Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

April 27 2016 1:05 PM

The Ab Fab Movie Trailer Is Here—and, Sweetie Darling, It’s a Gorgeous Mess

A poster posted online a few weeks ago hinted as much, but with the release today of an actual full trailer, we can all exhale and throw back some Bolly: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is real, it’s finished, and it’s coming to theaters for your messy glam gal camptastic pleasure this July.

The trailer—which borrows many design cues from that other great act of gay-TV-to-gay-movie transposition, the Sex and the City films—confirms in an appropriately frenetic, slurring way the plot description we’ve been hearing since late 2015. Eddie (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumely) are on the hunt for a new client for the former’s D-list PR agency—specifically, Kate Moss. They find her at a swanky London fashion party, only for Eddie to knock her off the balcony and into the unfashionably chilly Thames. Now personas even more non grata than normal, the pair flee the U.K. for the south of France, where, Eddie points out: “Everyone’s a criminal.” Boozy, glittery, French-inflected hijinks ensue amid a bevy of celebrity cameos (oh hello, Jon Hamm) and appearances from the TV show’s other mainstays, including Eddie’s daughter Saffi (Julia Sawalha) and dear old mother (June Whitfield).

Compatriots of the twosome can catch them on July 1, while fans across the pond will have to wait until July 22, according to IMDB. Which is probably for the best, as I’ll need to pop by Harvey Nicks for a few things in the interim anyway.

April 27 2016 11:52 AM

Liberals: How Strong Is Your Support for Transgender Equality?

In the wake of draconian laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi restricting which restrooms transgender people can use, much of the attention has focused on the economic and political backlash to anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Sometimes, public pressure is the best or only tactic that works, and it’s heartening to see economic and political costs imposed on supporters of these odious laws. But it’s easy to forget just how important private conversations can be to securing lasting social change, especially in a campaign where winning hearts and minds is a key goal.

Fortunately, media coverage of the laws has also spawned just such water cooler conversations, dialogues about what it means to be transgender and what full equality should look like.


April 26 2016 1:31 PM

The First Challenge to Mississippi’s Anti-LGBTQ Law Has Arrived

When a federal judge struck down Mississippi’s same-sex marriage ban in July, Roberta Kaplan had a simple message: “It’s over.”

It was, in fact, not quite yet over.

Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor in the litigation that toppled the federal same-sex marriage ban, had barely secured her marriage victorywhen she turned to Mississippi’s other anti-gay law: The last ban on same-sex adoption in the United States. On April 1, Kaplan won that case, knocking down the Mississippi adoption ban for good.

Four days later, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the most sweeping anti-LGBTQ legislation in the nation. Mississippi wasn’t quite finished discriminating against its LGBTQ residents. And so Kaplan wasn’t quite finished with Mississippi.

On Monday, Kaplan launched the first legal challenge to HB 1523, Mississippi’s anti-LGBQT “religious liberty” measure. Rather than taking on the entire law, Kaplan is focusing on one especially troubling section: A provision that allows clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses when their “sincerely held religious beliefs” dictate that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.” While the law insists that clerk recusal cannot “impede[] or delay” marriage licensing, it doesn’t explain how, exactly, same-sex couples will be protected.

But Kaplan has a trump card. In his July order, United States District Judge Carlton W. Reeves issued a permanent injunction barring all “agents, officers, employees, and subsidiaries” of Mississippi from treating same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples. That injunction remains in effect today. As a result, if Mississippi allows a clerk recusal that disadvantages same-sex couples in compliance with HB 1523, it will be in violation of Reeves’ July injunction.

April 25 2016 5:08 PM

Murder of Bangladeshi LGBTQ Activist Latest in String of Attacks

LGBTQ activist Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Tanay Majumder, a policeman, were hacked to death in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, Monday night. Though the attackers fled without being identified, police believe they were radical Islamists—a local news broadcaster who witnessed the attack said that at least five men were involved, and they chanted “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) as they departed the scene.

Mannan was an employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the editor of Bangladesh’s first gay rights magazine, Roopbaan. U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat mourned Mannan’s death in a statement released Monday and urged the Bangladeshi government, “in strongest terms,” to find and convict the murderers.

April 25 2016 12:57 PM

God Plays Matchmaker in UnReal’s Sexy Lesbian Web Spinoff

In Aesop’s fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” a rural rodent is thrilled when his cousin in the big city shows him the fine foods and fabulous frills available in the metropolis—only to skitter back home when a run-in with vicious dogs reminds him how scary urban living can be.

Watching the first episode of The Faith Diaries, a series of digital shorts from the creators of Lifetime’s breakout hit UnREAL, I worried that this would be the fate of Faith (Breeda Wool), who we first met when she was one of the contestants on Everlasting, the fictional dating show whose scenes UnREAL is set behind. OnEverlasting/UnREAL, Faith was the plucky outsider—a guileless small-town cowgirl quite unlike the other scheming bachelorettes who were angling for a wedding proposal from posh British hotelier Adam. But it wasn’t just her country ways that differentiated her from the other husband-seekers; while being wooed by Adam, Faith realized that she was in love with her best friend, Amy.

In the first of the shorts—each three-minute film represents a week in Faith’s life—Faith and Amy (Malea Mitchell) move to Los Angeles, where Faith has been offered a modeling gig on the strength of her congeniality on Everlasting. The country mouse moment comes all too soon, when the basement apartment they’ve rented online proves to be a Craigslist scam. Fortunately, UnREAL’s kinda-sorta heroine Rachel provides an off-screen introduction to her friends Mickey and Ruth, who let the newcomers live in their guesthouse. Naturally, it turns out that Mickey, played with butch brio by Glee’s Dot-Marie Jones, is a big ole dyke—as Faith and Amy learn when the pull up and find her smooching Ruth. Soon enough, Faith and Amy are making out, too, though only in the confines of the guesthouse.

April 22 2016 5:27 PM

Cruz Ad Slams Trump for Not Sufficiently Disparaging Trans People 

Donald Trump violated the emerging Republican orthodoxy on Thursday by declining to denigrate trans people’s humanity during a televised town hall. Asked about a new North Carolina law that excludes trans people from certain bathrooms, Trump implied that bathroom bills may be unnecessary. “There have been very few complaints the way it is,” the candidate noted. “People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble.”

This divergence from the GOP party line spurred Ted Cruz to release a creepy, underhanded attack ad. “Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use a women’s restroom?” the ad asks over an ominous droning synth. “The same restroom used by your daughter? Your wife?” (This line invokes the deeply insulting bathroom predator myth.) Then we hear a snippet of Trump’s comment and learn: “Donald Trump thinks so.”

“It’s not appropriate. It’s not safe,” the ad concludes. “It’s PC nonsense that’s destroying America. Donald Trump won’t take on the PC police.”

Cruz is clearly looking to position himself as the GOP’s reigning culture warrior, painting Donald Trump as a trans-friendly pushover with New York values. Although Trump does not appear to be deeply bigoted toward LGBTQ people, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cruz ad pushes him to reverse his position on bathroom bills. As my colleague J. Bryan Lowder noted, Trump seems likely to hop on the anti-LGBTQ bandwagon as soon as he concludes that doing so will help him pick up a few more votes. Cruz’s new ad makes Trump’s anti-trans conversion even more inevitable.

April 22 2016 1:49 PM

Obama: Anti-LGBTQ Laws in Mississippi and North Carolina Should Be Repealed

At a press conference Friday, President Barack Obama criticized anti-LGBTQ laws recently passed in Mississippi and North Carolina and called for their repeal. “I also think that the laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned,” Obama said, adding that “they're in response to politics in part and some strong emotions that are generated by people.” Obama was joined at the press conference by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, whose foreign office has cautioned LGBTQ British tourists against visited both states.

Aside from one comment through White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Obama has kept fairly quiet about the spate of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Republican-dominated statehouses. However, his work for LGBTQ rights behind the scenes has already helped to thwart the worst effects of anti-gay and anti-trans policies. Obama’s appointees to the Department of Education have interpreted existing federal law to prohibit anti-trans discrimination in public schools, leading a federal court to rule on Tuesday that a Virginia school district cannot exclude a trans student from the bathroom that aligns with his gender identity. Moreover, his appointments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission led to a series of decisions protecting gay and trans workers from discrimination. Opponents of the North Carolina law have cited these rulings in their challenge to the measure’s legality. If their lawsuit succeeds, LGBTQ advocates will have Obama to thank. 

April 22 2016 11:31 AM

Trump’s “Acceptance” of LGBTQ Issues Is Hardly a Safe Bet

It’s well-understood at this point that consistency is not one of Donald Trump’s virtues. He regularly changes tack—assuming that a specific tack can even be identified amid his often rambling statements—on policy questions both foreign and domestic. A minor example of this rhetorical swerving occurred on Thursday: In a morning talk show appearance, Trump surprised some viewers by expressing opposition to North Carolina’s transphobic bathroom law and then, just a handful of hours later on Sean Hannity’s Fox news show, seemed to soften his earlier statements with a vague gesture toward the need for local self-determination. The Daily Beast described the evening words as “backtracking” with regard to LGBTQ support—an interpretation which, given that the city of Charlotte had determined it wanted non-discrimination protections that the state then revoked with HB 2, may or may not be accurate. Who can tell? In any case, “backtracking” assumes that, when it comes to LGBTQ rights, Trump was ever on any track to begin with.

April 21 2016 4:53 PM

How Prince Led the Way to Our Gender Fluid Present

The world has known few superstars whose personas could match the gender-fluid extravagance of Prince, who died on Thursday at age 57. The pop and R&B icon inlaid his albums with brazen pansexuality and gender norm coquetry—provocations made all the more potent by his staggering talents as a singer, hook-writer, and guitar shredder. Years before the leaders of the gay and lesbian community began to embrace a more nuanced, less binary notion of queerness—and decades before transgender and genderqueer politics became mainstream topics of interest—Prince offered a living case study in the glorious freedom a world without stringent labels might possess.

April 21 2016 10:35 AM

In Rare Moment of Lucidity, Donald Trump Supports Trans Bathroom Access

Given that Donald Trump has thus far presented a fairly incoherent policy platform, it shouldn’t be surprising that he occasionally espouses a position progressives can appreciate. On an NBC Today town hall early Thursday, Trump responded to a question about North Carolina’s embattled anti-LGBT law—most reviled for the component that bans transgender people from the bathroom comporting with their gender identity—by saying that he didn’t think the measure was necessary.

“North Carolina did something that was very strong, and they’re paying a big price and there’s a lot of problems,” Trump told NBC’s Willie Geist, who had relayed the question from Twitter user Jessica Hershey. The GOP front-runner continued:  

North Carolina, what they are going through with all of the business that’s leaving and all of the strife—and that’s on both sides. You leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble. And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic punishment that they’re taking.

Though his tenses were somewhat confusing, Trump was clearly suggesting that HB2 and other “bathroom bills” like it create problems (especially in the form of businesses abandoning your state en masse) where there were none. This picks up on the practical view that trans people have been using the bathroom alongside cisgender folks forever with little issue—and when there were problems, it was the trans individual who was at risk of violence. Of course, Trump’s leave-it-alone approach ignores the need for legal protections against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, but at least he’s against making life harder than it already is.

After a follow-up from Matt Lauer about whether he had trans employees—Trump wasn’t sure—the candidate confirmed that should a trans person like Caitlyn Jenner come to Trump Tower, she would be allowed the use the bathroom of her choice. Trump ended the exchange by characterizing new gender-neutral bathrooms—which some have advanced as a compromise solution—as “discriminatory” in their own way, not to mention being “unbelievably expensive for businesses and for the country.”

“Leave it the way it is,” he concluded.