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We must fight so Republicans don't let us die, writes Mara Keisling at The Advocate. She refers to many potential avenues for eviscerating the ACA:

Excluding preexisting conditions. Excluding transition-related care. Lifetime limits for HIV care. Denying routine cancer screenings because you're the "wrong gender." Refusing care at a clinic or hospital because you're LGBT. Being poor but still ineligible for Medicaid.

"While the ACA will definitely be in effect in 2017," she continues, "its future beyond that is in doubt:"

Lawmakers could vote as soon as next week to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act, stripping away many of these gains. Congressional Republicans say they want to "repeal and replace" -- but what they're actually proposing is a repeal with no replacement in sight. [...]

This repeal could strip 30 million Americans -- mostly working families -- of health insurance. It would cause premiums to spike dramatically for millions more. Ordinary LGBT Americans would lose tax credits, Medicaid, or health care through their job, while insurance and drug companies and the wealthy would get huge tax breaks.

Plus, the GOP would also get to destroy one of Obama's accomplishments--and that's far more important to them than LGBT lives. Their voters, however, are worried about another type of pride. Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars explains some of the anti-ACA spite, writing that PA Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) "told a story of a couple who lives in Mount Joy, PA and currently benefit under the ACA:"

Tim Hollinger is on Medicare. His wife, Phyllis, is not yet eligible and is self-employed. Phyllis obtained coverage through the marketplace, and her premium is over $1,000 per month with a $2,700 deductible, which is over 23 percent of her net income.

Here's the thing: Phyllis gets a subsidy that covers 35 percent of that cost, helping to make it affordable. Because that is how the ACA works. The subsidy reduces the monthly cost to Phyllis so she isn't going broke trying to pay for health insurance.

Rep. Smucker went on to explain why he thinks it's a great idea to repeal the ACA for Tim and Phyllis.

"Phyllis receives a federal subsidy that covers 35% of that monthly cost. To Phyllis, that's not right," he explained. "To Phyllis, this is about her pride. and she's not asking for a lot."

C&L then drops the hammer:

No, Phyllis, you really are asking for a lot. If you don't want the subsidy, don't take it. That's an option, too. But because of your pride, you'd like for 30 million others who are able to have access to healthcare to lose it.

"Here's what I worry will happen to Phyllis Hollinger if the ACA is repealed," the piece concludes:

She will not be able to afford her health insurance and will be hoping against all hope that she doesn't get sick before she's eligible for Medicare. If she does get sick, she and her husband will be forced into medical bankruptcy because she will not have any safety net over her head. I do not want this to happen to her, but it's more or less inevitable if the ACA is repealed.

At least her pride will remain intact.

Ellen

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The Advocate reminds us that Ellen taught us how to fight Trump 20 years ago:

When Ellen DeGeneres came out in 1997 -- on the cover of Time magazine, in an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and then in an episode of her ABC sitcom Ellen -- it was a watershed moment in culture. In "The Puppy Episode," she (and her character) were among the first to come out on a television show, an event that attracted a record number of viewers upon its airing. [...]

Her network, ABC, not having a playbook for what to do with a lesbian actor playing a lesbian character, placed a parental advisory on Ellen episodes. In 1998 the series was cancelled after ratings dipped.

"Since DeGeneres's coming-out," the piece continues, "other media figures -- many inspired by her courage and success -- have also left the closet:"

DeGeneres's bravery in coming out and being vocal is undeniable. But as they say, it takes a village. Her success also required the support of Hollywood power players behind the scenes who were willing to take a risk. Over two decades ago, the network ABC was not obliged to approve and air DeGeneres's coming-out story. But it did so anyway. While the show was canceled a year later due to a drop in ratings, the courage of producers and executives to stand by and promote their lesbian star changed what was possible for storylines on television.

The takeaway lesson is simply that "Hollywood, LGBT people, and their allies -- in addition to being gayer -- must be louder in demanding rights in the face of adversity."

Siddhartha Mukherjee explains at Nautilus why sex is binary, but gender is a spectrum:

In 1955, Gerald Swyer, an English endocrinologist investigating female infertility, had discovered a rare syndrome that made humans biologically female but chromosomally male. "Women" born with "Swyer syndrome" were anatomically and physiologically female throughout childhood, but did not achieve female sexual maturity in early adulthood. [...]

In 2005, a team of researchers at Columbia University validated these case reports in a longitudinal study of "genetic males"--i.e., children born with XY chromosomes--who had been assigned to female gender at birth, typically because of the inadequate anatomical development of their genitals. Some of the cases were not as anguished as David Reimer's or C's--but an overwhelming number of males assigned to female gender roles reported experiencing moderate to severe gender dysphoria during childhood. Many had suffered anxiety, depression, and confusion. Many had voluntarily changed genders back to male upon adolescence and adulthood. Most notably, when "genetic males" born with ambiguous genitals were brought up as boys, not girls, not a single case of gender dysphoria or gender change in adulthood was reported.

"The hierarchical organization of this genetic cascade," Mukherjee writes, "illustrates a crucial principle about the link between genes and environments in general:"

At the bottom of the network, in contrast, a purely genetic view fails to perform; it does not provide a particularly sophisticated understanding of gender or its identity. Here, in the estuarine plains of crisscrossing information, history, society, and culture collide and intersect with genetics, like tides. Some waves cancel each other, while others reinforce each other. No force is particularly strong--but their combined effect produces the unique and rippled landscape that we call an individual's identity.

Based on this excerpt, Mukherjee's book The Gene: An Intimate History sounds intriguing.

The Advocate's report on straight men and gay porn by Brenden Shucart discusses a new study ("Sexually Explicit Media Use by Sexual Identity: A Comparative Analysis of Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men in the United States" in Archives of Sexual Behavior) showing that "55 percent of gay men watch straight porn, and 21 percent of straight men watch gay porn:"

So what gives? It's no giant leap to hypothesize why gay men might enjoy watching straight porn: to watch straight guys. But when one out of five self-identified straight men reports watching gay porn, it prompts the further question: Are these men really straight, or are they down-low/straight-identified bisexual men?

Dr. Martin J. Downing, the study's lead researcher, "sees this 'identity discrepant viewing' as 'some level of evidence' of fluidity in sexual attraction, at least in terms of what people are watching." Interestingly, the piece continues, "bisexual men displayed porn-viewing habits that were quite distinct from those of their homo and hetero peers:"

Bi men reported watching guy-on-guy porn just as much as gay men do, and they consumed heterosexual porn (one male/one female) almost as much as heterosexual men. They also reported watching a significant amount of "bisexual porn" that has either two men and one woman or two women and one man. According to Downing, bisexual men aren't "watered down gays or heterosexuals."

"[Bisexual men] are more like heterosexual men in some things, and more like gay men in other things, but that's a reflection of their own unique attractions. They're not identical to either group in terms of their porn viewing, which I think is really interesting for understanding bisexuality."

Indeed. Shucart summarizes the study as follows:

There are a few takeaways from this study: Our porn consumption is more eclectic than previously suspected, and bisexual men are distinct from their straight and gay brothers in their pornographic habits and inclinations. Though not the study's focus, this further suggests that bisexuality isn't simply a way station on the road to being gay; bisexuals are bisexual.

This study is further proof of bisexuals' validity within the LGBT community--as if more were actually needed.

Conor Lynch suggests that 2017 could be even worse than 2016. As he writes, "there is little reason to celebrate the year's end this weekend, or to be hopeful for 2017:"

And when "deplorable Don" arrives in Washington, he will have a Republican-controlled Congress full of partisan lackeys, unscrupulous sycophants and empty-suit pontificators to lick his boots and kiss his ring -- as long as they can slash taxes for their wealthy donors, privatize Social Security and Medicare and, of course, repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In no time at all people will be feeling nostalgic for 2016 -- longing for the days when Donald J. Trump was just a billionaire demagogue running for president, without any real power. Before he became the most powerful toddler in the world.

Trump, Lynch continues, "did more than any other individual in recent American history to normalize public racism, sexism and xenophobia, as well as political violence:"

His provocative campaign emboldened bigots and misogynists and rejuvenated white-supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups, while poisoning political discourse and accelerating the country's descent into a post-truth reality. If Trump had lost the election to Hillary Clinton, he would still have left the country hopelessly divided and more vulnerable than ever before to the forces of extremism and bigotry. But at least he would have left the country breathing.

Lynch writes that "this lunatic will have real and terrifying powers," leading to a "great potential for catastrophe:"

There is no telling what Trump will do once he is in the Oval Office, or how much of his campaign rhetoric was empty talk. But his erratic behavior since the election and the far-right cabinet he has assembled over the past month indicates that he will be every bit as reactionary, demagogic and impulsive as he was on the campaign trail.

He concludes with no small amount of resignation that "it is all but certain that 2017 will make 2016 look like the good old days, regardless of which beloved celebrities drop dead." Amanda Marcotte looks at political resolutions, noting that "2016 was a vile, no-good year that can go suck eggs:"

Unfortunately, there is every reason to believe that 2017 will be treating us no better. In fact it is quite likely, with President Donald Trump in the White House, to be a waking nightmare from which there is no escape.

She offers "three resolutions I'm undertaking to preserve my sanity:"

1. No more attention given to dudes who want to relitigate the Democratic primary.

2. A strict outrage diet for Donald Trump's culture war antics.

But it's become clear that Trump's provocations -- from the Mike Pence "Hamilton" fiasco to whatever asinine thing he's saying on Twitter this week -- are rooted in his reality-TV background and his understanding that glib provocation is a great way to sow chaos that both distracts from and helps dismantle our democracy. So my goal is, every time Trump is spouting distracting culture war nonsense, to start looking for whatever, usually more serious, story he's trying to distract the public from.

3. Having a life outside politics.

But with Trump ripping through our democracy like a tornado, it's doubly important to remember that there are things in this world that aren't terrible. So it's important to take the time to read a novel or go to a museum or listen to a record the whole way through.

Similarly, AlterNet's Les Leopold explains why resisting Trump is not enough:

While resistance is critically important, we will fail unless resistance is contained within a long term strategy to reverse runaway inequality and upend neoliberalism (defined as systematic tax breaks for the rich, cuts in social programs, anti-union legislation, financial deregulation and corporate-managed trade.) If we don't build an alternative movement, our defensive struggles could enhance Trump's popularity rather than to diminish it.

He then lists the risks of a "resistance only" response:

1. It makes our politics Trump-centric or even Trump-dependent.

"Of course, resistance is badly needed," he says, while also stressing "a pro-active positive agenda:"

The key items include a financial transaction tax on Wall Street, free higher education, single-payer health care, massive infrastructure spending, a halt to the off-shoring of jobs, criminal justice reform, taking money out of politics, and reducing global warming. That's our agenda, not Trump's.

The fact that few if any of these issues are being discussed today shows the weakness of a Trump-centric approach.

2. Trump resistance can slide into defending the status quo:

3. Resisting Trump by itself will not win back swing states

Key swing states may remain in Trump's column if all we do is resist. A marginal voter could view progressive resist actions as simply disruptive if we don't put forth a positive agenda that frames our resistance and expands the debate. [...] The future goes to whichever camp develops the most compelling vision for America. A negation of Trump is not a vision.

4. Resisting Trump on trade and the off-shoring of jobs is a big mistake.

5. Betting on Trump's failure is reckless:

"it is not a forgone conclusion," he writes, "that Trump's economic policies will fail:"

So waiting for Trump's collapse or just pushing for it, seems like an irresponsible political strategy. Instead, we actually have to do the hard work of building something new that is independent both of Trump and the neo-liberal establishment.

5. Resisting Trump could turn into an excuse to stay within our issue silos:

This could cause "extreme fragmentation among progressive organizations:"

There is no common agenda, no common strategy, no common structure. We have enormous experience in promoting our specific agenda silos and very little practice in working together around a hard hitting common program that transcends all of our silos.

"We need a tangible organizing effort that brings together our many issue groups," he writes, which "entails four tasks:"

• We need a common agenda and common analysis.
• We need a national educational campaign that explains the agenda and analysis all around the country, as the Populists did in the 1880s.
• We need a new national organization that we can all join as dues paying members.
• Finally, we need to expand our own perceptions of the possible.

The Advocate's list of 6 things we must do the survive Trump's America, penned by Mark Joseph Stern, calls the spectre of Trump's presidency "a disaster for LGBT people throughout the nation:"

There can be no doubt that the Trump administration, together with a Republican-dominated Congress, will roll back hard-fought victories and stall the push for ever greater equality. [...]

Trump will take office at a moment when LGBT people enjoy historically high tolerance and support from the American public. His presidency will not change that, at least not immediately. The supermajority of Americans will still support marriage equality; trans people will continue to gain greater visibility, and thus acceptance; and despite distractions about "religious liberty" and discrimination, most people will still believe that nobody should be fired because they're LGBT. "Don't ask, don't tell" will not be revived. The Supreme Court, even one stacked by Trump, will feel immense institutional pressure to respect the precedent of marriage equality. We will elect more openly LGBT people to statehouses across the country. [...]

If Hillary Clinton were assuming office after Obama, the path forward would be clear and manageable. It will now be tortuous and grueling.

He offers "six suggestions as to how the movement can protect and even expand its rights over the next four years:"

1. Remember: Trump may not be a virulent homophobe, but he is a threat.

In order to shore up evangelical votes, Trump has already declared that the Supreme Court's marriage-equality decision should be overturned, that states should be allowed to deny transgender people access to public bathrooms, and that President Obama's executive orders protecting LGBT people should be rescinded. As president, he will surely continue to throw LGBT people under the bus when Bannon -- who has stated his desire to "turn on the hate" -- thinks it's convenient.

2. Keep the focus on Pence.

Dangerous as Trump may be, his vice president is significantly more threatening to LGBT people's safety and well-being. [...] It is too early to surmise the extent to which Pence's unrepentant, unrelenting homophobia will influence the Trump administration.

3. Watch out for cabinet cronies and "religious liberty."

Obama's appointees have interpreted bans on "sex discrimination" in existing civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity; as a result, they have granted LGBT people new protections in housing, credit, education, and employment. Trump's appointees will quietly reverse these interpretations, stripping LGBTs of vital federal protections.

These reversals should be met with public protests.

LGBT advocates should also prepare for a drawn-out brawl over bills designed to legalize discrimination in the guise of "religious liberty." Pence's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" allowed "religious belief" to supercede nondiscrimination ordinances in certain circumstances; congressional Republicans appear poised to offer Trump an even more extreme variation on this genre. Their "First Amendment Defense Act" would broadly legalize any anti-LGBT discrimination ostensibly required by one's "religious belief or moral conviction."

4. Focus on state politics and the community.

"Instead of wasting energy on the federal level," he writes, "LGBT advocates should find room for improvement in the states:"

These [pro-LGBT] governors can work to expand LGBT protections -- and veto gerrymanders that would permanently entrench an anti-LGBT Republican majority in the statehouse.

Meanwhile, every supporter of LGBT rights should get involved with their communities to protect the most vulnerable among us. Young queer people will soon face a barrage of hate, which starts at the top and trickles down into the classroom and home.

5. Change the legal strategy.

Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who toppled the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as Mississippi's same-sex-adoption ban, thinks activists should shift their focus to blatantly hateful and extreme laws that explicitly license religious-based discrimination.

6. Don't lose hope, and don't back down.

The past eight years have marked a new era of openness in the United States. [...] Marriage equality marked a point of no return, and we are still just beginning to experience the benefits that will flow from that decision. We will not retreat; we will not become invisible; we will not stop demanding the full array of rights that are owed to us under the law.

In reference to National Geographic's Gender Revolution issue, The Federalist's Walt Heyer writes that "Transgenderism is today's popular social delusion." For once, it's not completely clueless pontificating from the right-wing site. Heyer writes that "like Avery Jackson, I was a cross-dressing boy at the age of nine:"

Eventually, I did become a female transgender. I was approved and underwent the full range of hormone therapy and surgeries and legally changed my identity. I lived life as a female, Laura Jensen, for eight years. All too late I realized transgenderism was all "B.S."--a surgical masquerade to superficially project a change of gender. Like others who elect to live the transgender life, I painfully discovered it was only a temporary fix to deeper pain.

A cover photo is visually exciting and can persuade young people that male and female gender models are not fixed, when they are. Photos like the one on the cover of National Geographic can encourage a child to question his or her gender and sex and act out accordingly.

Well, that didn't take long to go off the rails. "The activists' theory of gender fluidity, or gender spectrum," he writes, "suggests that God-designated genders of male and female indicated by biology is too limiting."

No, the scientific theories of biology indicate the spectrum.

Heyer also argues that "changing gender is encouraged, nurtured, and celebrated seemingly everywhere."

Really?!

When he claims that "Young people are told transgender feelings are permanent, immutable, physically deep-seated in the brain, and can never change," I can only respond [citation needed]. Heyer continues by accusing NatGeo editor of "recklessly using the magazine and this child to promote gender questioning and the theory of gender as a spectrum:"

The magazine cover is designed to change minds and influence gender transition. [...] It completely abandons any pretense of covering male-female gender inequality. Like the special issue of the magazine, the "documentary" [a two-hour feature of trans kids and their parents] is an indoctrination for the activist transgender point of view. It endorses cross-gender affirmation and transition for children to the exclusion of any other less-invasive treatment.

This Is Child Abuse

Studies have shown that childhood gender dysphoria does not inevitably continue into adulthood. An overwhelming 77 to 94 percent of gender dysphoric children do not become adults with gender dysphoria. Given this, it's social, medical, and psychological malpractice to push young children to lop off or sew on body parts and take highly charged cross-sex hormones that can further destabilize their prepubescent bodies and minds, especially when they are highly likely to regret what grown adults pushed them into before they were able to sort through such life-altering decisions.

The study, "Ethical issues raised by the treatment of gender-variant prepubescent children," explains this more realistically:

Gender dysphoria in childhood does not inevitably continue into adulthood, and only 6 to 23 percent of boys and 12 to 27 percent of girls treated in gender clinics showed persistence of their gender dysphoria into adulthood. Further, most of the boys' gender dysphoria desisted, and in adulthood, they identified as gay rather than as transgender.

The study also describes treatment at a California clinic "where a child is supported in socially transitioning to a cross-gendered role without medical or surgical intervention:"

As in the other two clinics, only at the onset of puberty are medications administered to suppress development of unwanted secondary sex characteristics. This approach presumes that an adult transgender outcome is to be expected, that these children can be identified, and that children who transition but then desist can revert to their natal gender if necessary with no ill effects.

This cautious but compassionate approach is nowhere near the "child abuse" alleged by Heyer:

Given that how any gender identity develops is an unknown, is it not possible that opposing a wish to explore cross-gender expression is harmful to some children? Whether they persist or desist in their transgender behavior or identity, children may internalize disapproving attitudes toward atypical gender behavior and expression (transphobia), with possible negative consequences for adult development.

20170103-genderrevolution.jpg

Returning to NatGeo, their Gender Revolution issue (above) features an editor's note from Susan Goldberg that discusses nine-year-old Avery, the subject of the left-hand cover photo:

She has lived as an openly transgender girl since age five, and she captured the complexity of the conversation around gender. Today, we're not only talking about gender roles for boys and girls--we're talking about our evolving understanding of people on the gender spectrum. [...]

We hope these stories about gender will spark thoughtful conversations about how far we have come on this topic--and how far we have left to go.

Yep, that sounds like indoctrination all right.

The issue also examines how science is helping us understand gender, describing a 14-year-old, identified only as "E," who, the author writes, "searched for the right label for her gender identity:"

"Transgender" didn't quite fit, she told me. For one thing she was still using her birth name and still preferred being referred to as "she." And while other trans kids often talk about how they've always known they were born in the "wrong" body, she said, "I just think I need to make alterations in the body I have, to make it feel like the body I need it to be." By which she meant a body that doesn't menstruate and has no breasts, with more defined facial contours and "a ginger beard." Does that make E a trans guy? A girl who is, as she put it, "insanely androgynous"? Or just someone who rejects the trappings of traditional gender roles altogether?

Superseding high school biology, the piece points out that "on occasion, XX and XY don't tell the whole story:"

Today we know that the various elements of what we consider "male" and "female" don't always line up neatly, with all the XXs--complete with ovaries, vagina, estrogen, female gender identity, and feminine behavior--on one side and all the XYs--testes, penis, testosterone, male gender identity, and masculine behavior--on the other. It's possible to be XX and mostly male in terms of anatomy, physiology, and psychology, just as it's possible to be XY and mostly female.

The actions of the SRY gene or conditions such as complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) may mean, for example that:

The baby looks female, with a clitoris and vagina, and in most cases will grow up feeling herself to be a girl.

Which is this baby, then? Is she the girl she believes herself to be? Or, because of her XY chromosomes--not to mention the testes in her abdomen--is she "really" male?

Those gray-area questions lead to the observation that "Gender is an amalgamation of several elements:"

...chromosomes (those X's and Y's), anatomy (internal sex organs and external genitals), hormones (relative levels of testosterone and estrogen), psychology (self-defined gender identity), and culture (socially defined gender behaviors). And sometimes people who are born with the chromosomes and genitals of one sex realize that they are transgender, meaning they have an internal gender identity that aligns with the opposite sex--or even, occasionally, with neither gender or with no gender at all.

20170103-identitysexexpression.jpg

The article also points out that "one finding in transgender research has been robust: a connection between gender nonconformity and autism spectrum disorder (ASD):"

According to John Strang, a pediatric neuropsychologist with the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Gender and Sexuality Development Program at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C., children and adolescents on the autism spectrum are seven times more likely than other young people to be gender nonconforming. And, conversely, children and adolescents at gender clinics are six to 15 times more likely than other young people to have ASD.

Far from the aggressive push toward "malpractice" that Heyer sees, the medical consensus is cautious one, that "biology can be put on hold for a while with puberty-blocking drugs that can buy time for gender-questioning children:"

If the child reaches age 16 and decides he or she is not transgender after all, the effects of puberty suppression are thought to be reversible: The child stops taking the blockers and matures in the birth sex. But for children who do want to transition at 16, having been on blockers might make it easier. They can start taking cross-sex hormones and go through puberty in the preferred gender--without having developed the secondary sex characteristics, such as breasts, body hair, or deep voices, that can be difficult to undo.

The Endocrine Society recommends blockers for adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Nonetheless, the blockers' long-term impact on psychological development, brain growth, and bone mineral density are unknown--leading to some lively disagreement about using them on physically healthy teens.

George Michael

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George Michael, writes Slate, was the gay icon we didn't know we needed, beginning with the "I Want Your Sex" controversy back in the Faith era:

At a time when the mainstream associated gay sex with the AIDS crisis, Michael was finally a pop icon who exalted its joys. Here was a gay celebrity who loved to fuck.

A decade later, a different notoriety was obtained when he "was arrested for a 'lewd act' in a public bathroom by an undercover cop:"

1998 was an early time to come out in our contemporary history, and when Michael did, he wore the cultural stigma as a badge of honor. Michael may not have had the freedom he craved in his own life, but he certainly cleared the way for others. [...] Michael showed no remorse for the act itself. Instead, he gave an almost insouciant response: "I don't feel ashamed and I don't believe I should," he told CNN.

Michael further embraced the incident later that year, when he released the single "Outside," a disco anthem that celebrates cruising and flagrant, illicit public displays of affection. The single works as a statement of Michael's own personal coming-out process: What was once veiled in subtext had been brought wide into the open. [...] It's a bold, radical, campy video that still feels remarkably defiant in today's political environment.

Also interesting is George Michael's interview in the October 2004 issue of GQ:

George went into therapy as soon as Anselmo was diagnosed [in 1991], and it was three years after his death [in 1993] before he felt able to consider another relationship. Then, in 1996, he met Kenny Goss the chisel-jawed Texan who shares his life to this day. [...]

"My biggest problem in life is fear of more loss. I fear Kenny's death far more than my own. I don't want to outlive him. I'd rather have a short life and not have to go through being torn apart again.

The piece also notes "another George Michael revelation... sexually, he swings both ways:"

"When I walk into a restaurant I check out the women before the men, because they're more glamorous. If I wasn't with Kenny, I would have sex with women, no question," he enthuses. "But I would never be able to have a relationship with a woman because I'd feel like a fake. I regard sexuality as being about who you pair off with, and I wouldn't pair off with a woman and stay with her. Emotionally, I'rn definitely a gay man."

"George had worked out he was bisexual," the piece observes, "during the making of Wham!'s second album" way back in 1984:

He told Andrew Ridgeley and close friends immediately, and was ready to tell the world. "I had very little fear about it, but basically my straight friends talked me out of it. I think they thought as I was bisexual, there was no need to. [...] But it's amazing how much more complicated it became because I didn't come out in the early days. I often wonder if my career would have taken a different path if I had."

"One of the complications," the piece continues, "was not being able to be completely honest with people:"

"I used to sleep with women quite a lot in the Wham! days but never felt it could develop into a relationship because I knew that, emotionally, I was a gay man. I didn't want to commit to them but I was attracted to them. Then I became ashamed that I might be using them. I decided I had to stop, which I did when I began to worry about AIDS, which was becoming prevalent in Britain. Although I had always had safe sex, I didn't want to sleep with a woman without telling her I was bisexual. I felt that would be irresponsible. Basically, I didn't want to have that uncomfortable conversation that might ruin the moment, so I stopped sleeping with them."

A 1999 Advocate interview asks, "Why, after a career-long battle to keep his personal life away from the press, is George Michael sitting down with The Advocate and doing what he swore he'd never do?"

"People are still telling me to be careful," he sighed. "But at the end of the day, all I can be is honest. I've reached a very good point of self-acceptance. I don't have any shame about my sexuality. I don't think people are going to desert me because they know more about me--"

Here are some bits from the Q&A:

How did your father react to your arrest?

He was great, actually. He called me the next day and said, "Tell them to fuck off. You are who you are." I was very impressed with that.

"What's really interesting," he said later, "is that it [revealing his bisexuality] didn't stop the women:"

It actually made the women more involved. It was a challenge. I wasn't really gay; they could change me. I got that a lot. I slept with quite a lot of women, especially at the end of my Wham! days, because I was still thinking, Maybe I could still be straight. It would make life easier. But suddenly it turned into a time where bisexuality seemed to be the most dangerous form of sexuality--and I suppose it still is--so I felt like the bad guy. I couldn't have it both ways with AIDS around.

AIDS changed what bisexuality meant. It used to be a safer place to be.

And quite cool. You just had more options. But gay and straight people look at me with suspicion when I say, "I'm bisexual." They want me to be one way or another.

What's in a name?

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Christina Cauterucci ruminates on the label lesbian and young queer women. She discusses her peer group and mentions that "Some of our resistance to the term lesbian arose, no doubt, from internalized homophobic notions of lesbians as unfashionable, uncultured homebodies:"

We were convinced that our cool clothes and enlightened, radical paradigm made us something other than lesbians, a label chosen by progenitors who lived in a simpler time with stricter gender boundaries. But with a time-honored label comes history and meaning; by leaving lesbian behind, we were rejecting, in part, a strong identity and legacy that we might have claimed as our own. While all identities are a product of their respective historical moments, starting from scratch is a daunting prospect. And so we're left in a gray area of nomenclature, searching for threads of unity in our pluralism, wondering what, if any, role lesbian can play in a future that's looking queerer by the day.

Cultural connotations aside, the main reason my friend and I felt (and still feel) more comfortable with queer than lesbian was practical: The word lesbian, insofar as it means a woman who is primarily attracted to women, does not correctly describe our reality. My personal queer community comprises cisgender and transgender women; transgender men and transmasculine people; and people who identify as non-binary or genderqueer.

"Losing lesbian" she points out, "means losing a well-defined commonality around which to socialize and mobilize:"

Perhaps that commonality was never as common as it seemed; at any rate, it's clear that lesbian doesn't properly explain our collective identity any more. But as queer women and our comrades mourn the losses of lesbian bars and media outlets the nation over, it's worth wondering how we might expect a dance party or magazine to cater to us when our identities and politics appear to prevent us from sharing a name.

She observes that "Queer people have generations of experience reclaiming words and cultural traditions that weren't explicitly meant for us:"

The tea dance is a brilliant example of our capacity for reinvention and asserting belonging from within. If queers can transform a formal social gathering for biscuit-nibbling heterosexuals into a mainstay of the gay party circuit, imagine what we could do with lesbian.

Irin Carmon's "My Sluthood, Myself" gives us some details of her long dry spell, followed by a Craigslist Casual Encounters hookup that prompts her to declare that "sluthood is scary:"

Because we've been taught to fear it all our lives, and that training doesn't just go away because we understand the agenda behind it. And because there are real risks involved. Society likes to punish slutty women. And so do a lot of individual men, some of whom frequent Craigslist Casual Encounters.

I left my roommate a note telling her what I'd done and where I was going and to call me at 11 and if I didn't answer to call the police. (What they were going to do about the fact that her 30-something roommate had gone on a CE date and wasn't home after two hours I mercifully didn't wonder at the time.) And then I went down to the local bar and met him.

You've probably already guessed that I didn't get axe murdered. Instead, we spent a lovely hour chatting over a couple of glasses of wine, he used the phrase "male hegemony" critically in a sentence (entirely unprompted by me), and then he asked me if I wanted to go back to his place, which was nearby. And once again, to my shock and terror and excitement, I found that I did. Though not before asking him for his address, calling my roommate with it in front of him, and letting him know I had extensive self-defense training.

Reader, I fucked him. Three rounds worth that night. And it was awesome.

After talking a bit about privilege, she says, "I'm telling you this because it's important for everyone to understand:"

Sluthood isn't a disease, or a wrong path, or a trend that's ruining our youth. It isn't just for detached, unemotional women who "fuck like men," (as if that actually meant something), consequences be damned. It isn't ever inevitable that sluthood should inspire violence or shame. Sluthood isn't just a choice we should let women make because women should be free to make even "bad" choices. It's a choice we should all have access to because it has the potential to be liberating. Healing. Soul-fulfilling. I'm telling you this because sluthood saved me, in a small but life-altering way, and I want it to be available to you if you ever think it could save you, too.

Interestingly, Kate Carraway opines that queer women can't be sluts:

There's a crucial difference between a straight slut and a queer slut, and it's the shame factor. But it's not shame in the way you might think.

She continues by observing that this is "because 'slut' doesn't exist as an idea without its association with shame:"

This is why there's no original analog for a "male slut," why we have to dredge up horrible jargon like "himbo" and "man-whore." These all provocative-on-purpose jokes cannot be taken as seriously as to call a woman a "slut."

"A slut without shame is not a slut at all," she continues, "and a queer slut is, mostly, freed from all of the still-in-effect stigmas and judgments of straight straight-up sluts:"

This is because the shame of "slut" is specifically about the fear and subsequent judgment of women making themselves available and in some ways vulnerable to men. But we're not so much worried about a so-called slut's emotional well-being as we are afraid of her being used up, spoiled, pregnant with a fatherless baby -- because all of that stuff is bad for women, individually and collectively.

But these fears don't -- can't, really -- translate to the lesbian community.

I'm not sure that I completely agree with her take on the semantics of sluthood, but it's worth considering.

Reuters' Daniel Trotta discusses the early transitioning of trans kids:

Increasingly across the United States, doctors and parents of transgender children are embracing their identity as soon it starts becoming obvious, sometimes around age 3. Many say they are finding much greater chances of happiness and well-being when children are nurtured in their new gender identity at such a young age.

Although there is not a consensus on the issue, some clinicians who work with transgender children have concluded that when children persistently identify as the nonconforming gender, the best course is to socially transition, or live as the other gender, even at age 3.

Other specialists in the field advocate a more cautious approach because the long-term psychosexual results for young children can vary widely and unpredictably.

"Whatever the age," Trotta stresses, "parental support is crucial:"

Fifteen percent of transgender Americans say they ran away from home or were kicked out of the house, according to a survey released on Dec. 8 of nearly 28,000 transgender adults.

The same study, by advocacy group the National Center for Transgender Equality, found transgender adults were nine times more likely than the general population to attempt suicide.

But transgender people with supportive families were far less likely to attempt suicide, be homeless or experience serious psychological distress - by nearly 20-point margins compared with those who lacked family support, the survey said.

Johanna Olson-Kennedy, medical director LA's Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children's Hospital concurs:

Because prepubescent transgender children require no more physical change than a new hairstyle and clothes, the initial transition is completely reversible, Olson-Kennedy said.

Of some 1,000 patients she has dealt with, only one switched back to the natal gender, and without any harm, she said.

bromosexual buddies

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The Conversation discusses bromosexual friendships:

For a long time, friendships between gay men and straight men - what some now call "bromosexual" friendships - were uncommon. Homophobia was likely one reason; another was that straight men probably assumed didn't they have much in common with gay men.

But lately, "bromosexual" friendships have started to receive more attention, acceptance and interest.

The article asks, "which straight men are the most likely to befriend gay men, and vice versa? And what determines whether these friendships prosper?"

For one, the timing of when these friendships form may be crucial. We know that gay men are now coming out at an earlier age. Gay men who disclose their sexual orientation to their straight male friends earlier in life may be able to build more open and honest friendships with them into adulthood.

Second, recent research has argued that gender and sexual orientation might not be as black and white as previously thought, which opens up new avenues for exploring how gay and straight men can relate to one another. If a straight guy and his gay male friend are less rigid about their masculinity and sexuality, they'll probably be more likely to discuss details about their sexual and romantic lives openly with one another.

These discussions are particularly important because they normalize same-gender attraction. Friendships also strengthen when each side discloses personal information, which can include discussing sexual experiences.

The NYT piece mentioned in the article, "The Rise of the 'Bromosexual' Friendship," has a wealth of anecdotal tales--and quotes Michael LaSala (author of Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child) on the difference between gay and straight worlds:

He relates this to friendships between those of a different race. "Some of us who are white are rightfully accused of being 'colorblind,'" Mr. LaSala said. "There's an equivalent for straight men who can be 'culture blind.'"

Anabelle Bernard Fournier writes that even straight people should explore their sexuality:

Research into the development of heterosexual identity in young adults shows that the most secure and happiest heterosexual individuals actually came to adopt this identity through exploration and experimentation.

One particular study by Sally L. Archer and Jeremy A. Gray, published in the journal Identity in January 2009, showed that heterosexual people with the highest sexual satisfaction and happiness were those who had consciously explored their sexuality.

"We can come to a few conclusions about having a healthy sexuality," she writes, "based on this study:"

The first: sexual exploration is healthy. The participants who had explored different options for their sexual identity scored the highest on sexual health measures. It means that taking an active part in choosing your own sexual identity is a good way to ensure that you'll have a happy sexual life.

Another conclusion coming from the study is that there is no difference in gender when it comes to identity achievement and foreclosure [and] sexual exploration is as common in men as in women.

This is good news. It means that for men, exploring sexual identities is more acceptable than it used to be. There is much less stigma attached to men trying on and exploring sexual identities; the heterosexual identity is not as widely assumed as it used to be.

The third and last thing I want to note from this study is that sexual exploration leads to better sexual decisions.

I've used a food analogy before: If we never stepped out of our comfort zones to try something new, we'd still be drinking breast milk (and/or formula) for sustenance. How many favorites things would we be slighting by doing so--and why should [adult, consensual] sexuality be any different?

Before taking a look at the study and its conclusions, here is a brief vocabulary lesson on the four identity statuses:

Diffusion is represented by a lack of exploration and commitment. Foreclosure is represented by commitment without benefit of exploration of alternatives. Moratorium is signified by the presence of exploration with a desire for commitment in the near future. Identity achievement is characterized by an exploration of alternatives that results in a commitment that feels right to the individual.

The following point, in line with other observations about sexual fluidity, struck me as particularly relevant:

Men were significantly more likely to be committed without exploration (foreclosed) about sexuality [...] whereas many women appeared to be seriously weighing options.

Eliason's 1995 study of "self-identified heterosexual university students in the United States" noted that:

...the majority of narratives reflected a foreclosed or diffuse process of establishing the participants' sexual identities. In line with the default notion of heterosexuality, the most common theme of the narratives was the statement that the participant had never thought about his or her sexual identity.

trans voices

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Tyler Ford's piece on my life without gender [from August 2015; I'm a bit late to it] is quite an intriguing read. Ford relates that, "At 17, I was sitting in a psychology class when I found myself admiring a girl in the corner of the room:"

Instead of feeling relief upon discovering that I was what other people would call a lesbian, I felt guilt, as though I were an impostor. I knew I was not like the girl I admired from the back of the classroom. I was not like any girl I had ever known. I did not know any more than this.

Ford continues with the observation that, "Learning about the existence of transgender people for the first time, at college, allowed me to start imagining a future for myself:"

Researching trans issues became a round-the-clock hobby: instead of going to class, I endlessly watched videos of trans men at various stages in their transitions, read blogs about gender identity, researched the effects of hormones, and tried to piece together my identity and my future. After eight months of exploration, I decided I wanted to start hormone replacement therapy, and I started coming out to friends and family as a transgender man.

"I came out to myself as a non-binary person," Ford continues, "someone who does not identify with either binary gender (man or woman). [...] I have been out as an agender, or genderless, person for about a year now:"

To me, this simply means having the freedom to exist as a person without being confined by the limits of the western gender binary. I wear what I want to wear, and do what I want to do, because it is absurd to limit myself to certain activities, behaviours or expressions based on gender. People don't know what to make of me when they see me, because they feel my features contradict one another. They see no room for the curve of my hips to coexist with my facial hair; they desperately want me to be someone they can easily categorise. My existence causes people to question everything they have been taught about gender, which in turn inspires them to question what they know about themselves, and that scares them. Strangers are often desperate to figure out what genitalia I have, in the hope that my body holds the key to some great secret and unavoidable truth about myself and my gender. It doesn't. My words hold my truth. My body is simply the vehicle that gives me the opportunity to express myself.

As fetching as Ford's miniskirts are, trans bodybuilder (and former Marine, world champion powerlifter and father to three sons) Janae Marie Kroczaleski reminds us that there are other ways to be trans. Here are some interview excerpts:

When was the first time you told someone you felt different?

I never said a word about it to anyone until I was 23.

In the Marines, a few of my buddies sensed there was something different about me. Even though I found women attractive, dating relationships were always very difficult. I was always an alpha male and a leader -- someone who had to be top dog. But when it came to relationships I was very uncomfortable in the male role. It took a long time until I could put two and two together, and it was confusing and frustrating.

Today, you describe yourself as gender-fluid or nonbinary. How do you describe that?

It means I don't fit neatly into our male-female system. [...] So right now I don't really fit into any of the boxes society tries to put us in regarding gender or sexuality. I think it's going to take a unique partner to find me attractive -- whether that's a woman, a man or someone like me.

I've always been powerfully attracted to women and so far, I haven't felt a connection with a man like that; but if that were to happen I would be open to it. These days I am much less concerned about "what" someone is and am more interested in who they are.

If I think something is going to make me happy, I have no problem following the adventure.

The ever-wonderful Janet Mock declares that we will not be forced to be silent, writing that "we're going to have to fight. But we've always being fighting:"

"What we have to do is ensure that all those people who are othered, whether they're disabled folks, trans folks, undocumented folks, queer folks, women--that everyone bands together to stand up in power, saying we will not be forced to be silent," Mock explained. "We will not have our rights taken away. We will develop deep coalitions that are intersectional, that are deliberate, that are clear about the kind of world and kind of country we want to live in."

resistance agenda

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Robert Reich proposes a 100-Day resistance agenda against Trump--everything from getting Democrats to oppose Trump's agenda, marching and demonstrating, boycotting all Trump brands, writing letters to the editor, op-eds, and social media posts to investigative journalism ("We need investigative journalists to dig into the backgrounds of all of Trump's appointees, in the White House, the Cabinet, Ambassadors and judges"), launching lawsuits ("Throw sand in the gears"), and fomenting intellectual opposition ("Take Trump on where he's weakest--with serious ideas. I'll try to do my part. You do yours, too.").

TruthOut looks at the long con on Trump voters and predicts "a chance that Donald Trump will be impeached:"

If so, the Republicans will lead the effort, and it will probably take place within a year of his inauguration. At that point, the ultra-"conservative" Republican establishment will get what it could never accomplish at the polls -- President Mike Pence.

Pence supports the privatization of public education, favored "an Indiana law that would have guaranteed the right for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people," and signed "the most reactionary anti-abortion bill in the country." Salon's Nico Lang shows us that the backlash against LGBT rights has already begun, writing that "Over the next four years LGBT rights will face a sustained challenge from entities on the far right:"

Although Georgia's "religious liberty" bill passed both houses of the state's General Assembly, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it last April. The legislation, which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers based on "sincerely held religious beliefs," was a virtual clone of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in Indiana last year. That law, which was later amended, cost the state a reported $60 million in economic backlash.

Senate Bill 242 "could force educators to out queer and trans students to their parents," Senate Bill 92 "will void local ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination," and the so-called "Women's Privacy Act" would "force transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth:"

The Texas Association of Business has warned that passing such laws could have a detrimental impact on states. The group estimated that the three proposed bills could cost Texas as much as .5 percent of its GDP every year they're enacted. That doesn't sound like much until you do the math. The Texas economy brought in $1.4 trillion in 2013 (the most recent reliable economic measure); at the estimated rate that's a loss of $7 billion a year.

Radical Faeries

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Matt Baume's look back at four decades of Radical Faeries asks, "What the heck is a Radical Faerie?"

That's a hard question to answer -- intentionally. For some people, it's a movement. For others, it's a way of life. And for some, it's a fun pastime.

But whatever it is, its roots were deeply serious. Even before the group's inception, the Radical Faeries were devoted to challenging the status quo, and to queer liberation. Though decentralized

and lacking much structure at all, they are all universally dedicated to freedom: politically, artistically and sexually.

"Those lifestyles were adopted by free thinkers like Harry Hay," he continues, "previously an organizer with the Communist Party and Mattachine Society:"

Because the Radical Faeries are now so popular and unmanaged, it's likely they'll always exist in some form or another. But that also means a dilution of their founding goals -- far from being a radical movement, now they are often regarded as simply an aesthetic. But for those who take Radical Faeriedom seriously, it remains a driving force that pushes queer people to recognize that they are always free to push boundaries and transgress.

Push onward, Radical Faeries--you are much more dangerous than clowns like Milo Y.

representation

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GLAAD's annual report on LGBT characters on TV, the "Where We Are on TV" study, "looks at the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and streaming services for the 2016-2017 TV season:"

  • Of the 895 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming in the coming year, 43 (4.8%) were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer. This is the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars GLAAD has ever found. There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters.

Racist and sexist under-representation are still evident:

  • While this year's report marks a record-high percentage of black series regulars on broadcast (20%), black women remain underrepresented at only 38% of all black series regular characters.
  • This year, 44% of regular characters on primetime broadcast programming are women, which is an increase of one percentage point from last year but still greatly underrepresents women who make up 51% of the population.

The Advocate proclaims that "TV has never been queerer," although LGBTQ Nation notes that "More than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters died on scripted broadcast, cable and streaming series this year:"

While TV remains far ahead of film in gay representations, the medium "failed queer women this year" by continuing the "harmful 'bury your gays' trope," the report said. [...] It's part of a decade-long pattern in which gay or transgender characters are killed to further a straight character's storyline, GLAAD said, sending what it called the "dangerous" message that gay people are disposable.

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's CEO, comments that:

"While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it's important to remember that numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community," said Ellis.

forgiveness?

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20161019-hate.jpg

"By now you've probably seen this disgusting bumper sticker [seen above; visit Snopes for details] depicting a figure outfitted in a Confederate flag kicking a figure in a rainbow flag," writes Robbie Medwed at NCRM:

In the recent days, though, there's been another drawing that's surfaced that's been shared widely on Facebook and other social media sites. It depicts the same figures, except the rainbow-clad person is embracing the Confederate figure with the title, "Forgiveness 2016."

20161019-forgiveness.jpg

My response to this new graphic? Very simply, it's "no."

Here I will quote Medwed at length:

I get that the intention is good. I get that people want to cross lines and build bridges and all of that happy touchy-feely emotionally-satisfying mumbo jumbo. It's also incredibly naive and abusive.

For decades LGBT people have been tasked with forgiving those who want to cause us real harm. We've had to fight (and we're still fighting) for the right to simply live in happiness and safety - and with every battle won we're supposed to forgive those who worked to harm us, without any repentance or apology on their part.

The people represented by the Confederate figure are abusers and oppressors. They have dedicated themselves to tearing apart our families, to imprisoning us for existing, to demonizing us for using the bathrooms, for inflicting violence upon us, and so much more. [...]

If someone who was anti-LGBT wants to apologize for all of the harm they've caused us - if they want to actively take ownership of the damage they've done and re-dedicate themselves to undoing it? I will gladly sit down with them and work towards forgiveness, without a doubt. But true repentance takes work. It doesn't happen over night, and it has to come with the understanding that much of the harm that's been caused can never be undone.

To expect LGBT people to blindly forgive those who cause us harm simply because it will make our oppressors feel better about themselves? Absolutely not.

school safety

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Despite progress on many fronts, LGBT students are still not safe at school [remember the trans kid forced to wear an armband?]. Non-binary trans student Salem Whit's experiences attending high school in Spring Grove PA involved being taunted with insults such as "What is that thing?"

"I skipped classes," they admitted. "I quit every extracurricular. I stopped participating in sports, gym, and drama--anything that separated us by gender. I even stopped talking for a while, because my gender dysphoria caused me to really hate the sound of my own voice." At 16, feeling lost and lonely, Salem attempted suicide.

"According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's new report, "Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited" (PDF), such experiences are all too common:

LGBT youth in middle and high school have lower grades, more attendance problems, and are less likely to complete high school than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. Many experience long-term emotional effects from the bullying, harassment, and anti-LGBT bias they face as students. Life may have gotten better for many in the LGBT community in the last decade, but for LGBT youth in middle and high school, there is much room for improvement.

While the 2015 report shows minor, gradual improvements have occurred for LGBT youth in schools over the last 10 years, heterosexual and cisgender students still experience less victimization and better grades and are more hopeful about their futures than their LGBT counterparts. This difference in school experience between LGBT and non-LGBT youth may have lifelong consequences for LGBT students. [emphasis added]

The curriculum issue ("only 20 percent of students reported learning about LGBT topics in any of their classes"), while appalling, pales by comparison.

unerased

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Dawne Moon explains how, at least for her, queerness erased bisexuality. She writes that "Bisexual as a term seemed to apolitical, too evasive, too namby-pamby, too binary; it sounded too much like a disavowal of gayness rather than an avowal of anything:"

For twenty-five years or so, I've identified as queer -- a queer person, a queer activist, a queer-theoretically informed sociologist.

During this time, I sat uncomfortably among those queers who for some reason seemed realer to me -- mostly gay men and lesbians, for whom queerness reflected their edginess and intellectual incisiveness. Looking back, as certain as I was that I was bisexual, I was afraid in some ways to be identified as bisexual.

She notes that "At a Christian conference [in Fall 2015], someone caused me to shift my whole paradigm:"

Eliel Cruz was leading a workshop on bisexuality at a conference of The Reformation Project. He spoke of bi-invisibility and bi-erasure, concepts developed by bisexuals in the 1990s, but that I had completely ignored, so busy was I making myself fit in. Reading up on it later, I learned from an article by legal scholar Kenji Yoshino that every sex survey that has ever been done has found at least as many bisexual men and women as gays and lesbians. Far from being a teensy and inconsequential minority, bisexuals actually make up half, or more, of the LGBT population. I actually WORKED on one of those studies as a graduate student, and I never knew this. Erasure and invisibility are apt terms.

Her comment that "queer politics is just beginning to open up to the vast ranges of human possibility" should give the entire community pause.


07:41/08:01
The infamous Milo "dangerous faggot" Yiannopoulos "has made a name for himself by becoming a professional internet troll:"

He would have you believe that the danger lies in his message, that he is somehow speaking truth on a topic other people wouldn't dare touch. However, if you look closely enough you see that he isn't actually saying anything worthwhile; he's admitted that himself. He's simply spouting the most inflammatory and controversial diatribes he can concoct. And as we all know, there's nothing dangerous in that for the speaker. It might even lead to a presidential nomination.

Milo is not a dangerous faggot; Milo is a lazy writer who lacks the capacity to receive or reflect human compassion.

Bringing the focus back to his slogan, the piece observes that "There is nothing dangerous about hiding behind self-created controversies for the sake of expanding your particular brand of hate:"

There are plenty of dangerous faggots in the world; I would hope I am considered to be one of them. To be a person who seeks the truth in a culture that has become fact-averse. To be a person who welcomes discourse and leans in to difficult conversations with the hope of learning and of bringing people together. To be a person who is unafraid to say "black lives matter" and "trans is beautiful" in a society that clearly does not always agree. To be a person so in love with their country they will stop at no lengths to help it fulfill its promise, when their country has not always loved them back in the same way. Being a dangerous faggot does not mean saying things that put others in danger; it means loving others enough to put yourself in danger for them.

When considering culture in this manner, the question of https://aeon.co/ideas/can-liberal-values-be-absolute-or-is-that-a-contradiction can liberal values be absolute? comes to the fore:

Is liberalism an idea fit only for the contemporary West, proper to this particular historical, social and geographical context? Or is liberalism right for everyone, for all peoples and ages and cultures? That is to say, should liberal values be seen as relative or absolute?

In fact, the answer is neither. It is possible to steer between localist relativism on the one hand and ahistorical absolutism on the other. [...] What separates the liberal West from the brutality of its past is several hundred years of change, premised on the rejection of tradition and a refusal to be swayed by the argument that 'this is how we do things'. Liberal values cannot be defended by looking backward and inward, since they arise from a perspective whose gaze is towards the future and the greater party of humankind.

Even those who defend diversity in values and practices often appeal to a relativism of their own. Liberals should be tolerant even of those who are illiberal and intolerant, because those are 'their' values, grounded in 'their' culture and history. This leads to a worrying moral permissiveness, both at home and abroad.

Marcuse's repressive tolerance is relevant here, as are other caveats:

If liberalism cannot be local and relativistic, it equally should not slide into an uncompromising absolutism and universalism. Insisting that the current manifestation of liberalism in the contemporary West is the timeless, universal, absolute guide to moral life is as fraught and historically blinkered as the appeal to 'our values'.

"Values are right and good only," the piece continues, "to the extent that they allow people to live acceptable lives together. This is the pragmatic middle way:"

In attempting to draw the pragmatist middle line between relativism and absolutism, Western liberal democracies will have a new message for their immigrant populations. Newcomers should accept liberal values, not simply because they happen to be the law of the land, nor because they are timeless ultimate truths, but because they have been found to work by those who have tried them, because the lives they allow are good lives for the livers, because they have permitted the cultures that abide by them to achieve unprecedented safety, health, dignity and wellbeing.

But liberals should also be open to the possibility that listening to these new voices will change the way they see things. Westerners might learn something valuable, just as their cultures did when they started to listen to those once excluded, such as Jews, women, blacks and the poor.

(Not to mention the LGBT community, etc...) It's all the more important that those once-marginalized voices include more than empty provocateurs such as Milo Y.

super-power bottom

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Charles Pulliam-Moore discusses the latest events in the Midnighter and Apollo series:

At some point between rinsing plates and hanging them up to dry, the couple take advantage of the fact that they're finally alone and get down to having sex right there in the kitchen. The moment's spontaneous and intimate and reflective of the fact that Midnighter and Apollo have been on-again, off-again soulmates in various comics for nearly 20 years.

Though this isn't the first time that Midnighter and Apollo have been depicted being sexually intimate with one another, this particular scene of the two raised a number of fans' eyebrows because of the not-so-subtle implication that Midnighter, a hyper-violent, über-butch Batman analogue, is a bottom.

The event in question, as delineated by Fernando Blanco, looks like this:

20161012-powerbottom.jpg

Pulliam-Moore continues:

Last night, during a panel about representations of race and sexuality in comics at New York Comic Con, Midnighter & Apollo writer Steve Orlando described how a fan of the new book came up to him and said that he'd scored one for the bottoms.

Once the clapping and cheering died down a bit, Orlando insisted that sex scenes like this are an integral part of creating honest stories about queer people in pop culture. Considering the fact that we've seen characters like the Green Arrow performing cunnilingus on Black Canary, Orlando said, seeing Midnighter and Apollo getting down shouldn't really shock people.

Not in the civilized world perhaps--but the Bible Belt might be a different story.

Even in more complex, nuanced depictions of gay culture, bottom-shaming--the mockery of men who prefer to be the receptive partner during intercourse--is still fairly common. Like all forms of homophobia, bottom-shaming is tied to the idea that gayness and gay sex are feminine things and that feminine things are less-than.

In showing Midnighter as a bottom (though he could very well be versatile), Midnighter & Apollo is inviting its readers to broaden their understandings of gay men, gender, and homosexuality. Butch guys can be bottoms, feminine guys can be tops, none of that defines their masculinity.

...and comics can be sexy without featuring scantily-clad women.

Iceman goes clubbing

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I saw this Brian Andersen piece on why queer comic-book characters matter last week, but I didn't have time to dig into it. Anderson is right that Iceman's gay revelation is "an important moment," especially considering the media attention involved. "Iceman is a very well-known character in pop culture," he writes, and "His queerness is more impactful because it's hard to hate someone (even a fictional character) you've welcomed into your life for years:"

In case anyone was worried Iceman revealing his homosexuality was just a gimmick to sell comic books, this past week, in All-New X-Men issue 13, Iceman visits his first gay club. Two of his straight mutant friends actually drag him to the club in effort to help him meet another guy.

An entire issue spent on a gay character trying to meet, flirt with, and date another man in a major mainstream comic book? Progress never felt so wonderful.

This comic book is pretty special in just how nonspecial it actually is. It features just a regular, straightforward story. It wasn't touted as a "very special" issue. It wasn't polybagged to protect impressionable youth. It didn't have a parental warning label on it. Its cover was as typical as anything else on the comic book stands. We've come a long way since The Rawhide Kid, baby.

Bravo!

Milo Y's "puff piece"

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ThinkProgress issued a condemnation of Out's Milo Y puff piece, writing that "the profile negligently perpetuates harm against the LGBT community:"

Here is a white supremacist whose entire career has been built on the attention he can get for himself through provocation. His attacks against women, people of color, Muslims, transgender people, and basically anybody who doesn't like him are as malicious as they come, and he catalyzes his many "alt-right" followers to turn on any target he deems worthy of abuse. This puff piece -- complete with a cutesy clown photoshoot -- makes light of Yiannopoulos's trolling while simultaneously providing him a pedestal to further extend his brand of hatred. Indeed, he does so in the profile itself, openly slurring the transgender community, which Out published without any apparent concern.

The Advocate talked to Out magazine editor Aaron Hicklin:

"If LGBTQ media takes its responsibilities seriously we can't shy away from covering queer people who are at the center of this highly polarized election year," he wrote, "and we ask you to assess Milos Yiannopoulos, the focus of this profile, on his own words without mistaking them for ours."

Hicklin has taken to social media to insist that Out's profile is actually an example of the best of journalism.

trans Americans

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Carrie MacDonald writes about a trans student who was forced to wear an identifying armband in school:

It's a scary time to be transgender in America. It seems as though there is a new law being considered every week to deny transgender people equal rights.

Now,a Kenosha, Wisconsin school district is being sued for allegedly forcing one of its transgender students to wear a bracelet identifying him as transgender.

The lawsuit [PDF] claims, in part, that the school is guilty of:

"...Instructing guidance counselors to issue bright green wristbands to A.W. and any other transgender students at the school, to more easily monitor and enforce these students' restroom usage..."

Given that "Transgender persons of all ages are subject to harassment and ridicule on a daily basis," as MacDonald writes, "We need to do everything we can to combat these discriminatory practices and defeat these heinous laws." It's worth pointing out (yet again) that being trans is not a mental illness. Matt Miller provides a quick history lesson:

It's a bit embarrassing to remember that it was less than half a century ago that being gay was listed as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. The organization declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973 [which] marked an acknowledgment by the psychiatric profession that many of the problems seen in gay patients--depression, anxiety, suicide attempts--were the result of societal judgment and hostility, rather than the sexual orientation itself. In essence, that it was finally OK to be gay--or at least, it was no longer listed as a mental disorder.

Today, being transgender is facing the possibility of a similar paradigm shift as the medical establishment seeks to better understand the condition.

Miller later notes the following:

Research out of Mexico this week underscores the APA's findings that a hostile environment is to blame for the pain that transgender people experience and may help move the needle. The researchers, who interviewed 250 transgender people about their experiences, concluded:

Distress and dysfunction were very common, but not universal, and were more strongly predicted by experiences of social rejection and violence than by gender incongruence, consistent with the perspective that these reflect the result of stigmatisation and maltreatment rather than integral aspects of transgender identity.

Forcing trans kids to wear armbands certainly qualifies as stigma and maltreatment...

opened up

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HuffPo reports that Kristen Stewart is now "publicly confirming the rampant rumors about her sexuality for the first time." Elle UK quotes KStew as saying, "right now I'm just really in love with my girlfriend:"

"When I was dating a guy I was hiding everything that I did... But then it changed when I started dating a girl. I was like, 'Actually, to hide this provides the implication that I'm not down with it or I'm ashamed of it, so I had to alter how I approached being in public. It opened my life up and I'm so much happier."

At last week's National Religious Broadcasters Presidential Forum, Ben Carson claimed that gay rights are a commie plot:

Carson told host Eric Metaxas that "the First Amendment gives you the right to live according to your faith without being harassed," adding that "separation of church and state is not in the United States Constitution, it was a Supreme Court ruling a few decades ago where it actually entered the lexicon." In fact, the phrase was used by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. [...]

He called Obergefell "way out of whack" because it "impinges upon the ability of people to live according to their faith," saying that "as president I would really encourage them to come up with legislation that protects the livelihood and the freedom of people who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. There's no reason that those people should be persecuted in our society." [...]

He then reiterated his belief that gay rights are part of a larger conspiracy to destroy America, boasting that he knows the truth after reading "conspiracy books": "Many people have been mesmerized by the secular-progressive movement and they have come to accept it almost by osmosis, without recognizing what the implications are. I know fully what they're doing but that's because I do a lot of reading. I read conspiracy books, I read all kinds of books. I also read communist books and socialist books and I know about some of these plans that they have."


update (4:37pm):
16:27/
The postscript to this story is that Carson has ended http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/ben-carson-ends-his-weird-grifting-bigoted-ride-white-house "his weird, grifting, bigoted ride to the White House:"

While he is not formally suspending his presidential campaign, Ben Carson said in a statement today that he sees no path to becoming the GOP nominee.

Carson has tried to position himself as the nice candidate in a race of blowhards, although his kindly image probably wasn't helped by the fact that his campaign was apparently scamming supporters in order to make money for its own operatives. It also wasn't helped by Carson's many mystifying statements and his promotion of anti-gay and anti-Muslim bigotry.

Good riddance, Carson. I'll be glad to go back to ignoring you.

arguing marriage

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Paul Waldman at American Prospect discusses the super-sexy case against same-sex marriage, writing that "this amicus brief filed by Robert P. George and two colleagues...is so laughable that it shows how far his side has to reach." Waldman notes that "according to George's logic, if there isn't a penis going inside a vagina, they won't have a 'true marriage':"

So conservatives (at least some of them) have retreated to a point where they're arguing that marriage is only secondarily about things like commitment or responsibility or love. Most importantly, they say, it's about sex, and if there's no sex, or not the right kind of sex, then it isn't "true." Talk about redefining marriage.

On the hyperbole front, New Civil Rights Movement quotes RI state senator Harold Metts explaining that "a cosmic battle between God and Satan...is the reason he opposes same-sex marriage."

Zack Ford points out at ThinkProgress that the "greatest challenge for gay and lesbian civil rights [is] the fact that sexual orientation is an invisible identity:"

Unlike race or gender, it cannot so easily be superficially assessed. Thus, conservatives are counting on doubt and distrust, urging the Court to dismiss whatever gay people actually say about their lived experiences -- discount every individual's coming out story, ignore decades of gay culture and gay history, and disregard the scientific conclusions of the entire major medical community. In fact, opponents of equality regularly claim that "the gay agenda" is merely a conspiratorial quest to validate sinful behavior -- as opposed to an effort to allow millions of people to participate fairly in society. [...]

The magic words to look for if the Supreme Court legally recognizes gay people is "heightened scrutiny," which is how the Court determines that the government cannot target a specific group for unfair treatment without substantial justification. For example, classifications based on sex are subject to "intermediate scrutiny," and classifications based on race are subject to the highest level, "strict scrutiny."

Ford concludes:

The end result of these cases will determine the legality of same-sex marriage, but for the first time, the Court could actually acknowledge that gay people exist and thus deserve protection under the U.S. Constitution. On both a symbolic and legal level, the latter victory could be much more significant.

conversion

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AlterNet maintains that Christians are good at getting people to convert--to agnosticism or atheism:

If the Catholic bishops, their conservative Protestant allies, and other right-wing fundamentalists had the sole objective of decimating religious belief, they couldn't be doing a better job of it.

Sometimes education does the trick, sometimes life experience opens one's eyes, and "[s]ometimes a believer simply picks up a copy of the Bible or the Koran and discovers faith-shaking contradictions or immoralities there." Institutional homophobia is a primary factor in driving people out of the church, as it "makes Fred Phelps a far better evangelist for atheism than for his own gay-hating Westborough Baptist Church." Biblical literalism fails because "it is easy to find quotes from the Bible that are either scientifically absurd or morally repugnant:"

But the more they resort to strict authoritarianism, insularity and strict interpretation of Iron Age texts, the more people are wounded in the name of God and the more people are outraged. By making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition, they force at least some would-be believers to choose "nothing."

One notable part of these spiritual successes is their long-standing war on gays. Mel White's new book Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tells Us to Deny Gay Equality "examine[s] the innate cruelty and proto-fascism of the Christian right:"

"When I moved to Lynchburg it was a blue city, in spite of Liberty University being there," White said. "The reversal came with the collapse of our financial system [in 2008]. Suddenly everything blue was seen as costing too much money, including helping the poor. There was a revolt led by Fox News and its allies. It's difficult to find a restaurant or bar in Lynchburg that isn't playing Fox News. People quote Fox as though Fox is the arbiter of truth."

Tired of being scapegoated, White and his partner left:

"By the time Gary and I moved away from Lynchburg, a majority of Virginians seemed to be turning against gay people," White said. "They passed a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and new laws saying we cannot adopt [children] or provide foster care. More than half the people of Virginia seem to see us as the enemy." [...] "Too many of my sisters and brothers in the gay community don't seem to understand the power of religion," White lamented.

White points out that "[w]ithout religion there would be no homophobia:"

What other source of homophobia is there but six verses in the Bible? When Bible literalists preach that LGBT people are going to hell they become Christian terrorists. They use fear as their weapon, like all terrorists. They are seeking to deny our religious and civil rights. They threaten to turn our democracy into a fundamentalist theocracy. And if we don't reverse the trend, there is the very real possibility that in the end we will all be governed according to their perverted version of biblical law."

Here is Mr Fish's great illustration of religion's danger to humanity:

20120528-jesusjaws.jpg

Reason Being discusses the Catholic Church's war on America, observing that "The Church is waging a war on women, religious freedom, and general American values." This war is not merely punishing their own nuns, but by restricting the rights of non-Catholics to obtain contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Prime among these offensive campaigns is the Catholic Church's demand for special exemptions from healthcare laws:

One of the main problems that we are facing is the dishonesty of the Catholic leadership. Under the leadership of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Dolan the Church is trying desperately to frame this issue as a violation of their religious freedom. It is not. In truth, the goals of the Church would be a violation of the religious freedom of all non-Catholics in America. [...]

If the U.S. government were to pass a law that allowed Catholic institutions or businesses owned by Catholics to not offer contraceptive services it would violate the 'free exercise' clause of all non-Catholics. It would, in effect, be forcing people to live under the rules of Catholicism in many areas.

Commenting on the venality of the Vatican, RB cautions us to "not be fooled by the rhetoric of Rome:"

No one is forcing Catholic Churches to marry same-sex couples. Yet, this organization is fighting mightily to prevent unions between homosexuals. They are fighting against civil rights. When we remove religion from this conversation, the debate crumbles. The only opposition to same-sex marriage comes from religion in this country. That is wrong. [...] If a same-sex couple wishes to get married that is their business and none of the Church's. The Church should have no say in matters of civil rights.

Chris Mooney follows up his PolitiFact analysis by observing the fact that conservatives are more wrong, more often:

The fact-checkers do try very, very hard to temper their competence, and to be fair, they don't have much choice. As a non-partisan outfit, PolitiFact probably feels compelled to blow a few things the left says out of proportion or they wouldn't look that much different than Media Matters. [...]

Yet for all their even-handedness and efforts to be fair, conservatives still fare worse. PolitiFact has pulled the yoke about as far as it can go without breaking, and have lost nearly all credibility on the left as a result, and they're still not within 20 yards from the 50 yard line.

He recommends that PolitiFact should "decide this is the last epicycle they're going to tack onto their centrist model of the solar system, and finally come to accept the political equivalent of Kepler's ellipse: asymmetry:"

As the data show - despite PolitiFact's best tampering - one side just has a much tougher time with the facts. PolitiFact can either deal with it, or double-down on denial.

While we're on the subject of conservative denialism--see my 2004 and 2009 pieces on marriage equality in Massachusetts--Slate wonders does gay marriage destroy marriage? "[B]y tracking what happened to marriage and divorce rates in the subsequent years" [after same-sex marriage] we can tell whether right-wing fears are valid:

Start with Massachusetts, which endorsed gay marriage in May 2004. That year, the state saw a 16 percent increase in marriage. The reason is, obviously, that gay couples who had been waiting for years to get married were finally able to tie the knot. In the years that followed, the marriage rate normalized but remained higher than it was in the years preceding the legalization. So all in all, there's no reason to worry that gay marriage is destroying marriage in Massachusetts.

The other four states that have legalized gay marriage--New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire--have done it more recently, somewhere between 2008 and 2011. But from the little data we have, it looks as if the pattern will be more or less the same--a temporary jump in marriage followed by a return to virtually the same marriage rates as before gay marriage became legal. Washington, D.C., which started accepting same-sex marriages in March 2010, saw a huge 61.7 percent increase in marriage that year, though it's too soon to see where it will settle. Again, no signs of the coming apocalypse.

The states' divorce rates haven't worsened, either:

In each of the five states, divorce rates following legalization have been lower on average than the years preceding it, even as the national divorce rate grew. In 2010, four of the five states had a divorce rate that was lower than both the national divorce rate and the divorce rate of the average state.

I'm sure that conservatives will eventually try to spin this into a we-were-right-all-along scenario--as they tried to do with civil rights--but I just don't see how they could do so.

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