Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

April 24 2015 10:12 PM

Bruce Jenner Comes Out as Transgender

After months of rumors and questionable tabloid covers, Bruce Jenner came out as transgender on ABC’s 20/20 Friday night, telling Diane Sawyer, “I’ve been thinking about this day forever.” Asked by Sawyer directly if he is a woman, Jenner replied, “Yes, for all intents and purposes, I am a woman.”

Sawyer said Jenner requested the media preserve male pronouns for the time being.  


“My whole life has prepared me for this moment,” Jenner said, adding that he was apprehensive to come out because he didn’t want to “disappoint” people. Jenner, a ’70s-era Olympic gold medalist turned reality-star stepparent to the Kardashians, admirably shut down Sawyer’s suggestion that coming out may be a publicity ploy, and also made it clear his gender identity has nothing to do with his sexuality or marriages to women.  

Although the much-hyped interview aired over two hours, Jenner unexpectedly revealed his transition at the top of the show. Outward will have more on Jenner and the interview this weekend.

Also in Slate:

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April 24 2015 3:48 PM

A Dispatch From the Shifting, Porous Border Between Butch and Trans

Butch women aren’t men—except for the ones who transition to male, which happens just often enough to make things awkward for everyone involved. It’s awkward for fellow butches who feel strongly that they are not men, for trans men who seek to distinguish themselves from masculine women, and for butches whose understanding of themselves evolves in ways they hadn’t expected it to—each group challenges the self conception of the others. Many masculine women remain happily within the female gender for their entire lives and experience no discernable dysphoria. However, there are also butches who experience discomfort with their female gender or who seek to change their bodies to attain a more masculine appearance. The borders between butch women, masculine genderqueer people, and trans men are clearer in theory than in practice. In order to find out more about how people in these categories experience gender, I spoke with individuals from across the butch/trans spectrum, from female-identified butches to formerly butch-identifying trans men, and found commonalities, as well as differences, among them.

Shay Lima, 27, is tall and broad. We’re friends through my wife, who went to school with her. Shay has often been mistaken for male; she’s even been forcibly ejected from women’s bathrooms based on this misperception. At one party I attended, despite her having long hair and being dressed in female clothing at the time, she was mistaken for male by a partygoer who all but insisted her perception of Shay’s gender could not be wrong. Shay strongly identifies as a lesbian, and she doesn’t object to being called butch, although she’s never felt strongly drawn to that description.

April 24 2015 2:19 PM

The “Straight” Faces of Same-Sex Marriage

When the Supreme Court hears oral argument next Tuesday in the cases challenging state bans on same-sex marriage, the named plaintiff, a gentleman named Jim Obergefell, will in many ways seem familiar to the court. Like Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the case two years ago in which the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, Obergefell is white, professional, middle- to upper-class, and widowed. Of course, this is no coincidence.

Just like the choice of Windsor, the choice of Obergefell and other plaintiffs was part of a careful strategy on behalf of same-sex marriage movement attorneys to put forth and portray plaintiffs the justices could relate to and respect. By itself, this is not terribly surprising, nor necessarily problematic. Dating back at least to the civil rights movement and Brown v. Board of Education, conventional impact litigation wisdom has dictated that plaintiffs chosen to represent movements must be blemish-free—they must be respectable.

April 24 2015 7:00 AM

Ask a Homo: Steve or Steven?

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. There's an old joke that goes, “It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” Then there's the retort: “Of course not! It was Adam and Steven!” These silly lines got one viewer thinking about whether gay men actually have a preference for shorter or longer versions of their names. Here's J. Bryan Lowder (or should we say Bry?) with an answer.

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.


Other Questions Asked of Homos:

April 23 2015 12:30 PM

How One of the Most Important Edits in U.S. History Paved the Way for Marriage Equality

Next Tuesday, April 28, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges, a blockbuster case addressing the issue of marriage equality. If the Supreme Court ultimately strikes down state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying—as many commentators expect and as the Constitution commands—this date will surely go down as a milestone in LGBTQ rights history. But April 28 is already a critical date for the LGBTQ community—a forgotten anniversary, starring one of the most important Americans you’ve probably never heard of.

The constitutional case for marriage equality turns, in large measure, on the meaning of the 14th Amendment—including, in particular, its equal protection clause, which reads, “No State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This sweeping, universal language means what it says: It protects all persons from discrimination—whether black or white, woman or man, gay or heterosexual. Simply put, this includes gay men and lesbians challenging state laws that prohibit them from marrying the person of their choice.

April 23 2015 11:07 AM

“Would You Attend a Gay Wedding?” Is a Perfect Question for the GOP

How much do the current crop of Republican presidential candidates hate gay people? Enough to render their marriages invalid? Enough to take away their children? Enough to make their very existence illegal?

In previous years, various GOP candidates have answered “yes” to all of the above. This cycle, they’ve given no indication that their views have changed. But America’s certainly have: Around 61 percent of the population thinks same-sex marriage should be legal, up from 39 percent a decade ago. The same old policy questions about gay rights have grown stale, and the same old answers—no rights for gays, full stop—are now at once enervating and alarming. So the media has latched onto a new question: No matter your views on gay marriage, would you attend the wedding of a gay loved one?

This question has been pilloried by liberals and conservatives alike. “The dumbest kind of hypothetical,” said the National Journal’s Emma Roller. “Silly,” “bizarre,” and “frivolous,” said Vox’s German Lopez. “Irrelevant and inane,” suggested the American Prospect’s Paul Waldman. A “gotcha question,” said the Examiner’s Mark Whittington. These criticisms strike me as exceedingly shortsighted. The wedding question is cleverly designed to force candidates into taking a moral stand on what could otherwise be passed off as a dry political question. And, even more brilliantly, it forces candidates into a position of either callous honesty or brazen hypocrisy.

April 22 2015 12:49 PM

Ignore the Haters! The Prancing Elites Should Keep on Dancing.

At the beginning of The Prancing Elites Project, Oxygen’s new reality series about a black gay and gender-nonconforming dance team based in Mobile, Alabama, we’re reintroduced to the squad through footage of their controversial appearance in a local Christmas parade. Headlines and footage flash across the screen painting the five-member squad as disruptive and bringing havoc to the city. Even with community members being very dismissive, the Elites continue J-Setting down the street, smiling, prancing, and throwing their eight-counts.

Adrian Clemons, one of the Elites, said he felt like he has a disease where nobody wants to be around or near him. He sets the stage for the series: People are afraid of what they don’t know

The candid opening demonstrates that while the Elites may find joy through dance, their queerness forces them to face professional setbacks and personal hardships, all while doing the hard work of becoming more secure in their identities in a hostile environment. However, while the individual stories of the colorful and engaging cast will surely captivate audiences, the series’ larger argument is even more powerful: Everyone has the right to exist and be portrayed in the media—even if certain members of the community don’t want them to be.

April 22 2015 11:00 AM

Amy Schumer’s Transphobia-Encouraging Misstep

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s Season 3 premiere of Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer t, critics have been competing to lavish the show—which features Schumer in a winning mix of sketch, stand-up, and interview formats—with the most glowing praise. And with good reason. Schumer is one of the funniest comedians working, and her particular gift for sending-up sexist ridiculousness (both from men and among women) is a joy to behold. My Slate colleague Amanda Hess identified the mechanics of this skill in her review: “Schumer’s sketches … resist the obvious target and find humor in surprise.”

Right on. So imagine my surprise when, in the premiere’s final interview segment called “Amy Goes Deep,” Schumer facilitated one of the most clumsy, contextually clueless, cringe-inducing exchanges on transgender issues I’ve ever witnessed—and this, after a period of trans emergence in the media during which someone of Schumer’s intelligence and curiosity should have learned to do better.

April 20 2015 5:59 PM

Pittsburgh-Area High School Students Organize “Anti-Gay Day”

Last Friday, April 17, the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLSEN sponsored its “Day of Silence,” an annual event that “brings attention to the anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment that is common in schools” by having queer students and their allies organize peaceful demonstrations on campuses, often involving self-imposed quiet for much of the day. Due to a scheduling conflict, the Gay-Straight Alliance at McGuffey High School in Claysville, Pennsylvania, chose to mark the occasion on Wednesday, April 15, instead, drawing between 30 and 50 participants and generating a generally supportive atmosphere, according to a participant who spoke with BuzzFeed News.

The mood changed on Thursday, when, according to a number of reports, a similar-sized group organized an “anti-gay day,” which they marked by wearing flannel, writing “Anti-Gay” on their bodies, posting Bible verses to queer students’ lockers and social media profiles, and, most troublingly, allegedly harassing “Day of Silence” participants both verbally and physically. There are also allegations of a “lynch list” containing the names of LGBTQ students, a noose being hung from a flag in one classroom, and, according to local outlet WPXI, plans for further clothing-based demonstrations all this week. While harassment reports are currently being investigated by the school district, many of the “anti-gay day” activities mentioned in these reports were documented on Instagram and other social media platforms. 

April 20 2015 11:02 AM

Can Gays Turn Straight? What the Evidence Says About “Ex-Gay” Therapy.

Last week Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., introduced a bill in Congress asking states to ban sexual orientation conversion therapy, often abbreviated as CT, for minors. California is one of two states that have prohibited licensed professionals from offering the practice, which includes efforts to change not only sexual orientation but also gender identity.

While the congressional bill is only a resolution—it encourages states to bar the practice rather than proposing the heavier lift of a federal ban—the idea that CT is dangerous and should be banned is gaining momentum. Eighteen states have introduced bills prohibiting the “therapy.” President Barack Obama recently endorsed the bans, and next week the Supreme Court will consider whether to take up a legal challenge to them.

In two different national polls (see here and here), more than 60 percent of Americans indicated that they believe conversion therapy doesn’t work. Others disagree. In one poll, nearly a quarter of the population said they believe it works, and in another, 28 percent were unsure. Some have complained of “sociopolitical pressures” to prohibit such treatment, suggesting that politics rather than science has governed the debate.

What do we actually know about the practice of CT and its impact on often vulnerable patients? First, the therapy has been discredited across the board by all reputable practitioners, researchers, and professional organizations with any knowledge of the practice. The American Psychological Association’s 2009 opus on the topic concludes that “there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation” and warns against the harmful effects of trying. At least 10 major groups with knowledge of the issue, including the World Health Organization, echo this position.