Over 600,000 People Have Been Subjected to Conversion Therapy in U.S., Says New Report

More than 600,000 people in the U.S. are survivors of anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy, claims a new report from UCLA’s The Williams Institute.

Researchers Christy Mallory, Taylor N.T. Brown, and Kerith J. Conron find that medical or psychological treatment intended to “cure” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people continues to be widespread, even despite being widely discredited.

The just-released study alleges that youth are particularly vulnerable to conversion therapy, which is also referred to as “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay therapy.” Of the 698,000 adults who have been subjected to orientation change efforts, more than halfor 350,000were adolescents during their treatment.

At the time of writing, 41 states allow conversion therapy. In these localities, the pro-LGBTQ think tank claims 20,000 youth currently between the ages of 13 and 18 years old will be forced to undergo the practice.

Across all states, 57,000 young people will be subjected to counseling from a “religious or spiritual advisor” before their 18th birthday.

Conron, a co-author of the study and research director at The Williams Institute, says in a press release that these findings are a call to arms for LGBTQ advocates to ensure that all 50 states ban the practice.

“With such a large number of teens at risk of conversion therapy,” Conron claims, “we must ensure that families, faith communities and service providers have accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to reduce stigma and promote acceptance of LGBTQ youth and their families.”

Nearly every leading medical association, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Psychological Association (APA), has denounced conversion therapy as both dangerous and ineffective at its intended goal.

Survivors of the anti-LGBTQ treatment are eight times more likely than the average person to attempt to take their own lives, as research from San Francisco State University has found. They are also six times more likely to experience extreme depression and three times more likely to report a history of drug use.

Christy Mallory, the state and local policy director at The Williams Institute, claims that outlawing conversion therapy could, thus, “protect tens of thousands of teens.”

This year, several states have already put forward legislation which would do just that. On Jan. 17, House Rep. Tracy McCreery (D-Olivette) introduced the first-ever proposal in Missouri to make conversion therapy illegal. Similar bills have been filed in Arizona, Virginia, and Washington.

An ordinance to outlaw the treatment of sexual orientation or gender identity as a “curable” condition passed in Broward County, Fla. earlier this month.

Although conversion therapy bills regularly stall in local legislatures due to conservative opposition, they are widely supported by members of the general public. In polls from Gravis Marketing, 71 percent of respondents in Florida and 64 percent of Virginians claimed orientation change efforts should be illegal.

LGBTQ Students Battle Pervasive Culture of Homophobia At Christian-Based Hope College

“Hope College blankets over its problems the way the snow blankets Michigan,” says Joshua Chun Wah Kam. “It’s just what it does.”

Kam, a recent graduate of Hope College, led a December protest in which four students distributed hundreds of leaflets to congregants gathered at Christmas Vespers, a yearly concert at the Holland, Mich. campus. The fliers, tossed over the balcony to the audience below, bore a link to the website for 95 Storiesa campaign in which undergrads speak anonymously to racism and homophobia at the Christian college.

Their hope was to start a conversation about these issues at a conservative campus that often struggles to recognize the microaggressions experienced by LGBTQ students and students of color. Kam tells INTO a fellow student was told that “God had let [him] be raped and assaulted” to make him “turn back from the sin of homosexuality.”

The four students involved in the demonstration compared their mission to Martin Luther, a Protestant reformer who called for change within the Roman Catholic Church through nonviolent action. As a nod to Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, the group of students taped posters to the doors at the back of the procession.

But the peaceful protest was not received with the same cordiality.

As the protesters were being escorted out of the building by campus security, a former employee of the university allegedly approached Michael Vazqueza student at neighboring Western Theological Seminaryand interrogated him about what he was doing there. The ex-staffer was quickly joined by a member of the janitorial crew, which is when Vazquez says the men attempted to “forcibly detain” him.

“I told them that neither of them had the authority to stop me: ‘You’re not police, you’re not campus security,’” he says over the phone.

Vazquez wiggled free from their custody and began to walk to his apartment, which is located just blocks away from campus. The janitor followed him home and then called police to the building. The 27-year-old filed a report with authorities citing harassment and physical assault, but students say the complaint has not been pursued by local law enforcement.

It wasn’t the staffers who would face punishment, in fact. It was the students.

Hope College immediately launched a judicial review of the Dec. 3 incident. Kam says he was accused of violating policies on student conduct on two counts: 1) “disrupting a service” and 2) “disrespecting people at Hope College.”

The 21-year-old claims he was called into a meeting where he was told attendees at the Christmas Vespers event feared he might have a firearm under the choir robe he wore that day. The offending object was actually a three-foot poster, which was ripped out of his hands by campus security as he was being led out of the building.

“A brown man in church holding a white poster looking calmly down the aisle in choir robes clearly must have had an AK-47 underneath,” muses Kam, who is of Southeast Asian descent.

While Vazquez isn’t a student at Hope College, he was messaged by a dean at Western Theological Seminary two days after the event. In a series of meetings with administrators at the Calvinist institution, the student claims staff members repeatedly compared him to a terrorist. He alleges they likened him to “terrorists in Syria who send bombs to America and take no responsibility for it.”

“When I mentioned the assault, the dean said I was ‘asking for it,’” Vazquez says. “The individuals who restrained me had every right to restrain mebecause in this era where we have people blowing up stuff, he had every right to detain me as citizen police. “

Administrators told Vazquez that he “needs to be cognizant of the fact that [he looks] Arab,” the student alleges.

Students say this turn of events isn’t a surprise considering Hope College’s extremely poor track record on LGBTQ issues.

Located a few miles from Lake Michigan, the tulip-covered campus is as redolent as it can be repressive. The school, established in the 19th century by immigrants with the Dutch Reformed Church, claimed in a 1995 Institutional Statement on Homosexuality that it “does not condone the commission of homosexual acts.”

“Neither does [Hope College] condone organizations or activities that aim to vindicate the moral acceptability of homosexual acts, or that suggest by their manner of presenting themselves that they have that aim in view,” the statement reads. “Specifically, the College will not provide recognition or financial or logistical support for organizations or groups whose purposes include the advocacy or moral legitimation of homosexual behavior.”

The proclamation would be replaced in 2011 with a marginally less militant decree affirming sexuality as a “good gift from God” and marriage as a union strictly “between a man and a woman.”

What separates Hope College from other religiously affiliated campuses is thatunlike, for instance, Brigham Young Universityit doesn’t compel students to sign an honor code. Guidelines for all students attending the Mormon college forbid “homosexual behavior,” but that prohibition includes all manner of activity: from shaking someone’s hand to giving them a hug.

But the gulf between the two isn’t all that wide: 23 years after the initial statement was released, Hope still does not allow an LGBTQ student group to meet on its grounds.

These policies were highlighted in 2009, when the university refused to allow writer and filmmaker Dustin Lance Black to screen Milkthe Oscar-winning biopic about slain civil rights pioneer Harvey Milkon its campus. In being banned from the college, Black was told its student body “wasn’t ready” to broach the topic of LGBTQ rights.

That’s not exactly true, though. The college has often played host to figures who have dedicated their lives to opposing queer and trans equality.

Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi was invited to the campus in 2014, one of the African country’s leading anti-gay figures. As the leader of the Church of Uganda, Orombi praised the “spirit” of Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, claiming that homosexuality “has no place in God’s design of creation.” (The archbishop, however, felt that amending the country’s existing civil codes would be a better way to address the issue, rather than passing new legislation.)

Orombi has also referred to supporters of LGBTQ rights as “dangerous” and called them “killers.”

After queer students, community members, and allies protested Orombi’s visit, Nathaniel Nelsonone of the four protesters at the Christmas Vespers eventsays undergraduates were told by administrators they needed “be able to live with dissenting opinions.”

“It was like, ‘College is a place you come to encounter world views that you don’t agree with,’” claims Nelson, who also graduated last year. “We have no shortage of those.”

“No progress was made,” he adds. “No apology was made.”

Students say this double standardof banning LGBTQ advocacy while implicitly endorsing anti-gay sentiments through inactionhas permeated the culture at Hope College.

Although Kam calls himself “one of the lucky gays” and didn’t experience a great deal of Hope’s homophobia first-hand, Nelson sat in on a lecture where a professor referred to queer people as an “aberration of nature” and “inherently disordered.” The faculty member, who remains employed at Hope, also claimed homosexuality is the product of childhood sexual abuse.

The student says he kept mum throughout the lectures.

“I didn’t really speak up in class very much,” recalls Nelson, who studied creative writing and dance. “It was not a safe place to do that. I regret now not saying anything, but I was completely taken aback and not prepared for that.”

The student describes the campus as a environment where everything happens “underneath the surface” behind a façade of studied nicety, its hereditary Dutch politeness blended with Midwestern passive aggression. Others say homophobia operates the same way: not a hate crime but a whisper, an off-handed remark in a closed room. It’s what is said when someone assumes nobody is listening.

That’s why the 95 Stories project was conceived, organizers claim. It highlights commonplace prejudices that may otherwise be ignored.

In December, a coalition of students involved with the campaign began posting stories submitted anonymously through a Google Form. The one-line anecdotes relate experiences not just of anti-LGBTQ prejudice but overt racism on campus, and their brutal simplicity cuts like a knife.

The first post, which went live two days before the Christmas Vespers protest, simply reads: “You got in because you’re black.”

Thirteen stories have been posted at the time of writing and will continue to be released throughout the coming semester. A resident of the all-male dormitory Durfee Hall claims his roommate told him that he “would never want to live with a gay person.” Another student at the same residence hall, who identifies himself as a male survivor of sexual assault, says a fellow classmate claimed “men can’t be raped.”

One respondent alleges he was advised by a Hope undergrad to “just be straight,” while another person claims to been told they “don’t belong at a Christian college as part of the LGBTQ community.”

Hope College says it’s heeding the homophobia that has long been hidden in the shadows.

In an email to INTO, Vice President of Public Affairs and Marketing Jennifer Fellinger says the 95 Stories campaign “has highlighted issues” the university takes “seriously and will continue to take seriously.”

“One of the goals in Hope’s strategic plan is to be ‘a community unified by its inspiring mission, strengthened by its diversity, and committed to the flourishing of every individual as one created and loved by God,’” Fellinger states. “We stand behind this goal, and we are striving toward this goal. All members of the Hope community are called to honor the dignity and worth of one another; the mistreatment of others is unacceptable.”

“The administration is committed to campus dialogue about issues facing any students who may feel marginalized, including our LGBTQ students,” she continues, adding that this will entail tackling “challenging questions.” “We are committed to that process.”

Kam praises Fellinger as a “fine human being,” but he says it’s doubtful anything will change as a result of this long overdue conversation.

John Knapp, the former president of Hope College, resigned at the end of the 2016-2017 academic term after four years of attempting to make the school a more inclusive environment. Kam claims Knapp was branded as an “enabler of the gay agenda” by conservative forces on campus.

“Knapp was very much a middle-ground president, but at the same time probably leaned left,” he says. “He was very much on our side. He was trying to change things and get things done.”

Under his influence, shades of progress were subtle but distinct. Nearly a decade after Dustin Lance Black was barred from Hope’s grounds, the college held a panel on trans issues in 2017. Invited guests included a former student who had transitioned since graduating from the institution nine years earlier, as well as the mother of an agender child (i.e., a child who identifies outside the male-female gender binary).

The panel’s stated purpose was to “[open] dialogue for students to talk about creating a community more equipped to welcome transgender individuals,” according to a news bulletin posted on the university website.

But Knapp recently moved onto Washington & Jefferson, a liberal arts college located a half hour’s drive outside Pittsburgh, after years of pressure from the Board of Trustees to resign. Leaders with the 33-member board were reportedly expected to force Knapp out in April 2016 but backed off after hundreds of faculty, students, and alumni protested the move in a gathering at Pine Grove, a verdant expanse located at the center of campus.

The #Students4Knapp eventwhich was a silent protestwasn’t all that unlike the recent Christmas Vespers demonstration: passionate young people banding together to make their school a better place.

But with the president’s departure, LGBTQ students are back to the drawing board.

“Now that we’ve lost Knapp, the school is on a presidential search for someone else, and the likelihood of getting anyone progressive is low,” Nelson says.

In December, Kam was found guilty on both counts of misconduct by Hope College.

He would learn in an email that the university has banned him from attending any meeting larger than 50 people on school grounds. He tells INTO he is permitted to “pass through campus and stay in public areas but any meeting of importincluding all large religious gatheringsare verboten.”

As part of his punishment, Kam has also been forced to write a 15-page paper on “what a good student protest looks like.”

That sentence, however, pales in comparison to the punishment doled out in Vazquez’s case. The student says higher-ups at Hope College immediately reported him to Western Theological Seminary, which has close ties with the university, for disciplinary action. In addition to sharing a campus, Hope’s interim president, Dennis Voskuil, was president of the institution for 14 yearsand continued to teach church history after stepping down from the position.

On Jan. 12, Vazquez was expelled. He was in his second year of a three-year Master of Divinity program.

It’s insult to injury for Vazquez, who claims he took part in the protest because he is “passionate about working with college students and helping them cultivate spiritual environments that are healthy and affirming.” He claims he was sexually assaulted by another student at Western last year and reported it to a member of the faculty.

“You need to stop letting people walk all over you,” Vazquez alleges he was told by staff, an eerie echo of the anonymous claims from Hope students.

“The faculty member did nothing to report the student,” he says. “The student went on to graduate by spring and get ordained by the end of summer. I stand with students on the margins at the college next door, throw some flyers over the balcony, and I’m compared to terrorists and expelled from the seminary.”

The other two students involved in the protest, Nelson and 2018 graduate Heidi Schaetzl, have been called in for disciplinary action. They are awaiting a final review.

Note: Western Theological Seminary declined to comment on the article. In an email to INTO, a representative of the institution claimed, “Because of FERPA regulations, Western Theological Seminary is prohibited from commenting or providing any information about past and current students.”

An LGBTQ Person Is Murdered in Brazil Every 22.6 Hours, New Report Claims

The LGBTQ community in Brazil suffered its deadliest year on record in 2017. More than 300 queer or transgender people were slain as a result of targeted violence, as the local advocacy organization Grupo Gay de Bahia claims in a new report.

An estimated 387 people were murdered last year, which represents a 17 percent increase from the LGBTQ death toll in 2016. At the time, 331 victims were killed.

To put it into perspective, that’s one death every 22.6 hours.

The Grupo Gay de Bahia survey, which also includes the suicides of an additional 58 individuals, is only the latest to attest to an epidemic of anti-LGBTQ violence in the South American Country. The New York Times reported two years ago that nearly 1,600 had been killed as a result of “hate-motivated violence” since the beginning of 2012.

Most recently, a homeless gay man in Sao Paulo was burned to death in December and his body was found in a parking lot.

Local LGBTQ advocates say the uptick in violent hate crimes correlates with a surge of homophobic sentiment from politicians and religious leaders. Grupo Gay de Bahia President Luiz Mott says conservative forces in Brazil “[equate] LGBT people to animals” in an interview with The Guardian.

“TV programs linked to evangelical churches often compare homosexuality to the devil,” the publication notes.

But Brazil isn’t the only country to experience a record increases in attacks on its vulnerable queer and transgender populations: A recent report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that 52 people were murdered in 2017 because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, an 86 percent leap from a year prior.

A disproportionate number of those victims were people of color, trans women, or queer men: Seventy-one percent were non-white.

As in the case of Brazil, advocates cite the anti-LGBTQ climate spawned by Donald Trump’s election to the presidency as inspiring the dramatic increase in violent attacks against members of the community.

“We are releasing this report during a time when our communities are witnessing the few civil rights protections and policies being rolled back and discrimination being instituted into law,” the NCAVP claims in its report, “when media organizations and organizations working with survivors are receiving an unprecedented number of stories of hate fueled attacks.”

The U.K.-based advocacy group Stonewall claims that 41 percent of transgender people have been victims of a hate crime incident in the past year.

Across each of these countries, advocate groups note that these figures are likely the “tip of the iceberg.” Brazil’s Grupo Gay de Bahia notes that there’s no official data on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, while Stonewall claims that few victims brought the incident to the attention of authorities. Seventy-nine percent did not report the attack to the police.

Image via Getty

Chechen Dictator Behind Anti-Gay Purge Torching Human Rights Groups After Instagram Account Deactivated

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is allegedly waging a campaign of terror to force out the only human rights group operating in the semi-independent Russian territory.

Memorial, which has been documenting human rights abuses in Russia for close to three decades, reports that one of its drivers’ cars was torched on Monday evening in the city of Makhachkala, a three-hour drive from Chechnya. The organization claimed in a press release that the owner of the vehicle was notified of the arson attack by a neighbor, who helped stamp out the blaze.

The person responsible for the attack left behind a canister of gasoline, which was found near the car.

Human Rights Watch reports the advocacy group was sent several threatening text messages warning of further retaliation if Memorial continues its work to highlight Kadyrov’s ongoing purge of LGBTQ life in Chechnya.

“You’re walking on the edge of the abyss,” claimed an anonymous number. “Shut down! Next time we’ll burn your office, with you inside. The car is just a warning.”

This is only the latest attack on Memorial in recent weeks.

The organization’s offices in Ingushetia, a Russian republic bordering Chechnya, were torched by a group of masked assailants on Jan. 17, just days after one of its members was arrested by police. Oyub Titiev, who leads Memorial’s Chechen office, was accused of being in possession of six ounces of cannabis.

Memorial has denied the charges, which could result in a steep penalty if Titiev is convicted. He reportedly faces a potential sentence of 10 years behind bars.

Human rights advocates believe the onslaught is a response to the shutdown of Kadyrov’s Instagram account, which was abruptly deactivated on Dec. 23. The social media platform pulled the plug on his profile following sanctions by the U.S. government under the Magnitsky Act. The 2012 law allows federal authorities to freeze the financial assets of foreign despots accused of violating human rights.

More than 100 gay and bisexual men have been arrested in Chechnya in a purge of the LGBTQ community, and at least four have been killed. Kadyrov reportedly vowed to exterminate the region’s queer and transgender population before last year’s observance of Ramadan.

Memorial Founder Oleg Orlov has claimed that losing his Instagram account as a result of the brutal campaign is “a matter of Kadyrov’s image, of his prestige.”

“When he feels offended, nothing else is important to himwhoever gets in his way must be destroyed,” Orlov told The Guardian on Jan. 21. “We were held responsible for this by Kadyrov and his inner circle because we are one of the very few sources of information about rights abuses in Chechnya.”

Katya Sokirianskaia agreed that the arson attacks were an act of “revenge.”

“Being placed on the U.S. sanctions list didn’t really bother Kadyrov, but the loss of Instagram was very painful for him,” Sokirianskaia told the U.K.-based publication. “Kadyrov loved his Instagram. It was a very powerful propaganda tool for him, not just his favorite toy.”

Kadyrov boasted more than 3 million followers on his channel, where he posted videos of himself working out and wrestling crocodiles.

Chechen leaders have pointed the finger directly at local human rights groups blaming them for the Instagram shutdown. Parliament Speaker Magomed Daudov called advocates “enemies of the people” and accused them of “pouring rivers of lies” about the anti-LGBTQ crackdown to their “bosses across the ocean.”

Kadyrov added that advocacy organizations have “no clan, no nation, no religion” and threatened further violence against anyone working to further human rights in Chechnya.

“I will tell you how we are going to break the spine of our enemies,” he claimed.

Mike Pence Won’t Say If He Challenged Egyptian Leaders About Arrest of 85 LGBTQ People

Mike Pence declined to say whether he challenged Egypt leaders on the country’s ongoing anti-LGBTQ crackdown during his recent visit to the North African nation.

“We talked about the importance of respecting diversity in communities,” the vice president said on Saturday when asked by a journalist at the Cairo International Airport if he discussed “human rights issues, press freedom issues, or LGBTQ rights issues” with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Pence added that the two men also shared a dialogue about “the importance of respecting religious diversity in communities” during a conversation held the same day.

He claimed these subjects encompass the “human rights of all the people of Egypt.”

Prior to the vice president’s sitdown with el-Sisi, LGBTQ leaders urged him to hold the country’s government accountable for its treatment of queer and trans individuals.

“Unless Pence uses the opportunity to forcefully speak out against these human rights abuses, the U.S. risks emboldening the Egyptian government’s assault on LGBTQ people and Pence willonce againreaffirm his position as one of the most anti-LGBTQ politicians in the U.S.,” said Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb in a press release.

“Without a fundamental change in the Sisi government’s policies, there will be no sustainable security,” added Human Rights First President President Elisa Massimino.

Dozens of people have been arrested since the government began rounding up sexual and gender minorities following a Sept. 22 concert by the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leilawhose frontman, Hamed Sinno, is gay.

Fans of the music group hoisted a rainbow flag at the music festival in support of the global LGBTQ community. Although homosexuality isn’t explicitly outlawed in Egypt, the government began targeting those responsible for the pro-gay display under an outdated law prohibiting “debauchery.”

Most recently, 10 men were arrested in Alexandria after being accused by police of hosting “group sex parties.”

Initial reports published by the Egypt Independent on Jan. 16 claimed nine detainees were being held in police custody, but as of yesterday, Human Rights Watch has reported that an additional suspect was arrested. The international advocacy group says that these arrests bring the total up to 85 since the crackdown began four months ago.

“Many of those targeted are gay men and transgender women, or men perceived to be effeminate,” writes HRW Senior Researcher Neela Ghoshal. “More than 40 have received prison sentences, with some subjected to forced anal exams, a form of torture.”

Despite these horrific allegations, neither Vice President Pence nor President Donald Trump have addressed Egypt’s anti-LGBTQ crisis.

Photo byKHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Costa Rican Gay Couple’s Wedding Blocked in Defiance of Court Ruling Legalizing Same-Sex Unions

Costa Rica’s first same-sex wedding has been called off after notaries refused to issue marriage licenses for LGBTQ couples.

Mario Arias, 28, and Roberth Castillo, 25, were set to tie the knot on Saturday night after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled earlier this month that member countries “must recognize and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex.”

That groundbreaking decision applies to more than 20 nations, including Ecuador, El Salvador, and Guatemala, which have yet to legalize marriage equality.

But the day before the couple’s historic nuptials, the Superior Notary Council of Costa Rica ruled that because same-sex unions are still illegal under the country’s laws, notaries would not be permitted to issue marriage licenses to LGBTQ applicants.

“[U]ntil there is a legislative reform, or an annulment sentence is issued in a constitutional way, the rules that regulate marriage in Costa Ricaspecifically the article 14, subsection 6 of the Family Coderemain in force,” the board claimed in a statement, “and for this reason public notaries, in the exercise of their duties, must adhere to them.”

Enacted in 1973, the Costa Rica Family Code states that “marriage is legally impossible… between persons of the same sex.”

But that law has undergone several key amendments as society has evolved over the past four-and-a-half decades. In July 2013, the federal government appeared to pave the way for common law marriages for LGBTQ people.

The law recognizes the “right to recognition without discrimination” for same-sex couples who have been in a relationship “for more than three years.”

Many conservatives in the legislature, however, apparently didn’t read the bill in its entirety, and domestic partnerships continued to be blocked. In September 2013, a family court judge in San Jose denied a petition by Alberto González and Lorenzo Serrano to have their relationship recognized, closing the apparent “loophole” in the amendment.

But this time federal authorities have vowed to uphold same-sex marriage over objections from the Superior Notary Council.

Justice Minister Marco Feoli reminded the Council that government agencies are compelled to uphold the executive office’s position on the IACHR ruling. He said in a letter to the bureau that President Luis Guillermo Solís “has already called on Costa Rican institutions to comply with the ruling, although he said this process may be ‘gradual’ and require extensive dialogue.”

“The Superior Notary Council’s agreement not only contradicts the opinion, but also the position of the Executive Power regarding the ruling,” Feoli claimed.

In its Jan. 10 verdict, the IACHR ruling recognized that its binding resolution would take time and effort to enforce. It left the door open for countries which had not yet legalized same-sex unions to pass “temporary decrees” upholding legal protections for same-sex couples until further legislation can be enacted.

While Costa Rica debates how to comply with those findings, the couple at the center of the controversy vowed to appeal the Superior Notary Council’s decision in an interview with La Noticia.

“We’ll postpone the wedding, but we’ll continue with the fight,” Arias told the Spanish-language newspaper on Saturday.

Images via YouTube

That Transphobic Sign At The Women’s March Highlights White Feminism’s Racism

Vancouver, Canada is the fourth most densely-populated city in North America, third-largest metropolitan city in Canada, an ethnically and linguistically diverse city, and now home to that fucked up transphobic sign we all saw online yesterday. You know, the one that that one old white bitch was holding at the women’s march on Saturday, January 20.

How could this misogynistic bullshit happen, at a women’s march no less, in this the year of our lord two thousand and eighteen?

Because white people, that’s how!

I’m going to get back to the transphobic element of the sign further down in this piece and zero in on a more insidious form of oppression called white supremacy. You see, white supremacy is the vehicle driving the entire world straight into a wall. Colonization, the favorite tool and weapon of the white terrorists I like to just call “white people,” is what separates us into these constricting dualistic boxes of seemingly opposing forces (white vs. black; man vs. woman, etc.) in order to wage control over the rest of us and make money off our lives.

It was white people who created “whiteness” back in the 1700s after they ran out of Irish INDENTURED SERVANTS (NOT slaves by any stretch of the word) and had to bring African people to work their newly stolen Native American’s land creating their opposite, “blackness.” The African slaves and the Irish had this pesky tendency to band together in order to upturn their oppressorsyou know because they were human beings, not cattle. The colonizers then told the Irish that if they turned in or killed runaway African Slaves, they’d get land, money and the greatest prize of all: the privilege to call themselves white , because the Irish weren’t considered white up until that point and nobody wanted to be black even then. (Let’s also not forget my people, the Indians, the autochthons of this “Western” Hemisphere.)

It was white people who told the ORIGINAL INHABITANTS OF THIS LAND that their ways were wrong, that they were savages in need of salvation, that there are only two genders, and that there was only one god. Two spirit people such as myself have been known to my people and respected on this land since before white Europeans even heard of soap and water. Societal constructs of male and female were never meant to be as rigid as the European mind would have us all believe. We all exist on a spectrum of varying degrees of intersexuality. Binary logic has been at the controls for some time and it’s cramping my style, I’m sure I’m not alone. Nobody is fully one thing or the other.

Science has said it time and time again that sex isn’t this static, tangible thing. We know gender is a construct at this point, I’m sure, but did you know sex is also a social construct?

There are five criteria that determine a person’s sex. They are, in no particular order:

1. Genitals ( vagina, penis, etc.)
2. Gonads (testes, ovaries, etc.)
3. Chromosomes (xx ; x ; xxy ; xy ; xyy, xyyy , etc.)
4. Hormones (testosterone, estrogen, neautrois)
5. Secondary sexual characteristics (facial and body hair, breasts, etc.)

Of the five, secondary sexual characteristics is the only thing you can see of a person not covered by clothes or their own flesh. So why is it that only bottom surgery is covered by my insurance?

Patriarchy, the other favorite weapon-tool of white supremacy, decides what a woman isnot that bigot’s sign, I can tell you that much. And she, unfortunately, is both a pawn of white male oppression and a beneficiary.

What this white racist transphobic bigot did, in holding up this sign is only secondary to the theater of chaos we have all grown to love. It was sensationalism, pure and simple, and whoever took that bitch’s picture knew full well the ramifications of broadcasting her hatred for men or masculine identified people.

Is that really being a woman, though, acting just like men and spewing such disgusting prejudice so blatantly? Perhaps the point of the women’s march is to draw attention to just how oppressive women actually are, especially white cisgender women to transgender women, especially of color, and to show that the future isn’t female, it’s nonbinary and brown.

What happened at the (white) women’s march was more ally theater more gaslighting more just trauma for people of color especially indigenous transgender women like myself. You want to know what I think of this sign and the person holding it? I think you’re an asshole for asking a transgender woman not even a day after she shared a triggering experience what happened to her yesterday, what she thinks about the fact that y’all won’t get a clue and go back to Europe.

Image via Facebook

Adult Film Actor Tegan Zayne Accuses Co-Star Topher DiMaggio of Rape

Adult film actor Tegan Zayne took to Twitter on Sunday to share a story of sexual assault. Throughout the post, Zayne only mentioned the person who assaulted him as a “scene partner” before eventually naming film actor and Andrew Christian model Topher DiMaggio as the person who assaulted him.

Zayne tweeted out four images of a letter he wrote about the incident with the caption #MeToo. In the post, he detailed how DiMaggio allegedly came to his room the night before they were to shoot a scene together and forced himself on Zayne. Zayne at first said he didn’t want to have sex.

Then, when DiMaggio allegedly penetrated him, Zayne said he asked DiMaggio not to ejaculate inside him. DiMaggio allegedly ignored the request.

“I’ve seen a lot of stories come out about the metoo thing, but it’s (sic) feels like no one cares about the male victims, or the sex workers,” Zayne wrote. “As someone else said ‘rape doesn’t exist in this line of wrk’, and it couldn’t be more true.”

DiMaggio responded to Zayne in QueerMeNow, saying: “He’s crazy and twists stories. He was so happy to film with me even the next day. It’s sad. I’m not going to give it any attention.”

INTO has reached out to DiMaggio for comment and will update if we hear back.

Images via Twitter and PornHub

Mike Pence Claims He Doesn’t Hate Gay People, Denies Supporting Conversion Therapy

Vice President Mike Pence claims he has never supported conversion therapy in response to criticism of his anti-LGBTQ past from openly gay Olympian Adam Rippon.

In a Jan. 17 interview with USA Today, Rippon condemned the selection of Pence to lead the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics, held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The first openly gay athlete to earn a spot on the U.S. team in the quadrennial event, he told the publication he would not be attending a customary meet-and-greet held prior to the commencement ceremony.

“I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Rippon said. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that.”

As evidence of that claim, the figure skater pointed to Pence’s oft-cited support of conversion therapy during his 2000 run for Congress.

“I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” Rippon said.

A spokesperson for the vice president, Alyssa Farah, referred to the Olympian’s characterization of his LGBTQ rights record as “false” in a statement provided to USA Today.

“The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America’s incredible athletes,” Farah claimed. “This accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact. Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang.”

But the vice president’s stance on a discredited practice often likened to “torture” remains an open question.

When Pence successfully ran for the House of Representatives 18 years ago, his campaign website allegedly advocated for the diversion of HIV/AIDS funding to programs “which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Critics have read this ambiguous statement as an endorsement of conversion therapy, in which therapists attempt to “change” the orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth.

The fact-checking websites Snopes and Politifact have questioned this interpretation of Pence’s platform.

“Pence’s words could be interpreted as supporting groups that aim to not necessarily change one’s sexual orientation, but instead as supporting groups that advocate for curbing sexual behaviors that lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS,” wrote Politifact in a report rating the accusations “half true.”

A spokesperson for Pence previously told the Washington Post that Pence meant to advocate that resources “be directed to groups that promoted safe sexual practices.” The vice president is a staunch supporter of abstinence-only sexual education.

What is hardly up for debate, however, is Rippon’s assertion that Pence is no “friend” to the LGBTQ community.

The vice president signed a “religious freedom” bill as governor of Indiana allowing people of faith to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community based on their “sincerely held religious belief,” although the law was later “fixed” to excise anti-gay language. Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act reportedly cost the state more than $60 million.

Pence also presided over one of Indiana’s deadliest HIV outbreaks, a crisis which resulted from his own policies on public health care.

In his conversation with USA Today, Rippon claimed he might be “open” to having a dialogue on these subjects with Pence after he competes in the February gameswhere he will be appearing with fellow openly gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy.

“If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” Rippon claimed. “[…] But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”

Images via Getty

2017 Was The Deadliest Year For LGBTQs Ever

Last year marked the deadliest for LGBTQ people ever recorded, according to a grim report released today by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP).

NCAVP reports 52 hate-related homicides against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people in 2017. That number marks a sobering 86 percent rise over 2016. (The Pulse Nightclub shooting is not included in the tally.) It’s the highest homicide rate ever tallied by NCAVP in its 20-year history.

“This report is a wake-up call for all of us,” says Beverly Tillery, executive director of the Anti-Violence Project, in the report’s announcement. “Our communities live in an increasingly hostile and dangerous climate, after a year of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies coming from the White House, Federal government agencies, state and local sources and in our communities across the country.”

Transgender women made up over half of the total murders, with 27 reported deaths. Cisgender men followed closely behind with 20 reported homicides, a staggering increase from just four in 2016. Of male victims, 45 percent of the reported deaths were related to hook-up violence.

Nearly two-thirds of the victims were people of color, sixty percent of them black. More than half the murders were committed in just five states, with Texas topping the list at seven. New York reported six murders, Georgia had five, and Louisiana and Florida each had four.

Young people represented the majority of homicides last year; 67 percent of the victims were 35-years-old and younger.

Guns were used in 59 percent of the of homicides where NCAVP had information about the cause of death. Three of the victims were shot and killed by police.

The numbers, while unprecedented, are hardly surprising to advocates. Reports of anti-LGBTQ violence in the media have been on the rise over the last year. December alone saw the murder of four black lesbians within the span of a single week.

Advocates say that hate violence has been spurred by Washington’s embrace of hate speech against LGBTQ people. In October, President Donald Trump became to the first sitting U.S. President to speak at a hate group’s summit.

Last week, his administration announced new rules allowing healthcare workers to deny service to transgender patients, people seeking abortions and others on the basis of religious or moral objections.

“We are releasing this report during a time when our communities are witnessing the few civil rights protections and policies being rolled back and discrimination being instituted into law,”NCAVP notes in the report, “when media organizations and organizations working with survivors are receiving an unprecedented number of stories of hate fueled attacks.”