LGBTQ, Politics

How the “Love is Love” Mentality Can Erase Queer Political Struggle

Source: Wikimedia Commons


When a niche culture gets into the mainstream, there is always the risk that it will be diluted, overrun or misrepresented. In the case of LGBTQIA+ people, I feel like I’ve noticed two ways (one overt and one subtle) in which queer people are being sidelined in their own movement.

The first is through “rainbow-washing,” which basically describes companies that create rainbow-or-Pride-themed products in correlation with Pride month in order to get people to give them their business. They can do this with vague promises of “donating” certain portions to LGBTQ groups, but recognize it for what it is: companies deciding that queer culture is something they want to cash in on.

Second is the subtle, and this is something I’m only beginning to notice and vocalize myself, so I apologize if it seems clumsy. I’m going to say something controversial – I think that there are well-meaning straight people culturally erasing queer identity from Pride. Using the “love is love” surface mentality of LGBTQ Pride, straight people are removing queer people from the narrative and celebrating sanitized and wholly unpolitical general “love.”

I first noticed this with people across my timeline: people who I have known (obviously this is not the end-all of their sexual and gender identities) to be straight celebrating Pride, largely with other straight friends, and using it as an excuse to get drunk and wear rainbow.

First, let’s be honest: I have gotten drunk and worn a Golden Girls t-shirt to Pride (and looked amazing). I’m not advocating that we all stay sober on the day of the parade, and solemnly stand in libraries. But I think that there are straight people who go to Pride parades, and other queer events, thinking that pride is just that and justifying their participation in these events by saying that they are celebrating “love.” I’m not advocating for the banning of straight people from Pride events, but I think that the risk we run by making it open to everyone in the mainstream is the re-marginalization of the original message.

Heterosexual people celebrating Pride under the “love is love” banner kind of sanitizes and erases queer people from the narrative entirely. Yes, love is love and everyone is entitled to love whomever they want, but it is not just that. By straight people saying that Pride means celebrating Love, they are eliminating the fact that Pride was actually birthed from the political struggle for queer equality. It is, at its inherent core, a political act.

LGBT Pride originated after the Stonewall riots, June 28, 1969, marking the start of the modern queer rights movement as we know it. It was the result of a series of increasingly violent and aggressive police raids against the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Village. The clientele were queer people: gay and bisexual men and women, gender non-conforming people, drag queens, male prostitutes. These were people who came to the Village for the safety of its anonymity, because they were, in their essence, criminal in the 1960s.

During these police raids, the cops would arrest anyone dressing in the clothing of the “opposite” gender, anyone seen touching the same sex, any woman who was not wearing at least three pieces of “feminine” clothing. The police raids were a part of a larger effort to remove, penalize and arrest queer people. In the early 1960s, then-mayor of New York City Robert F. Wagner Jr. launched a campaign to rid the city of all gay bars. Police officers used “entrapment” methods (soliciting sex and sexual favors from men and then arresting them) to “catch” queer men. These methods ranged from police officers grabbing men they assumed to be gay in the crotch and seeing how they reacted, to engaging men in conversation and arresting them if the conversation veered towards going somewhere else or getting a drink.

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were two of the first people to fight back after the police raided in the early hours of the 28th, and are credited as some of the earliest proponents of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Rivera, a transgender activist and drag queen, went on to co-found the Gay Liberation Front (the first gay organization to use “gay” in its name) and the Gay Activists Alliance. With Johnson, she co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.

The rainbow flag was created by Gilbert Baker, an artist, gay rights activist and drag queen, as a new queer symbol. After being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and the first openly gay man to assume public office in California, Harvey Milk asked Baker, his friend, to create a new queer symbol as an alternative to the pink triangle, which was used to identify gay men and women in Nazi concentration camps.

That same pink triangle was used by Nike on sneakers as a part of its “BeTrue” Pride campaign, a clumsy misstep that they addressed in their PR release as having a “complex past,”: “Originally used to identify LGBTQ individuals during WWII, the triangle was reclaimed in the 1970s by pro-gay activists and was later adopted by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in their memorable 1980s-era “Silence=Death” campaign.”

Baker created the rainbow flag as a political act and a unifier for all queer people: “A flag fit us as a symbol. We are a people, a tribe if you will. And flags are about proclaiming power.” Baker refused to trademark the flag, seeing it as his life’s work and his gift to the queer community.

Everything about Pride is political. It is not just about “love is love,” because anyone can love. Pride relates specifically to the economic, social and political equality that queer people strive towards and will continue to strive towards. I think that we have been lulled into the notion that because same-sex marriage is legal, and because more mainstream society is accepting us more, that the fight is over. I think that there are many straight, well-meaning people who believe that this is just a chance to celebrate, wear cute clothes and drink. That is not true.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, trans people are unemployed and homeless at rates three times more than the national, country average.

In 2017, according to National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 44 percent of anti-LGBT homicides were committed against transgender women; more than 60 percent of the victims of anti-LGBT homicides were people of color. Almost 65 percent of the victims were under the age of 35.

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a quarter of LGBTQ respondents had experienced some form of workplace discrimination within a five-year period. There is no federal law against employment discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual identity. In 28 states, there are no explicit prohibitions for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in state law.

I’m not saying that every single person at Pride needs to be able to rattle off a list of statistics about the treatment of LGBTQ people; I didn’t even know all of this until I spent the time researching it. But what I’m saying is that we are not yet at a place where we can afford a “love is love” chill vibe. Recognize why you are here, whose space you are occupying, and what this means. Things are dire for a lot, if not most, queer people. To dilute that, or to paste over it with a general and vague “let’s celebrate” mentality, is not just annoying or stupid to queer people, but dangerous to our lives as well.

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celebrity, Love & Romance

why can’t I stop thinking about Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande?

Source: BBC


In today’s social media climate, the few weeks that Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande have been dating and engaged feels like a lifetime. Not really because of them, more because of the political hellscape that we’re struggling to survive, but it also serves the dual purpose of blurring our sense of time. Mid-May? What even is that?

Don’t quote me, but I believe that the “zero tolerance” policy that led to the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents began roughly around the same time that Pete and Ariana began dating. And bizarrely, those are two things that seem to have had equal play in the media (albeit in different spheres).

And I think that it’s precisely because these two events are concurrent that we find ourselves so obsessed with the new relationship.

In the beginning of the year, The Cut (the fashion offshoot of NYMag) published a piece about the rise of skincare. There was a connection drawn between the stress of the media and the sudden deep desire to self-soothe and self-care, particularly when it comes to something as neutral and inoffensive as skincare. I really believe that there is a reasoning behind the obsession with the benign, and the relationship between a popstar and a comedian is about as benign as it can get. And their relationship is getting so much play in the media that my best friend, who does not care about most pop culture, even brought it up in a phone call.

My theory, I posited, is that Ariana Grande will be one of the long-lasting greats in our pop cultural textbook. And a lot of the greats have had multiple significant relationships. She’s 24, so it’s high time that she’s had her first engagement. Multiple engagements is kind of chic. By the way, if this sounds cynical, that’s not how I mean it. If Pete and Ariana end up getting married and stay together forever, a la Dolly Parton and Carl Dean, that would also be kind of chic. And if they got married, stayed together for five or ten years, then that wouldn’t be the worst thing either.

In the grand scheme of things, Pete and Ariana are in a pretty good position to take their relationship fast. They’re great in their respective fields (which do not overlap but occupy tangential spaces); they’re young; they’re rich; they’re hot; they’re well-liked. Apparently there are people saying that Pete is “beneath” Ariana; first of all, yeah but only because Ariana is…Ariana.

But I think the real appeal is that there’s no real risk of people getting hurt. These are not people for whom money is a real limitation; if they drop a hot thous on a ring, who cares? If they move into a luxury apartment too quickly, will anyone really be worse for the wear? They’re adults, but they’re young, and they’re in control and it’s fun and flirty and a little stupid. I love it.

Now, that being said, it could get dark quickly. If they do get married and divorced quickly, that’s dark. If someone cheats on the other, that’s dark. If there are drugs, that’s dark. But for right now, there’s none of that, so I’m having all of it.

But it’s such a welcome balm to think about Pete and Ariana rather than parse out the meaning (if there is any) behind a snide message scrawled on the back of the FLOTUS’s coat, or pull my hair out over Trump’s horrific press rally, or wonder what exactly that Stephen Miller audio sounded like.

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2018, celebrity, Inspirational, LGBTQ, pop culture, television

I’M SO GRATEFUL THAT I CAN HATE ON “QUEER EYE”

I find Bobby on Queer Eye annoying and I love that I find him annoying. I love that I can roll my eyes at Antoni loving avocadoes, and I enjoy that I can be confused about what Karamo’s actual role on the show is.

There is a criminal dearth of queer representation in mainstream media, and the small amount that we do have disproportionately illustrates cisgender, white gay men of certain attractiveness and privileges. However, I feel like this is the first time that I can remember seeing multiple, nuanced depictions of queerdom. And that makes me super happy.

A few years ago, Looking premiered on HBO. It centered on three white and white-passing gay, cisgender men in San Francisco. While I personally liked it, the show was widely panned by critics (fairly and unfairly) for projecting a narrow and specific type of queer experience. I do not think that Looking in and of itself was a bad show, and I think that it portrayed a certain kind of experience relatively truthfully. However, the problem was that it was the only mainstream show that really had any queer people as the main focus. So from the get, it had this incredible pressure to portray every type of queer person.

The problem with early representation is that it’s impossible to depict everyone. But with so few options, people (rightfully) want to see themselves represented. It also runs the risk of preventing other queer stories being told because when, if, things fail, people use that as proof of failure.

I started thinking about this when I watched a video from the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10. They were asked to give their favorite season (season 5), and the simplicity of that struck me. We now have ten seasons of a show about queer people in drag. We have enough to even be able to pick a favorite season. And we have enough to have less-than-great seasons (season 8, I’m sorry). That in itself is a huge victory.

And that feeling reverberated when I was watching Queer Eye. In five years, when Bobby Berk has his own design show and possibly a spot on an HGTV mid-morning show, I’ll probably forget that I found him annoying on the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye. At that point, I’ll hopefully have my own apartment, and I’ll be dying for him to recommend the best way to shiplap the fuck out of my house. In five years, Antoni will be a hot-as-fuck almost-40-year-old in a beautiful New York loft, and Karamo will be…I can’t really imagine but he’ll definitely still be good-looking as hell.

By the way, Bobby definitely has blisters on his fingers from hammering two-by-fours and lower back pain from lugging in antique armoires. In one of the recent episodes, he completely renovated someone’s kitchen, redesigned their closet and all Antoni did was bring the subject to someone else who taught them how to make fresh pasta. I’m screaming!!

I realized how lucky I was to be able to be annoyed by Bobby or Antoni or Karamo; to see a depiction of a queer person and not feel like I have to like them because I have no other option. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my queer forebears. There are so many people who paved the path that I now walk so effortlessly on, people who did it for nothing more than the idea that someday, in their wildest dreams, people like me could breathe a little easier.

I’m working my way through the pilot of Pose (it’s riveting, I’m just totally scatterbrained) and I also listened to a podcast that interviewed Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, one of the two couples involved in the Prop 8 lawsuit that restored same-sex marriage in California. I have the privilege of being white, able-bodied, cisgender and surrounded by a healthy support system, so I forget too often how many people struggled, and still struggle, in my community.

Representation matters, and Queer Eye and Pose and RuPaul’s Drag Race are more than just TV shows: they’re proof that queer people exist, that they can flourish, that they matter.

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2018, Politics

ARE YOU CONFUSED ABOUT THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT DETAINMENT POLICIES? I AM, SO I TRIED TO BREAK IT DOWN.

The other day, I read a New York Times piece that detailed one mother’s journey with her eight-year-old son from Guatemala to the United States, where they were detained and she was deported. Her son remains in the country, one of more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents as the result of a stricter border policy.

The story was gut-wrenching, and I became completely overcome when the mother described how she was given tranquilizers after landing back in Guatemala because she was so hysterical. At the time of the article’s publication, her son had no idea that his mother was not being held in a U.S. facility.

When I tried to research more about the policy that has been separating parents from children, I found myself getting more and more confused. There was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, giving a harsh speech about “zero tolerance,” but then there was Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, saying that there was no such policy. There was President Donald Trump saying that the policy was the result of the Democrats, and yet there was reports that Stephen Miller, the president’s chief advisor, was responsible for drafting the policy.

It was confusing on purpose, because if people cannot get a clear answer on why something is happening, they tend to stop asking. For a few days, that was me – policy is confusing enough without the addition of fake news and blame-shifting. But the idea of that little boy, and his mother, stuck in my head and forced to research it more.

Here’s what I found, using Snopes.com, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Fox News.

In 1997, the Flores Settlement Agreement was created after 12 years of litigation that centered on what to do with children who illegally immigrate. The Flores Agreement stipulated that you cannot hold a minor for more than 20 days before releasing them to family, shelters, foster care systems or sponsors. In 2008, President George Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which requires unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico or Canda to be placed with U.S. relatives or the Office of Refugee Resettlement while going through removal proceedings. Neither policy required or stipulated that children be separated from their parents, as Trump claimed.

In April and May of 2018, Attorney General Sessions announced a change in immigration policy to a stance of “zero tolerance” that would prosecute any adult caught trying to enter the United States. That included people seeking asylum, rendering them criminals. Therefore, even if they make it through the court system with their claim of asylum, they would first and foremost have a criminal conviction of illegal immigration. This is a change from previous policy, which demarcated that asylum-seekers go through the proper channels. He also said that children would be separated from their parents. And because children are minors, and thus cannot be charged with a crime, they are not detained with their parents and are thus separated. In an interview with the New York Times, Stephen Miller reiterated the “zero tolerance” policy.

So, there is no federal law that requires children to be separated from their parents, nor is it the fault of the Democrats. The problem, then, seems both bureaucratic and political. The bureaucratic: there are not enough immigration officials to process claims of asylum and issues of illegal immigration. That means that most cases are not dealt with within the 20 days stipulated by the Flores Agreement (most are not even dealt with within a year). In addition to that, the “zero tolerance” policy removes asylum seekers (and restricts the terms of asylum, thus forcing more people to be prosecuted for criminal offenses, seemingly increasing the wait time. Under previous administrations, the gridlock was so bad that some people waited years for their day in court; in the meanwhile, they were released into the country’s interior. That, obviously, is not ideal, but then leads to the question: Why not hire more immigration officials?

According to an article I found on Fox News, Senator Ted Cruz (Republican – Texas) has proposed emergency legislation for just that. His bill would double the number of immigration judges to 750, “mandate that illegal immigrant families be kept together,” and expedite asylum claims within 14 days. According to the New York Times, Trump rejected the proposal on the basis that some of the immigration judges could be corrupt. Other Republicans are working on extending the length of time that minors can be detained, with the (probable) intention of mitigating pressure to separate.

In response to it all, the Trump administration has doubled down.

“Those who criticize the enforcement of our laws have offered only one countermeasure: open borders, the quick release of all illegal alien families and the decision not to enforce our laws,” said Nielsen. “This policy would be disastrous.”

“Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13,” President Trump tweeted. “They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”

There are roughly one thousand problems with everything going on, but here are a few I’ve boiled down: by separating parents and children, you are causing intense emotional damage and trauma to both parties. You are also putting the impetus on the American foster care system to take care and control of these minors. You are chilling asylum seekers, and overflooding the immigration system with criminal offenses. And most of all, you are treating people like animals. You are not giving them the basic human respect and decency that should be afforded to all people, regardless of what side of the border they exist on. I understand that this is complicated; I understand that this is a result of labyrinthine bureaucracy. But this is your job. If you can’t fix this, then we need to find people who can.

“Change the laws,” Trump has repeatedly cried. But this is not the law; this is the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at work.

There are hundreds of nuances that I’m sure I’ve missed, so if you have anything to enlighten me on (in a respectful and human way) I’d welcome it. Writing this out was as much for me as it was for anyone else, because I needed to find a way to understand it all. I highly recommend checking out Snopes, which is a fact-checking website that provides links to actual policies and breaks tough jargon down into consumable bits, but I also cannot stress the importance of reading across news sites. The Times, the Wall Street Journal and Fox News are the trio that I generally try to read when attempting to understand something.

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celebrity, Mental Health

WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO KNOW HOW PEOPLE DIED?

In the last week, both designer Kate Spade and chef-journalist Anthony Bourdain decided to end their lives via suicide. It is, to put it bluntly, incredibly fucking sad.

It’s sad, yes, because they were successful and seemingly had the means to seek help; in fact, according to Andy Spade, Kate’s husband, she was working with doctors and dealing with her depression and anxiety. It’s sad, yes, because they leave behind loved ones – Kate’s husband and daughter, Anthony’s partner Asia Argento, as well as countless others. It’s sad, yes, because it triggers people with suicidal inclinations or mental illness.

And it’s sad because their deaths become spectacle when news outlets report on the hows of their deaths. I do not understand the impetus behind reporting on how exactly people take their own lives. There is, of course, the argument that that is part of the story, but, actually, it really isn’t. Knowing how exactly someone takes their own life does nothing for understanding the news other than satisfying the base, macabre instincts of consumers.

I was texting with my friend about the death of Bourdain, and he reminded me of a few other celebrities who had taken their own lives. When there were a few names that I didn’t recognize, I googled them and was greeted with explicit, black-and-white details of their death. In their little Wikipedia summary, it included “Cause of death,” like it was just another quirky fact.

I understand the desire to know; it’s the same reason we look at car accidents. There is a curiousity about death, and the people connected to it. But when I saw reporting on Kate Spade, and the rumored way she took her life, all I felt was this triggered sickness. Talking about how people died completely dehumanizes them. It turns the story from them, their lives, their struggles, and forces you to picture them as they literally died. Because that’s all that reporting the cause of death does: forces the reader to envision the reported in their final moment.

But instead of satiating any curiosity, knowing the methods just make me sick, like I had barreled in on these people’s loved ones in their moment of mourning. It turned their private emotion into public spectacle, for public consumption. It operates under the belief that we deserve to know, that we are owed something. We don’t, and we aren’t. god, it literally just makes me so sad – sad for Anthony and Kate, sad for their families and their friends and their fans, sad for people who will be triggered mortally by this, people who will find this affects them in ways that they can’t quite verbalize.

It’s all well and good to publicize the hotlines of suicide prevention (1-800-273-8255 is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; 1-866-488-7386 is the nymberof the Trevor Project) but I encourage you to reach out to people. It doesn’t have to be “Hey, are you okay?” It can be as simple as texting them hello, or to say that you’re thinking of them, or forwarding them a meme or a joke.

Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression prey on the fear that you are alone; dissuade that notion in the people in your life by showing them that that is not true. No one, ever, is alone. There is nothing so dark that you cannot come back; there is no hole too deep for your voice to echo upwards. Reach out; hold on. Please. Pleasepleaseplease. You matter so much, so greatly.

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