Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

April 28 2016 1:35 PM

NCAA Says Cities and States That Discriminate Can’t Host Tournaments

In recent years, the NCAA has been a surprisingly effective force in fighting anti-LGBTQ discrimination. In 2015, when Indiana passed the anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act, one of the factors that led to the state’s legislature enacting a quick (if inadequatefix was a statement from the NCAA, that came a week before a huge sporting event was held in the state. It said, “We are … concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill." (Theorganization drew criticism when it did not move the 2016 men’s Final Four from Houston after that city’s voters rejected a nondiscrimination law in November 2015, though it did warn the vote “could impact the NCAA returning to Houston for a future Final Four.”)

Now the NCAA has made its commitment to nondiscrimination even more explicit by setting new requirements for cities that wish to host NCAA events, including the men’s and women’s Final Four basketball tournaments, which draw thousands of visitors. At its quarterly meeting, held earlier this week, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted a policy that will require potential hosts “to demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

April 28 2016 8:03 AM

What Does a “Queer Film” Before Stonewall Look Like?

Jimmy, a blonde boy in a pristine white shirt, accepts a ride home from an older man, Ralph, after playing some ball in the park. The man buys him a Coke and takes him fishing. Ralph never takes off his sunglasses, but from the way the camera lingers on his face, you can tell he’s doing some serious ... glancing at Jimmy. Soon, the paternal narrator arrives with news: “What Jimmy didn’t know is Ralph was sick. A sickness that was not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious. A sickness of the mind. You see, Ralph was a homosexual.”

This is Boys Beware, a 1961 short produced by the police department and school board of Inglewood, Calif., to warn young boys of an unseen threat. It is also, according to the pleasingly elastic definition of film programmer Thomas Beard, a notable example of early queer cinema. Beard explores this elusive category in An Early Clue to the New Direction: Queer Cinema Before Stonewall, a film series now playing at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York. For viewers in the area, the series is a must, packed with familiar staples (Hitchcock’s Rope, Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda?) alongside lesser-seen touchstones (Vingarne, a 1916 Swedish silent film billed as the first to feature a gay relationship “more or less explicitly”), much of them screened on rare 35mm prints. For farther-flung viewers, Beard’s complete program is a kind of patchwork syllabus for how to detect signs of queer life in films from the late 19th century to the cusp of gay liberation in 1969. Even for the studied fan of gay classics, the lineup offers some unexpected wonders.

April 27 2016 2:49 PM

Alabama City Bans Trans People From Using Any Public Bathroom

The Oxford, Alabama, city council unanimously approved an ordinance on Tuesday that bars trans people from using any public bathroom that doesn’t match the sex indicated on their birth certificate. Because changing one’s birth certificate is difficult in many states (including Alabama) and impossible in others, the measureeffectively proscribes trans people in Oxford from using any bathroom outside of their house. Trans people who violate the ordinance may be imprisoned for up to six months.

Oxford’s new law aligns neatly with Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s views on trans bathroom usage: Cruz recently asserted that trans people should only be allowed to use their home bathroom in order to protect women and children. The ordinance is also similar to “bathroom bills” in other states, such as Florida, where a bill to exclude trans people from public bathrooms sailed through committee before stalling last year. In March, North Carolina forbade trans people from using government bathrooms that align with their gender identity—including facilities at schools and universities—while the South Dakota legislature attempted to exclude all trans public school students from their preferred restroom facilities. The South Dakota legislation died on the governor’s desk; the North Carolina bill passed easily, though a lawsuit has contested its legality. (A federal appeals court recently held that federal law prohibits public schools from discriminating against trans students by forcing them into the incorrect bathrooms.)

April 27 2016 2:07 PM

Breitbart Proves What We Already Knew: Trans Women Are Not Bathroom Predators

Since big box store Target affirmed its support of transgender people last week by explicitly encouraging employees and guests to use the bathroom that comports with their gender identity, the anti-LGBTQ right has been busy gnashing their teeth and rending their Mossimo-brand garments. The American Family Association has a boycott pledge going with almost 900,000 signatures at the time of writing, and, on Tuesday, right-wing site Breitbart posted a very clever roundup of alleged sexual assaults in Target stores to demonstrate the danger of the company’s trans-inclusive policy. The 20 incident descriptions are truly harrowing, and one hopes that the victims find the appropriate justice.

But there’s one glaring problem: According the cited reports, none of the alleged assailants were trans people.


For anyone who’s looked into the data behind the trans bathroom predator myth currently gripping our nation, this won’t come as a surprise. There are no confirmed, true cases of trans women (or men) accosting anyone in public restrooms. (If anything, it’s trans folks who live in fear of being attacked or bullied in those spaces, among many others.) Indeed, as the Breitbart post so helpfully demonstrates, it is cisgender men who we should all be fearing in the loo—and, contra the gross fearmongering about “men in dresses” out to get “little girls,” this sampling of cases shows that real predators are fairly equal opportunity in terms of the gender of their victims.

Moreover, though it’s been said many times before, let’s say it again: Assaulting people in the bathroom is already illegal, and if a cis man (or anyone!) wants to put on a dress to do it in Target or anywhere else, he should be appropriately dealt with by law enforcement. Ensuring that trans people have the baseline protection of being able to relieve themselves with dignity will do nothing to change that. It will only make a group of people who face a general onslaught of discrimination throughout their lives feel a tiny bit more secure. 

April 27 2016 1:05 PM

The Ab Fab Movie Trailer Is Here—and, Sweetie Darling, It’s a Gorgeous Mess

A poster posted online a few weeks ago hinted as much, but with the release today of an actual full trailer, we can all exhale and throw back some Bolly: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is real, it’s finished, and it’s coming to theaters for your messy glam gal camptastic pleasure this July.

The trailer—which borrows many design cues from that other great act of gay-TV-to-gay-movie transposition, the Sex and the City films—confirms in an appropriately frenetic, slurring way the plot description we’ve been hearing since late 2015. Eddie (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumely) are on the hunt for a new client for the former’s D-list PR agency—specifically, Kate Moss. They find her at a swanky London fashion party, only for Eddie to knock her off the balcony and into the unfashionably chilly Thames. Now personas even more non grata than normal, the pair flee the U.K. for the south of France, where, Eddie points out: “Everyone’s a criminal.” Boozy, glittery, French-inflected hijinks ensue amid a bevy of celebrity cameos (oh hello, Jon Hamm) and appearances from the TV show’s other mainstays, including Eddie’s daughter Saffi (Julia Sawalha) and dear old mother (June Whitfield).


Compatriots of the twosome can catch them on July 1, while fans across the pond will have to wait until July 22, according to IMDB. Which is probably for the best, as I’ll need to pop by Harvey Nicks for a few things in the interim anyway.

April 27 2016 11:52 AM

Liberals: How Strong Is Your Support for Transgender Equality?

In the wake of draconian laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi restricting which restrooms transgender people can use, much of the attention has focused on the economic and political backlash to anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Sometimes, public pressure is the best or only tactic that works, and it’s heartening to see economic and political costs imposed on supporters of these odious laws. But it’s easy to forget just how important private conversations can be to securing lasting social change, especially in a campaign where winning hearts and minds is a key goal.

Fortunately, media coverage of the laws has also spawned just such water cooler conversations, dialogues about what it means to be transgender and what full equality should look like.


April 26 2016 1:31 PM

The First Challenge to Mississippi’s Anti-LGBTQ Law Has Arrived

When a federal judge struck down Mississippi’s same-sex marriage ban in July, Roberta Kaplan had a simple message: “It’s over.”

It was, in fact, not quite yet over.

Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor in the litigation that toppled the federal same-sex marriage ban, had barely secured her marriage victorywhen she turned to Mississippi’s other anti-gay law: The last ban on same-sex adoption in the United States. On April 1, Kaplan won that case, knocking down the Mississippi adoption ban for good.

Four days later, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the most sweeping anti-LGBTQ legislation in the nation. Mississippi wasn’t quite finished discriminating against its LGBTQ residents. And so Kaplan wasn’t quite finished with Mississippi.

On Monday, Kaplan launched the first legal challenge to HB 1523, Mississippi’s anti-LGBQT “religious liberty” measure. Rather than taking on the entire law, Kaplan is focusing on one especially troubling section: A provision that allows clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses when their “sincerely held religious beliefs” dictate that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.” While the law insists that clerk recusal cannot “impede[] or delay” marriage licensing, it doesn’t explain how, exactly, same-sex couples will be protected.

But Kaplan has a trump card. In his July order, United States District Judge Carlton W. Reeves issued a permanent injunction barring all “agents, officers, employees, and subsidiaries” of Mississippi from treating same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples. That injunction remains in effect today. As a result, if Mississippi allows a clerk recusal that disadvantages same-sex couples in compliance with HB 1523, it will be in violation of Reeves’ July injunction.

April 25 2016 5:08 PM

Murder of Bangladeshi LGBTQ Activist Latest in String of Attacks

LGBTQ activist Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Tanay Majumder, a policeman, were hacked to death in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, Monday night. Though the attackers fled without being identified, police believe they were radical Islamists—a local news broadcaster who witnessed the attack said that at least five men were involved, and they chanted “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) as they departed the scene.

Mannan was an employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the editor of Bangladesh’s first gay rights magazine, Roopbaan. U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat mourned Mannan’s death in a statement released Monday and urged the Bangladeshi government, “in strongest terms,” to find and convict the murderers.

April 25 2016 12:57 PM

God Plays Matchmaker in UnReal’s Sexy Lesbian Web Spinoff

In Aesop’s fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” a rural rodent is thrilled when his cousin in the big city shows him the fine foods and fabulous frills available in the metropolis—only to skitter back home when a run-in with vicious dogs reminds him how scary urban living can be.

Watching the first episode of The Faith Diaries, a series of digital shorts from the creators of Lifetime’s breakout hit UnREAL, I worried that this would be the fate of Faith (Breeda Wool), who we first met when she was one of the contestants on Everlasting, the fictional dating show whose scenes UnREAL is set behind. OnEverlasting/UnREAL, Faith was the plucky outsider—a guileless small-town cowgirl quite unlike the other scheming bachelorettes who were angling for a wedding proposal from posh British hotelier Adam. But it wasn’t just her country ways that differentiated her from the other husband-seekers; while being wooed by Adam, Faith realized that she was in love with her best friend, Amy.

In the first of the shorts—each three-minute film represents a week in Faith’s life—Faith and Amy (Malea Mitchell) move to Los Angeles, where Faith has been offered a modeling gig on the strength of her congeniality on Everlasting. The country mouse moment comes all too soon, when the basement apartment they’ve rented online proves to be a Craigslist scam. Fortunately, UnREAL’s kinda-sorta heroine Rachel provides an off-screen introduction to her friends Mickey and Ruth, who let the newcomers live in their guesthouse. Naturally, it turns out that Mickey, played with butch brio by Glee’s Dot-Marie Jones, is a big ole dyke—as Faith and Amy learn when the pull up and find her smooching Ruth. Soon enough, Faith and Amy are making out, too, though only in the confines of the guesthouse.

April 22 2016 5:27 PM

Cruz Ad Slams Trump for Not Sufficiently Disparaging Trans People 

Donald Trump violated the emerging Republican orthodoxy on Thursday by declining to denigrate trans people’s humanity during a televised town hall. Asked about a new North Carolina law that excludes trans people from certain bathrooms, Trump implied that bathroom bills may be unnecessary. “There have been very few complaints the way it is,” the candidate noted. “People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble.”

This divergence from the GOP party line spurred Ted Cruz to release a creepy, underhanded attack ad. “Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use a women’s restroom?” the ad asks over an ominous droning synth. “The same restroom used by your daughter? Your wife?” (This line invokes the deeply insulting bathroom predator myth.) Then we hear a snippet of Trump’s comment and learn: “Donald Trump thinks so.”


“It’s not appropriate. It’s not safe,” the ad concludes. “It’s PC nonsense that’s destroying America. Donald Trump won’t take on the PC police.”

Cruz is clearly looking to position himself as the GOP’s reigning culture warrior, painting Donald Trump as a trans-friendly pushover with New York values. Although Trump does not appear to be deeply bigoted toward LGBTQ people, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cruz ad pushes him to reverse his position on bathroom bills. As my colleague J. Bryan Lowder noted, Trump seems likely to hop on the anti-LGBTQ bandwagon as soon as he concludes that doing so will help him pick up a few more votes. Cruz’s new ad makes Trump’s anti-trans conversion even more inevitable.