Imagining a better Boyhood

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As boys grow up, the process of becoming men encourages them to shed the sort of intimate connections and emotional intelligence that add meaning to life.

In hindsight, our son was gearing up to wear a dress to school for quite some time. For months, he wore dresses—or his purple-and-green mermaid costume—on weekends and after school. Then he began wearing them to sleep in lieu of pajamas, changing out of them after breakfast. Finally, one morning, I brought him his clean pants and shirt, and he looked at me and said, “I’m already dressed.”

He was seated on the couch in a gray cotton sundress covered in doe-eyed unicorns with rainbow manes. He’d slept in it, and in his dreaming hours, I imagine, stood at a podium giving inspirational speeches to an audience composed only of himself. When he’d woken up, he was ready.

He walked the half block to school with a bounce in his step, chest proud. “My friends are going to say dresses aren’t for boys,” he told me casually over his shoulder. “They might,” I agreed. “You can just tell them you are comfortable with yourself and that’s all that matters.” I thought of all the other things he could tell them. I began to list them, but he was off running across the blacktop.

I scanned the entrance to see whether any parents noticed us as they came and went. I hadn’t expected my stomach to churn. I felt proud of him for his self-assuredness, for the way he’d prepared for this quietly and at his own pace, but I worried about what judgments and conclusions parents and teachers might make. And of course I worried somebody would shame him.

When he walked into his classroom, sure enough, one child immediately remarked, “Why are you wearing a dress? Dresses are for girls.” A teacher swiftly and gently shut down the child’s commentary and hugged my son tightly. He didn’t look troubled, didn’t look back at me, so I headed home, tucking a backup T-shirt into his cubby just in case his certainty flagged.

In the afternoon, he was still wearing the unicorn dress. He skipped down the sidewalk, reporting that some kids had protested his attire, but he’d assured them that he was comfortable with himself.

Read on…

What did You learn at School today? Homophobia.

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Keeping LGBT issues out of schools is a fool’s errand. Some seven percent of millennials—who now account for the majority of the U.S. workforce—now identify as LGBT. The legalization of same-sex marriage has ushered in sweeping cultural change, too. Fewer teachers will feel like they have to hide who they are, or like they must leave the LGBT history untaught.

And yet, in recent weeks, there have been a rash of national news stories about LGBT issues—and, indeed, LGBT people—being pushed out of schools. LGBT teachers are getting suspended or fired. Some parents in Illinois are working themselves into a tizzy over LGBT history making its way into textbooks. And across the border in Alberta, there is considerable controversy over the fact that gay-straight alliances do not have to notify parents if their children come to extracurricular meetings.

Taken together, these stories paint a depressing picture of the state of LGBT acceptance today: For some Americans, the fantasy persists that schools can and should be LGBT-free zones. Age-old fears about teachers indoctrinating children, or “turning them gay,” still have power. And even some parents who consider themselves to be allies of LGBT adults will draw an uncrossable line in the sandbox. Read on…

Why Pride still matters

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We made amazing progress over the last few decades when it comes to queer rights, acceptance & visibility. So much that some people might wonder if we really still need pride parades. Here are some arguments why we do:

1. Pride commemorates our history

In 1969, it was illegal for LGBT people to congregate at a bar, or for bars to serve LGBT people. The Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, was one of the few places LGBT people could get a drink or hang out. Even there, life wasn’t easy: Police frequently raided the bar, issuing fines and violently arresting patrons. In the early morning of June 28th, 1969, a black trans woman named Marsha Johnson struck back by throwing a shot glass at police officers.

This act of resistance, known today as the “shot glass heard around the world,” kicked off days of rioting as LGBT people rose up against the police system’s brutality and bigotry. A month later, Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman, helped plan the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March near the site of the riots. And while the LGBT civil rights movement has made great strides in the decades since then, we’re still far from true freedom and equality – which is why we should never forget where and how Pride celebrations started.

2. People are still attacked because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity

Threats, violence and harassment against queer people happen every day, including during Prides. In a number of countries, events can’t go ahead without heavy police presence. In 2015, while 250 people were peacefully demonstrating during Pride in Kyiv, Ukraine, counter-demonstrators violently attacked the parade and left 10 people injured. In many countries, including in Ukraine, crimes perpetrated because of someone’s real or perceived or sexual orientation or gender identity are not prosecuted as hate crimes, and sometimes they’re not investigated at all.

Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes have a devastating impact on LGBTI communities. The fear of being targeted pushes people to hide their identity. When attackers go unpunished it spreads distrust towards the police and the courts. What’s more, these hate crimes are under-reported, which means people don’t get the protection they urgently need.

3. Prides are an opportunity to challenge homophobic and transphobic legislation

LGBTI rights activists have been prevented from holding Pride events in Moscow, Russia, since 2006 – and following a decision of the Moscow City Court in 2012, for the next 100 years. In addition, a federal bill prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors was passed in 2013. In short, the law now bans LGBTI activism and support groups and punishes people for expressing their sexual orientation and their gender identity, including at Pride events.

However, some hope is emerging, as in recent years people in Saint-Petersburg were able to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The relentless commitment of Russian LGBTI activists to organising a Pride is not only about the event itself, it’s also a brave defiance against Russia’s unjust laws curbing freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

4. Rights can never be taken for granted

Even in countries where in the past Pride events were allowed to go ahead, we cannot take things for granted. In Istanbul, the Turkish authorities decided to ban Pride, even though parades have taken place since 2003 without incident. Despite the ban, 5,000 peaceful participants gathered but were dispersed by police forces using tear gas, pepper-ball projectiles and water cannons. This appalling backlash is unfortunately one in a long series of harsh restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly, but it was still a shock in a country where last year’s Pride attracted up to 90,000 people.

5. Prides contribute to changing hearts and minds

Change is possible, even when homophobic and transphobic attitudes exist. When 70 LGBTI activists marched in the streets of Riga, Latvia, for the very first Pride event in 2005, they were met by over 2,000 counter-protestors, and many of them were attacked. Ten years on, more than 5,000 people took part in EuroPride 2015, with only 40 counter-protestors and no serious incidents reported. “The marchers as well as the people watching us were happy, many of them were waving hands,” said Rupert, an activist from Germany, who also took part in one of the first Prides in Riga.

Similarly, after being banned three years in a row, Belgrade Pride in Serbia took place successfully in recent years. In both instances the event went ahead peacefully and according to the organisers’ plan, with proper protection from the police. This sends a strong message to the local population as well as other cities and neighbouring countries. It demonstrates a commitment from authorities to uphold LGBTI rights and shows that activism can bring change.

6. Prides are empowering

Pride events aren’t about approval but acceptance. They are about human rights; they empower queer individuals to reclaim the rights and freedoms they are denied, and the public space they are often excluded from. Visibility is crucial, especially when the state and opposition groups go to considerable lengths to put LGBTI people at the margins of society.

Fighting shame and social stigma, and marching in the face of threats and violence – Pride parades are not only inspiring celebrations of difference but also a declaration of intent. Through these events, demonstrators assert that they will not to be intimidated, that they will continue to demand equality, and that LGBTI rights are human rights.

Before you knock it, just think about the middle school kid for whom going to a Pride event is a dream because they’re so excited to get to be themselves somewhere without fear of judgment. Think about the elderly gay man for whom pride is a reminder of how far we’ve come. Think about these people (and more) before you think solely about what Pride means to you.

Troye’s Little Lies

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In a not-so-shocking revelation, Troye Sivan talked about how he, like many other queer teens, lied about his age on Grindr to hook up with older men when he was younger.

“All my friends were hooking up with random people at parties, and I just felt so left behind because I didn’t know gay people, I didn’t know where to meet gay people.

I didn’t really want to venture out by myself and so I just did stuff that a 17-year-old boy shouldn’t really have to do. I managed to get a fake ID and then I got Grindr on my phone and started to try to meet people who were like me, but you sort of are forced a little bit into these hyper-sexualized environments, and even though that’s awesome when you’re 17… I didn’t know what else to do.

My heart must have been going a million miles an hour. I don’t remember specifically but, because I was always so small, I was so scared to meet up with people because I was like, ‘I’m going to get killed, I’m going to get murdered by someone.’

When I see photos of myself, from when I was that age, and I think of the guys that I was meeting up with and talking to, I think: ‘Wow, I looked really, really young.’ [It makes me feel] Kind of a little bit creeped-out, but at the same time I really don’t have any regrets. Maybe I wasn’t ever truly scared, just really uncomfortable.

There’s actually a song about it on the album called ’17’… Originally the chorus of the song was ‘Here he comes, like he just walked out of a dream, doesn’t care that you’re 17’. And I was like ‘uh, that sounds a bit predatory’, and maybe it was a little bit. That’s what I mean, it’s like, I’m not looking back at those experiences in a negative or a positive light.”

–Troye Sivan reminiscing about his teenage years to Attitude

Let Queer Kids be different

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This year we’ve seen a number of mainstream stories focusing on straight people’s relationship to queerness — which insist that queer people are “normal” and “just like you!” — rather than queer people’s relationship to their own identities.

The queerest part of Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon — the first major studio release to feature a gay teenage protagonist, which has been warmly received since its premiere last month — isn’t that titular gay teen. Instead, it’s Ethan (Clark Moore), femme and black with a Michelle Obama blowout and a sanguine rejoinder for every bully he encounters, who embodies the familiar high school figure of the kid everyone knew was gay.

The contrast between the two is sharpest following a bullying incident in the school cafeteria, when two jocks dressed like Simon and Ethan jump on a table and pantomime anal sex. Simon runs over, ready to fight them, while Ethan more or less rolls his eyes: To him, this is merely a change in flavor from the usual menu of ridicule. Before Simon can get to them, the drama teacher, Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell), marches in and, after a flurry of well-deserved shaming, sends the jocks to the vice principal’s office, along with Simon and Ethan, who wait to receive a forced apology nearly as humiliating as the incident itself.

Waiting with Ethan outside the office, Simon apologizes to Ethan, saying, “Nothing like this ever happened when just you were out.” But by this point in the film, Simon has personally witnessed Ethan getting bullied on at least one other occasion, so we have to suppose what Simon means is, This only used to happen to you. Ethan delivers a brief, moving monologue about his mother’s reaction to his gayness, and her obvious disappointment in who he is — an experience common to queer teens, but seemingly inconceivable to Simon.

In his few minutes of screentime, Ethan is exactly as sidelined in a film about a teen who is gay (but not that gay) as he would be in the hundreds of thousands of high school cafeterias that Ethans must move through. Ethan can’t hide or code-switch the way Simon (Nick Robinson) — white, masculine, conventionally handsome — is able to. Simon spends so much energy on preserving the secrecy of his own homosexuality that he fails to see the pain and danger for queer people who don’t have the luxury of keeping such a secret.

In an op-ed for the New York Times last week, one of a number of pieces to criticize the movie’s love affair with normalcy, activist and writer Jacob Tobia wrote a stirring critique of Ethan’s treatment in Love, Simon. “He is a sideshow, a subtle foil to show how palatable and masculine Simon is.”

Normalcy pervades Love, Simon, from the landscaped, Stepford-y suburb through which its protagonists drive to school to Simon’s parents’ cookie-cutter high school love story. In the film’s opening voiceover, Simon calls himself “normal” more than once, as if in a prima facie defense of his secret homosexuality. I’m gay, but I’m still normal! Even though, obviously, if he truly were like everyone else — that is, straight — there would be no movie to be made.

In a review for Time, critic Daniel D’Addario asks, “Can a love story centered around a gay teen who is very carefully built to seem as straight as possible appeal to a generation that’s boldly reinventing gender and sexuality on its own terms?”

Apparently, it can. Simon’s normalcy is one of the reasons why everyone from grown-up critics to teenagers themselves has loved the movie — it’s following in the footsteps of so many teen rom-coms before it about the lives of conventionally attractive straight kids; shouldn’t queer kids get a “normal” aspirational rom-com too?

Normalcy, after all, doesn’t only feel good — it also has political power. “Gays are just like everyone else” has been the rallying cry of a certain strain of gay liberation, a tactic that succeeded in ending policies like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, toppling the Defense of Marriage Act, and achieving federal marriage equality. And yet these efforts have been criticized from more radical corners of the LGBT community for their focus on issues concerning only the most privileged of Americans. The double-edged sword of normalcy-as-value is that it is always including and excluding with the same stroke.

Ultimately, Simon offers no more queer representation than hyper-mainstream antecedents like Will Truman (Eric McCormack) in Will & Grace, upstanding gay lawyer, or Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) in Philadelphia (1993), upstanding gay lawyer: a poster boy for well-behaved deviance, never forcing straight people to look directly at the boundaries of their world. Simon Spier is basically Wally Cleaver with an iPhone.

“I’m just like you” as an argument for equal treatment suggests that Simon Spier, or any other gay person, deserves respect and understanding by virtue of our similarities with straight people, rather than despite our differences — a construction we’re still being fed in queer media that sets the limits of acceptable queerness at the border of heterosexual comfort. Simon’s opening voice-over leans on his “totally normal” surroundings to excuse his deviation from them, rather than to question the boundaries “normal” builds.

Of course, all teenagers deserve to hear that they aren’t deviants and that they’re worthy of love — but what queer teens may need to hear more than anything is that popular notions of what’s “normal” are what make you feel wrong, or weird, in the first place.

Read on…

Is being Straight a Myth?

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This just in: A new study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that “fully straight” people don’t actually exist.

Researchers looked as the eyeballs of straight-identifying men to determine just how straight they actually were. Turns out, every single one of them was just a wee bit gay.

“It’s basically a study that assesses sexual orientation by looking at the eyes and whether they dilate or not,” Ritch C. Savin-Williams, the Director of Developmental Psychology and the Director of the Sex and Gender Lab in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University, told Broadly.

He continues, “You can’t control your eye dilation. Essentially, that’s what the whole project attempts to get at, another way of assessing sexuality without relying on self report.”

Savin-Williams and his team closely monitored the eye dilation of men while showing them a range of pornographic imagery.

“We show straight men a picture of a woman masturbating and they respond just like a straight guy, but then you also show them a guy masturbating and their eyes dilate a little bit. So we’re actually able to show physiologically that all guys are not either gay, straight, or bi.”

So what does this all mean?

“There are aspects [of male sexuality] along a continuum, just as we have always recognized with women,” Savin-Williams says. “Men have gotten so much cultural crap put on them that even if a man does have some sexual attraction to guys, they would never say it.”

Savin-Williams says another way of monitoring responses would be by monitoring a person’s genital arousal, but, he says “that gets a little invasive.” So they just stuck to their eyeballs.

Savin-Williams adds that while the study once again confirms that sexuality operates on a spectrum, it also finds that it’s not a binary system, which means that while someone can’t be 100% straight, they also can’t be 100% gay either.

Thousands of US Teens will undergo “Gay Conversion”

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More than 75,000 American teenagers aged 13 to 17 will face gay conversion “therapy” before they turn 18 according to a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a university located in California.

According to the research, around 20,000 queer kids will receive the controversial treatment from health care “professionals”. Another 57,000 will undergo treatment from religious or spiritual charlatans. The research further found that approximately 698,000 queer adults already received conversion therapy. 350,000 of them received it in their youth.

Conversion therapy posits that pseudoscience or religion can “cure” people of homosexuality. Professional health associations condemn the practice and have consequently called on the U.S. Congress and politicians to pass laws against it.

“Our research shows that laws banning conversion therapy could protect tens of thousands of teens from what medical experts say is a harmful and ineffective practice,” said Mallory, one of the authors of the study.

Indeed, the study reveals 6,000 people would have received conversion therapy before 18 if it hadn’t been for state laws banning it. So far, nine states, Washington D.C., and 32 localities have banned health professionals from practising it. Recently, New Hampshire failed to pass a law banning the practice.

Professionals link the practice to severe mental health problems and suicide.

Opinion: Labels are good

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Opinions like “Labels are bad” and advice á la “Stop trying to put people into boxes” are widespread, especially among queer folks. And many people probably think they’re doing us a service by spreading that gospel.

The truth is more complicated. By trying to get rid of labels you actually end up risking to disenfranchise the marginalised groups within the queer community who are glad to have a small point of representation.

It might not be convenient to end up with seemingly infinite acronyms like LGBTQQIP2SAA (extreme example, to be fair) but guess what? Sometimes convenience is not the priority when it comes to treating people right and making sure no one feels like an outcast.

Finding out that there is actually a term for your orientation or your preferences can mean the world to someone, it can help you establish an identity and make you feel like you belong, that you’re not just some weirdo who’s different from everyone else in the world. Labels can literally save lives.

I often personally opt for the term “queer” when I talk about my own sexuality just because I can’t be bothered to explain the mess that are my preferences to people who likely don’t even care about the details (and how do you explain in one word that you prefer sex with girls, love a boy but don’t seek relationships with either not to mention anything that goes beyond binary genders…).

And I believe that queer is a great umbrella term for our community but that doesn’t mean that we have to take more nuanced labels away from the people who rely on them for representation. So let’s not.

Slate has more on the topic.

Homeless Queer Youth in the UK

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Over 10,000 young queer people were made homeless in the UK last year, new figures show. Freedom of information requests from 234 councils across the country show 45,000 18-24 year-olds came forward to local authorities in past year.

Figures from the Albert Kennedy Trust show that of young homeless people in the UK, about 25% are queer. Therefore, of the astonishingly high number of young people who have come forward to say they are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless – an estimated 11,250 are queer.

However, with more than 100 local authorities not providing information – the Guardian reports the real number could be much higher.

The AKT figures make the LGBTI representation among homeless young teens hugely disproportionate. Additionally, they also show coming out is the reason nearly four in five of the young LGBTI teens AKT spoke to become homeless.

Moreover, once homeless, queer youth are more likely to experience targeted violence and discrimination. They are also more likely to abuse drugs, face sexual exploitation, and take more risks in their sex lives.

Speaking at the announcement of their partnership with National Student Pride, Tim Sigsworth, CEO of the Albert Kennedy Trust says:

“AKT believe that youth homelessness is the most pressing human rights issue facing the UK LGBT+ community. No young person should have to choose between a safe home and being who they are.”

Gay singer Troye Sivan has spoken out about LGBTI homeless youth

Troye Sivan spoke to queer kids in New York about being homeless. The singer visited the Ali Forney Center in New York City and spoke to three LGBTI youth aiming to turn their lives around.

Sivan met Skye, Maddox and Lala, who all had their different reasons for being homeless. The three are part of the centre’s youth ambassador program and are looking to, and working on, turning their lives around.

“As a community, we’ve come so far,” Sivan said. “But we clearly have a very, very, very long way to go. Now it’s my job, and our job, to keep pushing that forward and keep moving things in the right direction.”

The fierce Teen Boys stirring up the Online Beauty Scene

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Would you be inclined to buy makeup because a 10-year-old boy is showing you how to create a look on Instagram? If we’re talking about Jack Bennett of @makeuupbyjack, then the answer could well be a resounding yes.

Since convincing his mother to start his account in May, young Mr. Bennett, who lives in Berkshire, England, has amassed 331,000 followers and attracted the attention of brands like MAC and NYX, which have offered products to create looks. Refinery29 has celebrated him as the next big thing in makeup.

He is the latest evidence of a seismic power shift in the beauty industry, which has thrust social media influencers to the top of the pecking order. Refreshingly, they come in all shapes, sizes, ages and, more recently, genders. Hailed by Marie Claire as the “beauty boys of Instagram,” the early male pioneers, like Patrick Simondac (@PatrickStarrr), Jeffree Star(@jeffreestar) and Manny Gutierrez, (@MannyMua733), have transcended niche to become juggernauts with millions of followers. And their aesthetic is decidedly new: neither old-school-rocker makeup nor drag queen.

Read on.. 

Submitted by Jon Snow