Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM

Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny

Chelsea Manning, the transgender former solider currently imprisoned for her involvement with Wikileaks, has spoken out against President Obama’s ISIS strategy, penning an opinion piece for the Guardian titled “How to make Isis fall on its own sword.” Responses to the article were predictably heated, in some cases focusing more on Manning’s genitalia than on her U.S. foreign policy insights. But Manning’s words weren’t the only aspect of the op-ed that drew criticism: In fact, according to around-up on Twitter curation site Twitchy, many readers seemed more offended by the sketched image of Manning beside her byline than by anything she said.

 

Instead of the typical photograph, Manning’s “headshot” is an artistic rendering, which critics on social media and commenters described as “horrifying,” “laughable,” and drawn by “pissed off police sketch artists.” When the piece initially appeared online, most everyone seemed to assume that the Guardian had created the apparently distasteful image on its own. But according to editor Matt Sullivan, that wasn’t the case. “Just to clarify,” Sullivan later explained in a comment, “the illustration that accompanies the author bio on this piece was made in cooperation with Chelsea Manning, as an artistic representation of how she sees herself.”

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Sept. 18 2014 3:24 PM

Symantec Removes Its “Sexual Orientation” Filter

Imagine that you’re a young, somewhat culturally isolated teenager who has just begun to explore her sexuality. You’ve overheard terms like “LGBTQ” or “marriage equality” on the news, and so, naturally, you go online to find more information. But the moment you try to click through to an organization like HRC, the Trevor Project, or even a publication like Outward, you get blocked by your computer’s adult-content filters. You conclude, quite understandably, that there must be something wrong—or at least something embarrassing—about this stuff. A new feeling mixes in with your healthy curiosity: Guilt.

When we slap everything remotely LGBTQ-related with an “adult” label, we cosign content as diverse as pornography and mental health services to the same difficult-to-access basket. That’s a bad situation for queer youth for whom support resources and positive media representations can be a matter of survival, and it’s insulting to the community at large—gays may make some X-rated things, but not everything gay is even close to X-rated. Filtering anything that falls under an “LGBTQ” label is clearly offensive, and, as my vignette demonstrates, it can also be damaging. 

Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM

Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun

Just a few years ago, whenever gay, lesbian, or bisexual characters appeared on broadcast television, a national freakout was never far behind. These days there are more queer TV characters than ever before, and television representations of gay life are increasingly rich and nuanced, even as the old lesbians-titilate, gays-entertain tropes sometimes remain in play.

This video considers all the out-queers on the small screen—as well as all the gay wannabes, pretend-to-bes, and should-bes—taking stock of how far we've come and looking forward to where we might go next. 

Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM

LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships

The MacArthur Foundation awards its “Genius” fellowships annually to those individuals who “show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.” So it’s exciting to look at this year’s list of recipients, which was announced on Wednesday, and find two truly exceptional figures from the LGBTQ community—Alison Bechdel and Mary Bonauto.

Many readers will know Bechdel from her critically acclaimed 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which captures (among many other things) her coming out experience and the discovery that her father himself was homosexual and closeted. As we covered here, the book recently enjoyed a second-life as an off-Broadway musical. Bechdel’s second memoir, Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama, was similarly well-received; Bechdel discussed that book and its themes with Outward’s June Thomas in 2012.

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If Bechdel comes from the artistic sector of queer luminaries, civil rights lawyer Mary Bonauto is an ideal representative of the crucial legal activism side. Thought it’s easy to forget in a world where Windsor dominates the lede of most gay marriage stories, Bonauto and her partners at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) were responsible for building out much of the legal framework that made later gay rights victories possible, especially in terms of the state-by-state approach which laid the groundwork for successful federal challenges. As Slate’s Justin Peters succinctly put it in a profile of Bonauto last summer, “she has had a hand in pretty much every major gay marriage legal victory over the past 20 years.”

Genius can be a subjective term, but in the case of these two remarkable queer women, it’s clearly well-deserved. 

Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM

Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 

Welcome back to Ask a Homo, a judgment-free zone where the gays of Outward answer questions about LGBTQ politics, culture, etiquette, language, and other queer conundrums. This week, a wonderfully supportive mother asks if she should share the pride she feels for her gay daughter with unsuspecting strangers on the street. 

If there are questions you’ve been dying to ask a member of the real rainbow coalition, this is your chance. Send your queries—for publication—to slateoutward@gmail.com, and please put “ASK A HOMO” in the subject line. Note that questions may be edited.

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Other Questions Asked of Homos:

Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM

What Is Straight Ice Cream?

The culture wars have been fought on all manner of terrain over the years, but as far as I know, Rocky Road is new ground. Sugary shots were fired in New York City over the weekend as Gallo Nero, an Italian restaurant located in Manhattan’s West Village, posted an advertisement for its ice cream offerings that seemed to mock its famous neighbor the Big Gay Ice Cream shop. The sign, featuring two rather drab looking cones of different flavors leaning suggestively toward each other, proclaimed that here customers could find “The Big STRAIGHT ice cream.”

While it’s difficult to discern whether the Gallo Nero ad was malicious or just a badly played joke—statements to local media have been cryptic—the notion of “straight” ice cream is a fascinating one. Gay ice cream, at least as the “Big” guys define it, means frozen creations that are often named after campy gay icons like Bea Arthur and rambunctious flavor combinations (apple butter and bourbon butterscotch; key lime curd and graham crackers) that are clearly homosexual. Gay ice cream is also generally served in the presence of drag queen unicorn.

Sept. 12 2014 6:01 PM

Why Is Facebook Cracking Down on Drag Names?

On Wednesday, drag queens and similar performers began complaining of problems with their Facebook profiles. Artists from across the country reported being forcibly logged out of their accounts and informed that they would need to update their profiles with their legal names in order to lift the suspension.  

According to New York City-based drag performer and Outward contributor Miz Cracker, at least 20 of her drag colleagues have had their profiles challenged over the last three days, with notices continuing to be issued at the time of writing.

Cracker described her experience in an email:

I found out that my account had been suspended on Wednesday night, right in the middle of a show, when a fellow queen texted to ask “Why is your Facebook profile gone?” Facebook was letting me know that I had a choice: I could either select a name they liked, or lose touch with the contacts, creative content, and memories that my name has earned me over the years.

Many artists, including Cracker and Sister Roma—a member of the San Francisco-based activism and performance group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence—acceded to Facebook’s directive; Roma switched her profile to her birth name, Michael Williams, with her drag name listed as an alias in parentheses. Others have set up new profiles with truly fake names as an act of protest or deleted their accounts entirely.

Sept. 12 2014 3:32 PM

Yes, Those Straight Guys Who Wed for Rugby Tickets Are Mocking Marriage. What’s New?

Oh, the irony: Gay folk are upset about someone attacking the dignity of marriage by getting married. That's the line homophobes use to oppose marriage equality: Same-sex marriage somehow magically undermines the institution of mixed-sex marriage.

Yet the dignity argument is the one that’s being trotted out in response to the news that a couple of apparently straight New Zealand bros, Travis McIntosh and Matt McCormick, got married as part of a radio publicity stunt. The reward offered for two friends willing to show just how strong their friendship is? Tickets to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. The ceremony took place, appropriately enough, at Eden Park, Auckland's famed rugby venue.

Sept. 12 2014 3:11 PM

Congressional Republicans Vote to Continue Discrimination Against Gay Veterans’ Spouses

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted 13-12 to continue to deny equal benefits to gay veterans who live in states without gay marriage. Currently, all active servicemembers and their same-sex spouses receive equal benefits—no matter where they live—under an order from the Department of Defense. But a statutory quirk instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to look to veterans’ state of residency to determine their marital status. Thus, a gay servicemember who marries in California but resides in Texas will be denied access to various benefits.

The bill being considered on Wednesday would have fixed this unforeseen problem with an easy tweak, extending benefits to all veterans with a valid marriage license. Every Democrat on the committee supported the bill, but only one Republican, Rep. Jon Runyan, broke ranks to join them. The other GOP members cited a vague concern for states’ rights. Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Florida, explained that “deference to the state is not motivated by hostility, it is motivated by adherence to the Constitution,” and claimed that “it is not appropriate to usurp the states’ power to democratically define marriage for their citizenry—not for personal belief, and not for bureaucratic convenience.”

Sept. 12 2014 12:20 PM

A Great Ruling on Gay Conversion “Therapy” That Also Protects the First Amendment

There’s a special kind of misery that occurs when a court reaches an unquestionably correct ruling for entirely the wrong reasons. Advocates of gay rights and free speech have been feeling that singular grief due to a spate of well-meaning but wrongheaded court rulings upholding the constitutionality of ex-gay conversion “therapy” bans. According to these rulings, such bans aren’t really speech at all, but simply “conduct.” Thus, they fall outside the protections of the First Amendment and don’t implicate any free speech concerns.

But on Thursday, a unanimous panel on the 3rd Circuit put the kibosh on this ill-starred line of reasoning, upholding New Jersey’s gay conversion “therapy” ban under a very different rationale. In an opinion by George W. Bush appointee D. Brooks Smith, the court held that, in fact, talk therapy by medical professionals is indeed a form of speech, not mere “conduct.” Because the speech occurs in the heavily regulated setting of doctor-patient treatment, however, therapists’ First Amendment protections are somewhat diminished. The state, after all, has an interest in protecting patients from harmful medical care, whether that care comes in the form of surgery or speech.

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