Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Jan. 20 2017 4:40 PM

Trump’s Inauguration Wasn’t Just Cloudy—It Was Downright Shady

At the exact moment that Donald Trump began to take the oath of office, my shady-ass cat knocked a stack of books off the shelf. On top of the pile landed Frederick Douglass’ autobiography of his life as a slave in the land of the free. Hard eyes emoji.

It was neither the first nor the last moment of shade that beset the inauguration of a man who is, surely, the least qualified and probably the most dangerous president our nation has had to endure. And endure him we will, if the beautiful explosion of resistance ranging from twerks for peace, to women’s marches, to “you wanted a wall” blockades currently filling our cities’ streets are any indication. Part of that resistance will depend on the essential succor of humor—so in that spirit, we present a collection of the day’s shadiest moments.


Official Shade

Trump made a show of signing a sheaf of “meaningful” papers on Day 1, but he wasn’t alone. The American Civil Liberties Union celebrated the peaceful transfer of power by launching a major legal campaign against the administration focused on the conflicts of interest and outright violations of the Constitution the new president just dropped off at the White House along with his monogramed luggage. From a press release: “The first legal action, filed yesterday, is a Freedom of Information Act request asking several government agencies to turn over all documents relating to President Trump’s actual or potential conflicts of interest to his business and family connections. The request seeks legal opinions, memoranda, advisories, and communications from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of Government Ethics, the General Services Administration, and the office of Personnel Management from November 9, 2016, to January 20, 2017.” Get out your magnifying glasses, girls.

Meanwhile, up on the dais, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer offered a lesson in the art of subtle, classy shade. The headline here is that Schumer managed to make a speech at Trump’s inauguration without once mentioning the man’s name. Classic “I don’t know her” maneuver. But what he did say was equally delicious. Schumer rhetorically gathered the groups the Trumpist movement has belittled—immigrants, LGBTQ people, folks with disabilities, religious minorities, and others—around him and he set the values Trump threatens—“the rule of law, equal protection for all under law, the freedom of speech, press, religion”—before the crowd. And then, in a particularly werk-worthy move, he summoned one of the most beautiful expressions of patriotism from the Civil War as an example for how Americans have at times been called on to believe “in something bigger than themselves and [be] willing to sacrifice for it.” On a weekend when it seems likely that more citizens will turn out to protest the new president than to fete him, Schumer’s was the perfect message to send.

Aesthetic Shade

I hope I live long enough to see a grade-school history book that covers this inauguration, because revisiting one of the many wide-angle shots of the largely barren National Mall and other “overflow spaces” that networks have favored today will give 2045 me a hearty LOL. Though final numbers are not yet available, it’s clear that attendance did not meet expectations—and when your own people can’t be bothered to show up, you, sir, have been shaded.

Speaking of images, the internet should be congratulated for delivering one of the finest archival research reads I’ve seen in some time, in the form of discovering that Trump’s new @POTUS Twitter header photo—a mass of happy people festooned with waving flags—was actually from Obama’s inauguration. Properly shaken, the account manager has since changed the photo to a stock image of the star-spangled banner.

Ah yes, and speaking of Old Glory, did we all see how Kellyanne Conway inexplicably shaded herself with that patriotic lewk she pulled from Gucci? Turns out the frock was designed to celebrate London, but no matter: Trump’s wild-eyed Mistress of Propaganda succeeded in becoming even more like Effie Trinket of the Capitol than she already was.

Elsewhere in fashion, Clinton aide-de-camp Huma Abedin, channeling a voting majority of Americans’ vibe today, straight-up went into mourning attire. (Hillary, reviving a trope of her campaign, wore suffragette white.) It’s been said that the best shade goes without saying—should you encounter this woman, there’s little doubt from whence her grief arises.

Before we leave this category, a final note (or really, notes): Much shade has already been cast upon young voice artist Jackie Evancho (who has a transgender sister) for singing the national anthem at this thing, so I won’t mention that octave jump she forced like gold-leaf into a Trump property at the end. But claps to the military band percussionist who insisted on playing a totally unnecessary vibraphone—an instrument that is definitely always out of tune in cold weather like today’s—in the ensemble: It was a fittingly janky and discordant overture to Trump’s tenure in D.C.

Personal Shade

There were lots of sour faces in Washington today, but this shade roundup would be remiss not to highlight the former (sad face) first lady herself. Michelle “on my way to a fucking vacation” Obama was captured throughout the day’s events generally not having it, and just as we thank her for her eight years of excellent work, we thank her for this final service, as well.

Michelle's face is giving "fuck outta here you wack bitch" whatever is in that box is cursed!

A photo posted by Quentin Belt ™ (@buffydavampireslayer) on

Hillary was similarly unamused:

Deepest Shade

Other fine incidents of shade joined those above today to cast a cloud over the proceedings: BuzzFeed’s next election countdown clock and the House of Cards new season teaser both come to mind.

But it’s time to decide on the deepest shade of the day. I’m mightily tempted by the wonderful child from Trump’s signing chicanery who, like America, is exhausted by this foolishness and just wants to go home.

But in the end, I think we have to give it to Mother Nature, who saw fit to open those clouds basically at the moment Trump took the stage. It’s a harsh read, to literally rain on the new president’s parade. But given that climate change seems to have already been disappeared from government websites, I can’t say I blame her.

Jan. 20 2017 2:54 PM

Glitter and Be Gay: Queer Protest at the Inauguration


For the first few days of the Trump administration, biodegradable glitter will be embedded in the pavement outside the inauguration security checkpoint at 13th and E Streets in Washington, D.C.


At that intersection, nearly an hour before sunrise, a few dozen protestors started blasting Madonna and Sister Sledge for a queer dance party that attempted to block Trump supporters from entering the security line.

The protesters were part of the #DisruptJ20 coalition, which has been running some of the largest demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience at the inauguration. The party was also organized by Werk for Peace, the group that brought a few hundred queers and allies to Vice President (and noted homophobe) Mike Pence’s house for a dance party on Wednesday night.

Dancing, twirling hula hoops, and waving signs, the protesters blocked a few inauguration-goers, who turned around, presumably to find another entrance checkpoint. For a while, security officers let attendees bypass the metal barriers to avoid having to push through the crowd of undulating dancers. They eventually stopped.

James Tandaric gets sprinkled with glitter.

Christina Cauterucci

A group of MAGA-hatted white boys from New Jersey and Philadelphia (all teens; at least one said he wasn’t old enough to vote) were blocked by the dancers, so they decided to wait outside the checkpoint for more of their friends. They had planned to stay with one boy’s family member, the president of Georgetown Preparatory School, but apparently he had “a bunch of Jesuit priests” staying with him, so they got a hotel room. “We just think it’s funny,” one said of the queer protest, helping his friend pour a can of Natural Light into a soda cup. They have “no problem” with gay marriage and don’t think Donald Trump does, either. At least two claimed to have gay uncles, an allegation Slate could not verify at this time.

Emory, a 24-year-old protester who works for a D.C. nonprofit and uses they/them pronouns, said the group was making an “expression of resistance through dance.” “It shows that we are here, and we want to make ourselves known, and we are not going to let the current ... administration bring down our pride,” they said. “We are going to stay prideful and stay joyful.”


Christina Cauterucci

One elderly Trump supporter in line said he thought the dance party was “fine” and that Trump has too many other things to worry about to focus on rolling back LGBTQ rights and protections. Namely, the man said, Trump needs to focus on “making sure we don’t go bankrupt.” “Do you have kids?” he asked me. I said no. “Well, if you do someday—and hopefully you will—they’ll each owe the government $70,000.” His wife made sure I knew that, though she voted for Trump because she really didn’t like Hillary Clinton, she was not “a Trump supporter.”

After the dancers had been sprinkling glitter for a few hours, a Jesus-loving, gay-hating man with a megaphone showed up to tell the protesters they should repent. The demonstrators tried, mostly successfully, to drown him out with whistles and chants of “Make America gay again” and “God is queer.” One protester got up in the man’s face with a patch that said “pro-choice antichrist.”

Regina Dick-Endrizzi, 58, had made hotel reservations and bought plane tickets from San Francisco to D.C. months ago, expecting a Clinton victory. She decided to keep her plans and join the #DisruptJ20 protests instead. “As a lesbian, this [protest] resonated with me, in terms of dancing, and being happy, and also having a very visible presence,” she said. Trump and Pence’s victory is an “unwritten mandate to people who are homophobic and racist and any Republicans who want to backtrack and not move forward on human rights for all of us.”

At 10 a.m., the dance party turned into a march north through the mostly empty blockaded streets. Protesters turned on “Deceptacon” and cheered when they passed other people holding anti-Trump signs. “Dance halls and dance clubs have been a place of safety and bravery for queer people for decades,” said demonstrator James Tandaric, a 23-year-old fourth-grade teacher at a D.C. school. “I came here to dance, and to be here for my queer ancestors and make sure the fight is still going.”

Jan. 20 2017 8:44 AM

Assessing Obama’s LGBTQ Legacy

The man who is taking over the Oval Office presents such a striking contrast with the man who vacated it that it almost seems extraneous to evaluate Barack Obama’s presidency right now. At Thanksgiving, it was far easier and less necessary to defend Obama’s record to my relatives than it might have been if his recently elected replacement had been an ordinary conservative. But as a historian and longtime Obama observer and fan—and as someone who sat down with him to discuss a strategy for repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”—I am finding it impossible to avoid the obligation to offer a preliminary appraisal as we all settle in to watch—and shape—what happens next.

Much of what impressed me about Obama has to do with his character, and thus with the process by which he leads. It is clear, first of all, that the man is not only brilliant, but that he uses his intelligence to great effect—in applying it both to himself and to the world he has sought to affect. According to a recent New York Times interview, Obama spent years in college in “a focused period of deep self-reflection and study, methodically reading philosophers from St. Augustine to Nietzsche, Emerson to Sartre to Niebuhr, to strip down and test his own beliefs.” This blend of curiosity and discipline was an effort to absorb enormous amounts of information while ever mindful of his own biases. Michelle Obama commented on her husband’s almost supernatural penchant for self-improvement. Except it’s not supernatural; it’s a matter of understanding and caring about how humans change and progress, and how, in turn, a country can evolve.

Jan. 19 2017 2:06 PM

As Trump Takes Office, Minorities Are Preparing to Fight for Their Lives—Literally

Just a week after Donald Trump won the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that between Nov. 9 and Nov. 14, there were more than 400 “reports of hateful intimidation and harassment,” most of them anti-immigrant, anti-black, and anti-LGBTQ. At a vocational school in Pennsylvania, students were filmed roaming the hallways carrying Trump signs and yelling, “white power!” And in Wellsville, New York, graffiti appeared on the back of a dugout with the phrase “Make America White Again” flanked by a swastika on either side. While it’s unlikely that all these incidents were clearly connected to Trump’s win, there’s no question that instances of intimidation and outright attacks on the many groups the president-elect demeaned in the course of his campaign are on the rise. But as Trump unleashed hate, he summoned something else, too: a desire among his targets to fight back.

Even before the election, recent events had various minority communities in a defensive posture. Following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, in 2015, Muslim women across the country, fearful of vigilante violence in a climate of anti-Muslim sentiment, came together to give one another lessons in self-defense. And the Pink Pistols, an LGBTQ gun-rights advocacy group, saw a sudden spike in interest after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. But the reality of a Trump presidency brought with it a new sense of urgency and fear that touched a range of demographic groups.

Since Election Day, many Americans who are not straight, white, and male have judged wise the saying that a good offense is the best defense. Class attendance for various types of self-defense practices, from Krav Maga and MMA to those specifically designed to train women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community have seen interest skyrocket over the last few months. Tracy Hobson, executive director at the Center for Anti-Violence Education, told me that the morning after the election, voicemail requests from different organizations seeking to collaborate on self-defense programming were laden with a sense of “desperate” urgency. (She also said that interest in their longstanding classes, including one for women and trans people, has quadrupled.) A Muslim woman from Chicago, Zaineb Abdulla, made headlines for her viral instructional “hijab grab” defense videos, as did the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment, a New York City-based nonprofit for Muslim women, whose November post-election self-defense workshops reportedly sold out in just 10 hours and were shared on Facebook hundreds of times.

Jan. 17 2017 6:41 PM

After Years of Horrible Treatment in Prison, Chelsea Manning Will Soon Be Free

When it comes to Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was sentenced to prison after leaking a trove of classified government data to WikiLeaks in 2010, the question of whether her actions made her a patriot or a traitor is one reasonable people can debate. That debate will undoubtedly continue after the announcement on Tuesday that President Barack Obama had commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence—an unprecedented long sentence for a crime that usually receives terms of one to three years. (Manning will go free on May 17.) What’s indisputable, however, is the unconscionable nature of Manning’s treatment as a transgender woman during her incarceration.

Chase Strangio, Manning’s American Civil Liberties Union attorney, referenced the trauma Manning has experienced in a press release praising the decision. “Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement—including for attempting suicide—and has been denied access to medically necessary health care,” he said. “This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life.” Prominent transgender writers and advocates agreed.

Jan. 17 2017 8:30 AM

Mississippi Governor: Some Gay People Become Straight, and Lots of Them Bully Christians

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is not a fan of the First Amendment. We know this because last April, Bryant signed HB 1523, a disturbing law singling out three specific anti-LGBTQ religious beliefs and granting their holders a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people in housing, employment, medical treatment, public accommodations, adoptions, and marriage licensing. When a state provides special rights to certain people by endorsing certain beliefs in a way that burdens nonbelievers—as HB 1523 clearly does—it runs afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. That’s what U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled in June when he blocked the law, and it’s what challengers to the statute are arguing in the next round of litigation at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Now the attorneys whom Bryant has tasked with defending HB 1523 have struck back in a wildly unhinged brief that reads more like a deranged rant than a legal argument.

Jan. 16 2017 1:11 PM

America May Be Heading Into an STD Epidemic—and Gay and Bi Men Are Going to Be the Hardest Hit

Earlier this month, Poz magazine’s Benjamin Ryan drew attention to a concerning new study out of Northern California’s heath system: Using data gathered from July 2012 through June 2015, researchers found that, among a cohort consisting mostly of same-sex attracted men on the HIV-prevention regimen PrEP, “quarterly rates of rectal gonorrhea and urethral chlamydia increased steadily and about doubled after one year.” In other words, guys on the fantastically effective pill-a-day Truvada program were avoiding HIV infection—there were no new transmissions for regimen-adherent patients over the study period, in fact—but they seemed to be getting other sexually transmitted diseases relatively often. There are a few plausible explanations for the measured increase in this particular community, including the quarterly or at least semi-annual STD battery a PrEP prescription requires (more testing almost certainly means more diagnoses compared to men who infrequently or never get tested), and emerging evidence that many men, emboldened by PrEP, are engaging in more condomless sex. Either way, gay and bi men have reason to be alarmed.

This news came on the heels of a recent STD Surveillance Report from the CDC, which showed that the total combined cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis reported in the U.S. in 2015 reached record highs. Those most at risk were gay and bisexual men (regardless of their PrEP status), as well as the youth of America: Young adults aged 15 to 24 accounted for half the gonorrhea diagnoses and two-thirds of the chlamydia cases. Men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for the majority of new gonorrhea and syphilis cases. And all this while strains of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea were recently discovered to be on the rise among MSM.

As a journalist who covers sexual health and as a gay man who has sex, it seems to me that our community is on the cusp of a major STD epidemic. And although gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are certainly not the scourge HIV once was, I can’t help but feel a kind of old-fashioned, Larry Kramer-tinged guilt, like my community is to blame because of our more open relationship to sex. They say not to read comments sections online, but I couldn’t resist peeking at articles covering the CDC news. On a piece from USA Today, one person wrote: “Lot's of young whores out there today,” while another said, “looks like gays are determine[d] to do themselves harm.”

But is this accurate? Is “bad” sexual behavior among gays and other groups to blame for the trend? The answer is surely complicated, but if we want to better fight the rise in STD rates, we have to try to understand what’s driving it in the first place.

Jan. 13 2017 6:11 PM

Side Eye: Boys Kissing Boys Who Don’t Actually Like Boys

Side Eye is an occasional Outward column in which we’ll look askance at questionable behavior from fellow members of the queer community. Seen something in LGBTQ-land that deserves a shady squint? Alert bryan.lowder@slate.com with “Side Eye” (or just “oh, gurl, did you see”) in the subject line.

In today’s column, we look askance at a vexing, Hollywood-based cluster of man-on-man kissing—an activity we normally applaud, but in this case must submit to a firm inspection.

Bryan Lowder: Andrew, before we get to the weirdness that is this mini-trend of straight actor men kissing each other, we should probably explain to our readers why we are addressing straight people under the Side Eye banner, which was invented for intra-queer analytical shade. Simply put, they are acting like gay people! And since they seem to want to dip their well-appointed toes into our world, I am willing to treat them with the bracing honesty that I would a sister queer.

Jan. 13 2017 1:49 PM

How Can Literature Resist Islamophobia? One Writer Answers: Gay Muslim Furry Romance.

Kyell Gold’s new novel may lie at the most unlikely intersection in literary history: a gay immigrant Muslim romance involving furries--that is, people who feel a close identification with anthropomorphic animal characters.

“I wrote this book in part as a response to the wave of Islamophobia in this country,” Gold explained in an author’s note, “never dreaming at the time that it would crest as it has now.”

The Time He Desires is the story of Aziz, a cheetah in a faltering heterosexual marriage who explores the boundaries of his sexuality with the help of a gay fox. Aziz is a Sudanese immigrant, and engages in a struggle with his desires that will be familiar to queer readers. Gold’s been writing furry romance novels full-time for several years, after bouncing from chemical engineering to business school to zoology. After he was laid off in 2010 with a generous severance package, his husband said, “if you’re going to be a full-time writer, this is the time to start.”

Jan. 10 2017 2:55 PM

John Kerry’s “Lavender Scare” Apology Obscures the State Department’s Shameful History

Monday afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry issued an apology for his department’s past discrimination against LGBTQ people. It was unprecedented, unexpected, and unspecific, a rather stiff parting hug to the community before the incoming administration kicks us in the shins.

Kerry was apparently responding to two letters, one issued by Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland on Nov. 29 and another (echoing Cardin) sent by the Human Rights Campaign on Dec. 22. Both letters explicitly evoked the postwar panic known as the “Lavender Scare” in which the federal government purged thousands of gay and lesbian employees from its ranks on the pretext of their being “security risks.” Cardin’s letter, citing historian David Johnson’s extraordinary book on the subject, details the persecution at length, with special attention to the Senate’s role in it. Both letters recommend that the State Department memorialize the victims of its discrimination with an exhibit at the National Museum of American Diplomacy.

While arguably better than nothing, Monday’s apology is baffling. It’s the first time the federal government has ever acknowledged these events, but Kerry’s statement is only legible as such to those familiar with the history. To everyone else it is, at best, cryptic and, at worst, misleading. The first hundred words of the statement (half of it) burnish Kerry’s legacy on LGBTQ issues. There follows one sentence, vague and defensive, to describe the scare: “In the past—as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades—the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place.” Then the apology. There’s no mention of the requests for memorialization.