Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Sept. 29 2016 3:59 PM

In Christodora, the Impact of AIDS and Activism Resonates Over Decades

Christodora, a novel out this fall from Grove, has got it all: drugs, sex, music, race, class, art, activism, adoption, and tears. It’s a gut-wrenching, happy-ending story told in chapters that jump backward and forward in time all the way from 1981 to 2021. I hope it will be  turned into a great movie directed by, say, Gus Van Sant, or Kimberly Peirce, or Steve McQueen.

Sept. 28 2016 11:12 AM

The Children of Gay Parents, Like All Kids, Need More Than Their Parents Can Provide

At conferences, coffee meetings, and confabs where gay and lesbian parents gather, we’re still likely to react defensively to the suggestion—or accusation—that our kids are missing some vital ingredient, some ineffable thing, because they lack either a mom or a dad. I know I do.

Of course, that’s crazy. After all, we have science on our side. The data are at this point so clear it’s almost boring: Children thrive in same-sex headed households. One study even suggested that kids raised by lesbians do better than children raised by a mother and a father—though there’s no reason to gloat about it. Sometimes, however, all that yummy research doesn’t convince us any more than it convinces staunch traditionalists. The truth is, our kidsare missing something—but if not a parent of the other, “absent” gender, then what?

Sept. 27 2016 12:32 PM

A Forensic Analysis of the Will and Grace Reunion Clip

As the United States prepared itself for the very first Hillary Clinton–Donald Trumpshowdown on Monday, a new Will and Grace clip emerged—after a day of social media teasing—to ease Americans’ anxiety about our possibly impending doom. The segment was a blast of pure nostalgia with a topical spin; for nearly ten minutes, the four main characters bantered about Trump and Clinton and the wall and the pantsuits with a smattering of jokes about dicks, Trump University’s dusting course, Paul Ryan’s body, and a miniature horse named Ann Coulter. The setup, inevitably: Boozy socialite Karen Walker is supporting Trump, one of her oldest friends; Jack is an undecided Pennsylvania voter (long story); and Will and Grace must persuade Jack to side with good over evil. (Katy Perry plays a critical role in the resolution of this parlor game, of course.)

Sept. 23 2016 10:04 AM

What’s Left for Queer Women After AfterEllen?

On Tuesday afternoon, the queer internet found out it was losing one of its precious few bright stars. The editor in chief of AfterEllen, a 14-year-old news and entertainment site for queer women, announced in an emotional Tumblr post that the site was “effectively shutting down.” After Friday, Trish Bendix wrote, the site will no longer have an editorial staff. AfterEllen’s owners have left open the possibility of publishing freelance work, but have carefully avoided saying anything concrete about the site’s future.

Sept. 23 2016 8:30 AM

In Treyf, Food Writer Elissa Altman Describes Her First Sweet Taste of Rebellion

When she was 3, Elissa Altman tasted the sweetness of rebellion, which she describes in her second and latest memoir, Treyf: My Life as an Unorthodox Outlaw. “Disgusted with being shoehorned into a pink leotard and ballet slippers—I wanted to be Ken, not Barbie,” Altman packs up her tutu and flees dance class. Once outside, she hands her mother her ballet tote and says, “I quit.”

An award-winning food writer who grew up in the ’70s in a Jewish enclave of Queens, New York, Altman entwines this renegade experience with a story about having lunch at a local delicatessen with her father. At the deli, which shared a wall with Altman’s former ballet school, they ate pastrami, its “dark red meat edged with ripples of lace-white fat.” So go some of Treyf’s highly satisfying passages, which follow Altman into adulthood as she relays painful and life-affirming moments by artfully enfolding them in memories of toothsome meals.

Sept. 21 2016 3:28 PM

This Badass Transgender Student Took His Transphobic School to Court—and Won

Ash Whitaker is a high-school student who gets good grades, plays in the orchestra, and hangs out with his friends. He is also a bad-ass. After Whitaker came out as transgender, his school in Kenosha, Wisconsin, launched a campaign of discrimination against him. The school forced him to use the girl’s bathroom, addressed him with female pronouns, and referred to him by his (female) birth name. School officials even proposed branding Whitaker with a green wristband to signify his transgender status, requiring him to wear the band throughout the school day so instructors could easily monitor his restroom usage.

Whitaker, who is medically transitioning and is in the process of legally changing his gender, was devastated by this mistreatment. He was even more concerned when school officials threatened him with disciplinary proceedings for using the bathroom at school—a mark on his record might hurt his college chances. So Whitaker did what any overachieving all-American kid would do and sued his school, alleging that it violated his rights under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. The federal government currently interprets Title IX to bar anti-trans discrimination in education, requiring federally funded schools to let trans students use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. But when Whitaker patiently explained this fact to a representative from the Kenosha Unified School District, she denied it. Whitaker then asked her to explain why she felt the school was not violating Title IX.

“I don’t think I’m going to give you any reasons,” she responded, according to Whitaker’s deposition.

What else could Whitaker do but take his school to court? With the help of the Transgender Law Center and the law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax, Whitaker asserted his rights in federal court. Whitaker explained that, while he used to love school, the discrimination he faced as a transgender student was overwhelming. He dreaded getting out of bed in the morning and faced medical problems from trying to avoid using the bathroom throughout the school day. He felt “harassed, discriminated against, demeaned, and humiliated” by his school, even “targeted for an assault” due to the “attention and scrutiny” the school thrust upon him. (Whitaker had used the boy’s bathroom for many months after transitioning without incident; problems only arose when school administrators noticed and decided to exile him from the facilities.) In court, Whitaker urged the judge to protect his federal civil rights against the school’s invidious discrimination.


Sept. 20 2016 6:21 PM

Is #Brangelexit an Apology for Jolie and Pitt’s Same-Sex Marriage Betrayal?

The initiation of #Brangelexit on Tuesday—in which the most important celebrity power couple of the last two decades voted (against the will of the people!) to end their union—has launched us all on a search for meaning. What’s really behind Angelina Jolie’s call for divorce? Has Brad Pitt truly been misbehaving with “hard drugs and hookers,” as one Page Six source alleges? Who is Marion Cotillard? But there’s another question worth asking, one regarding the timingof all this. Simply put: Why now?

Sept. 19 2016 11:35 AM

North Carolina Governor Plants Questions at Q-and-A, Fails at Extortion, Retracts Lawsuit

North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, the state’s most passionate spokesman for HB2, its anti-LGBTQ law, has had an almost comically terrible week. Not because he’s tanking in the polls—although he is—but because his efforts to reverse his slow-motion collapse have failed so completely. Let’s examine the top three lowlights of the governor’s last seven days.


Sept. 18 2016 9:52 PM

Jeffrey Tambor at the Emmys: “Please Give Transgender Talent a Chance”

Getting cast as a transgender woman character has been great for Jeffrey Tambor’s career. At the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday night, he added another trophy to his shelf, taking the award for best actor in a comedy for his performance as Maura Pfefferman in Transparent. As in earlier wins, he made a point of thanking his transgender “teachers”—Van Barnes, Rhys Ernst, Zachary Drucker, Jenny Boylan—and, as the music started to play, he shushed the orchestra and made his views known on the question of whether it’s OK for cisgender actors to play transgender characters.

Now, listen to me. … I’m not going to say this beautifully. But to you people out there, you producers and network owners, and agents, and you creative sparks, please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story. Do that. And also, one more thing: I would not be unhappy were I the last cisgender male to play a female transgender on television. We have work to do. I love you.

Sept. 18 2016 9:13 PM

“Topple the Patriarchy!” Says Jill Soloway, Accepting an Emmy for Transparent


Jill Soloway won the Emmy for best director of a comedy series Sunday night for her work on “Men on the Land,” Episode 9 of Transparent’s second season. Her speech—and her outfit—was spectacular.

People ask me if it’s hard to be a director, and I tell them, no. Life is very hard. Being a good partner, mother, being a good person is hard. Being a good director is so easy, I get to make my dreams come true. It’s a privilege, and creates privilege, when you take people of color, women, trans people, queer people, as the subjects of stories, you change the world, we found out. … So I want to thank you, my sweet Jeff Bezos, because you changed the world, and invited me to do this thing that these people call television, but I call a revolution. I’ve always wanted to be part of a movement. This TV show allows me to take my dreams about unlikable Jewish people, queer folk, trans folk, and make them heroes. Thank you to the trans community. Topple the patriarchy!

The episode Soloway won her award for takes place at the 42nd Idyllwild Wimmin’s Music Festival—a gathering that bears a strong resemblance to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which was held for the last time in August 2015. In December 2015, I spoke with Ali Liebegott, who wrote the episode, on how it came about.