Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Feb. 12 2016 3:41 PM

Honey Maid Wins Valentine’s Day With Family Love

Honey Maid, enabler of graham cracker crusts and Teddy Graham nostalgia, has been on the forefront of the LGBT corporate acceptance trend since debuting their “This Is Wholesome” campaign—which featured a two-dad family—back in 2014. (Their great follow-up response to bigoted criticism of that ad proved their commitment to equality ran deep.) Now, the company is back with a further iteration on the “wholesome” theme for Valentine’s Day—and, frankly, it’s wonderful.

The spot, titled “Love Day” and crafted by agency Droga5, sidesteps the typical V-Day focus on couples and instead askes that viewers “think of love differently.” What follows is a series of moving snapshots of familial acceptance. A gay son comes out to his mother, who immediately wraps him in a hug: “You gay? It’s OK, hun! I knew you were. I knew you were, hun.” A pair of non-biological brothers assert their fraternity. A young transgender man thanks his mother for her understanding. A man given up for adoption thanks his birth parents for their choice. And a lesbian asks her grandmother if she’s “OK.” “Nothing would stop me from loving you my dear,” the grandmother replies.


Cynicism is my usual approach to Valentine’s Day, but Honey Maid has succeeded in making this cold heart feel. Heart candies and cheap flowers may have grown empty, but love like this is still worth celebrating.

Feb. 12 2016 1:30 PM

Group Session: Can a Gang Bang Be Therapeutic?

Names in this article have been changed.

Most gay men will have seen one: a grainy porn flick, maybe from Treasure Island Media, in which a lone bottom finds himself in a room full of tops. Whether you find the bottom lucky or not is a matter of taste. And even if the scene does inspire fantasies about being the center of a gang bang, it’s likely that inhibitions, health concerns, and logistical challenges would stop you short of the real thing. But for those in New York committed to the orgy experience, there’s a discrete event-planning startup that organizes gang bangs tailored to clients’ desires. And, contrary to what you might expect, this service isn’t operated by a party-promoter or seedy pimp. It’s helmed by Daniel, a soft-spoken young entrepreneur who met with me over tea last month to explain why he believes that gang bangs can be more than carnal adventures—for him and his clients, they can be forms of empowerment, even a kind of therapy.

Feb. 12 2016 8:30 AM

What Valentine’s Day Cards Say About the State of LGBTQ Equality

I was shopping in a chain drugstore last weekend, searching for the perfect Valentine’s Day card for my wife and for Grandma, when I came across a most curious category: “Love: Man to Man.” I was shocked and excited and confused all at the same time.

It was jarring and pleasing to see same-sex love recognized in a franchise pharmacy. I recognize that LGBTQ inclusion in advertising and marketing is something that’s happening more and more these days, but the attention still feels new and foreign after a lifetime of invisibility. How many of us spent a good amount of media consumption transposing the genders in horoscopes or reading too far into moments that aren’t LGBTQ but feel like they could or should be? So many of us are accustomed to not having a place at the table, let alone an opportunity to be a part of the conversation, that it’s pure culture shock to see steps being taken to remedy that.


Feb. 11 2016 3:10 PM

Remember When Deadpool Was Going to Be Marvel’s First Pansexual Movie Hero?

Deadpool disciples have long waited to see if their cheerfully vulgar hero would make it to the screen with every dirty word and gleeful spray of blood intact. A former special forces operative transformed into a disfigured mutant, Deadpool graduated from a sleepy cameo in one of the Marvel Universe’s worst films to a hotly anticipated movie all his own, largely thanks to the prospect of an onscreen hero every bit as indulgent and subversive as the one featured in the comic books. Word of a “hard R” rating occasioned joy from fans. And the filmmakers have stoked this anticipation themselves, including Ryan Reynolds, who both stars and shares a producing credit. “You have moments when you’re shooting where you think, ‘This is, uh, a little excessive. This is a comic book movie. Are we gonna get away with this?’” he said in an interview. “But so far so good. Studio hasn’t crushed us with anything.”

Feb. 11 2016 12:53 PM

Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bills are Unconstitutional

As state legislatures reconvene for 2016, a rash of bills have been proposed that would exclude transgender people from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity and outward gender expression. In other words, the bills seek to prevent a transgender woman—who looks and presents as a woman—from using the women’s restroom. Instead, she would be forced to use a men’s restroom where she would stand out like a sore thumb. These “papers to pee” or “genital check” bills violate constitutional privacy protections.

For example, in Washington state, a bill has been introduced that would empower public and private entities to bar transgender people from gender-segregated restrooms if the individual had not undergone gender confirmation surgery (sometimes referred to as genital reassignment surgery). In South Dakota, a bill recently passed by the House of Representatives would prevent a student whose chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth did not align with a gender-segregated restroom from using that restroom in a public school.

And in Virginia, a bill would impose a fine on any student who did not use the bathroom corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificate. Currently in Virginia, the gender marker on a birth certificate will only be amended if an individual undergoes a medical procedure.

If passed and enforced, these bills would violate an individual’s constitutional right to informational privacy. As I detailed in “Outing Privacy,” an article in the Northwestern University Law Review, the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents the government from disclosing individuals’ intimate, sensitive information—including someone’s LGBTQ identity. This is particularly so if the information is likely to subject the individual to discrimination, harassment, or violence, as is tragically the case for many transgender individuals.

Feb. 10 2016 8:30 AM

Hollywood Has a “Hipster Homophobia” Problem

In recent years, LGBTQ characters have made enormous strides on television. Shows like EmpireTransparent, and Orange Is the New Blackshowcase diverse queer stories with complex characters who aren’t defined solely by their sexual orientation or gender identity. And in a medium where same-sex kissing was once considered risqué, in 2014, How to Get Away With Murder featured a scene of interracial gay analingus (although the show has also indulged in a disappointing strain of bottom shaming). Last year, Freeform’s The Fosters featured a gay kiss between two 13-year-olds, the youngest queer lip lock in the medium’s history.

2015 was such a groundbreaking year for queer representation on the small screen that GLAAD announced it was discontinuing its “Network Responsibility Index”—which graded TV networks on LGBT inclusivity—because everyone was doing a good job. Instead, the organization will focus on its annual “Where We Are on TV” report, which also looks at the racial diversity of LGBT characters and the presence of characters living with a disability.   

But when it comes to film, things aren’t getting better for queer audiences. There’s no sadder indication of this than Dirty Grandpa, the abysmally reviewed Robert De Niro, Zac Efron comedy released in theaters on Jan. 22. Out actor Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman plays Bradley, the gay best friend of Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), a Florida party girl with a thing for much, much older men. Bradley exists not just to be her token queer sidekick but also to act as a human punching bag for anti-gay humor. The duo meet Richard “Dick” Kelly (Robert De Niro), a foul-mouthed patriarch on a road trip with his straight-laced grandson (Zac Efron). Dick likes to call Bradley names like “princess” and “twinkle toes.”


Feb. 9 2016 12:47 PM

The Science Behind Why So Many Women Want to Befriend Gay Men

This article originally appeared in the Conversation.

For years, friendships between straight women and gay men have been a subject of pop culture fascination. Bookstelevision shows and feature length films have all highlighted this unique relationship, noted for its closeness and depth.

But with society’s attitudes toward gays and lesbians changing, it’s become all the more important to build a holistic understanding of the relationships between gay and straight people.

As a researcher in social psychology, I’ve often wondered: Why dostraight female-gay male relationships work so well? Why are straight women so drawn to having gay men as friends? And when do these relationships typically form.

During the course of my research, I’ve discovered that the most interesting, compelling – and, arguably, most theoretically coherent – explanation is through the lens of evolution.

Specifically, I believe evolutionary psychology and human mating can help explain why relationships between straight women and gay men tend to flourish.

Feb. 9 2016 12:12 PM

Marco Rubio’s Painful Encounter With a Gay Voter Perfectly Illustrates His Robot Problem

On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio walked into a restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire, expecting to charm GOP-friendly voters. But, as the New York Times’ Michael Barbaro reports, the cheery vibes turned sour when Rubio started chatting with Timothy Kierstead, a gay married man who was dining with his husband and mother.

“Why do you want to put me back in the closet?” Kierstead demanded.

Feb. 8 2016 12:18 PM

Trauma Club: Was the Protest of a Jewish Group at Creating Change Really Anti-Semitic?

This post originally appeared in Jewschool.

If I were an average Jew in the United States, uninvolved in activist communities, and I looked at the news over the past two weeks, I would think that the radical LGBT movement had lost its mind and turned into a violent, anti-Semitic mob. Several articles, from niche blogs to mainstream newspapers, have covered the recent firestorm at the National LGBT Task Force’s Creating Change conference, in which a crowd of anti-Zionist protestors demonstrated against a reception by A Wider Bridge — a group that aims to “build bridges between Israelis and LGBTQ North Americans.”

Nearly every published report claims the action was anti-Semitic. Some pieces call the protest “violent.” Most condemn the entire queer left, and call upon our radical movements to affirm support for Israel. And yet, while I have read these pieces, spoken to people who were there (on both sides), watched nearly an hour of video footage, and begged my wide-ranging social media contacts to send me proof of anti-Semitism, it was only after four days of searching that I discovered a verified incident of actual anti-Jewish bias on the part of one individual protestor out of hundreds.

I am not discounting the possibility that other individuals may have made similar gestures, but why is the entire action — indeed the entire movement — being smeared as fundamentally anti-Semitic? Why are its base values and goals being falsely branded as anti-Jewish?

I want to offer my own perspective on this flashpoint moment, because I believe that queer, anti-Zionist Jews like myself have a unique ability to empathize with both sides of this controversy without getting lost in the comfortable fantasy that Israel/Palestine is “too complicated” to take a strong stand.

Feb. 8 2016 11:17 AM

The Tragic Results of the Mormon Church’s New Policy Against Gay Members

Last November, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a stunning new policy declaring gay Mormons in same-sex marriages to be apostates in risk of excommunication. The church also decided that the children of same-sex couples could not be blessed or baptized until they turned 18—and even then, only if they renounced their parents’ marriage. Immediately, a shock wave rippled throughout the sizable gay Mormon community. Wendy Montgomery, a Mormon mom who has a gay son and works with the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, believes that at least 32 gay Mormon youths have killed themselves since the announcement of the new policy.

Montgomery’s decision to go public with that number brought sudden interest to Mama Dragons, the support group she co-founded. Mama Dragons connects the mothers of gay Mormons, in the real world and virtually through Facebook. The group’s members have sheltered gay Mormons fleeing their homophobic families, invited LGBT Mormons into their homes when they feel depressed or suicidal, invited gay-friendly speakers to address Mormon communities, and even helped to plan funerals on behalf of Mormon moms whose gay children committed suicide. On Friday, I spoke with Diane Oviatt, a pediatric oncology nurse, and Hollie Hancock, a clinical mental health counselor—two founding members of the group—about their efforts to help gay Mormon youth.