“I’ve heard more than one trans person say that it’s like the best of times and the worst of times," explains performance artist Zackary Drucker in a special joint interview with actress Hari Nef in the Fall 2015 issue of GOOD magazine, now on newsstands. "It’s troubling the ways in which we’re being offered these opportunities. Then there’s this speculation that with the increased visibility of trans people, there’s this unintended backlash hitting the most disenfranchised members of our community. We really do have a responsibility to bring the community up. I think the only way that’s going to happen is through gainful employment.”
Last year The Advocate praised Laverne Cox, the Orange Is the New Black actress, for her groundbreaking appearance on the cover of the June 9 issue of Time magazine. That issue trumpeted a new era of trans awareness dubbed "the transgender tipping point." This new era routinely features a roster of talented, articulate, camera-ready transgender spokespeople like Cox, and trans male bodybuilder Aydian Dowling, whose beauty adheres to traditional binary norms for female and male appearance.
In their conversation with GOOD, Drucker and Nef critique the so-called transgender tipping point, extolling its benefits, while also charging that it ignores the realities of the majority of trans people who do not enjoy the privileges of these celebrated few trans spokespeople.
“I honestly feel like it’s purely a question of power,” says Nef in the interview. She continues:
“Now we’re in the limelight with this weird, narrow window to attain exposure and money and visibility, and every trans woman who can needs to try and get a piece. I want us all up here — making money, pushing legislation, philanthropy, advocacy, calling people out — but at the end of the day, because it’s a media thing, it’s probably going to be — us here talking being a prime example — trans women working in media and politics. As trans women with white privilege, we may be given more opportunities, and we have this dire responsibility to pass the mic. We need to advocate for trans women of color, and we need to do more than talk about it. The danger is so disproportionate right now to how much shine we’re getting, and I’m more scared than I am triumphant.”
Profiled this year in The Advocate's report on the real-life trans people influencing the Emmy-winning Amazon original series, Transparent, Drucker is a 32-year-old co-producer and advisor on the series, and a celebrated trans feminine photographer and performance artist who often works with the trans male artist Rhys Ernst.
Drucker grew up in the suburbs of Syracuse, New York, by what she describes to blog LA I’m Yours as "two really fantastic, progressive, educated parents." With a Master's in Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts and a Bachelor's in Fine Arts from New York City’s School of Visual Arts, Drucker and Ernst’s 2013 film She Gone Rouge was featured at Outfest, and the pair's photographic series, "Relationship" was shown at the prestigious Whitney Biennial. She is currently represented by the Luis De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles.
Ten years Drucker’s junior and a recent graduate of the undergraduate theater program at Columbia University, Nef is also a fashion model and writer who will be a featured actress in the upcoming second season of Transparent. Hailing from Newton, Mass., she walked the Eckhaus Latta and Hood by Air fashion shows this spring. This year Nef became the first trans model to be signed to the elite IMG Worldwide modeling agency, reports Vogue magazine.
In the lead image that opens the GOOD interview, Nef and Drucker hold hands against a background of cool, grey stone slabs. Both are resplendent in stark white pantsuits (Nef’s by Stella McCartney and Drucker’s by Narciso Rodriguez with a capelet by Todd Lynn). They boldly don white after Labor Day, their pants' overlong hems covering their feet in a carnivalesque manner.
Nef’s hair is brown, bobbed, and tousled and her sleeves hang long, belling at the wrists. Drucker’s shoulder-length hair is blond and pressed and her capelet covers her nearly-bare shoulders and arms. Both trans women stare gently yet commandingly at the camera. The image expresses a stunning, moody dissonance: tender sisterhood styled with a high fashion sheen.
Towards the end of the GOOD interview, Drucker talks about the intergenerational divide among trans leaders, highlighting the fact that it is only recently that prominent trans individuals have been recognized in the mainstream:
“I look around sometimes and think: Are we as a community actually being lifted up? Or are we just pawns in this sort of prurient curiosity of a cis-normative world? There’s no answer, it’s yet to be seen. Yes, I would like to be optimistic and say that we’re moving toward the future where this next generation of trans people will finally be able to get ahead. Phyllis Frye, our nation’s first openly transgender judge, is on the cover of The New York Times. Those people have always existed as well, people who have operated in an overground economy, and who have made an impact regardless of the obstacles of being trans, but that usually happens with late transitioners.”
The beautiful dissonances and anxious criticisms within the words and images of Drucker and Nef in GOOD push the much-discussed transgender tipping point into an unprecedented complexity, where privilege and peril are styled and debated in equal measure.
"I said it on the Oscar stage," Dustin Lance Black told me last week, just one day after announcing his engagement to Olympic diver Tom Daley. "That I hoped one day I'd be able to fall in love and get married. I never dreamed in that time I'd meet somebody and fall in love and get engaged. I just never knew if that was something I'd be able to appreciate in my own lifetime."
Black spoke about marriage, his brand new engagement, and what the future might hold on my podcast, Defining Marriage. It was one day after he announced his engagement to Olympic diver Tom Daley, and he was beaming.
"We dream bigger," Black said, describing how his life has changed since meeting Daley. "Things seem so much more possible together. ... We both want a family. We want something bigger than just ourselves. That's one of the big reasons I fought for marriage."
Black's connection to marriage equality runs deep. He's been a marriage activist since 2008, when California passed Proposition 8, which revoked the freedom to marry in the state until it was overturned five years later. Black co-founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and our lives started overlapping when I came to work at AFER.
AFER's small team worked tirelessly for years on the case that eventually overturned Prop. 8. Following that victory, Black began work on When We Rise, an ABC miniseries expected sometime in 2016, about the LGBT rights movement starting at Stonewall. At the same time, I started writing a book called Defining Marriage, full of the intimate personal stories about the people who fought for marriage over the last 40 years.
Each episode of the Defining Marriage podcast features a chapter of the book read aloud, followed by bonus interviews and conversation. You can listen to the latest episode below, or at DefiningMarriage.com, with Black's segment featured at about the halfway mark of Chapter 11. Also featured in the episode are Juan and Tim Clark-Lucero, a couple who managed to marry in California the day after Proposition 8 passed.
"Sometimes you have dreams that you're too shy to share with your close friends," Black told me, "but you might share them with someone you have true intimacy with. And in sharing those dreams... you breathe possibility into them."
"I grew up Mormon," he added. "You can take the boy out of the church, but you can't take the church out of the boy. I still want to have a lot of kids. The possibility of having a family, a big family, a messy family — that sounds so joyful to me, and wasn't something I imagined I'd be able to do on my own."
Listen to the latest episode of the Defining Marriage podcast below.
As Pope Francis leads a synod of bishops in discussions about Catholic families, a former member of the Vatican family has revealed a long-held secret regarding priests who exhibit what the defrocked Father called “homosexual tendencies.”
This former priest claims others like him are packed off to a religious retreat in the mountains outside Milan, in order to be “cured.”
The report in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Monday quoted 44-year-old Mario Bonfanti, who said he was forced to leave his Italian parish by his superiors three years ago, despite the fact that he was not in a relationship and had maintained his vow of celibacy.
Bonfanti told the newspaper that priests suspected of being gay are often sent to a convent in the northern Italian city of Trento in order to “reflect” on their futures.
“There exists a convent where priests who manifest inappropriate sexual tendencies are sent to reflect. It’s a place where they help you to rediscover the straight and narrow. They wanted to ‘cure’ me but I refused to go,” he told La Repubblica.
The Venturini Convent was founded by Mario Venturini, a priest, in 1928, reported U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, and can “accommodate a large number of priests, offering them an open and tranquil environment in which they can confront their problems.”
Psychiatrists and psychologists are on hand, The Telegraph claimed, to help with “various types of therapy.”
Father Gianluigi Pasto, 71, the head of the convent, told The Telegraph: “Priests come to us for a period of formation and personal reflection. At the moment we have neither gay priests nor pedophile priests here. Certainly our job is to welcome everybody.”
The facility has dealt with priests who suffered from depression, alcoholism and who had “problems connected to sex," he said.
“We don’t speak of our work but it is well known to many bishops and dioceses," said Father Pasto. "They know what we can offer.”
When asked for more information, however, a spokesman for the convent told The Telegraph: “We have nothing more to say.”
The Vatican declined to confirm or deny whether the convent dealt with priests who were struggling with their sexuality.
The role of gay Catholics within the Church is one of the subjects being discussed at the three-week-long synod, which was preceded by the firing of a high-ranking priest who worked in the Vatican press office and came out as gay in an Italian newspaper.
As The Advocate previously reported, the synod opened with a clear statement by Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdo about marriage equality: “There is no basis for comparing or making analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and God’s plan for matrimony and the family,” he said.
Former child star Danny Pintauro recently told Oprah Winfrey of his past crystal methamphetamine use and how it directly led to his HIV diagnosis. While the world tries to wrap its head around the Who’s the Boss? cherub’s hard-core drug dependency — for which he was obliquely shamed by The View’s Candace Cameron Bure — it’s clear our society still fails to see how intertwined gay life and crystal methamphetamine is.
While the Emmy Award-winning TV series Breaking Bad, about a former high school teacher who transforms himself into a murderous meth mogul, left an indelible mark on our culture, the show did not feature a single LGBT addict. Even on shows that revolve around gay life or feature LGBT characters — Looking, Empire — meth addiction does not play a role.
While we would never allow the erasure of the LGBT story from the official reportage about the spread of AIDS, we are passive about the exclusion of the LGBT community from the facts about crystal meth. We perpetuate, by our own inaction, a stereotype about this drug as “hillbilly heroin” — a down-market substance for poor white heterosexuals.
And yet the facts belie this story.
The International Antiviral Society-USA reported in 2006 that the use of methamphetamine is five to 10 times more common in urban gay and bisexual men than in the general U.S. population. At the time of that study, IAS-USA reported, “Data from San Francisco and Los Angeles indicate methamphetamine use within the prior 6 months in 13% and 11%, respectively, of gay men.” And the problem has worsened since then.
Black gay and bisexual men are using meth in increasing numbers in New York, according to The New York Times. Counselors at Gay Men of African Descent, a New York-based service agency, say between 20 to 40 percent of their clients are addicted to the drug. Certainly not coincidentally, the HIV rate among African-American men who have sex with men is shockingly high, with six out of 10 predicted to be HIV-positive by the age of 40.
Yet depictions of meth on film often portray users as poor, uneducated, and straight, as in Spun, Winter’s Bone, and SLC Punks.
Attractive, articulate, Stanford-educated Pintauro, the antithesis of the crystal meth addict we often see on police procedurals and legal thrillers, hopes to raise awareness of the drug’s insidious spread into gay life.
“I want to be the example of what can happen if you get into drugs; if you’re being promiscuous; if you’re not taking care of yourself; if you’re not being checked,” Pintauro says.
His example should redirect our efforts toward helping gay men, many of them professionals and top-level executives, who have severe addictions to crystal meth. At a minimum, the public needs to know the facts, and Hollywood needs to respect the truth; maybe then it will be easier to demand more money and resources from Washington to fight this scourge among our community.
Gilét wrote Monday that he was chased down by a park employee who told him to change his shorts or risk expulsion.
"I was certainly wearing more than Ariel," the gay website manager wrote in a post on his site describing the experience.
Gilét was at the park for the unoffical 'Gay Days,' when thousands of gay and lesbian patrons visit the park and identify themselves by wearing a red t-shirt or football jersey. He didn't have a red t-shirt that he liked so he wore an oversized red and white jersey with the number 13, which covered up his shorts.
"Within a few minutes of being inside the park, a member of staff chased us down, before asking 'do you have anything on under that top?' So I told her yes, and showed her the shorts I had on underneath. To which she replied, 'OK… Because it gives the impression that you have nothing on underneath. Do you have a change of outfit, because if not, security may remove you from the park.' Really? Why?
"She continued, 'It’s just that it’s a family park.'”
Gilét, who is based in London, wrote that he didn't "want any drama" or to get kicked out of Disneyland after paying $99 to enter, so he put on a pair of longer shorts he had in his bag. However, he questioned the whole experience, wondering if he was asked to change because he didn't conform to gender stereotypes:
"What exactly was the issue? Was it the fact that there was so much leg on show? Because there were countless girls walking around in booty shorts. How is it any different from a girl in those? Or even a dress? Was she asking women if they had anything on under their short skirts too?"
On Disneyland's website it says the park has the right to remove anyone whose attire "we consider inappropriate." This rule may also extend to "Visible tattoos that could be considered inappropriate, such as those containing objectionable language or designs," according to park rules.
"I fully understand that my outfit was a bit unusual and apparently not conservative enough for Disney — but I’m struggling to see the issue," Gilét wrote. "I wasn’t wearing an offensive slogan, and I had shorts on underneath that weren’t going to expose anything when I sat down. What was the line that had been crossed?"
Gay Pennsylvania state legislator Brian Sims announced this morning he is running for Congress. Sims joins two other candidates seeking to unseat incumbent Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Democrat.
Fattah, Philadelphia's 11-term congressman, hasn't had a serious challenger since 1994 according to the Philadelphia Daily News. But Fattah is now fighting for his political life after being indicted earlier this year on corruption charges stemming from allegations he used public and charitable funds to repay campaign debts, among other charges. Fattah has repeatedly denied that the charges are true.
Sims was the first out gay man to win a seat in the Pennsylvania state legislature. He was elected in 2012.
"I’ve spent my life taking on big challenges in order to do what’s right," Sims said in a prepared statement. "Whether tackling gender and pay equity as a civil rights attorney, or standing up for justice reform in Harrisburg, I’ve never backed down from the big fights. And I never will.
"We need a progressive Congressman who will stand up for opportunity and justice for everyone, not just those at the top. In Congress, I’ll fight to invest in our kids and our classrooms, create real economic fairness and opportunity, and stand up to the NRA to get the guns off our streets."
The winner of the Democrat primary race is seen as very likely to win the congressional seat. The district, which includes a large swath of Philadelphia, is one of the most heavily Democrat in the nation; Robert N. McGarvey was the last Republican elected to the seat in 1947.
Never one to shy away from his sexuality, Sims makes references to Kim Davis and marriage equality in his campaign announcement video, which you can watch below.
If Hillary Clinton is elected president, she'll have a number of promises to keep to LGBT voters, thanks to a lengthy agenda of protections she pledged to push for in a major speech this weekend.
Speaking to the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, the Democratic presidential front-runner foresaw a seismic shift in the way LGBT people are treated not only in the U.S. but also around the world.
It's worth noting that Clinton's aggressively pro-LGBT plans are a contrast to the tepidly tolerant version of Clinton portrayed in a harsh email that recently caused backlash for her campaign. Among the emails released from her time leading the State Department is Clinton castigating employees for wanting to accommodate same-sex parents on passport forms by changing nomenclature to "Parent One" and "Parent Two" instead of "Mother" and "Father."
But judging by Clinton's Saturday speech before HRC volunteers — where she was warmly welcomed and cracked a joke about being proud to share her initials with the nation's largest LGBT lobbying group — a new Clinton White House could make historic gains.
Here, in the order she listed them, are the promises Clinton made about her potential administration's pro-LGBT agenda, followed by the context she gave when making the promises. Clinton started off broad, pledging that as president, she would:
1. End injustice against LGBT Americans "once and for all."
"You know the obstacles that remain better than I do, but I want you to know that I get it. I see the injustices and the dangers that you and and your families still face, and I'm running for president to end them once and for all.
"I talk about my campaign as being about improving the economy, so everyone who works hard to do his or her part to get ahead can stay ahead, but I also talk about enforcing our basic civil and human rights. I'm running for president to stand up for the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans, and all Americans. That's a promise from one HRC to another."
2. Advocate for and sign the federal Equality Act into law.
"It's outrageous that in 2015, you can still be fired for being gay, you can still lose your home for being gay, you can even be denied a wedding cake for being gay. And this kind of discrimination goes against everything we stand for as Americans. Congress must pass the federal Equality Act, and that law would finally outlaw discrimination against LGBT people, basically everywhere: in employment, housing, public education, public accommodations, access to federal funding, and in the jury system. It's a great, noble piece of legislation that deserves to become the law of the land. As president, I will fight for it, and I hope many of you will be with me when I sign it into law."
3. Cap out-of-pocket expenses for people living with chronic illnesses, including HIV and AIDS.
"You may have read recently about a drug, that's been around for decades, that went from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill literally overnight; a 5,000 percent increase. What is not talked about enough is that medication is one that many HIV-positive patients rely on every day. Now with pressure from me and others, the CEO of the drug company says he'll lower the price, but he hasn't done it yet, and every day that he stalls, people with HIV are forced to worry and wait, and pay hundreds of dollars more, for medication that keeps them well. That is wrong, and as president, I'll take on the drug companies, I'll cap out-of-pocket expenses for people with chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS."
4. Upgrade the discharges of all LGB veterans dismissed under "don't ask, don't tell" (which her husband signed into law in 1993) and the earlier military ban on homosexuality.
"'Don't ask, don't tell' is over, but that doesn't change the fact that over 14,000 men and women were forced out of the military for being gay; some long before 'don't ask, don't tell' even existed. Many were given less than honorable discharges. I can't think of a better way to thank those men and women for their service than by upgrading their service records and making sure they get the honorable discharge they deserve."
"Meanwhile, you know, transgender people are still barred from serving. That is an outdated rule, especially since you and I know there are transgender people in uniform, right now, they're just keeping this core part of their identities under wraps, because they are so committed to defending our nation. They shouldn't have to do that. That's why I support the policy review that Defense Secretary Carter recently announced at the Pentagon. And it's why I hope the United States joins many other countries that let transgender people serve openly. Now, we pride ourselves on having the world's best military, but being the best doesn't just mean having the best trained forces or the biggest arsenal. It also means being a leader on issues like this; on who we respect enough to let serve with dignity as themselves."
6. Cut off federal funding for adoption agencies that discriminate against LGBT parents.
"I will also fight to defend lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents. Eleven states ban same-sex couples and LGBT individuals from adopting. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of kids in foster care are ready, in fact, eager, to become part of loving families. This, to my mind, is one of the cruelest vestiges of antigay bigotry, and it's also really cruel to those kids. Being a good parent has absolutely nothing to do with your sexual orientation or your gender identity. The thousands of happy, healthy children being raised by LGBT people proves that. And as president, I would push to cut off federal funding for any child welfare agency that discriminates against LGBT people. For me, there is no excuse — none — for hurting children and families like this."
7. Stand up against antigay school policies.
"We've got to stand up for our young people, trying to live like the teenagers they are, going to the prom with your boyfriend or girlfriend is a rite of passage that every young person deserves, don't you think?"
8. Protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for transgender people, especially trans women of color.
"We've got to address the crisis of transphobic violence. 2015 has seen the murder of at least 19 transgender women, primarily women of color. And nobody knows how much violence goes unreported or ignored. And we need to say, with one voice, that transgender people are valued, they are loved, they are us, they desire to be treated fairly and equally."
9. Defend LGBT rights abroad, including bailing out jailed LGBT activists.
"And let me ask you also, to keep standing up for the human rights of the LGBT community worldwide. Hundreds of millions of people live in places where they can be arrested, even executed for being gay. Just a few days ago, the president of Zimbabwe stood up at the U.N. and gave a furious speech about the dangers of equal rights for gay people. According to him, in Zimbabwe, he said, we are not gays. Now, I'm guessing the LGBT activists sitting in prison in Zimbabwe would disagree with him, if ever given a chance to have a platform like he had. That's why in 2011, as Chad [Griffin, HRC president] said, I did go to Geneva and say what should have been obvious but needed saying, that human rights are gay rights, and gay rights are human rights.
"Because I believe with all my heart that the United States does have to stand up for human rights everywhere. It's who we are, and under my presidency, it's who we will continue to be. The Global Equality Fund, that some of you helped me get started needs to continue and grow, so that we can protect activists, so we can bail people out of prison, we can support publication and online outreach so that people don't feel so alone and they get a chance for their to be heard. I will do my part to make sure that these issues get the attention they deserve, in the presidential campaign, and more importantly in the White House."
10. End anti-LGBT discrimination completely "at home and abroad."
"Ben Carson says that marriage equality is what caused the fall of the Roman Empire. Ted Cruz, ahem, Ted Cruz, slammed a political opponent for marching in a Pride parade. He clearly has no idea what he's missing. Pride parades are so much fun, I was marching in them back when I was First Lady. You should join us sometime, Senator! Come on!
"But there are sure to be a lot more comments like this, and more hurtful ones. And I want to say something to you, because I know a number of you, and I am so proud to call you friends and supporters, but I hope you will continue to reach out, particularly to young people, who hear these things on television, who may be in their community or family, still, are treated so harshly. It's important that you stand with them as we continue to push the agenda that is necessary to end discrimination at home and abroad."
Read a full transcript of Clinton's speech below, and see video of her address here.
Transcript of Hillary Rodham Clinton's keynote address the Human Rights Campaign, September 26, 2015:
This is an amazing display of enthusiasm energy, activism. It is great to be back with the other HRC. In fact, there's no one I'd rather share my initials with than all of you.
I have to say that being introduced by Chad just filled my heart. I know about his journey, I know about his life in Arkansas, and I'm so proud of him, and so impressed and grateful that he now heads this organization. Thank you, my friend.
Well, it's been quite a year, hasn't it. It felt like all of America was dancing in the streets this June, and that's because of you. And because of Jim Obergefell. Where is he? There's Jim. Thank you. Along with Edie Windsor. And all the families who took their fight all the way to the Supreme Court. It was because of leaders like Chad, and JoDee Winterhof, who is here, and Joe Solmonese, who is here, and Mike Berman, who is my longtime friend, who has been a champion. All the members of the HRC boards and committees. Everyone. Everyone who marched, sang, wrote briefs, everything you did to make marriage equality the law of the land. [Applause]
There is a map on the wall in my campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, in a place of honor, right when you walk in. It's called states where marriage equality is law. And it's just a plain old map of the United States. But because now, every single American, no matter where you are, is free to marry whoever you love, the map is colored everywhere. And that is the way it should be. That is real progress, my friends, and the people here today deserve a lot of the credit for making it happen.
Now, you've helped make other progress, as well. Including President Obama's executive order barring companies that do business with the federal government from discriminating against LGBT Americas. And I appreciated your support when I took steps, as Chad said, to ban discrimination at the State Department, including by extending equal benefits to the partners of diplomats.
I'm really here to say "thank you" for your hard work, and your courage, and for insisting that what's right is right. You've helped change a lot of minds, including mine, and I am personally very grateful for that. After all the remarkable achievements of the past few years, no one would blame you, or HRC, for wanting to take a break, to kick back, kind of enjoy what's going on. Put on a pair of orange shoes and enjoy, just for a while, right? But I wish that all the progress we've made was so secure and so ingrained in our laws and our values that we didn't have to keep constantly defending it. But we're not there yet.
There are still public officials doing everything in their power to interfere with your rights. There are still too many places where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans are targeted for harassment and violence. There are still too many young people out there, feeling hopeless and alone. Now, we assure them, "It Gets Better," but it can still be really hard to believe that. Especially when you turn on the TV and you see a Republican candidate for president literally standing in the courthouse door in Kentucky, calling for people to join him in resisting a Supreme Court ruling, celebrating a county clerk who's breaking the law by denying other Americans their constitutional rights. [Audience boos]
Or when Republicans in Indiana pass a law letting businesses deny services to LGBT customers under the guise of "religious freedom." Think about how that must sound if you're a young gay or transgender kid. The message is unmistakable: there's something wrong with you. You're not a real citizen. You're not wanted here. You're not welcome.
Some of you may know the blog Humans of New York. It's a beautiful site that conducts informal interviews as they go about their lives in New York and even in other parts of the world. And the stories they tell are often pretty raw. This past July Humans of New York posted a picture of its latest subject. A sweet little boy, sitting on a stoop crying, and looking like he was trying very hard not to. And this was his entire interview: "I'm homosexual," he said. "And I'm afraid about what my future will be and that people won't like me."
It was so absolutely heartbreaking. All I wanted to do was find him and give him a hug. Instead I wrote to him. I said that his future was going to be amazing. That he will surprise himself with what he is capable of, and all the incredible things he will do. And I said that lots of people will love him, and believe in him. And the proof is that I wasn't the only one who wrote him. Thousands of people from all over the world spoke up to tell him that he is loved and perfect just the way he is. When I see a brave little guy like that, strong enough to tell someone his fears, strong enough to be honest about who he is, who still is terrified of being rejected by the world around him, that tells me we still have work to do.
Because our work isn't finished until every single person is treated with equal rights and dignity that they deserve; no matter how old they are, no matter where they live, whether it's New York or Wyoming or anywhere else. Now I know I'm not telling you anything new. You know the obstacles that remain better than I do, but I want you to know that I get it. I see the injustices and the dangers that you and and your families still face, and I'm running for president to end them once and for all. [Applause]
I talk about my campaign as being about improving the economy so everyone who works hard to do his or her part to get ahead can stay ahead, but I also talk about enforcing our basic civil and human rights. I'm running for president to stand up for the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans, and all Americans. That's a promise from one HRC to another.
So what does that mean? It means I'll fight to end discrimination wherever it occurs. It's outrageous that in 2015, you can still be fired for being gay, you can still lose your home for being gay, you can even be denied a wedding cake for being gay. And this kind of discrimination goes against everything we stand for as Americans. Congress must pass the federal Equality Act, and that law would finally outlaw discrimination against LGBT people, basically everywhere: in employment, housing, public education, public accommodations, access to federal funding, and in the jury system. It's a great, noble piece of legislation that deserves to become the law of the land. As president, I will fight for it, and I hope many of you will be with me when I sign it into law. [Thunderous applause]
You know I have a particular commitment to health care. I like to say, I still have the scars to show for what we tried to do back in the '90s. And I'm particularly concerned for the LGBT community. One of the many reasons why the Affordable Care Act is a good law is that it made it illegal for health insurers to deny coverage because of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. But I've been hearing from people as I travel around the country, too many LGBT people struggle to get the care you need. All the Republican governors who refused to accept the Medicaid expansion, because they don't like the Affordable Care Act, are doing a lot of harm to people with HIV and AIDS, who need Medicaid to afford the medications that keep them healthy.
Meanwhile, you may have read recently about a drug, that's been around for decades, that went from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill literally overnight; a 5,000 percent increase. What is not talked about enough is that medication is one that many HIV-positive patients rely on every day. Now with pressure from me and others, the CEO of the drug company says he'll lower the price, but he hasn't done it yet, and every day that he stalls, people with HIV are forced to worry and wait, and pay hundreds of dollars more, for medication that keeps them well. That is wrong, and as president, I'll take on the drug companies, I'll cap out-of-pocket expenses for people with chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS.
After all, you shouldn't have to go bankrupt to get the care you need to stay alive.
And I will continue the fight for LGBT people in our armed services. "Don't ask, don't tell" is over, but that doesn't change the fact that over 14,000 men and women were forced out of the military for being gay; some long before "don't ask, don't tell" even existed. Many were given less than honorable discharges. I can't think of a better way to thank those men and women for their service than by upgrading their service records and making sure they get the honorable discharge they deserve.
Meanwhile, you know, transgender people are still barred from serving. That is an outdated rule, especially since you and I know there are transgender people in uniform, right now, they're just keeping this core part of the identities under wraps, because they are so committed to defending our nation. They shouldn't have to do that. That's why I support the policy review that Defense Secretary Carter recently announced at the Pentagon. And it's why I hope the United States joins many other countries that let transgender people serve openly. Now, we pride ourselves on having the world's best military, but being the best doesn't just mean having the best trained forces or the biggest arsenal. It also means being a leader on issues like this; on who we respect enough to let serve with dignity as themselves.
I will also fight to defend lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents. Eleven states ban same-sex couples and LGBT individuals from adopting. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of kids in foster care are ready, in fact, eager, to become part of loving families. This, to my mind, is one of the cruelest vestiges of antigay bigotry, and it's also really cruel to those kids. Being a good parent has absolutely nothing to do with your sexual orientation or your gender identity. The thousands of happy, healthy children being raised by LGBT people proves that. And as president, I would push to cut off federal funding for any child welfare agency that discriminates against LGBT people. [Applause, audible "wow" uttered from audience members]
For me, there is no excuse — none — for hurting children and families like this. Now, I could go on and on, there's so much more for us to do. We've got to stand up for our young people, trying to live like the teenagers they are, going to the prom with your boyfriend or girlfriend is a rite of passage that every young person deserves, don't you think?
We've got to address the crisis of transphobic violence. 2015 has seen the murder of at least 19 transgender women, primarily women of color. And nobody knows how much violence goes unreported or ignored. And we need to say, with one voice, that transgender people are valued, they are loved, they are us, they desire to be treated fairly and equally.
And let me ask you also, to keep standing up for the human rights of the LGBT community worldwide. Hundreds of millions of people live in places where they can be arrested, even executed for being gay. Just a few days ago, the president of Zimbabwe stood up at the U.N., and gave a furious speech about the dangers of equal rights for gay people. According to him, in Zimbabwe, he said, we are not gays. Now, I'm guessing the LGBT activists sitting in prison in Zimbabwe would disagree with him, if ever given a chance to have a platform like he had. That's why in 2011, as Chad said, I did go to Geneva and say what should have been obvious but needed saying, that human rights are gay rights, and gay rights are human rights.
Because I believe with all my heart that the United States does have to stand up for human rights everywhere. It's who we are, and under my presidency, it's who we will continue to be. The Global Equality Fund, that some of you helped me get started needs to continue and grow, so that we can protect activists, so we can bail people out of prison, we can support publication and online outreach so that people don't feel so alone and they get a chance for their to be heard. I will do my part to make sure that these issues get the attention they deserve, in the presidential campaign, and more importantly in the White House.
Now, I know that you've had your share of politicians speaking out, courting your support at election time, and then disappearing. As if your lives and your rights are just a political bargaining chip. Well, those who know me know that's not me. I've been fighting alongside you and others for equal rights, and I'm just getting warmed up.
But to quote one of my favorite Americans, Eleanor Roosevelt, when you get into the public arena, you do need to grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros. So everybody get started, because we're going to face some ridiculousness, especially from our friends in the GOP. In fact, it's already begun.
Ben Carson says that marriage equality is what caused the fall of the Roman Empire. Ted Cruz, ahem, Ted Cruz, slammed a political opponent for marching in a Pride parade. He clearly has no idea what he's missing. Pride parades are so much fun, I was marching in them back when I was First Lady. You should join us sometime, Senator! Come on!
But there are sure to be a lot more comments like this, and more hurtful ones. And I want to say something to you, because I know a number of you, and I am so proud to call you friends and supporters, but I hope you will continue to reach out, particularly to young people, who hear these things on television, who may be in their community or family, still, are treated so harshly. It's important that you stand with them as we continue to push the agenda that is necessary to end discrimination at home and abroad.
So now we're going to hear a lot from the people running on the other side. And I'll tell you, believe what they say: if any one of them, heaven forbid, were ever elected president, they will do their best to enact policies that will threaten you and your families. Every single Republican candidate for president is against marriage equality. Many of them are against nondiscrimination laws, many are against same-sex couples adopting. See if you are ever in a forum with any of them, if you can get them to say the word "transgender." [Laughter]
So the stakes in this election are high, for the country. They're high for so much of what we believe in and the progress we want to continue to make; it can be undone. President Obama's executive actions can be rescinded. The next president may get three Supreme Court justice appointments. We could lose the Supreme Court, and then there'd be a whole new litigation strategy coming from those who oppose marriage equality.
We have got to stay focused, stay united, you deserve a president who will bring people together, who won't leave anyone behind. That is what I will do, because I know from my own personal experience, the folks on the other side, you've got to give them credit — they never quit. Their persistence is admirable, although it is hard to believe what they use it for. You've shown me a lot of generous support over the years, and I deeply appreciate that. A number of you have taught me a lot, embraced me and my family, made me a better First Lady, a better Senator, and a better Secretary of State. And with your help, I'll be an even better president.
Let me end with this, because I never make a speech these days without mentioning my granddaughter. In case you haven't heard, she just turned one. Her grandfather and I are convinced she's the smartest, funniest, most wonderful baby — it means we're pretty typical grandparents, so I'll spare you the slideshow that I brought. But I find myself thinking a lot about the country and the world she'll grow up in. Whether it'll be safe and healthy and just. Her generation, hopefully, will be even better when it comes to accepting people's differences, just like my daughter's generation was better than mine. Our children have a lot of wisdom. I want my granddaughter to feel bold and brave and supported enough that she can be who she is, whoever that turns out to be. That's what all our kids and grandkids deserve. And parents and grandparents all over the country should want the same for their families.
So I want to thank you for being on the front lines of what has been an amazing struggle; but which has accomplished so much in a relatively short period of time. I think of that every day on the campaign trail, like when I met a man in Iowa who gushed to me about the daughter he adopted years ago with his partner. And now his granddaughter is the light of his life. Or the mom of a transgender girl in Las Vegas, who just wanted to know how in the world her daughter was going to get the medical care she needed. I think about all the moms and dads, all of you parents out there, who worry about whether their families will be OK. Whether the hospital will allow both moms into the emergency room with their sick kid. Whether teachers and classmates will be kind and accepting. Whether law enforcement will treat them right. All those millions of worries, large and small, that same-sex parents and LGBT Americans think about every day.
Well, I think about them, too. Because your families matter to me, and you matter to me. I'm going to keep, as I have throughout my life, fighting for you, your rights, your children, your futures. I'm fighting for an America where if you do your part, you do reap the rewards, and where we don't leave anyone out. Where if you work hard and do your part, you can pursue your dreams however you define them. Where you can make the most of your God-given potential. That's what I'm fighting for. And I am proud to be fighting right alongside you. Thank you all very, very much.
Advocates focused on the human rights of LGBT people internationally often think of this work as two steps forward, one step back. While this year Nepal amended its constitution to explicitly protect LGBT people and President Obama appointed Randy Berry as the first special envoy for the human rights of LGBT people, in 2014 we watched another country, Brunei, get added to the list of countries in which consensual same-sex activity can carry a death sentence.
As we win big victories in the United States like nationwide marriage equality, many LGBT Americans are paying more attention to the big stories happening on the international scene. But many may yet not realize that a dangerous moment is in our near future: a law that is moving forward that would set a new and frightening precedent with the potential to reignite a wave of anti-LGBT legislation in its region. The place is Kyrgyzstan, and while it may not be on the radar for most of the world, it must be now. This small Central Asian country is on the verge of passing a law that would be the first of its kind — a “propaganda” law that would result in people being thrown in jail for expressing the most basic sentiments about their own identities.
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower first invoked the metaphor of falling dominoes to depict the spread of communism across Southeast Asia. Sixty years later, as this hate spreads across Central Asia, it is a picture that once again seems fitting.
In the lead-up to 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the newly enacted Russian law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors outraged international human rights activists. LGBT Russians were already experiencing its effects, but with the impending arrival of thousands of athletes, spectators, and global leaders, predictions varied on how the law would be enforced at and around the games. Many hoped that the limelight would drive Russian leaders to reconsider their commitment to what the global community viewed as legalized homophobia, but in the end, the Kremlin didn't bat an eye.
A year and a half later we are faced with resulting irony that is hard to swallow: an event that was created to foster amity between nations may have become a springboard for homophobia across borders. In the small amount of time since the closing ceremonies, a bill emulating Russia's ban on so-called LGBT propaganda has advanced from a legislative rumor in the halls of Kyrgyzstan's Parliament to the precipice of becoming law. And this bill is not an outlier — in Eastern Europe and in neighboring nations in Central Asia, legislators from Latvia to Armenia have explored similar moves towards codifying homophobia at home.
The Kyrgyz version of the propaganda law is far more dangerous than its Russian counterpart. On first glance, the Kyrgyz version of the propaganda law seems to be a carbon copy of its Russian predecessor — certain sections, in fact, seem to be directly copied and pasted from Russian documents. But expanding upon what it emulates, the Kyrgyz law introduces newly conceived criminal penalties carrying prison sentences of up to one year.
The Kyrgyz draft law also significantly broadens the scope of its application, expanding its terms to include a widespread ban of all forms of public information about nontraditional sexual relations rather than limiting the ban to information accessible to minors. In effect, the sweeping nature of the bill could land journalists, artists, and human rights defenders in jail simply for exercising their freedom of speech. In practice, it could go as far as to shutter gay clubs, ban LGBT gatherings, and even allow Kyrgyz police to arrest workers at HIV/AIDS clinics for distributing informational materials to patients.
As LGBT Russians will tell you, passage of this propaganda law will have a significant negative impact that goes beyond legal hurdles, arrests, and courtroom sentences. Since the Russian law went into effect, bias-motivated crimes against the Russian LGBT population have become more commonplace and more brazen, and, worse yet, have met with indifference on the part of officials.
With the draft bill moving through Parliament, Kyrgyz LGBT people are already experiencing increased violence and discrimination. In the south of the country, LGBT residents are treated as if the law has already passed, with police attempting to arrest and fine people under the legislation. In April a leading LGBT organization was fire-bombed by young nationalist thugs in the nation's capital, Bishkek, and on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia a peaceful group was attacked by members of the hate group Kalys. It is clear that even the consideration of such anti-LGBT laws results in a validation of homophobia and the violence it inspires.
As Kyrgyzstan holds elections this weekend, the bill awaits its third and final reading in the new session of Parliament, and that is likely to occur this month. With little doubt that it will pass — legislators voted 90-2 in favor on its second reading — the LGBT population is now looking to President Almazbek Atambayev to intervene. His options are limited both by his country's legislative process and by his people's homophobia, but there is hope. If he chooses to not sign the bill when it arrives on his desk, he can either return it to Parliament for edits and clarification or issue a veto. When that day comes, we hope that global leaders, especially the Obama administration, will continue to urge him to stand on the side of human rights.
The impact of this bill becoming law would surely be disastrous for the entire region. Kyrgyzstan's neighbor to the north, Kazakhstan, has previously considered a propaganda bill of its own. Though it was voted down, reintroduced, and then coincidentally tabled by officials during an Olympic bid process earlier this year, the Kazakh LGBT community suspects that a victory for the Kyrgyz bill would pave the way for Kazakh lawmakers to reintroduce similar legislation. Like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan has deeply rooted feelings of enmity for LGBT people, manifesting in violent attacks and refusal of basic services. Members of Parliament have gone as far as to call for legislation to classify LGBT Kazakhs as “criminals against humanity.”
With the first domino set to fall in Kyrgyzstan, it is critical that the United States and its allies put productive pressure on Atambayev and extend critical support to the Kyrgyz LGBT community. To let the bill pass and allow LGBT people to be incarcerated would be a historic step back for Kyrgyzstan, the region, and global human rights.
After having revealed to Oprah Winfrey that he’s been HIV-positive for 12 years, former child star Danny Pintauro has disclosed how he believes he contracted the virus — through oral sex.
The onetime Who’s the Boss? cast member says he was religious about safer-sex practices because he was so paranoid about HIV, but he let his guard down because of his drug use — he was at one point addicted to crystal meth.
“Believe it or not, with this guy [from who he contracted the virus], I was actually safe,” he told Us magazine in a video interview posted online Monday. “We did use condoms. I got it another way, which was through oral sex, which is a complicated story. When you put all these things together, like a compromised immune system, having been up for a long time, rough sex, lesions in your mouth, maybe, mixing of bodily fluids, it’s that easy.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Infection notes that the risk of HIV transmission during oral sex is not as great as during anal or vaginal sex, but oral sex is not risk-free. “Even though oral sex carries a lower risk of HIV transmission than other sexual activities, the risk is not zero,” the CDC’s website cautions. “It is difficult to measure the exact risk because people who practice oral sex may also practice other forms of sex during the same encounter.”
“Performing oral sex on an HIV-infected man, with ejaculation in the mouth, is the riskiest oral sex activity,” the site further states. “Factors that may increase the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex are oral ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases.” Risk can be reduced by using condoms or other barriers during oral sex or by avoiding ejaculation in the mouth, the CDC adds.
The CDC also notes that while injection-drug use is a direct route of transmission, other types of drug use lower inhibitions, making people more likely to engage in risky behavior.
Pintauro did not provide additional details about the transmission or his sexual partner in the encounter, but said he is trying to find the man. He had forgotten the man’s name until he ran across it in an email, he told Us.
Below, watch the interview, in which Pintauro also discusses how he met his husband, Wil Tabares; the challenge of finding an understanding partner when you’re HIV-positive; and the support he’s received from Who’s the Boss? cast mates Judith Light, Tony Danza, and Alyssa Milano.
When Eve Peyser, a writer and comedian based in New York City, went on Tinder recently, she found someone who was more than a potential hookup — she found “one of the most hated men in America,” drug company executive Martin Shkreli.
Shrkeli is the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, which recently announced plans to raise the cost of Daraprim, a drug used with other meds to treat toxoplasmosis, which is sometimes a complication of HIV, by 5,000 percent, from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Shrkeli then walked back that statement and said the company wouldn’t raise the price quite that much, but hasn’t said how much the drug will end up costing.
“When I saw [Shrkeli’s] face pop up in my Tinder matches, I had to swipe right, especially because I had just written an article mocking his OkCupid account,” Peyser writes in a Mic piece published Monday. “I immediately knew it was him, although his profile description, ‘American entrepreneur,’ was a little vague.”
“I was curious to know how he felt about being pilloried for something his industry did on a regular basis,” Peyser continues. “But I also wanted to know why he did what he did.” She started out by playing coy and acting like she was interested in him romantically, but found she “couldn’t resist asking him if he was ‘DTGMAD,’ or ‘down to give me AIDS drugs?’”
They exchanged a few more messages, with Shrkeli criticizing how the story of the price hike has been reported and defending capitalism. Peyser wanted to go deeper into the latter subject, but Shrkeli severed their connection after she asked if he was the “Snowden of AIDS drugs,” referring to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked confidential information about government surveillance of citizens.
Screen grabs of their conversation have gone viral, but Peyser, while deploring Shrkeli’s business decision, came away thinking of him and other Tinder matches with a bit more sympathy.
“Did I want Martin’s face in my home? Certainly not,” she concludes. “But I do believe that Martin Shkreli believes he is doing good for the world, or else he wouldn’t have engaged with me. And even though Martin Shkreli is the current face of all that is wrong with capitalism, I do have sympathy for the guy. After all, even questionably sociopathic pharma bros deserve to get laid.”
Pope Francis didn’t discuss gay issues or relationships when he met former student Yayo Grassi and his partner while visiting the U.S., but he made it clear that he “is not afraid to have a gay friend,” Grassi says in a new interview.
“Me being gay is no different [to the pope] than me having blue eyes,” Grassi (pictured above, second from right) told ABC News over the weekend. “It’s not different than me living in Washington. It is part of my life. And the way he accepted my boyfriend, it is a validation of how happy he is that two people of the same sex can be together and happy and miss each other when we are not close to each other.”
Grassi brought his partner of 19 years, Iwan Bagus, and several friends to a private meeting with Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature — the Vatican's equivalent of an embassy — in Washington, D.C., on September 23. Long before he was pope, then-Archbishop Bergoglio was a teacher in a Catholic high school in Santa Fe, Argentina, and Grassi was one of his students there in the 1960s. Grassi now runs a catering business in Washington.
“I think that we all had one teacher, one mentor that we love very much, and we consider that person extraordinary, remarkable,” Grassi told ABC. “I think that he was, he has a superior mind, he has an intelligence that goes beyond the common intelligence of regular people.” When he found out Francis was coming to the U.S., he wrote to him requesting a meeting, and the pope called him to arrange it.
Francis welcomed his former student warmly, giving him a hug, Grassi told the network. “I joked with him, we told each other a couple of jokes, and then I introduced all my friends to him, and they had things to bless and we talked,” he said. “He asked me how my business is doing, what kind of food I was cooking, really things of a friend, that a friend would ask another friend.”
“We never discussed anything about me or my boyfriend,” Grassi added. “We discussed my life; we talked about a lot of other things. I didn’t feel it was important to him to discuss it with me. He didn’t bring it up. I didn’t bring it up. I think the message that he puts forth is that of understanding, is that of not judging.” The pope has long known that Grassi is gay, the caterer said in an earlier interview, and had met his partner previously. When the Washington meeting ended, he hugged both Grassi and Bagus and kissed each of them on the cheek.
Grassi told CNN last week that he felt it was important to go public about his meeting with Francis because he was upset about reports of the pope having a private meeting with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who has resisted issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Vatican officials followed those reports with statements that the Davis meeting wasn’t private, with her merely being part of a receiving line; Davis’s attorneys differ.
“I want to show the truth of who Pope Francis is,” Grassi said.
Miley Cyrus delivered a swan song to summer on Saturday Night Live.
The "Wrecking Ball" singer, who recently came out as pansexual, opened last weekend's episode with a musical review of the people who have made headlines or trending topics in the past few months.
"It feels like the summer of 2015 has officially come to an end," said Cyrus, who wore a dress and cap covered in plastic flowers. "And with that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to say goodbye to all of those who made the summer what it was."
As Cyrus belted out the lyrics of "My Way," SNL cast members appeared in the background dressed as those "who did summer their way," including Kim Davis, Rachel Dolezal, Josh Duggar, Martin Shkreli (who controversially hiked the price of an AIDS medication), the doughnut licked by Ariana Grande, and "pizza rat."
Join Cyrus in saying farewell to this cast of characters, and as she notes, hope that "we'll never think of any of these people ever, ever again."
Conservatives have fired the first shot in the culture battles Roman Catholic bishops are taking up at their synod on family issues at the Vatican this month, with Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdo speaking out against gay relationships in his opening address.
Erdo, whose role as general relator is to guide the synod’s work, reaffirmed the church’s opposition to such relationships in the speech Monday morning, reports Crux, a website devoted to news about Catholicism.
“There is no basis for comparing or making analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and God’s plan for matrimony and the family,” he said. He was “quoting a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” Crux notes.
Erdo also said international groups should not demand that developing countries recognize same-sex marriage as a condition of receiving aid. He did, however, cite church doctrine “to the effect that ‘unjust discrimination’ against gays and lesbians is wrong,” Crux reports.
Additionally, his address included statements reasserting the church’s opposition to contraception, abortion, and access to communion by Catholics who are divorced and remarried, sending a signal that conservatives plan to take the offense rather than the defense, according to the site.
In the previous family synod, a year ago, Erdo and his fellow conservatives “appeared to be sidelined by more progressive prelates, especially Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte, in producing a controversial interim report calling for greater openness on divorce, homosexuality, and other hot-button topics,” Crux reports. (That progressive language was taken out when the report was finalized.) “If the opening day of Synod 2015 is any indication, Erdo has no intention of letting that happen again.”
Meanwhile, in celebrating Mass for synod participants Sunday, Pope Francis appeared to walk a fine line, upholding long-standing church doctrine while seeking to welcome a diverse population of Catholics. He offered “a stirring defense of traditional marriage coupled with an insistence that the Church must, at the same time, be merciful and compassionate to those who struggle,” another Crux article notes.
The church is “not a museum to keep or preserve,” he said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “It’s a place where the holy people of God move forward.” He added that the church must have “its doors open to welcome all those who knock” and not “point the finger in judgment,” language that may encourage those who support a more inclusive approach to LGBT people.
LGBT issues are likely to figure importantly in the synod, which comes shortly after the pope’s visit to the United States — a visit in which he met both with antigay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and with a gay couple. It also comes just after the Vatican fired a priest who came out as gay and partnered.
“The emotional intensity of the synod is amped up because of perceptions that the pope’s position is still a work in progress,” wrote commentator John Allen on Crux. “Whenever topics such as homosexuality and divorce are on the docket, feelings will run strong. What’s new now is a sense, however exaggerated, that movement might actually be possible. That’s elicited strong passions both from those who see such movement as desirable, and those who view it as alarming.”
The synod, involving 360 bishops from around the world, continues through October 25.
Although manufacturer Frito-Lay has run out of Doritos Rainbows, Huckabee is no less determined to keep them from being purchased, along with all 30 brands in the snackmaker’s inventory. The former Arkansas governor, who is once again running for the Republican presidential nomination, claims Frito-Lay has partnered with sex columnist Dan Savage, in teaming up with the It Gets Better Project.
The It Gets Better Project, founded by Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, seeks make the world a better place for LGBT young people. Savage is no longer actively affiliated with it or its series of positive, affirming videos that aim to help LGBT youth turn away from suicide.
But to Huckabee and David Lane of the American Renewal Project, a conservative Christian group, Frito-Lay is pandering to a “gay-friendly agenda,” as Time reports, and they say should cut ties to It Gets Better because Savage “has a history of anti-Christian comments.”
In a letter to Frito-Lay, Huckabee wrote:
“It is beyond me to understand how a responsible corporation would think that partnering with someone who spews the vicious vitriol that Savage does would be worthy of your corporate contributions.”
A copy of the letter was obtained by the far-right blog WND. Huckabee declined to be interviewed by Time, and his campaign did not respond to The Advocate’s email seeking comment at press time.
Lane wrote his own letter to more than 100,000 pastors, telling them that “tolerance for Frito-Lay’s brazen corporate support of hate speech by Dan Savage — that were it directed toward Muslim’s, would warrant a Justice Department investigation and prosecution — is chipping away at the very character and soul of the American experience.”
Frito-Lay responded, reports Time, defending its partnership with It Gets Better as a valid effort in the fight against bullying: “Some have chosen to misrepresent the positive intent behind Doritos Rainbows,” the company said in a statement obtained by Time.
To Lane, though, “This is a battle for the soul of America,” as he wrote in his letter. “And religious freedom created America.”
Huckabee and Lane have called on Christians to boycott all snacks made by Frito-Lay to protest the project’s tenuous connection to Savage, whom they call an “anti-Christian bully.”
Click here for a list of the 30 brands made by Frito-Lay, which is a subsidiary of Pepsico, should you wish to respond to the call for a boycott with your own buying choices.
A transgender nursing student and Army veteran is fighting back after she says officials at national nursing school's Kentucky campus discriminated against her for being trans, resulting in her leaving the school, thus interrupting her education and interfering with her ability to support her children.
Vanessa Gilliam filed her lawsuit in Jefferson Circuit Court in Louisville September 25, alleging that Galen College of Nursing discriminated against her, according to a report from Louisville TV station WHAS. Gilliam is a U.S. Army veteran and a single parent who has custody of her children.
“I was really proud of myself that finally I was going back to school,” Gilliam told WHAS. “They took that from me. They said the reason that they brought me in there was because I'm a man dressed like a woman. They talked to me about using the women's restroom and how they have to look out for everybody else and their safety.” Gilliam seeks reimbursement for her tuition and books, court costs, and damages for emotional trauma.
Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education, Galen College of Nursing is a private, for-profit school that offers a two-year associate of science in nursing degree. In addition to the Louisville campus, Galen College has campuses in San Antonio, Cincinnati, and Florida's Tampa Bay area.
Gilliam’s complaint alleges that two school officials interrupted her when she was studying for a lab test, bringing her into a private meeting where they hostilely referred to her as a "man dressed as a woman" and denied her access to women’s restrooms on campus, claiming they were concerned about others’ safety. As a result of her experience, Gilliam left Galen College.
"Galen College of Nursing values and respects all individuals," said Anna Kitson, marketing director for Galen College, in an emailed statement to The Advocate. "We have no specific policy on restroom usage, leaving that up to the discretion of the individual. Since this matter is under active litigation, unfortunately we are unable to provide further comment with respect to the specifics of this case."
Gilliam’s allegations of transphobia recall those of another nursing student, Blossom Brown, who accused nursing schools of discriminating against her when she repeatedly applied for admission. As The Advocate reported, last month's season premiere of the Ellen show featured Ellen DeGeneres and her special guest, Caitlyn Jenner, presenting Brown with a $20,000 check to support the young woman’s nursing education. Brown's story first made headlines when she was featured on an early episode of I Am Cait, E!'s docu-series about Jenner's life post-transition.
“I couldn’t get into nursing school for like the sixth time because I’m trans," Brown explained to DeGeneres and Jenner. "People were looking at that, and you need to be looking at my hard work and the dedication that I put into that hard work.”
Advocate contributor Tony Zosherafatain, a trans health advocate currently pursuing his master’s in nursing at New York University, says he has also encountered transphobia in his medical education.
Gilliam remains optimistic. "I've come a long way," she told the Associated Press. "From the military, to getting custody of my kids, to being a single parent. I'm not going to let somebody tear me down and I'm not going to let this tear me down."
Gilliam is being represented by Shannon Fauver and Dawn Elliott, two well-known Kentucky litigators who broke ground when they filed Bourke vs. Beshear, the first lawsuit seeking marriage equality in Kentucky. In February 2014, a federal judge ruled in the same-sex couples' favor, determining that Kentucky's ban on performing same-sex marriages or recognizing those performed in other jurisdictions was unconstitutional. When then-Attorney General Jack Conway's refusal to appeal that pro-equality decision, Gov. Steve Beshear hired independent legal counsel to appeal the ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a 5-4 decision this June struck down all remaining marriage bans, including Kentucky's.
Despite the ongoing antigay practices in three Kentucky counties, where county clerks (including infamous Rowan County clerk Kim Davis) still refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, acceptance of LGBT people and marriage equality is on the rise in the state, Fauver told The Advocate.
“To Dawn Elliott and myself, [Gilliam's case] is just a continuation of our work with the same-sex marriage cases in Kentucky," Fauver said in an email to The Advocate. "When we filed the lawsuits in Kentucky, we did it for our clients, knowing that it could have a broader impact for the community. Vanessa [Gilliam] wanted to have someone with her when she was standing up for herself. Vanessa called our firm, as we originally filed [the] lawsuit to recognize same-sex marriage in Kentucky.”
“Basically under Title IX all students in school receiving government funding are to be treated equally, and that was not the case here. I believe that transgender rights are the natural next step after the country has begun to actually embrace same-sex marriage. If all couples are legally equally, it should not matter if the parties are born men or women and want to marry someone born a man or a woman, everyone should be treated equally.”
While Gilliam's lawsuit targets the allegedly transphobic behavior of school administrators, Gilliam praised her former classmates at Galen College in her remarks to WHAS, saying they were supportive when she began transitioning and embracing her womanhood on campus. The acceptance of her peers could indicate the goodwill of many within nursing education and the profession at large.
Indeed, a recent Journal of Emergency Nursing investigation finds reason for hope, reports Vocativ. The journal reports on a confidential incident in which a 40-something transgender man suffering from severe anxiety endured transphobic taunts and harassment from nursing staff in an emergency room. After the incident, the emergency nursing profession has rallied to develop trans-affirmative policies in treatment and care.
"This patient's story identifies new implications for emergency nursing practice when treating a transgender patient," said Matthew F. Powers, president of the Emergency Nurses Association, in a statement to EurekAlert. "Emergency nurses are on the front lines of treating more and more transgender patients. All patients must be treated with dignity and respect. We want nurses and their colleagues to understand how to give these patients the care and respect they deserve.”
The Affordable Care Act has greatly reduced the number of uninsured lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the U.S., although disparities in access to health care remain, according to a new study.
Nearly nine in 10 LGB adults — 88.9 percent — have health insurance, according to data gathered in winter 2014–2015, after the ACA’s coverage provisions went into effect, reports the Urban Institute study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in the October issue of Health Affairs. That’s up from 78.2 percent reported in summer 2013. The data came from the online Health Reform Monitoring Survey.
The key coverage provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, are the expansion of Medicaid in 31 states and the creation of health insurance marketplaces, a source of insurance for those who had difficulty obtaining it elsewhere. These provisions went into effect at the beginning of 2014 and have helped many non-LGB adults gain coverage as well. The spread of marriage equality also improved LGB coverage rates, the study’s authors note, as people in same-sex marriages have gained access to spousal benefits, although the data came in before this summer’s Supreme Court decision struck down all remaining marriage bans.
Since the ACA’s implementation, the percentage of LGB people reporting that they have a usual source of health care has increased, to where it’s actually slightly higher than the percentage of non-LGB adults (78.4 percent versus 73.2 percent). But LGB Americans report more difficulties with access to and affordability of care, even though their access to insurance has improved. A quarter reported problems with accessing care, compared to 16.1 percent of non-LGB adults, and 42.6 percent of LGB adults reported an unmet need for care because of cost, compared to 32.4 percent of non-LGB people.
Also, gender disparities continue to exist. “Although sample sizes were small and our estimates were imprecise, lesbian or bisexual women were more likely than gay or bisexual men to report difficulty accessing and affording care in winter 2014–15, despite similar rates of having insurance and having a usual source of care,” note study authors Laura Skopec and Sharon K. Long.
The marriage equality decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, could further improve access to and affordability of care, the authors report. So could another high court ruling from this year, King v. Burwell, which upheld subsidies for insurance purchased through the marketplaces.
“In addition, a growing body of research suggests that marriage equality may result in improved physical and mental health for LGB adults,” the study relates. “National marriage equality may also reduce social stigma against LGB adults, which could reduce actual and perceived discrimination by providers.”
“Aided by the recent Supreme Court decisions, the Affordable Care Act dramatically increased access to health insurance for lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans,” concluded Kathy Hempstead, who directs coverage issues for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in a press release announcing the study. “For this and other populations the question now turns to whether affordable health insurance and easy access to care providers can be sustained.”
The full study is available only to magazine subscribers, but an abstract is available here.
The music video for Sam Smith’s latest release — the theme song for the upcoming James Bond film Spectre, titled “Writing’s on the Wall” — was just released this weekend, and with it came news that the single topped the song charts in the U.K.
The gay British singer’s latest track has sold over 70,000 copies and is the first Bond theme song to hit humber 1 in his native U.K., making this Smith’s sixth number 1 U.K. single, Forbes reports. Smith is the first out LGBT performer to do a Bond theme and the first male British solo artist to record one since Tom Jones did the title tune for Thunderball in 1965.
“This is one of the highlights of my career,” Smith wrote in an Instagram post in September, when he announced that he was chosen to sing the theme for the latest 007 flick. “I am so excited to be a part of this iconic British legacy and join an incredible line up of some of my biggest musical inspirations. I hope you all enjoy the song as much as I enjoyed making it.”
Watch the music video for “Writing’s on the Wall,” below.
More horrifying atrocities against men believed to be gay have come to light in occupied Iraq, where Islamic militants from ISIS have executed four men by tying them up and tossing them from the rooftops of high-rise buildings.
Extremists in Mosul executed two Iraqi men in this fashion simply for being gay, local sources reported to the ARA News website. Another report claimed the same fate befell two men in Nineveh, for the same “crime.”
A civil rights activist in the region told ARA News the judgment of who is gay is based on “superficial information without any investigation.”
The pretext in the Mosul execution, reports ARA, is that the men were determined to be a gay couple. Daesh, or ISIS, interprets the Koran as forbidding homosexuality, a widely held belief in the Muslim world. The Human Rights Campaign notes, however, that “because Islam has no central governing body, it is not possible to state clear policies regarding issues of interest to LGBT people. Depending on nationality, generation, family upbringing, and cultural influences, Islamic individuals and institutions fall along a wide spectrum, from welcoming and inclusive to a level of rejection that can be marked by a range of actions ranging from social sequestration to physical violence.”
“On Sunday afternoon,” a witness told ARA News on the condition of anonymity, “Daesh called on the people of Mosul to gather in the square of Bab al-Toub in order to witness the execution.”
“The victims were taken to the top of a building and were brutally thrown off the roof,” according to the witness. Similar executions have been recorded and shared via social media, as The Advocate has previously reported, although in most cases those organizing the cruel acts have confiscated or destroyed those recordings.
The ISIS-linked Sharia Court had issued a decision to execute every gay man by throwing him from the top of a building, leading to the deaths of dozens of men and boys in recent months across the ISIS-controlled regions of both Iraq and Syria.