Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

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. 

Feb. 5 2016 1:53 PM

Why Berlin Is Opening a Shelter for LGBTQ Refugees

Berlin’s first center for queer refugees will open next month, helping 120 of the German capital’s estimated 3,500 LGBTQ asylum seekers, mostly gay men and transgender people, to resettle outside the shelter system, where they are vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment.

The problems being experienced by LGBTQ refugees first came to the attention of Schwulenberatung Berlin—a counseling center for LGBTQ people,including queer refugees, which is based in the city’s Charlottenburg neighborhood—18 months ago. Under normal circumstances, refugees who claim asylum in Germany would be able to move into private accommodation three months after entering a government-run shelter. But in 2015, more than 1 million refugees entered Germany, overwhelming Berlin’s State Office for Health and Social Affairs (Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales, or LaGeSo), which is responsible for the welfare and resettlement of asylum seekers. Berlin is currently home to 150 shelters; sports halls and sites not fit for purpose, such as Tempelhof Airport, have been converted into refugee camps. The volume of applications means asylum requests are being processed more slowly than usual or become lost in the system, and refugees aren’t being resettled in private housing as quickly.


Feb. 5 2016 9:10 AM

Teaching LGBT Issues in the New Era of Medical Education

In October of 2015, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services—the agency responsible for covering a third of the U.S. population and dictating U.S. health care practices—issued a mandate requiring that all electronic health records include specific fields about gender identity and sexual orientation. This unprecedented move means that virtually all future medical records must address the spectrum of sexual and gender issues. With this decision, the government has guaranteed that physicians will have to ask all their patients about their gender identity and sexual orientation during medical visits.

The mandate comes as a response to the frequent omission of these issues and the resultant lower-quality medical care received by LGBT patients—a 2010 National Transgender Discrimination Survey of 7,000 transgender and gender non-conforming people revealed that only 28 percent of respondents were out to their medical providers and 50 percent said they had to teach their providers about transgender care. A Lambda Legal survey performed the same year uncovered that 56 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual respondents and 70 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents had experienced barriers to health care, including being denied care and experiencing physical or linguistic abuse.


Feb. 2 2016 1:46 PM

Drag Race Is Back—But Is That Definitely a Good Thing?

While responsible adults were waiting for the results of Monday’s Iowa presidential caucuses, some of us were distracted by late-breaking news of another race—RuPaul’s Drag Race. The eighth season of the wildly popular drag reality competition show isn’t set to begin on Logo until March 7, but as in years past, Ru deigned to revel her cast of queens a few weeks before the premiere. It was an important debut: Many fans (including this one) were largely disappointed by last season, which seemed to trade the delightfully rough edges of typical bar drag for a kind of overly polished, stylized simulacrum that ultimately left viewers feeling cold. (That I had to look up the winner, Violet Chachki, shows how little of an impression the season left.) After viewing the season trailer and individual queen introduction videos, I’m cautiously optimistic—while casting is only part of the equation of a successful season, it’s a big part, and this cohort has promise.

Feb. 2 2016 11:22 AM

I Want to Believe ... That The X-Files Didn’t Just Pull the Trans Prostitute Trope

Recently resurrected fan favorite The X-Files sent itself a love letter this week in the form of “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” the third episode of the 10th season we waited 14 years to see. The show takes great joy in this episode, parodically lambasting many of its ’90s-era monster-of-the-week outings.

In those occasional money-saving trips into the bush, Mulder and Scully would wave their flashlights around wildly as they ran through the forest, fleeing or chasing dangerous creatures. The monster, typically represented by overly filtered shaky-cam footage, would pursue our heroes through a suspiciously Vancouver-esque representation of upstate Somewhere U.S.A., poorly disguised by motion blur, low frame rate, and limited color. You see, some monsters see only in red and orange, whereas others are limited to just greens or blues. Many monsters would make up for their poor-quality vision by breathing loudly or growling.

Fast-forward to 2016, and, unfortunately, in “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster, the only monster was the episode itself.

Feb. 1 2016 2:53 PM

Utah Legislator Proposes Anti-Gay Bill That Would Rob Foster Children of Potential Parents

Last November, Utah Judge Scott Johansen ordered April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce’s foster daughter removed from their home and placed with a heterosexual couple. Hoagland and Peirce were eminently qualified, but Johansen decided that the child would do better with straight parents—despitescores of studies debunking his theory. The decision was eventually reversed, an inevitability given that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision effectively wiped out anti-gay adoption laws. But now Utah Republican Rep. Kraig Powell would like to restore those old rules, by making it official state policy to favor heterosexual adopters over same-sex ones.

Powell’s bill would target any same-sex couple that hoped to adopt or foster a child from the state foster care system, which currently holds about 2,700 kids. Since Obergefell v. Hodges, Utah has stopped considering sexual orientation when placing children with foster parents. Should Powell’s bill pass, that would change: Judges and agencies would be required to “grant preference to rewarding custody” to straight parents over gay ones. The state could still permit gay couples to foster and adopt, but only those children whom no straight couples wanted. Powell argues that the bill is necessary to ensure that children are exposed to both male and female role models—although the gender diversity theory against same-sex adoption has been empirically debunked time and time again.

Feb. 1 2016 1:30 PM

Ali Forney Center Seeks to Buy “Harlem Hate Church”

For the queer Internet, the Atlah World Missionary Church has been something of a dark joke since it first made headlines in 2014 for its hateful street-facing sign, which often features Christian messages like “Jesus Would Stone the Homos.” But for residents of Harlem like me, the church and its congregation—led by the Right Rev. James D. Manning—has felt more like an immediate threat. Just recently, I was walking up Malcolm X Boulevard with a friend, and while he paused to get a photo of the crazy residing at 123rd St., I found myself almost unconsciously hurrying a half-block ahead for fear of drawing the wrong kind of attention. Religious groups are allowed their theology, of course, but when they threaten actual violence, that’s something the surrounding community does not need.

Lucky for us, it appears the “hate church” is not long for this sinful world. Last week, DNAinfo revealed that the church owes more than $1 million to various creditors, and a state judge has ordered that the property be sold at a public foreclosure auction on Feb. 24. Manning is protesting the nine federal tax liens and unpaid utility bills, saying the church is exempt from such concerns—but the courts disagree. Barring some legal stop-gap, Atlah will come to an end later this month.


But the good news doesn’t end there. The Ali Forney Center, a wonderful nonprofit dedicated to fighting LGBTQ youth homelessness, has mounted a fundraising campaign with the goal of buying the church and converting it into housing and a base for a youth-run catering business. This expansion would enhance AFC’s presence in Harlem, which currently comprises a nearby drop-in center and housing for 24 local clients. Carl Siciliano, the founder and executive director of the AFC, characterized the Atlah sale as a golden opportunity for social justice in a statement from the organization:

The biggest reason our youths are driven from their homes is because of homophobic and transphobic religious beliefs of their parents. Because of this, it has been horrifying for us to have our youths exposed to Manning's messages inciting hatred and violence against our community. It has meant the world to us that so many Harlem residents have stood up to support our young people, and are now urging us to provide urgently needed care at the site of so much hatred. If we are able to obtain the space it would truly be a triumph of love over hatred.

The campaign, which only began over the weekend, had raised half of its $200,000 goal at the time of writing. According to AFC, this initial amount will be used “to obtain additional support from local government, major donors and foundations.” And of course, if for whatever reason the planned purchase cannot be completed, the organization has pledged to “increase its housing and vocational services for homeless LGBT youth in another site.”

If you’re into the beauty of a little poetic justice, you can donate to the effort over at the AFC’s site