#IAmGay Protest in China

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The Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo appeared on Saturday to censor a series of online protests decrying the platform’s decision to remove “illegal” content related to homosexuality.

Outraged Weibo users rallied under the hashtag “I am gay” early on Saturday to protest the company’s announcement. By midday, it had reportedly gathered over 130 million views and generated some 153,000 comments. However, by the afternoon, Weibo appeared to have also banned the hashtag and deleted most of the related comments.

Weibo announced its latest censorship drive — or “clean-up campaign” — on Friday, saying it would be removing “illegal” content, including “manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence or (related to) homosexuality.”

The new bans would “create a sunny and harmonious community environment,” the platform added. Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, boasts some 400 million active monthly users — roughly 25 percent more than Twitter itself.

Weibo’s announcement, however, provoked a flood of stunned and angry responses from Chinese users.

“You want to shut my mouth, but you can only delete my account,” one user posted using the “I am gay” hashtag. Another said: “As a member of this group, I am proud, I am glorious … I refuse to be discriminated and misunderstood.”

Weibo’s content ban is the latest attempt by the Chinese government to purge the internet of content it alleges deviates from the country’s “core values” or criticises the country’s established policies.

Although China decriminalised homosexuality back in 1997 and removed it from the state list of mental disorders in 2001, conservative attitudes remain widespread. A 2013 Pew study found that only around 20 percent of Chinese respondents said the believed homosexuality should be accepted by society.

Parenting done right

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Many parents are worried by the idea their kid might be different. Some just worry about how to support their child in such a case. A dad who thinks his son might be gay has asked Reddit how he can show his son that he got his back.

The single dad stumbled across the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race on his son’s Netflix account. At first taken aback, the dad asked the internet about some of the language on the show.

‘I was cleaning up his room while he was in the shower and I [see] this show (rupaul) was paused on Netflix,’ he wrote. ‘He has been using different kind of phrases like “the shade” and “I’m gagging” (that one worried me at first). I googled the shade and found it was a drag term but I didn’t understand it.’

The single dad of two boys aged 4 and 15, said the older boy was having some trouble at school, because of his shyness and stutter. He also believes his son might be gay and wants advice in how to be the best father he can be.

‘Is there any advice you can give me? I won’t embarrass him and start quoting the show but when he said he was “gagging” I had no idea how to react,’ he said. ‘I would like to know how to react. I was hoping I could get a crash course on this sort of chat.’

Reddit users inundated the dad with mostly positive replies giving all him all kinds of advice. Some suggested watching the vogue documentary ‘Paris is Burning’, while others pointed him to YouTube videos of famous Drag Race sayings.

Others said they wished they had parents as accepting as this man. ‘LMAO BICTH I SCREAMED. You’re an amazing parent for doing this (well, I don’t know you, but I can only assume so),’ wrote one Reddit user. ‘I only wish I had a parent that was interested in learning and not shunning gay culture.’

Photo by Prince Rabbit from softcreatures

Pihalla

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Miku is 17, making his first tentative forays into sex and sexuality. His older brother, black sheep of the family Sebu, talks him into throwing a big party while their parents are away. Of course, the house gets trashed, so Miku is exiled to spend the summer with his parents (and without his phone!) at their summer cottage in the country.

He meets the (literal) boy next door, Elias, and, only partly for lack of other options, they quickly bond, exploring the lake and each other, comparing notes on whose parents and siblings are more fucked up.

Pihalla (Screwed) is another entry in the welcome trend of coming-of-age films in which being queer is only one of the adolescent issues, rather than the defining characteristic around which the bulk of the characters and of the plot are drawn.

It is refreshing to have sexuality be only one aspect of the story. That said, Pihalla has earned a place in the pantheon of all-time greatest coming out moments in cinema history. It’s fairly late in the film, so I won’t give away the details, but there is a surprising twist, giving a fresh take on, “Mom, I’m gay,” and casting light on some mysteries from earlier in the story.

The filmmakers, writer/director Nils-Erik Ekblom and writer/producer Tom Norrgrann, said that the script evolved during production, as they found the lead actors capable of much more than the light comedy originally written.

To be sure, this is a comedy with its share of laugh-out-loud moments, but we also get real insight into the two young men individually and together, and into their family dynamics. The touching moments of genuine connection are interwoven into the comedy, giving a more solid foundation for us to laugh along with characters we care about. The wit and humour of the dialogue shine through clearly, even through the filter of subtitles.

People can change

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27-year-old YouTuber Riyadh Khalaf is best known for his 2015 viral video in which he shared his Grindr messages with his mother, but the process of coming out to his dad was very difficult.

Speaking to Brendan O’Connor on Cutting Edge on RTE One on Wednesday night, Riyadh said he came out to his Irish mother first but they kept the news from his Iraqi father for a further nine months.

“He was brought up Muslim and in Islamic culture and in that world, as many of us know, it’s not okay to be gay most of the time. It’s full of shame, it’s full of fear. It’s seen as a sickness. It’s just not good.”

He said his father took it “incredibly difficultly” and revealed that his mother’s “main fear” was how to break the news to her husband. And their worst fears came true when Riyadh’s father attempted suicide. But things changed dramatically since. Watch the short video below :)

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…