Body Health, Mental Health, Politics

THE SENATE RELEASES THEIR HEALTHCARE BILL

Read my articles about the CBO analysis for the House bill here and the March AHCA bill here

In other news, before we get started—President Trump took to Twitter today to confirm that there were no tape-recordings of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey; tapes he insinuated weeks ago he had.


Written when I was going to write about using self-tanner in preparation for New York Pride, and the realization that the healthy, sun-kissed glow I actually needed was for my soul—but more pressing matters have arisen.

This morning—Thursday June 22, 2017—the new healthcare plan was released after a cloud of mystery while it was being written in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a small group of colleagues. The bill’s mystery was protested by Democrats and Republicans alike, who feared that this bill would be introduced and forced into a hasty vote before anyone had a chance to read it. according to CNN, the bill will have a one-week-turnaround, meaning that McConnell hopes to get it voted on within a week.

After a disastrous first attempt to vote on the original bill, the American Health Care Act, in March (the bill was pulled when it became clear that there were not enough votes for it to pass), the revised bill passed in the House of Representatives in early May. The next step was to bring it to the Senate for a vote, where GOP lawmakers such as McConnell revised and reworked the bill in an attempt to get it to pass in the Senate. If it passes the Senate, and then gets affirmed by the House, the bill would go to President Trump’s desk and, at his sign-off, become law. We good?

So, this morning, the bill was released. CNN also released an article comparing the three (the ACA, the AHCA, and the new bill) on key issues such as Medicaid expansion, coverage for pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits, Planned Parenthood and more. If you’re too lazy to read the article, here’s the major breakdown on some issues.

The Senate bill provides “skimpier coverage” for pre-existing conditions in states that get waivers for “essential health beneifts.” It allows states to redefine essential health benefits, which under the ACA were required for insurers to cover. These include mental health, maternity care and prescription drugs. The Senate bill cuts funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, which isn’t a surprise because the AHCA did that as well. It eliminates tax cuts for the wealthy and for insurers, taxes the ACA imposed to expand healthcare coverage. The ACA put a 3.8% tax on incomes $200,000 and higher ($250,000 for married couples). It gets rid of the individual insurance mandate, keeps the ACA provision for young people to remain on their parents’ insurance until 26, and removes the employer mandate to provide affordable healthcare to their employees.

At the moment, the bill can only afford to lose the support of two Republicans, which would put it at 50-50 and require a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Pence. As of writing this, four Republicans said they would oppose the bill in its current form and two more have withheld support.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release their independent findings on the bill early next week, a key component for some senators while considering their vote. The CBO will look at how many people could lose insurance under the new plan (24 million in the AHCA, and 23 in the House version) and the effects on the overall federal budget (the House bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion).

In the near future, the bill will go into several hours of debate as well as something called the “vote-a-rama” where senators can suggest amendments that are relevant to the dialogue. The vote-a-rama can potentially go on indefinitely, but is largely centered on how long it takes for the senators to burn out and get tired. After all of that, the bill goes back to the House for affirmation, and if the House votes yes on it, then it goes to the White House. At the moment, it’s unclear if there’s enough support in the House for the bill to pass.

In the meantime, the public is reacting. Several dozen protestors were arrested Thursday after they staged a “die-in” outside of McConnell’s office. The protest was organized by the national disability rights group ADAPT. The cuts to Medicaid would greatly reduce access to medical care and services for the elderly and disabled. According to the police statement, several protestors removed themselves to “lay themselves on the floor, obstructing passage through the hallway and into nearby offices.”

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Humor, LGBTQ, Pride 2017

THE DEFINITIVE RANKING OF EVERY ICE CREAM BRAND’S SEXUALITY

~Quality Content~

If you’ve ever wondered if anyone else ranks the various sexualities of ice creams (and/or gelatos, frozen yogurts), then you’re in luck. Because I’m here now. And no, I’m not doing this because I couldn’t think of anything else to write and it’s 4:24. 4:25.

It actually originated from a conversation I was having with a frand where she sent me a screenshot of a Facebook article: “Ben & Jerry’s bans two scoops of same flavor until marriage equality comes to Australia.” On the spectrum of “things that companies are doing to support queer equality,” this definitely ranks above Skittles whitewashing their candy, but…still.

So that made me remark that Ben & Jerry’s is definitely the gayest ice cream brand, and Baskin Robbins is the straightest. And just like that, I had my next ten minutes planned out. So here is the result of that conversation and the answering of a lot of questions you had about me, but the cropping up of a lot more.

 THE LIST

  1. Baskin Robbins: super straight, not into me at all; not into me being cute and playing dumb about sports when he’s watching football
  2. Ben & Jerry’s: gay, stable, lives in Vermont but not in an annoying way
  3. Blue Bunny: straight, but a virgin; wears Crocs
  4. Breyer: straight, but a straight-up freak
  5. Carvel: Power top
  6. Cold Stone: isn’t gay but still wants you to be into him
  7. Dippin’ Dots: freak, wants you to connect the dots
  8. Friendly’s: is straight but says sexuality is a spectrum; often shirtless
  9. Good Humor: married, hot
  10. Haagen-Dazs: straight, but European; so…gay.
  11. Halo: a total Halo bottom
  12. JP Licks: straight, but into butt stuff (v Kanye and I’m not kink-shaming)
  13. Klondike: always yells instead of talks, is super annoying but you still would
  14. Magnum: see “Cold Stone”
  15. Pinkberry: a lady but gorgeous
  16. Red Mango: very granola, free-love; unclear
  17. Rita’s Italian Ice: old, and a lady but was so hot in her day
  18. 16 Handles: a girl; cute but not worth you turning
  19. Talenti Gelato: a lady and Italian and you’re gay but you still would; the Giada de Laurentiis of dairy
  20. Turkey Hill: married, boring

This might be the best post I’ve ever done, or it might be the absolute worst. Either way, it’s getting published. If there are any brands I’m missing, please let me know. But understand that I won’t go into yogurt cuz those kids are freaks.

HA. Bye.

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Essay, LGBTQ, Life, pop culture, Pride 2017

COMING OUT IN THE AGE OF YOUTUBE

My first laptop was a thick black Dell that required a near-constant source of power and hummed louder than a barbershop quartet.

It took minutes to load up and froze frequently, which I’m sure is entirely unrelated to the buckets of shady porn websites I was searching. Also unrelated to my search history was the Dell’s untimely and unseemly demise at the hands of a Trojan virus.

On that laptop I wrote my stories, a thousand beginnings to stories where beautiful (sometimes mythic) girls fell in love with hot guys and I wrote a 200-page novel that languishes on my bookshelf. If I ever published it, I would get slammed with copyright infringement because it is essentially a patchwork of every book I read as a tween. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and honey, I must’ve been really sincere. It’s the laptop I created my Facebook account on and took photos of me wearing two polos layered over each other and a dog-tag with my camp girlfriend’s name on it. This laptop was PG (pre-gay).

After the Dell died—a fitful, restless death—I got a Macbook Pro, lightyears faster and sleeker. That was the laptop I came out on, in a few lines typed out over Skype because I was terrified to say it out loud. It’s bizarre to think that, technically if I could remember that username and password, I could access it again because those first moments of truth are forever immortalized in the ether.

But before I came out (at 15, around Easter) I knew I was gay for months. Well, technically years because I don’t know many straight five-year-olds who wrap a blanket around their waist to pretend to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid and claim that they’d love to marry Prince Eric. I know even fewer straight people who, at eight years old, would put on Radio Disney in the dead of night and pretend to be in a school hallway talking to my boyfriend Aaron Carter.

But in my sophomore year of high school, my feelings for a Certain Boy, a crush of mine which is also forever immortalized on my teenage blog, shifted from “buddy” to “booty.” I could no longer pretend I was admiring his gym techniques during track practice as I traced my eyes over his abs (fourteen years old!) when he lifted his shirt to wipe off sweat in rest moments.

In fact, much of my coming out process was centered on running track. In the endless empty hours while we ran, I thought. I thought about the way that Boy’s hair shifted from caramelly-brown to golden blonde, how his eyes shifted from blue to green under thick dark brows and framed by thick dark lashes. His vocal fry. I thought about how I wish I could talk about him to my friends, but I couldn’t because of the Big Reason. Because in the cloister of my heavily religious, heavily regimented life—private, all-boys prep school; small, chatty town—I knew that this Big Reason was a Big No-No.

So when I couldn’t turn to any people in my real life, I buried myself in online friends—YouTube. In 2010, YouTube was only five years old and the content was still very unpolished. But, in the nascence of it grew this weird phenomenon of collaboration channels, particularly gay collabs. One of the firsts, from what I could find, was “5AwesomeGays” which was slightly before my viewing time but introduced me to people like Joseph Birdsong, Korey Kuhl and Tyler Oakley. While I never watched 5AwesomeGays, they inspired an entire new genre of YouTube, and I became hooked on one of the copycats, “AGayADay.”

Five days a week, Monday through Friday, one of the collab members would upload a video. The video was based on a theme decided for the week, and they talked about everything from fashion to music to dating to politics. It was my first introduction to actual gay people, not caricatures or stereotypes or negatives. Just gay teens and twentysomethings living their lives on the Internet.

I devoured this content and began unsteadily tracing out my own gay identity. Much of early queer life—at least my early queer life—was like that. For better or for worse, they taught me about what it meant to be gay, in the slightly un-PC way that only existed for that brief window in the late ‘00s. I based my own identity in resistance or attraction to these gay men. They were everything I wanted to be in some ways—out, open gay guys who dated boys and wore skinny jeans and cooked and were sassy and sharp and clever.

YouTube also wasn’t anything like it is today. You didn’t talk about what YouTubers you liked; it was, for most people, exclusively viral cat videos and hair tutorials. So the experience of watching—to an obsessive nth degree—these young men was entirely solitary and intimate. No one knew who these guys were—at least in my world—and they were mine.

“AGayADay” gifted me with my first gay crush. One of the boys (Thursday?) was named Brandon, probably a year or two older than I was. He had spiked hair, a turned up nose and deep, dark eyes. It was my first experience with having a crush on someone who, hypothetically, would have a crush on me back. He lived in Pennsylvania and his videos were always more tentative than the others; he was the youngest, he was in the closet, and this was early enough in YouTube’s formation that there wasn’t “Internet fame.” He could be out on the Internet and closeted in real life and no one would know. Later, it seems, people did find out and he was the first of the collab to drop out—his videos disappeared like the snap of a closed book—after he went to college.

His awkwardness and vulnerability and cuteness made me so deeply attracted to him in a way that can only exist when you’re fifteen and closeted and angsty. I hated his boyfriend, Alec, (who I later unwittingly matched with on Tinder and had to unmatch because how weird is that?) for loving him and when he left the group, I left too. The phenomenon of gay collabs petered out eventually as members splintered into individual channels. There was, it seemed, more power and marketability, as we entered the 2010s, in the individual brand.

It’s probably a direct result of watching so much YouTube that I started a blog a year after coming out. The idea of creating content online was so bizarre and fresh and new to me that I wanted to emulate my “idols.” It only occurs to me later as a young adult the absolute chutzpah I had to write about all the boys I had crushes on while being in class with them in my very small, very straight, very religious all-boys prep school. My generation of queer people were the first ones to be able to look to the Internet for advice and guidance, and the first ones to not really know what to do with it. I in particular really didn’t know what to do with it.

It was also Brandon and the other members of AGAD that spurred me to come out. The perception that they were living their lives out made me worry (here it makes sense to realize I was struggling with undiagnosed anxiety and depression) that, at fifteen, I had somehow missed the boat and was too old. Only years later did I understand that Brandon was closeted, that half of the guys were in their twenties when they came out, and some were estranged from their families. But that nuance was lost to me then, and so I came out at fifteen to my parents.

I’m now almost a decade older than when I first realized I was gay (14 to nearly 22, that’s like, what 7.8 years?) and the world has changed so much. Everyone has an online presence—a blog, or a well-curated Instagram or a LinkedIn—and the market is so saturated with people wanting to cultivate their “brand” that it’s easy to forget the beginning.

I don’t miss being fifteen—who the fuck does—but in some ways I miss the intimacy and blindness of the Internet. When I could log on and watch a seven-minute video of someone filming on a grainy laptop camera, my Skype chat minimized until the “boop-BOOp-boop” started ringing. I missed having a crush on someone so intensely and singularly that I thought I would literally die if I didn’t see them. Slowly shifting my library seat until we were sitting next to each other, or watching through videos and memorizing the lines on someone’s face.

There’s such an intense innocence to being gay and closeted and fifteen and in a small town. I’m not yearning for that again, but it’s nice to remember that before the world was cracked wide open, it was just me with the volume low and the door shut, watching five gays on the Internet.

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LGBTQ, Life, Politics, Pride 2017

ONE YEAR LATER: THE PULSE NIGHTCLUB SHOOTING

One year ago today, June 12, 2016, the world woke up to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history when a gunman entered Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and injuring 53.

This was not only the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history and the deadliest terror attack since 9/11, it was also a hate crime of epic proportions. The gunman went into Pulse, a gay nightclub, and killed 49 people, queer men and women and those outside of the gender binary, as well as their friends, family and allies. It was also Latin Night, so most of the victims were Latinx and people of color.

The attack was at a nightclub during Pride month, both are deliberate and significant. June is Pride Month, where queer people join together to not just celebrate their queerness, but to express their political activism and energy. The fact that Pulse was a nightclub is also significant: clubs have long been safe havens for queer people. When we could not be accepted in “society” or by our families and friends, we went to the clubs to find community. The Stonewall Riots began in a club, when police officers led a raid into Stonewall Inn. That moment is widely considered to be the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights fight.

One year after the Pulse massacre, we have a president who has yet to acknowledge June as Pride month and wanted praise for being “right on radical Islamic terrorism,” a vice president who legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ in Indiana and was a proponent for conversion therapy, a First Daughter who only thanked queer people for their “economic” contributions to America, and an Attorney General who advocated for the rescinding of federal protection to transgender students.

The massacre was another example that queer people are not safe in America, especially queer people of color. Do not be fooled into believing that because we have marriage equality that we have equality. We don’t.

Not when there are trans women of color being murdered for existing, or kids being denied access to bathrooms. Not when a man can walk into a gay nightclub and murder 49 people and there are politicians who would refuse to call it a hate crime but send their “thoughts and prayers” to people who minutes earlier they were debasing as pedophiles and mentally ill.

Being queer in itself is a both political act and a danger in this America. Our bodies, and the people we love, and our genders are being argued and picked over by politicians like vultures. We are an inherently political minority because our identities have been placed in the political conversation without our consent. So fight on, and fight harder because we don’t have the option to be neutral.

Fight on for women and for people of color and immigrants and those with disabilities (both visible and invisible). Because there cannot be equality for one minority if there is not equality for all minorities. The way the government treats women directly affects queer people. The way the police treat people of color directly affects queer people. Our fight is everyone’s fight, and everyone’s fight is our fight.

To the people who died that night in Pulse, who were primarily Latinx and black, on Latin Night; I’m sorry that we could not do enough. I’m sorry that you didn’t get a chance to be a part of the fight today. You would have all done amazing things in a world that was always, always against you. But we take on your memory and your love and your identity as we march forward and against. We will not forget you. I did not know you, but I love you, and I grieve for you.

The fight for equality is the fight for love, for choice, for freedom. It’s about our right to exist in public spaces, as Laverne Cox said in the aftermath of Trump’s administration revoking federal protection for transgender students.

I’d like to end with two quotes from James Baldwin, a gay black writer who was born in 1924 and whose work pushed the boundaries of queerness and blackness in a time that was particularly lethal to both.

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”

And,

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” 

These things that cause us such deep pain are the things that unite us, the things that make us stronger. They break our bones and they make us bleed over and over, endlessly. But we fight onward and upward and together because that pain is nothing compared to the joy of being together, and fighting together and loving together.

People will try always to tear us apart; whether it be through violence or legislation or words. But we are stronger than that and wilder than that and more beautiful than that.

Be strong in the face of adversity, loving in the face of hate, and kind in the face of unkindness.

Happy Pride.

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