Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

June 26 2017 10:04 AM

Supreme Court Orders States to List Same-Sex Parents on Birth Certificates; Gorsuch Dissents

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution requires states to list married same-sex couples on their children’s birth certificate. The per curiam decision marks a landmark victory for gay rights, confirming that the court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges protects all rights relating to marriage, not simply the recognition of marriage itself.

In Obergefell, the court held that the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution require states to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples “on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.” Arkansas began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples—but when these couples had children, the state refused to list both parents on the birth certificate. The Arkansas Department of Health insisted that its rule was simply a recognition of biology.

As the court noted on Monday, however, there was a huge problem with this claim: Arkansas already lists nonbiological parents on birth certificates. When a woman conceives via artificial insemination, for example, her child’s birth certificate lists her husband as the father. Indeed, when a woman gives birth in Arkansas, state law states that her husband be named as the father—even if he is known not to be a biological parent. These laws are quite sensible, as birth certificates are used for vital transactions in child-rearing, such as school enrollment and medical treatment. And yet, Arkansas refused to extend its birth certificate rules to cover same-sex parents.

June 24 2017 1:29 PM

Pride Celebrates Being Seen—But What If Body Dysmorphia Makes You Want to Hide?

Leather and mesh. Pride season always drags these materials from the depths of my otherwise bland closet. I’m not so unlike other people in that way. Pride is a queer Halloween of sorts: a liberating campiness hovers over the whole thing, blurring the line between clothing and costume. The result is an opportunity for earnest self-expression that doesn’t carry the same risks, because it’s offset by a sarcastic wink.

But at a strobe-lit party, standing shoulder to sweaty shoulder with bodies that move more gracefully than mine, I’m reminded why I prefer these clothes on other people. I’m wearing a sheer top, like hundreds of others in the room. But I swear the light is hitting me differently, and I swear my love handles are giving me away, and my costume feels more like a disguise. It doesn’t express. It deceives. I wonder if people can see right through me. I wonder if people are taking one look at me and thinking, “Oh, hon.”

June 23 2017 12:45 PM

If We Want to Tell Authentic LGBTQ Stories, We Have to Show the “Bad” With the Good

The first piece I wrote that was ever published was titled, “I Came Out as Bisexual and Now Can’t Date Anyone Gay or Straight.” I wrote the piece for XoJane’s infamous “It Happened to Me” vertical, and much to my surprise, it went viral.

The piece wasn’t anything groundbreaking. It simply dispelled the trope that “it gets better” when you come out. After years of sleepless nights questioning my sexuality, blacked out unprotected sex with men, and feeling like a liar to every person I ever dated, I was excited about the prospect of finding love after embracing my (bi)sexuality. I was young, naive, and believed Woody Allen’s joke, “Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.”

That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Both gay men and straight women refused to date me for the stereotypes commonly believed about bisexuals: I’m actually gay; I’ll leave them for a person of another gender; I’m confused, greedy, incapable of being monogamous, and so on and so forth.

After the piece went viral, I was suddenly given a platform to keep writing about bisexuality, and I grabbed it with both hands. There was only one problem: I knew very little about identity, LGBTQ culture, or more specifically, bisexuality politics. All I knew is that my experience wasn’t as unique as I thought it was—the dozens upon dozens of emails I got after my piece went viral had made that abundantly clear. I wanted to increase bisexual visibility, so these people knew they weren’t alone. But what I didn’t realize is that when it comes to the visibility of minority groups, depictions must always be positive, even if that leaves out some unsavory truths.

June 23 2017 12:09 PM

It’s Time for Goth Culture to Embrace the Gender Identities of All Its Members

Here’s a fun fact: It took me way longer to figure out my gender identity and sexual orientation than it did to fall in love with black lipstick and the Sisters of Mercy. By the time I realized I was queer and non-binary, I had called myself a goth for over a decade. Part of the appeal of the macabre subculture was certainly goth’s reputation for androgyny, its reclassification of tight black jeans and flowing shrouds as equal opportunity, and its campaign of eyeliner for all. But when fashion is a perpetual dance of self-expression and survival, visibility isn’t just about being seen. It’s about being understood.

I’m into heavy eyeliner, pointed nails, swathes of jewelry, the works. By goth rules, none of these elements are necessarily gendered; by queer rules, they’re downright femme. Femme isn’t an identifier I bristle at, exactly. I like the word’s ability to signal fashion sense without signaling gender, and its usage within the queer community: Yes, I like lipstick. No, I’m not necessarily a woman. Yet if a goth man in lipstick doesn’t think of himself as femme, why should I? There’s a conflict between fashion as gender expression and fashion as expression, period. Splitting gender and aesthetics carries its own kind of privilege: While cisgender goths can wear lipstick and skirts as a “fashion thing,” the sartorial choices of trans goths are inherently and automatically politicized. Being goth, in a way, is a public statement of “I have reviewed society’s rules and decide to go against them.” Gender nonconformity due to nonstandard gender identity, on the other hand, is an individual saying “this is me” while those around them assume they just haven’t read the manual.

Goth culture, unfortunately, does not exist in a vacuum. Within the subculture, items like cosmetics or clothing might be themselves genderless, but that doesn’t mean that the gender binary has ceased to exist and hundreds of years of assumptions have gone up in flames. To truly follow through on its mission, goth must work harder at dismantling oppressive thinking where it starts, rather than merely bending the rules for a select few.

June 23 2017 11:32 AM

Dyke Marches Assert Political Power and Demand Visibility. But They’re Under Threat.

Some words carry a potent kind of power when spoken by a specific individual or group. “Dyke” is one of those words. For someone outside of the LGBTQ community, it likely has a negative connotation—it’s an insult flung from homophobic mouths like Steve Bannon, who once referred to the women’s lib movement as being made up of “a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England.” But much like the larger community has done with “queer,” lesbians have been working to reclaim the word for their own use and identification for decades.

“Lesbians have long been the object of vicious ‘name-calling’ designed to intimidate us into silence and invisibility,” wrote J.R. Roberts in the 1979 essay “In America They Call Us Dykes.” “In the Lesbian/feminist 1970s, we broke the silence on this tabooed word, reclaiming it for ourselves, assigning it to positive, political values.”

Since then, dyke has been a political identity for many young lesbians, its meaning expanding to, as Roberts detailed, “a strong independent lesbian who can take care of herself.” The word was used for a feminist lesbian magazine (DYKE: A Quarterly), Alison Bechdel’s famous long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and perhaps most famously, the all-women's motorcycle crew Dykes on Bikes. And when the political activist group Lesbian Avengers decided to pull thousands of women together as part of the LGBT March on Washington in 1993, they did it under the name the Dyke March. Its success spawned siblings in several other cities, many of which are annual parts of Pride celebrations taking place this month.

Anne-Christine d’Adesky, co-founder of the Lesbian Avengers and subsequently the first-ever Dyke March, shared that the initial desire was to create lesbian visibility.

“Even in our own community,” she said, “of the issues that lesbians were dealing with … we felt that it was time to be able to kind of have that visibility and to counter pretty strong, really old stereotypes of lesbians, particularly lesbian activists—angry lesbians, shrill lesbians, humorless lesbians. So I think it was a combination of wanting to be in your face … I think it was also very much indicating a pride in that word and a sexuality of [dyke], in how strong it was—to take something that was seen as a slur, or seen as some kind of stigma and owning it with such pleasure, with such joy.”

Yet even within cities that hold dyke marches every year, some women find it hard to locate any positivity or power in the word’s meaning. And this, along with a lack of organizational support (some of which stems from queer women’s ability to volunteer free time and labor) and external logistical pressures, has placed the institution of the dyke march under threat.

June 22 2017 3:15 PM

LGBTQ People With Developmental Disabilities Need Respect, Privacy, and Access to Community

Robert arrives at an old friend’s Brooklyn Pride party with a box of Oreos for the potluck and a bag of records for his inevitable DJ set. It’s a hot June afternoon and an opportunity to catch up with other LGBTQ adults with developmental disabilities. Robert, who is 46 and identifies as bisexual, can recognize almost any disco tune and recall the year of its release. With the help of direct support professionals, Robert maintains his own apartment. However, his support staff are around so often that finding time with his boyfriend Terry is an ongoing challenge.

June 22 2017 3:14 PM

Televising the Pride Parade Fulfills Original Parade Organizer Craig Rodwell’s Vision of Queer Visibility

On June 25, 2017, New York’s LGBTQ Pride Parade will be televised on a major network for the first time in history. The pride parade began in 1970 as a political march when activist Craig Rodwell, along with a few others, wanted to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. An ABC affiliate's decision to televise and live-stream the parade fulfills Rodwell’s political project of making gay people, and, in today’s more inclusive view, all LGBTQ people, visible to the masses.

June 22 2017 3:13 PM

What’s the Value of Visibility in 2017?

Ask a room full of queers what Pride means—what the season is for—and you’re certain to get a few different answers. For some, it’s a time to commemorate the movement-energizing Stonewall rebellion of 1969 and to take stock of how far LGBTQ people have come on our road to legal and social equality in the 48 years since. Others, such as those staging protests at Pride parades around the country this summer, see it as an opportunity to take up the riotous spirit of our queer ancestors and demand better of our own leaders and our government, with a social justice platform that comprises far more than queer issues alone. And still others view it as a kind of carnival, a time to party with their queer siblings and revel in a season when we march down the main avenues of the culture rather than keeping to our typical sidelines.

June 22 2017 3:00 PM

Appeals Court Lifts Block on Mississippi’s Malicious Anti-LGBTQ “Religious Freedom” Law

On Thursday, a three-judge panel for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the injunction on Mississippi’s vicious “religious freedom” law, the worst anti-LGBTQ measure in the country. A federal judge had blocked the law before it took effect, ruling it violated the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses. The 5th Circuit, however, held that the plaintiffs in the case did not have standing to challenge the law in court, rendering the injunction improper.

HB 1523, the Mississippi bill, constitutes an all-out assault on LGBTQ people and a sweeping effort to legalize discrimination. Under the law:

  • Businesses can refuse service to LGBTQ people.
  • Employers can fire (or refuse to hire) workers because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Adoption agencies, private and taxpayer-funded, can turn away same-sex couples and trans people.
  • Landlords can evict renters for being LGBTQ.
  • Medical professionals can refuse to treat LGBTQ patients.
  • Clerks and judges can refuse to marry same-sex couples.
  • Schools can exclude trans students from bathrooms that align with their gender identity and discriminate against all LGBTQ students.

And, for good measure, these requirements must be interpreted as broadly as possible in favor of the discriminators.

June 21 2017 4:48 PM

After Advisory Council Resignations, HIV/AIDS Advocates Mobilize for Incoming Trumpcare Bill

As Senate Republicans are tying a bow on their health-care bill, the text of which they will reportedly release this week, advocates of people living with HIV and AIDS—among the country’s most reliant on access to affordable care—are ramping up efforts to resist what they fear will be damaging changes in the proposed legislation.

“You can’t argue or convince someone to have empathy for others,” Scott Schoettes, a former member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, told me by phone. “The President cares mostly about winning and that involves trying to get legislation passed. That’s all he’s focused on when it comes to the American Health Care Act. There’s been very little thought given on how it will affect people on the ground, like people living with HIV.”

Schoettes, who was appointed to the council in 2014, resigned last week along with five other experts over President Donald Trump’s Administration’s perceived lack of a strategy to address the ongoing epidemic. He chronicled his grievances in a scathing opinion piece published in Newsweek last Friday.