorically a queer woman. At one point, after being called out by his girlfriend for his degrading use of the word “woman,” he delves into a tirade about the appropriation of misogyny is street slang. He apologizes and says, “Street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily misogynistic undertones.” That quote sounds ripped from a queer woman’s manifesto on street slang and why she should be allowed to reclaim it.

So, sure, Tai, Travis, Dionne, and Murray could all technically be gender-swapped or hetero-flipped for a modern reboot, but there’s one person who I believe the queerness should be bequeathed to, and that’s… Cher Horowitz. Call me a dreamer for thinking a reboot could actually star a queer female protagonist — because queer women are always shafted in mainstream film and TV— but Cher is genuinely the most inherently lesbian character in Clueless. And the more I think about it, the more I realize Cher has been canonically queer the whole time. Hear me out.

Headbands, pleated plaid skirts, and fashion choices aside, Cher’s mom died during a “routine liposuction” when she was young, and mommy issues are the hallmark of queerness. She’s a generous, woke queen who gives an impassioned speech in debate class about why “Haiti-ans” should be allowed to seek refuge in the US, because “It does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty.” Um, hello — give this activist a Twitter account!

Cher also likes queer girl stuff. She loves Beavis and Butthead, as well as other cartoon characters she can project her traumas on to, like Ren & Stimpy, who she calls “way existential.” She cares about wellness and being well-read, and makes a point to elevate her vocabulary so she can sound smarter than men. She also wears clogs.

Cher is a bad driver, which could be gay. Gay Twitter has churned out a meme about how gay men can’t drive, but are queer women bad drivers, too? Come to think of it, every time I’m driving with a gay girl, I’m thoroughly scared for my life. I feel like queer women drive with the fury of 1,000 scorned exes surging through their toes. Cher has a lead foot and an overall lack of awareness for other cars on the road, and that’s pretty gay.

But then there’s the real, hard-hitting evidence of Cher’s lady-loving side. She falls for a gay guy, Christian, which is like, High School Lesbianism 101. She also hates high school boys, says they dress badly and complains about how they “slobber all over you.” She also tells Dionne she hates men with muscles. And finally, she’s a virgin! I was a virgin in high school because I couldn’t find any men who lit my fire, and I didn’t know it was because I was repressing something much deeper. Not all high school virgins are repressed lesbian losers like I was, but when Cher’s virginity is stacked against all her other queer qualities, it’s hard to deny her sweltering lesbianism: Cher is a virgin who can’t drive, and that’s fucking GAY.

Cher ends up falling for Josh (Paul Rudd), who’s technically her stepbrother. She typically goes for more feminine men, both physically and energy-wise, and Josh is extremely lesbian. He’s from Seattle, and as we know, the entire Pacific Northwest is gay. He wears flannels, has “granola breath,” and he wants to practice environmental law. He tries to stay woke by watching CNN. He even tells Cher it’s “cool to know what’s going on in the world.” They’re a perfect woke couple! And not for nothing, but crushing on someone you know you can’t be with — like a guy who was briefly your stepbrother — is inherently queer.

When Cher finally realizes she loves Josh, the whole scene looks like a metaphor for coming out. First, she gets grumpy and jealous over the possibility of Tai and Josh going out, but she can’t understand why. Then, she has a transformative and enlightening moment in front of a fountain that literally illuminates with lurid color, where she realizes why she feels the way she feels: because she loves him! Newsflash: that’s exactly what it’s like to come out — purple fountains and all.

So, while I’m extremely anti-Clueless reboot, I have to say, I’d be intrigued by a movie that gives Cher Horowitz an opportunity to be as lesbian as was written in the stars. And while I could see myself shipping Cher and Tai for natural reasons, I think a gender-swapped lesbian Josh is who I, and gay Cher, would be totally crushing on. But as far as a straight Clueless reboot goes? As if.

Scary Stories for Queer Women Prove Life Is Scarier Than Fiction

Happy (almost) Halloween! ‘Tis the season for spooky stories — which, depending on your experience, might be a bit different. For the queer women we gathered for this campfire session, the things they summon up in their stories are particularly scary for queer women.

One story features bisexual erasure. Another sees a woman deal with a partner with particularly long nails. And one tells the tale of a lesbian couple whose greatest fear comes in the form of a man — one who thinks, despite their public displays of affection, that they’re related.

But when it comes time for the token guy of the group to tell his own scary story, the women around him find it all pretty familiar: being stalked down the street, threat of being killed, unhelpful police. The familiar experience doesn’t exactly spook them, to say the least.

“So your whole lives are like a horror movie?” he asks, dumbfounded. “I think I’m gonna be sick.”

Watch the full video below.

Are Queer People Only Celebrated For Our Aesthetics?

“Just try it on, you’ll look amazing!”

These were the words of encouragement recently screamed and then repeated by one of my closest friends as I flicked casually through their closet and stumbled upon a floor-length, silver mesh dress. It was Studio 54-meets-Mugler’s eccentric elegance; it was vintage Jerry Hall dipped in glimmer with a sprinkle of Marilyn for good measure. It was undeniably fabulous, but it was light years away from anything I had ever worn or would ever dare to wear.

But that night we weren’t just going to any regular club: We had been invited as special guests to go and see radical disruptor, Rick Owens muse, filth-electronica pioneer Christeene live, so I swiftly drained a shot of whiskey and stepped into the dress, teaming it with a pair of nine-inch Buffalo boots. At first, I felt uncomfortable – and not just because of the boots. Then I felt self-conscious. And then, finally, I felt untouchable.

Like many queer people across the world, I’ve long understood that clothing can be transformative. Not only can it bind, contort, accentuate, drape over and mask our bodies as we see fit, it can invoke a series of visceral emotions in its wearers. It can make us feel powerful, protected or beautiful; it can be an accent, or it can be our armor.

Club kids and drag queens have used it to disrupt society’s idea of what it means to be a “man” or a  “woman,” and some designers relish in issuing a swift sartorial “fuck you” to heteronormativity. In a world in which visual first impressions count, clothing can be a weapon whose cultural potential is unparalleled. It also, in the context of queer nightlife especially, can be a form of cultural currency. Throughout my adolescence I was plagued by fears of judgment, of being deemed too fat, too plain, too lazy to attain the lean, chiseled ideal that seems to be the norm on queer dating apps; I felt unattractive and self-conscious.  But all it took was a silver dress for people who would usually ignore me to approach me, click approvingly as I walked past and shower me in compliments. I glossed over my insecurities with a sheath of sequins and a fierce red lip, and I was treated like a deity in response.

Perhaps this is why LGBTQ people – gay men in particular – seem to disproportionately gravitate towards fashion and other creative industries. In his comprehensive exploration of queer cultural figures, Homintern, Gregory Woods details a once-popular conspiracy theory that the fashion industry was dominated by gay misogynists determined to make women look ridiculous. Oh, and uncomfortable! Critics grew suspicious that cliques were being formed to spread some nasty gay alliance and annihilate the straights for good, and the over-representation of LGBTQ people in theater and performance was similarly treated as cause for concern.

Luckily, things have changed over the last century. (Well, kind of – there are still people out there convinced we’re on a global mission to recruit new queers à la Harvey Milk, but some battles are insurmountable.) But gay men are still over-represented in fashion. Flick through any arts-related book and you’ll see names like Dior, Saint Laurent, McQueen, Galliano, Marc Jacobs, all gay men whose unique visions have come to define the fashion industry as we know it today. But their innovations have also helped to fuel a stereotype that all gay men are doggedly fashion-conscious which, while not exactly a bad thing, isn’t exactly bulletproof.

On the plus side, this link has at least fostered some positive representation. Will & Grace was groundbreaking in its willingness to showcase not one but two gay lead characters, and its creation led to other trailblazing shows such as The L Word. There were similarities between these two shows; both were made in the wake of the ‘90s gay marketing boom, during which advertisers finally realized that, well, we exist. But they only cared about those of us with cash to spend, and TV execs picked up on this. As a result, we got a new wave of gay protagonists, but they were almost exclusively fashion-conscious, with wads of disposable income, acerbic wit and an air of enviable – but, crucially, imitable – glamor. “Lipstick lesbians” were celebrated, and wealthy, slim, attractive, white gay men became the desirable norm – masculine enough to not alienate audiences, but queer enough to usher in what later became known as metrosexuality. (A kind of loosened masculinity – think a guy who still dresses exclusively in J Crew but moisturizes.)

Things have improved, as evidenced by the recent reboot of Queer Eye. The original franchise might have fed into the idea that gay men are just Fairy Godmothers for hapless straight dudes whose idea of fine dining is a Four Loko and a Twizzler, but the reboot is more nuanced, more considered; it dives deep into politics and personal identity, scratching further than the aesthetic surface and spawning some genuinely poignant moments in the process. Even the misinformed (read: relentlessly binary) makeover of its one trans man has been eviscerated since the series aired, opening up important conversations about trans visibility, stigma and the relationship between clothing and gendered presentation.

But it’s unfortunate that few trans people are afforded the airtime to engage in these conversations. That’s precisely why trans people – almost always trans women – who have been embraced by the fashion industry seize every opportunity to spotlight discrimination, homicide and the increasing erasure of their existence by the Trump administration. Laverne Cox graces magazine covers in designer clothes whilst speaking eloquently about the plight of black trans women worldwide; Janet Mock writes of her pretty privilege to show that people are more likely to pay attention to beautiful women who pass (itself an insidious term) as cisgender; Hari Nef delivered an impassioned TED talk to explain how she came to see beauty and femininity not as traits, but as tools for survival.

In a recent panel discussion at New York’s DragCon, Alok Vaid-Menon – a fiercely intelligent poet, artist, and activist – spoke about RuPauls Drag Race and its emphasis on conventional beauty. They spoke at length about what it meant for them to design a colorful, inventive clothing line with non-binary bodies in mind, and how they often saw their creative resources mined without credit by fashion powerhouses. Finally, Vaid-Menon talked about reactions to their appearance, which range from yasss, slay! to threats of physical violence. They reinforced a vital point made in a recent Instagram post, written in the wake of a post-Fashion Week verbal assault: “Do you support us even when we aren’t inspirational, beautiful, or fashionable?”

Fellow non-binary activist Jamie Windust (whose stellar queer zine FRUITCAKE features Vaid-Menon alongside Travis Alabanza on its most recent cover) has expressed similar sentiments online in the past. Elaborating to INTO, they explain: “When gender non-conforming people express themselves in a way that’s colorful and unique we’re celebrated for our individuality, but it often stays at that surface level. Plus, it’s ‘oh, he looks nice, doesn’t he?’ There tends to be misgendering involved, and there’s no real level of engagement; once we explain that part we break that illusion of only being there for someone else’s visual pleasure.”

These statements underline an uneasy truth: there’s still little room, even in queer culture, for marginalized people who can’t turn a fierce look at a moment’s notice.

Images via Getty