Hate Crime Forces Gay Couple to Leave Las Vegas Home

Charles Clements and Vincent Shaver can’t go home. They can’t make rent, and even if they could, they don’t want to stay.

“Every time we opened the door and heard steps, I would get scared,” Clements told INTO. “So we had to leave immediately.”

Last Thursday, Clements and Shaver said they were victims of a brutal anti-gay hate crime at their Las Vegas apartment. The incident has left them staying with Shaver’s uncle, trying to raise enough money to move.

Shaver said the trouble started at his job at Walmart when a coworker and his friend started targeting him for being gay.

“They told me I was an abomination and a faggot,” said Shaver.

Shaver said he reported the harassment to supervisors and thought that would be the end of the problem.

But on Thursday when Clements picked him up from work, the two followed them home.

“I guess he waited in the parking lot for three hours,” Shaver said. “I didn’t think he was going to take it to the extreme and follow us home and try to hurt us.”

Clements said he didn’t even realize they had been followed until they were home and he heard Shaver call out his name from the front of the house. Two guys were hitting Shaver. When Clements moved to intervene, the two started to attack him, he said.

They knocked over a table, shattering glass, which the attackers then used as a knife.

“I was leaking blood and that’s when they went over to my boyfriend and started kicking him and stabbing him,” said Clements.

When the attackers saw the blood they fled, said Clements. The attack lasted about 10 minutes, he said.

The couple said neighbors watched the attack but didn’t intervene or call police. One neighbor shut the door in the middle of the beating. Shaver had to call 911 himself.

Both were hospitalized Thursday night. Shaver suffered a punctured lung, seven stab wounds in the back and two broken ribs. Clements had to have stitches for a cut to his head. The two are home and recovering. Shaver has taken a temporary leave from Walmart, but Clements said he will return to his job at a local nursing home.

The couple said they don’t have health insurance, and costly medical bills have forced them to vacate their apartment. They have launched a GoFundMe, asking for help with moving to “a different area where they have security 24/7 and a gated area.”

“When I met Vincent is when I wanted to be out and proud of myself,” said Clements, who notes they have been together a year-and-a-half.

“We were living comfortably, and now this tragedy has cost us our place,” added Shaver.

Walmart is working with Las Vegas law enforcement to investigate the incident, which they categorized as workplace violence, the company confirmed. A spokesperson would not provide details on the ongoing investigation.

Las Vegas Police Department did not respond to requests to comment by press time.

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Milo Yiannopoulos Banned From Crowdfunding Site Within 24 Hours, Still $2 Million in Debt

Milo Yiannopoulos’ self-described comeback was cut short this week when Patreon pulled the plug on his crowdfunding campaign within 24 hours.

Yiannopoulos had hoped to fundraise his way back to financial solvency following a report from The Guardian that showed the disgraced gay alt-right darling is more than $2 million in debt. A Patreon page set up by the former Breitbart editor on Dec. 4 promised that supporters could join “Milo’s Big Gay Army” in exchange for just $2.50 a month.

In return for donating more money, followers would be designated as a “Cheerleader,” or “Sassy Bitch,” while others could be a part of his “Trigger Squad.”

But for a monthly contribution of $750, individuals in the “elite tier” would be gifted a personal thank-you letter handwritten by Yiannopoulos and a coffee mug. In addition, he promised top-level donors “exclusive invitations to drinks when Milo is in your city (you’re buying).”

If begging for free cocktails from strangers weren’t humbling enough, the 34-year-old penned a woeful plea for assistance following a “miserable year or two.”

“After two years of relentless, dishonest attacks on me by the press, I got roughed up and lost my way,” Yiannopoulos claimed. “I’ve never asked for money like this before. But I need you to help me get back to work.”

The enfant terrible claimed the fundraising effort would be used to “support my family, pay essential staff and service providers.”

Yiannopoulos also said he was planning to create his own TV show.

Patreon, however, quickly disabled the controversial figure’s crowdfunding page after claiming that it violated the platform’s community guidelines. In a Dec. 5 tweet, the company claimed his campaign “was removed from Patreon as we don’t allow association with or supporting hate groups on Patreon.”

The website cited Yiannopoulos’ “past association” with the Proud Boys as a breach of its policies, although it noted he recently cut ties with the white supremacist group.

Patreon’s guidelines forbid “serious attacks, or even negative generalizations, of people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or serious medical conditions.”

At the time his page was removed, a reported 250 patrons pledged to donate to Yiannopoulos on a monthly basis.

Yiannopoulos attempted to make light of the situation on his Facebook page by posting a screenshot of an email from Patreon notifying him that he would no longer be permitted to raise money on the site. “Back to square one, I guess!” he said, with a faux-upbeat attitude.

His current predicament, though, is allegedly quite dire.

According to the aforementioned Guardian report, Yiannopoulos owes more than $1.6 million to his own media enterprise, Milo, Inc. The company was his last failed comeback attempt after his termination from Breitbart over comments defending clerical abuse in the Catholic church.

Yiannopoulos is also allegedly $400,000 in debt to Breitbart’s backers, the billionaire Mercer family. He also owes $153,000 in legal fees, $52,000 to Four Seasons, and $20,000 to Cartier.

The far-right personality attempted to discredit the Guardian’s reporting by saying he is bringing in $40,000 a month.

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Top DOJ Spokesperson Worked For Hate Group That Fought Against Legalizing Gay Sex

Hate groups just got a big promotion amid a shake-up at the Department of Justice.

Kerri Kupec will now step in as director of the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs after the department was shuffled following the departure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sarah Isgur Flores, who previously held Kupec’s position, will now work in the office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as The Daily Beast was first to report.

Formerly the OPA’s deputy director, Kupec worked for the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) before accepting a job in the Trump administration.

For those unfamiliar, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based organization is responsible for the introduction of anti-trans bathroom bills in more than a dozen states. The ADF is also behind nearly every major court battle over “religious freedom” in the U.S., including the infamous Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

Kupec served as an attorney on behalf of ADF in Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, in which florist Barronelle Stutzman argued that her faith beliefs allow her to refuse services to same-sex weddings.

The Supreme Court declined to take up that case earlier this year.

The ADF has a long history of opposing equality before the nation’s highest court, however. When SCOTUS overturned state laws banning sodomy in 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, the right-wing legal group argued that gay sex constitutes a “distinct public health problem.”

“There is no fundamental right … to engage in same-sex sodomy,” the court claimed in legal briefs filed before the Supreme Court.

The ADF has continued to argue against the legalization of homosexuality in countries like Jamaica and India, the latter of which recently struck down its colonial-era sodomy law in a historic court ruling. Prior to that decision, ADF International President Benjamin Bull credited India with choosing to “protect society at large rather than give in to a vocal minority of homosexual advocates.”

Kupec, though, has denied ADF ever fought to keep gay sex illegal. She called criticism of the organization’s well-documented anti-LGBTQ record “fake news.”

“I have no idea where that came from,” she said in 2017.

These latter remarks were made in response to an ABC News story which noted that ADF “specializes in supporting the criminalization of homosexuality abroad.” Kupec accused the network of “journalistic malpractice” and demanded that it retract the report.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she claimed of ABC’s coverage, despite the fact that multiple independent fact-checks of the allegations have shown them to be extremely true.

ADF has also supported laws forcing transgender people to be sterilized, which Kupec again denied.

As chief spokesperson for the DOJ, Kupec will be responsible for offering public comment in LGBTQ rights cases on which the government has weighed in. This may include defending President Trump’s attempted ban on transgender military service. The administration recently requested the Supreme Court take up the matter.

Trump helped clear a path for Kupec to lead the OPA after asking Sessions to resign from the Attorney General post following a year-old feud between the two. The former Alabama Senator announced his departure in November.

Flores, the previous OPA director, was “one of the most visible advocates” for Sessions in the Justice Department, as The Daily Beast noted.

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Anti-LGBTQ Activist Admits Bathroom Predator Myth Was ‘Concocted’ As Cover for Transphobic Hate

A controversial TV commercial this fall featured a teenage girl, undressing in a ladies locker room, while a hooded cisgender man leers at her from within a stall. As she unbuttons her top, the creepy guy reveals himself, and the message of this horrifying ad becomes clear: allowing trans people to use bathrooms matching their gender identity gives male sexual predators permission to prey upon women and children.

As it turns out, transphobic messaging like this — which links access to public bathrooms and locker rooms to the threat posed by sexual offenders — was “concocted,” according to a Massachusetts-based “pro-family activism” organization Mass Resistance. Its president, Brian Camenker, is believed to be the author of the group’s November 9th “Election Analysis” post, in which the organization (which is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) admitted its scary campaign to repeal a statewide Massachusetts nondiscrimination law was a lie.

“Our side concocted the ‘bathroom safety’ male predator argument as a way to avoid an uncomfortable battle over LGBT ideology, and still fire up people’s emotions. It worked in Houston a few years ago,” reads the post.

“But the LGBT lobby has now figured out how to beat it,” the Mass Resistance post continues. “Their lopsided victory in Massachusetts will likely be repeated everywhere else unless the establishment pro-family groups (and their wealthy donors) are willing to change their tactics.”

The blatant confession was also published on the conservative and anti-LGBTQ platform LifeSite on November 20th.

The post summed up conservatives’ sour feelings after November’s bitterly fought campaign to maintain non-discrimination protections for transgender people in Massachusetts resulted in a landslide victory for the trans community. But it also made it clear that the anti-trans ‘bathroom predator’ myth was created because conservatives knew that simply being discriminatory wouldn’t fly.

The post also links the current anti-trans movement to earlier fights against same-sex marriage.

“Over a decade ago when [the] LGBT movement took the ‘gay marriage’ battles into the state legislatures, and later into the federal courts, the major pro-family groups tried a similar strategy…they refused to argue that homosexuality was immoral…Instead, they concocted less offensive arguments such as, ‘Every child needs a father and a mother’ and ‘the word “marriage” is special’ – and used them almost exclusively. It actually worked for a little while,” reads the post.

In the most recent battle, opponents of the Massachusetts nondiscrimination law gathered enough signatures on a petition to force a question onto the state ballot this November, asking voters to decide if they wanted to keep the law that affords equal public accommodations to all, or if the law, in the words of that nasty, fear-mongering campaign advertisement, “goes too far.”

“Anti-LGBTQ activists are finally admitting what we’ve known all along — that their ‘safety’ arguments were concocted for a purely political purpose,” said Masen Davis, CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans, in a statement to INTO. Freedom for All Americans was a leading partner in the successful Yes on 3 campaign to keep the nondiscrimination law.

“Our opponents’ schemes to advance so-called ‘bathroom’ bills and repeal protections for transgender people at the ballot were manufactured with one goal in mind: to slow down progress on LGBTQ rights writ large,” Davis said. “The good news is, we’ve cracked the code.”

Image from No on 3 campaign showing little girl with her hand outstretched as if to say 'no.' https://twitter.com/keepMAsafe
Image from No on 3 campaign https://twitter.com/keepMAsafe

As MassResistance mentioned in its post, anti-LGBTQ groups have long depended on this predator myth to fight transgender rights, going back to its successful effort in Houston in 2015. A conservative campaign that equated equal rights for LGBTQ people with allowing “men in women’s bathrooms” repealed an existing law, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO. But that message clearly didn’t work in Massachusetts. The conservative American Family Association called on followers nationwide to boycott the Target retail chain because of an October 2018 incident involving a transgender woman in a Massachusetts store’s women’s restroom. News of the incident appeared like wildfire on conservative anti-transgender rights websites. But as it turns out, police investigated, and decided it was nothing — no one was harmed or arrested, and Boston’s Fox station, which had originally reported the story, later said “the incident appeared to be a misunderstanding” and removed it from its website.

A conservative Christian-run law firm that’s also been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center has turned the predator myth into a cottage industry. The powerful Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) drafted model legislation, the “Student Physical Privacy Act.” The goal was to assist conservative lawmakers in a dozen states, from Colorado to Minnesota, to enshrine transphobia into law with “bathroom bills.” Over and over, these bills focused on restricting trans students’ access to bathrooms and locker rooms by making the privacy of cisgender students the primary issue. Not one such bill passed in 2017 or 2018, and North Carolina’s controversial HB2 law was repealed last year.

Perhaps it’s that track record that has Mass Resisitance president Brian Camenker concerned. GLAAD notes that Camenker has compared gays to Nazis and claims anti-LGBTQ Christians are suffering like the Jews did during the Holocaust. As SPLC describes him, he “continually links homosexuality to pedophilia, violence and disease.” In a video his group posted to YouTube in April 2017, Camenker declared many parents joined MassResistance after their children were “not only indoctrinated but molested and propagandized on horrible things in their public schools.”

His group is so heinous even the Conservative Political Action Convention  (CPAC) booted him from this year’s annual convention. He’s also denied that LGBTQ students are bullied in school. “When they started the gay clubs in schools, they got a lot of reluctance from the schools to do it,” Camenker told the Washington Times. “They found that if they tied it into safety, they could claim that all these kids were being harassed, and they could get it in faster,” he said. “There are no legitimate surveys done because it’s a phony problem.”

Those lines about “tying it into safety” and “a phony problem” now appear prophetic regarding his favorite target, trans women, and his false claim connecting them to sexual predators.

His group’s frank statement, that the predator myth is a lie , supports the findings of the Williams Institute at UCLA. In September, gender identity researchers revealed they found no link between transgender public accommodations laws and crimes that occur in bathrooms, refuting the premise that anti-discrimination legislation threatened public safety.

Davis said that victories for transgender people in New Hampshire and Alaska, as well as in Massachusetts, are evidence of growing bipartisan support for comprehensive protections for all LGBTQ Americans.

“We won’t stop until all Americans are free to live their lives,” Davis said, “without the fear of discrimination in the communities they call home.”

Camenker, his group and ADF did not return requests for comment by deadline.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Masen Davis was the leader of the Yes on 3 campaign. The line has been corrected to reflect that Freedom for All Americans was one partner organization in the campaign.

Will Non-Binary Gender Markers Go Nationwide?

Jessica Porten of Rewire recently wrote: “The future is not female; it’s non-binary.” Perhaps she’s right, given the recent news about non-binary gender markers in Colorado and DC schools adding non-binary gender options on enrollment forms. Non-binary people — people who do not identify as either men or women — are getting more recognition and acknowledgment, both within and outside of the LGBTQ community.

Legal recognition of non-binary and intersex people has surprisingly come a long way since Jamie Shupe became the first legally recognized non-binary person in the U.S. in June 2016. Now there are five states — Arkansas, Oregon, California, Maine, and Minnesota — that offer non-binary gender markers on driver’s licenses and state IDs, along with the District of Columbia.

But there are questions about the future. Will non-binary gender markers go nationwide? What are the legal barriers preventing that from happening? What about people who think there shouldn’t be any gender markers at all?

Interestingly enough, gender markers did not appear on passports until the 1970s. According to Samantha Allen of The Daily Beast, gender markers officially appeared on US passports in 1977 thanks to the growing trend of unisex clothing and androgynous presentation among young people. “From a historical perspective,” she writes, “it is perhaps only fitting that the very letters used to police the transgender, intersex, and non-binary travelers of today were first introduced to police gender fluidity during another era of cultural upheaval.”

Allen isn’t the only one who suggests gender markers on IDs might be a way to police bodies. Cass Adair, a radio producer and independent scholar in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been researching the links between race and gender markers on state driver’s licenses. “Regulating who gets to move through what spaces is a really important function of driver’s licenses in the early 20th century,” Adair tells INTO. “And one of the ways that they do that is determining which bodies are which identity category. What we put on driver’s licenses changes dramatically over the course of the 20th century, and that’s a way to look at which types of people get to move in what ways, and what types of identity categories we see as salient to who somebody is.”

According to Adair, who obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, from 1910 to 1940 states such as New York, Illinois, and Georgia started adding race markers on driver’s licenses in an attempt to reinforce the idea that black people are dangerous behind the wheel. “If we have some technology like a driver’s license that can kind of check all those boxes,” Adair tells INTO, “it can make sure that only the people we want to be on the road are on the road, and it can help extend that paper trail of who is what race into that new technology.”

“It’s not just, ‘Okay, you’re on the bus and we have to figure out which part of the bus you go on.’ It’s even in spaces where you would be kind of in your private car. We want to continue to regulate this, this racial question of who gets to be where on the street,” Adair tells INTO.

Adair points to the old stereotype of women being bad drivers, and suspects the reasoning behind gender markers on driver’s licenses is similar to race markers, although he makes it very clear there are huge differences between segregation based on race and based on gender. He also says that while states used to think asking for a person’s race to put on their ID was a neutral question like asking for height and weight, most states don’t list a person’s race anymore, but they do still list gender.

“What is happening in trans movements is that they are denaturalizing or de-neutralizing that question,” Adair tells INTO. “People are saying, ‘My gender is not like having blue eyes. My gender is something that’s much more complicated or much more fraught or has a lot more social meaning than my height or my eye color.’” The problem, he explains, is that the state might see gender as a neutral category, but it’s actually a social category that the state can use to regulate bodies. “It’s a really high stakes question,” Adair says. “It shouldn’t just be a checkbox on a driver’s license.”

Adair isn’t the only one with reservations about gender markers. In response to a prompt posted on Facebook, Ingrid Stone said:  “I feel that gender markers should be removed.”

“Having a way to out and register [people] as trans or non-binary feels dangerous,” Stone told INTO. “I come from areas where people have been brutally attacked and murdered for being gender non-conforming.”

Steph Nagoski, Mid-Atlantic Region Leader of the Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project (IGRP), takes these concerns very seriously. “We’re just a couple of days past Trans Day of Remembrance,” Nagoski tells INTO, “and as we well know, people who are visibly gender nonconforming are the most frequent targets for violence in this country and worldwide, particularly trans people of color. So there are risks to visibility, and I would strongly encourage everyone to take into account and really think about those risks before taking steps to come out.”

Still, Nagoski — who uses they/them pronouns — believes having an ID that correctly lists their gender is a positive step towards being legally recognized and affirmed.

The IGRP is the first and only U.S. organization that exclusively focuses on legal recognition of intersex and non-binary people for legal documents. It is currently working with Dana Zzyym, an intersex Colorado citizen who is currently fighting for an X gender maker on their passport. This past September, a federal Colorado judge ruled that the U.S. Department of State cannot deny Zzyym’s passport application.

“We don’t have a lot of resources,” Nagoski says of the IGRP, “so we’re not able to participate in a huge amount of individual court cases. We try to focus our attention and our legal time on cases that are going to make a universal standard. That’s why we’re focusing a lot of attention on the Zzyym case from a passport perspective, although we expect to run into a lot of hurdles on that front.”

“The only path [for us at the IGRP] is to go through and get the state to support an X gender marker,” Nagoski says, “which can still lead some people to have issues from folks who don’t understand or might think it’s a fake ID. There’s still issues — not all airlines will recognize an ID with an X gender marker right now.”

Indeed, as INTO reported last month, airlines such as United Airlines do not recognize non-binary gender markers, although the TSA does. There are also those who are afraid they won’t be able to get X gender markers if the Trump administration legally erases trans, non-binary, and intersex people from the federal definition of gender.

So will non-binary gender markers on identity documents go nationwide in the U.S.? Nagoski thinks so, and tells INTO, “We expect the direction of progress and the direction of acceptance and better understanding of non-binary and intersex people is just going to continue.”

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re continuing to go through and be visible and be outspoken,” says Nagoski. “The more that there’s awareness out there, the more people realize that this is an important segment of the population.”

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Ryan Murphy Announces Fund to Eject Anti-LGBTQ Politicians From Office in 2020

Ryan Murphy is coming for you, Ted Cruz.

The super-producer behind Glee and American Horror Story announced on Sunday that he is launching an initiative to eject anti-LGBTQ politicians from office. During a speech at the TrevorLIVE gala in Los Angeles, he claimed the fund will target 2020 candidates “who think they can get votes by hurting and discriminating against us.”

“I’m going to create and fund, with corporate sponsorship, a multimillion-dollar organization that targets anti-LGBTQ candidates running for office,” Murphy said while accepting TrevorLIVE’s Hero Award, as CNN originally reported.

“I want these hateful and wrong politicians to go and to stop polluting our moral and ethical ether,” he added.

The 53-year-old media mogul claimed the initiative will focus on 20 key Congressional districts across the country. Murphy hinted at some of the races he already has his eye on, calling out Iowa’s Steve King, Maine’s Susan Collins, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, and Utah’s Mike Lee by name.

“Let’s show Rep. King that the queens are not having it,” he said.

In addition to funding the opponents of candidates with anti-equality records, Murphy’s organization will also focus on voter registration in order to empower LGBTQ people and their allies to make a difference on election day.

He claimed 2018 showed it’s possible to tip the scales.

“Based on this fall, I think it’s now possible to create a movement to protect and nourish our own,” Murphy said, adding: “One after one, anti-LGBTQ candidates who made hate speech and ideology part of their legacy fell, disgraced and eliminated by Democratic candidates.”

Murphy also noted that the success of these politicians was “largely boosted… by young and female voters.”

The historic gains made in the midterms were also fueled by a “Rainbow Wave” of LGBTQ politicians running for office. More than 150 queer and trans candidates won their races in the November elections, a record number.

Murphy hopes to keep that momentum going two years from now.

“We are going to send a message which says you cannot make discrimination against us a political virtue anymore,” he said. “You can’t keep killing our vulnerable young people by promoting and nationalizing your rural, close-minded anti-constitutional viewpoints.”

The fund will be called “Pose Gives Back,” a reference to his FX program about ball culture in New York City during the 1980s. The acclaimed show features the largest trans cast in TV history.

You can watch Murphy’s entire speech here.

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Indiana LGBTQ Students Sue District for Blocking GSA

LGBTQ students in Indiana are fighting back after administrators silenced them from publicly organizing a gay-straight alliance, according to a lawsuit filed late week by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Leo Pride Alliance, the LGBTQ student group of Leo Junior Senior High School just outside Fort Wayne, Indiana, is suing the district which allegedly won’t let the group call themselves a Gay Straight Alliance or allow them to operate like other extracurriculars.

“This isn’t just people who want to have a fun club,” Kit Malone, Transgender Education and Advocacy Coordinator for the ACLU of Indiana, told INTO. “There is a real pressing need.”

According to the complaint, filed November 30, the district insisted that if the group wanted to create a bulletin board for LGBT history month, it would have to perform community service or have its content approved.

In an alarming move, Leo Pride Alliance’s faculty advisor was forced to turn over a list of the club’s roughly 30 members to every teacher at the school, which is not required of other groups and made some members so uncomfortable they began to leave the club.

“Not only is the club not allowed to refer to itself as a GSA but its members may not use the words gay, GSA, LGBT+, or similar language, in any of the announcements concerning the club,” the lawsuit alleges. “Unlike other clubs, the Leo Pride Alliance is not allowed to meet outside of a single classroom. It cannot participate in school fundraisers.”

Leo Pride Alliance alleges that the district made the group call itself a “pride alliance,” with the “pride” standing not for LGBTQ issues, but “Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diligence, and Excellence.”

“Of course the generic idea of diversity is a wonderful idea, and kids should be able to have those kinds of clubs,” said Malone. “But those clubs don’t provide solutions for the specific needs of the LGBTQ students.”

The suit hinges on the Constitution’s First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause and the Equal Access Act, which requires federally-funded secondary schools to grant equal access to extracurricular activities.

“This group aims to create an environment that provides social, emotional and educational support to students, during a time that otherwise might be increasingly difficult for LGBTQ students,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU of Indiana, in a statement. “The differential treatment aimed at Leo Pride Alliance by administrators is unwarranted.”

In 2015, LGBTQ School Advocacy organization GLSEN found that students in Indiana reported widespread hostility in schools in its National Climate Survey. A staggering 77 percent said they had been harassed or assaulted because of their sexual orientation and another 58 percent reported abuse because of their gender expression.

East Allen’s non-discrimination policy does not include specific protections for LGBTQ students.

“We take the rights of our students seriously,” the district said in a statement to INTO.  “We are looking into this matter.”

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Catholic League Defends Pope: Church’s ‘Gay Subculture’ Has Done ‘Tremendous Damage,’ Must Be ‘Purged’

A leading Catholic civil rights organization has doubled down on the Pope’s comments on gay clergy.

The Catholic League advocated that “homosexual priests” be “purged” from the Vatican after Pope Francis remarked in a forthcoming book that he’s “concerned” about LGBTQ influence in “the life of the church.” In a Monday press release, League President Bill Donohue agreed with the pontiff that the “gay subculture in the Catholic Church has done tremendous damage.”

“[I]t’s time for homosexual priests who are more gay than they are priests, to exit,” he said. “That this even needs to be said—and it does—is an index of the problem.”

Donohue was responding to quotes printed the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera ahead of the release of The Strength of Vocation—a book of interviews with Pope Francis due out this week. In excerpts, the Argentinian leader referred to homosexuality as both “fashionable” in modern society and a “very serious issue.”

What was met with the strongest criticism, though, were portions in which Francis claimed there’s “no room” for gay people in the church leadership.

“Therefore, the church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry,” he said. “[…] It’s better for them to leave the ministry or the consecrated life rather than to live a double life.”

Donohue called those comments a “good start” but urged the Vatican to go further by removing gay men from the clergy.

“But we need those in positions of influence in the Catholic Church, beginning with seminaries, to follow through,” he claimed. “He’s given us the green light—now it’s time to finish the job.”

This isn’t the first time the Catholic League president has advocated this position. Earlier this year, Donohue claimed gay men are to blame for predators within the Vatican’s ranks: “Any honest observer of the priestly sexual abuse scandal knows that the lion’s share of the molestation was committed by homosexuals, not pedophiles.”

“This is not a plea for punishing homosexual priests,” he added. “It is a plea to abide by the policy adopted by Pope Benedict XVI: men with ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies’ should not be welcomed in the seminaries.”

But despite his disclaimer, Donohue is not merely opposed to LGBTQ inclusion in the church. He is opposed to LGBTQ people.

Donohue has referred to transgender people as a “fiction,” claiming they “do not exist.” He also called marriage equality “one of the most bizarre ideas in human history” and compared it to South African apartheid. He also believes that allowing same-sex couples to adopt is “against nature” and that gay men are more likely to be pedophiles.

LGBTQ advocacy groups claimed the Pope is implicitly endorsing this kind of rhetoric by intensifying scrutiny on the community.

“It is especially disturbing that these comments are coming out now, as the church is dealing with new revelations about sexual abuse by clergy and its systematic cover-up,” said DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke in a statement. “Some church officials and others have tried to deflect responsibility away from the perpetrators and church officials by casting blame on gay priests.”

“The Pope’s words could be interpreted as supporting those fallacious claims,” she added.

Many argued that the controversy is further evidence that Francis isn’t nearly as progressive as supporters suggest. For instance, he has been lauded for encouraging Christians to apologize to LGBTQ people long marginalized by the church.

But, as INTO has previously argued, the Pope is no ally. His worst hot takes have been reserved for the subject of transgender people. He has claimed the movement for trans equality is “causing a world war against marriage,” that confirmation surgeries are a threat to society, and that “gender theory” is “indoctrination.”

Francis further stated that teaching young people to affirm and accept their trans peers is “terrible” and “nasty.”

The pontiff has not remarked on Donohue’s statement.

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We Saw the Censored Version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in Malaysian Theaters. Here’s What Was Really Cut

It’s 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night in Kuala Lumpur. Even though Bohemian Rhapsody has been out for close to a month, it’s next to impossible to get seats at Mid-Valley Mall, the largest of the city’s more than 100 indoor shopping centers. The Malaysian capital has so many malls that demand has struggled to match supply: Many of them sit virtually empty.

When I ask my platonic date for the evening why this is, he argues the superfluity of capitalism is a matter of practicality. Air conditioning is a precious resource in a country where 60º weather is a national crisis.

Mid-Valley is anything but abandoned, though. A buzzy crowd has formed outside the kiosks at the mall cineplex, where self-service screens show our screening only has two remaining seats. Unfortunately, they are on opposite sides of the theatre. The next available showtime in Kuala Lumpur (called just “K.L.” by locals) is across town, so my friend and I decide to stay.

But for LGBTQ people in the majority Muslim nation, Bohemian Rhapsody was a tougher sell. Reports from those who had seen it in theaters indicated the Malaysian Film Censorship Board (LPF) cut up to 24 minutes of footage from the Freddie Mercury biopic, as homosexuality is banned under the country’s colonial-era sodomy laws.

Censors, though, insisted that only three minutes were trimmed.

“These cuts totaled up to 180 seconds,” said board chairman Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz in a Nov. 13 interview with the Malay Mail. “Seven involved muting bad words… while the four gay scenes involved moments such as men kissing each other, men rubbing each other, and a group of men in dresses partying in a mansion.”

Those claims were viewed with skepticism among members of the LGBTQ community. In order to entice anyone to go with me, I had to bribe my friend by paying for dinner. (We had fried rice and lime juice at a Korean restaurant in the mall.)

Although one doesn’t want to give Malaysian censors too much credit, they were telling the truth about the cuts. The U.S. version of Bohemian Rhapsody — which I saw with a much gayer crowd at the West Hollywood AMC Sunset three weeks earlier — ran 133 minutes. After an endless series of advertisements for Samsung phones, the K.L. screening clocked in at 130.

Here’s What Was (and Wasn’t) Cut

It’s easy to see why audiences believed something more substantial was missing from Bohemian Rhapsody. Even with a relatively minor three minutes removed, the Malaysian cut leaves major narrative holes in the film. Key scenes no longer make sense, as if they were fed through the wood chipper from Fargo.

The most noticeable changes to Bohemian Rhapsody involve censoring intimacy between its queer male characters. The physical aspects of Freddie Mercury’s relationship to Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) — his personal manager and the film’s antagonist — are gone entirely. A meet-cute with future partner Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker) is virtually incomprehensible.  

As Zamberi told the Malay Mail, censors took the further step of removing a blurb in the credits mentioning that Mercury and Hutton “lived a happy life” until the iconic singer’s 1991 death.

“[I]t showed that they were in a gay relationship,” the censor explained.

Depicting same-sex relationships is verboten in Malaysia per 2010 guidelines from the Film Censorship Board, which mandate that LGBTQ characters “repent or die” in order to be portrayed on screen. Believe it or not, the decision to bury their gays was actually spun as a positive development for the southeast Asian country. Before then, media regulators hadn’t allowed depictions of LGBTQ life at all.

But what’s so bewildering about Malaysia’s edited-down version of Bohemian Rhapsody is that it doesn’t stick to the board’s own rules.

For instance, a line in which Mercury (Rami Malek) comes out to then-fiancée Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) is removed from the film. “I think I’m bisexual,” he says. Austin insists he’s gay, which is also cut. It must be said: The movie tiptoes around the subject, but the musician was, in fact, bi. Mercury was attached to German actress Barbara Valentin in the 1980s, described in a 2012 biography as his “live-in lover.”

Despite erasing Mercury’s bisexuality altogether, censors kept an emotional monologue in which Prenter describes the struggles of growing up as a young gay boy in Belfast.

Perhaps the most confusing double standard is around the treatment of HIV/AIDS. While preparing for Queen’s legendary performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert, the singer tells his bandmates that he’s HIV-positive. “I’ve got it,” Mercury says. “Got what?” a group member asks. “AIDS,” he responds.

While censors cut everything after “I’ve got it,” they allowed at least three other references to HIV/AIDS in the film. In another scene, the broadcast of an early news report on the virus plays on a TV set in the background.

It pains me to attempt to make sense of something that so clearly flouts logic, but I am professionally obligated to try. Here goes.

If this were a senior-year AP English essay, I would argue censors had less of a problem with queerness as it exists on the margins, whether a longing look inside a truck stop bathroom or a stroll through the hairy torsos of Berlin’s S&M scene. These scenes are brief and chaste; they stop at being merely suggestive, rather than allowing Mercury to luxuriate in the many pleasures of the male form (and, ah, many there are).

But when LGBTQ characters tell us who they are, their identities are no longer subtext. They are the text. Naming allows queer people to take ownership of our identities and stories, to identify our history and the space we occupy in the world. Just as importantly, naming ourselves asks the audience to identify with us.

Shutting down that understanding and compassion is an important tool for governments intent on curtailing LGBTQ rights.

Here’s Why More Wasn’t Edited Out

But as a vehicle for empathy, I have a ton of issues with Bohemian Rhapsody, which manages to be both very entertaining and downright reprehensible in how it handles its protagonist’s queerness. The cavernous gap between critical reviews of the film and its glowing audience scores is no accident.

To wit, the reason Malaysian censors didn’t have to cut more than three minutes from the movie is it already presents Mercury’s life with a nagging twinge of homophobia.

Despite the fact that the singer didn’t learn of his HIV diagnosis until well after the film’s events conclude, Bohemian Rhapsody reverse engineers a narrative in which he is humbled by the disease. Living a life of orgiastic sin in Berlin, Mercury spurns Queen and attempts to go solo. But eventually, his ego and hard-partying ways catch up with him. He is forced to crawl back to his bandmates to make amends.

In the grand tradition of these sorts of movies, the band plays one final concert before Mercury’s long journey into the night.

While the film’s Wikipedia-style structure might confuse its target audience into mistaking it for a documentary, this entire plotline is total bollocks. As Mike Ryan detailed in a must-read Uproxx essay, Brian May and Roger Taylor released solo albums well before Mercury ever did. In fact, Taylor released two prior to Mercury’s first solo record, 1985’s Mr. Bad Guy.

“I’ve never seen a film distort its facts in such a punitive way,” Ryan concludes. “It’s like the movie wants to punish Freddie Mercury.”

The film isn’t merely about punishment. It’s about sticking to a certain prestige formula. All Oscar-targeted biopics about flawed geniuses show their protagonists battling some sort of demon: John Nash’s brilliance is marred by schizophrenia in A Beautiful Mind, Ray Charles’ marriage is shattered by infidelity in Ray, and Johnny Cash grapples with drug addiction in Walk the Line.

In keeping with that theme, it’s Mercury’s queerness that triggers his downfall.

Let’s take a scene in Bohemian Rhapsody where his Queen bandmates attempt a lavish party thrown by Mercury, one complete with drag queens, half-naked male specimens, and revelers in royal regalia. Before seeing the movie, I was so sure this segment would be left on the cutting room floor. Although the law was briefly struck down in 2014, individuals arrested for “cross-dressing” are subject to fines and imprisonment; the policy is most often used to target transgender women.

This bit was left in, even while the gender-bending music video for “I Want to Break Free” was cut from the film. MTV notoriously refused to play the video due to Mercury’s decision to sport heels and a brunette bouffant.

The major difference between the two is one of context. Seeing Mercury dressed like ‘50s Housewife Barbie is defiant, even punk. In contrast, the party scene exists to shame him for that very sense of avant-garde flamboyance. Visibly uncomfortable with the bacchanalia around them, his bandmates quickly leave to go home to their wives and children. They want him to be queer, but in a way that best suits them.

The point is underlined when Mercury asks why Mary didn’t attend the fête, despite living next door. After their breakup, he bought her the adjoining mansion so they could remain close. His bandmates prudishly inform him it’s not Mary’s “kind of scene.”

Never shy about pounding a dead horse into glue, Mary — the virgin-like symbol of heteronormativity and resident killjoy — appears later in the film to inform Mercury his gay friends don’t care about him. It would be a nice gesture if it weren’t aggressively presumptuous. Aside from Prenter, the film’s straw gay villain, she hasn’t actually met any members of Mercury’s Berlin posse.

The straight characters in the film are positioned as the voices of reason calling Mercury back from the edge, but they make Andy’s shitty friends in The Devil Wears Prada look like extras in Spring Breakers.

It’s pretty hilarious that Bryan Singer of all people made a movie about how parties are bad, but such is the hypocrisy of Bohemian Rhapsody. The lesson appears to be that it’s OK to be queer—so long as you don’t enjoy it. The straight characters in the film don’t seem to remember that rock ‘n roll is supposed to be fun.

If anything, Bohemian Rhapsody is a gift for Malaysian censors. The Film Censorship mandates that LGBTQ characters must repent for their misdeeds or perish. Here is a movie that gives media regulators both of those scenarios.

Even when Mercury’s sexuality is embraced by the film’s standard bearers of heterosexuality, it’s strictly on censorship-friendly terms. During a visit to meet his conservative Zoroastrian parents, Mercury clasps Hutton’s hand with all the gusto of a hard G-rating. He refers to his partner as his “friend,” a term familiar to many of us who were forced to stay closeted due to fear of rejection.

When I saw the U.S. cut of Bohemian Rhapsody, this moment read as sweet, if almost pointedly non-offensive. But as part of a project of repression and governmental control, it takes on far more sinister undertones.

Here Are the Parts Worth Savoring

Despite seeing a censored version of a self-censored film, I left the theater last Wednesday with a surprising amount of hope for the future of LGBTQ equality.

Against all odds, Bohemian Rhapsody resists its own glass closet in resonant and meaningful ways. Malek’s performance brings so much joy and exuberance to the film, suggesting a liberation in the singer’s relationship to his queerness the script never dares.

When Mercury first takes the stage with Queen, he confidently struts across the stage dressed in a garish ensemble that would later become the singer’s trademark. In the actor’s eyes, you see that he understands what that gendered performance meant to Mercury. The singer was most alive when he blurred the lines of masculinity and femininity, challenging notions of what a rock band looked like and sounded like.

Mercury knew his fans were ready for it, even if the judgmental jagoffs around him weren’t.

Throughout the film, these glimmers of queer vibrance frequently shine through. When Mary asks the frontman why he chose “Queen” for the band’s name, he remarks that it’s because her royal highness is “outrageous” and he can’t think of anyone “more outrageous” than himself.

Perhaps the best moment in all of Bohemian Rhapsody, aside from the bravura, borderline slavish recreation of the band’s Live Aid set, is a small one relatively early in the film. It’s so small, in fact, that you may have missed it.

The band’s label won’t release “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single because they claim it’s too long. A record executive (Mike Myers, in a distracting nod to Wayne’s World) believes radio stations won’t play the now-classic tune because it contains “nonsense words” like Scaramouche, Bismillah, and Galileo. My condolences to that gentleman’s primary school science professor.

Convinced the song is a hit, Mercury pays a visit to a gay radio DJ (Dickie Beau) to drum up support for its release. Clinking wine glasses conspiratorially, the two agree that it would be absolutely mad to play “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s nearly six minutes! Naturally, they allow themselves a bit of lunacy.

Their easy, winking rapport is a testament to the code shared between queer people, one which survives the cruelest of repression. That unspoken bond is what gives us community and continued hope through struggle.

Seeing Bohemian Rhapsody in an audience of brown faces, I knew that it was a rare opportunity for everyday Malaysians to see that queerness can be beautiful and radiant, even life-giving. I felt some of that love reflected back in the audience. After the movie was over, three Muslim women dressed in colorful headscarves stayed through the credits to headbang and strum their air guitars along with the music.

I’ll never know which version of Mercury they saw on screen: the legendary bon vivant he was or the tragic figure his cinematic jailers wanted him to be. But I do know one thing: they knew all the words to his songs.

Amid a political moment where hope is in short supply, that feels like a start.

The Trump Administration Effectively Removed LGBTQ Protections from the New NAFTA

TOPSHOT - Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (L) US President Donald Trump (C) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are pictured after signing a new free trade agreement in Buenos Aires, on November 30, 2018, on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders' Summit. - The revamped accord, called the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), looks a lot like the one it replaces. But enough has been tweaked for Trump to declare victory on behalf of the US workers he claims were cheated by NAFTA. (Photo by Martin BERNETTI / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

Last Friday, the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States signed a new trade agreement designed to replace NAFTA,  the existing North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump campaigned against during his run for president.

The new agreement, clunkily titled the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), still needs to be ratified by the legislatures of each country. But now that the final document is public, it’s clear that it isn’t that much different from NAFTA. In 1994, former president Bill Clinton signed NAFTA in an effort to remove trade barriers between the three North American nations. The USMCA is essentially an update with a new name, some new provisions for auto industry production and intellectual property, tariffs on steel and aluminum, and a last-minute sneak attack on LGBTQ equality.

Wait, what?

Okay, so NAFTA didn’t actually have any LGBTQ protections. But the new USMCA did, because Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly insisted that they be included.

Because a trilateral trade agreement impacts workers in all three nations, Canada negotiated for labor protections in the USMCA that required each of the three nations to “implement policies that it considers appropriate to protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex (including with regard to sexual harassment), pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and caregiving responsibilities.”

But because that simple provision — one line in a massive international trade agreement comprised of hundreds of pages with dozens of annexes and side letters — incensed conservative GOP members of Congress so much they wrote a letter urging Trump to scrap the whole deal unless the LGBTQ protections were removed,  a last-minute footnote was added to the USCMA that effectively did just that.

“The United States’ existing federal agency policies regarding the hiring of federal workers are sufficient to fulfill the obligations set forth in this Article,” reads the new footnote. “The Article thus requires no additional action on the part of the United States, including any amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in order for the United States to be in compliance with the obligations set forth in this Article.”

Basically, the U.S. claimed that because of a single Obama executive order that included LGBTQ protections for employees of federal contractors, the country is exempt from the provision that merely suggests policies that each country “considers appropriate” in terms of banning employment discrimination.

That’s a major problem for two reasons: Because federal contractors make up a small amount of the overall workforce and there is no federal law whatsoever that prevents private-sector businesses from firing workers just because they are LGBTQ, and because the Trump administration has been actively trying to chip away at the one teeny-tiny nondiscrimination clause that does protect LGBTQ federal contractors — by creating a “religious liberty” loophole that allows even those federal contractors to discriminate as much as they want as long as they cite religious reasons for doing so.

It’s a lot of circuitous bureaucratic lingo to slog through, but make no mistake: the Trump administration just blocked the best chance LGBTQ Americans have seen in years of finally being protected from employment discrimination.

LGBTQ advocates said the last-minute change was likely due to pressure asserted by the 38 GOP congresspeople who signed the November 16 letter protesting the LGBTQ protections, which said “a trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy.”

“That the administration would cave to the wishes of anti-LGBTQ Republican Members of Congress who desire to secure for employers the ability to discriminate is both unfortunate and telling about their priorities,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Law and Policy Director at Lambda Legal, in an email to INTO, “And also ineffectual because the sex discrimination prohibitions of the Civil Rights Act, properly understood, already forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. “

According to the Washington Blade’s White House correspondent Chris Johnson, “a Canadian official said the footnote [nullifying the LGBTQ protections] was added by the United States.”

In the U.S. currently, only 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect workers from being fired due to their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign. That means over half of U.S. states lack protections for LGBTQ workers — and with no federal law to fall back on, many LGBTQ advocates pinned their hopes (though loosely) on Canada’s provision in the USMCA.

Pizer cited the Equality Act as another hopeful route for federal protections; the legislation has died in committee twice in the past 5 years but is expected to be reintroduced in 2019.

The strange footnote didn’t just concern LGBTQ advocacy groups; even trade economists criticized the decision. Geoffrey Gertz, a trade diplomacy expert at the Brookings Institution, called the addition of the footnote “ridiculous” in a Monday tweet.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, also addressed the move on Twitter, chiding Trump for “caving” to anti-LGBTQ political pressure.

President Trump himself has yet to comment on the bait-and-switch move that watered down the LGBTQ protections in the new trade agreement. Instead, he briefly tweeted a parting blow to the NAFTA that he had campaigned against.

“The United States, Mexico and Canada worked so well together in crafting this great document,” said Trump in a tweet on Friday. “The terrible NAFTA will soon be gone. The USMCA will be fantastic for all!”

This article has been updated to include a statement from Lambda Legal.