Gay Test Spyware… WTF?

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Well, this is just a wee bit creepy. A new spyware company claims it can help parents determine whether their son is gay.

The company Fireworld recently posted an article, along with a picture of actor Colton Haynes, to its French website claiming it has software that can help uncover “clues” that might indicate whether one’s son is a homosexual.

The list includes: He’s shy, he loves diva singers, his hygiene is impeccable, he pays close attention to his attire, he’s never been on a date with a girl, he’s not into in football, and he has a piecing in either his right ear, eyebrow, or lip.

Parents who suspect their son might be gay are being encouraged to download the spyware ASAP and then hack into their child’s computer or phone to discover “your son’s orientation as quickly as possible.”

The website urges:

You will simply install a special program on your son’s computer. This will then start to monitor the entire activity of the PC. For example, to go back the history of the websites visited, everything that has been typed on the keyboard, even recover the passwords.

The spyware specifically scans for any visits to “gay forums.” It also analyzes his personal Facebook profile to see if he’s messaged “other gay boys.”

If that’s not creepy enough, the site continues:

If  your son is gay you may never be grandparents and you will not have the happiness of knowing your grandchildren. Unfortunately, on this point you must not be selfish. If your child is gay, he can not help because it is not a choice on his part.

The company says even if a your son is gay, you should  “accept him as he is.” It also states that spying on a computer other than your own without permission is technically illegal, but there are some instances where it “may be legal.”

via queerty

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The Empress Sword

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With a kingdom to save and a dragon to slay, not to mention the loss of a dear friend and the first stirrings of a childhood crush, transitioning into a female is literally the least important problem on Crown Prince Aster’s mind. See, there’s this dragon attacking Caledon, and the only way to defeat it is to find and wield the mythical Empress Sword—a sword that will not bear the touch of any man. So Aster does what any sensible thirteen-year-old crown prince would do: he gets magical gender reassignment surgery.

Actually, it’s more complicated than that, and Aster doesn’t exactly understand what he’s agreeing to when he grasps the sword for the first time. Nonetheless, Aster becomes Astrid and what had the danger of becoming yet another too-straightforward boy’s adventure book on the shelves swiftly takes on new dimensions. We suddenly have a strong, female protagonist where we once had a slightly naive but endearingly noble male—one who has no problems with it beyond the obvious issues of a changed centre of gravity and a vague sense of “this is new and a bit weird!”

The narrative continues to refer to the prince as “him” because for Aster (as he still thinks of himself—though he quickly realizes that introducing himself by the prince’s name would draw confusion), the transition to “femaleness” is at first only a matter of changing some outward behaviors—like when the prince has to convince people that “he’s” become a girl, but maintains a comfortable male wardrobe, manners, and speech with friends. The prince’s own perceptions of “femaleness” are challenged and turned over frequently, but Aster’s assumptions are the fault of a royal upbringing (and a perception of “maleness” that is also quite skewed due to that heritage).

Aster’s transition is a non-issue in the book, with no broad, overarching statement made about transphobia. There is no fear over body image, shame, disgust, or humiliation—these things are entirely absent from Aster’s transition experience. And that’s a statement in and of itself. The fact that Jaxton doesn’t make a big flurry/trauma/statement about the gender change—nobody calls Astrid gross, unnatural, or a freak when they find out she used to be the prince—is a small but important victory.

In Aster’s arrogant and selfish selflessness, we see the ego of a child who has always been treated like an equal and a grown-up, played fantastically against the condescending humiliation of being a “little girl.” More important is Aster’s realization that people were just as condescending when she was a boy, but in a more subtle way because she was a prince. And Aster has no problems with being a girl in love with another girl.

Aster is also rather egalitarian in other relationships. Aster is good friends with a stable boy and doesn’t see why a merchant’s daughter can’t be asked to dinner, and when confronted with a monster who displays intelligence, actually listens to what the dragon has to say and concedes that the dragon’s point of view and concerns are as valid as the humans’ are. In that moment, the book is elevated from mere adventure story to a tale about equality, compassion, and the basic rights of all people—be they dragons, foreigners with unfamiliar features, or boys in dresses.

In the end, the success of The Empress Sword lies in the normalizing of transgender characters and heroes who treat everyone around them equally, and offering a fantastic quest adventure yarn for young people that teaches as well as entertains.

Greyson’s Gay

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Greyson Chance first made waves in public with an amazingly accomplished cover of “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga, which went viral after he performed it for Ellen DeGeneres at the age of 12.

Today, Greyson has announced on Instagram that he’s gay, and explains why it took him a bit of time to acknowledge his sexuality.

“I came to fully recognize that I was gay when I was sixteen,” he writes. “I decided not to publicize my sexuality largely due to a matter of privacy, as I was still trying to find comfort and confidence within my own skin.” He also explained his perspective that his sexuality wasn’t necessarily the most interesting topic of conversation: “I always found conversations regarding music, politics, art, books — and the greatness of Nas’ catalog —to be far more interesting than what type of guy I was into. This is still true today.”

He changed his mind after reading an inspirational message from one of his fans, which made him realize the importance of LGBTQ visibility — even if you have to find it on your own terms.

“I encourage anyone who is navigating their sexuality to devote as much time as they need to the process of finding self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-love,” he says. “Hell, for me, it took years to write this message.”

The decision to write this came after I received a message from a brave individual. Such message inspired me to shed light on an aspect of my private life which I have kept distant from my career in music. I came to fully recognize that I was gay when I was sixteen. I decided not to publicize my sexuality largely due to a matter of privacy, as I was still trying to find comfort and confidence within my own skin. Further, I always found conversations regarding music, politics, art, books – and the greatness of Nas’ catalog – to be far more interesting than what type of guy I was into. This is still true today. While this message is most definitely overdue, I encourage anyone who is navigating their sexuality to devote as much time as they need to the process of finding self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-love. Hell, for me, it took years to write this message. Nevertheless, I figured now was the time to let a few more friends know that I am happy, I am here for you, and I am proud of who I am. Cheers -G

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Saving the Lives of Trans Kids is easy: Accept Them.

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The transgender community has disproportionately high levels of depression and anxiety. Though some foolish physicians have suggested this is a fundamental part of being trans, a new study shows that trans kids who are accepted display virtually the same anxiety level as any other kid.

There are disproportionately high rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide among transgender people in the United States. One familiar statistic shows that a startling 41 percent of trans people attempt to take their own life. This data has been used to undermine the gender transition process: Some foolish physicians have suggested that high rates of psychological issues imply that being transgender is destructive to mental health. Meanwhile, trans advocates have argued that mental anguish in the trans population is the result of environmental factors like discrimination, rejection, and harassment—and not the process of transition itself.

New research published in the medical journal Pediatrics corroborates that claim, suggesting that trans kids who are accepted by their communities do not experience disproportionately high rates of mental health issues. The study measured self-reported feelings of anxiety and depression in a given week among 73 transgender children between the ages of three and 12 years old. As NBC reported, “They found the transgender kids averaged an anxiety score of 50.1 on a National Institutes of Health scale—almost the same as the national norm of 50.”

Dr. Stephen Russell is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin specializing in child development and the co-author on another recent study looking at the mental health of LGBT youth. In an interview with Broadly, he explained, “There is no question that disproportionate rates of mental health problems among trans people are due to stigma, discrimination, and hostility in our culture (transphobia).”

“Children look to their primary caregivers for nurturance and support,” he continued. “True rejection is evolutionarily devastating.” Dr. Russell says that in most species it is typically taboo to reject offspring, but something has occurred in our culture that has made it socially acceptable to reject transgender or LGB children.

According to Dr. Russell, we’re just beginning to uncover the real, lasting impacts of discrimination on well-being and health. “We are seeing that even at a physiological level, discrimination may make people chronically physically and mentally stressed.” Transgender kids today may be the first generation of trans youth to grow up with a heightened degree of cultural awareness around trans identity, as well as increased social acceptance. For the majority of trans people who did not grow up in an accepting environment, their coming-of-age process has often been mired in prejudice. It is important for these trans people to learn how to move beyond the trauma of rejection in formative years.

“Acknowledging those experiences is one important step (and the problem with discrimination is that it is usually stigmatized – we often find it too painful to talk about),” Dr. Russell said, adding that in his research he’s observed that “people who are the victims of harassment and discrimination often feel like a burden to the people who matter the most—even when they are supportive. They often feel that they are ‘bringing them down’ because of their (often chronic) harassment or negative experiences.” It’s important for these kids to understand, he said, “that they aren’t a burden to us—that we are angry because we love them and care for them, not because we’d be better off without them.”

To the parents of transgender kids, Dr. Russell said: “Love your child.” That’s obvious, he added, but for parents it may mean an internal overhaul of biases and beliefs. “Examine your feelings and assumptions and biases about gender: boys and girls, men and women, and what you imagine for your child in the future,” Dr. Russell said, adding that parents should seek professional help if their feelings of discomfort are impacting their relationship with their child.

“Gender is a fundamental organizing principle of our society and culture and of growing up,” Dr. Russell explained. “I think gender non-conforming kids need for adults in their lives to say that and to acknowledge that they are special and brave for expressing themselves in ways that will often challenge other people. That is, they need acknowledgement that they may find themselves ‘going against the grain’—they need adults to acknowledge that and let them know that they support them and are proud of them because of, or despite, that.”

Growing up as a transgender kid can be intensely isolating and frightening. If your family rejects you and your peers reject you, it is possible to develop negative ideas about yourself and your identity, and these damaging views can last a lifetime, leading the trans person away from life-sustaining resources. “Gender non-conforming/trans children whose parents regulate their gender are among those that have the hardest time emotionally,” Dr. Russell said, leaving us with one last piece of advice: “Understand that gender is not just one thing. Just love your child for who your child is and will become.”

via Broadly

Annabel

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“Boy or girl?” It’s the one question people feel safe asking a new mother, since it can hardly cause offence. But what if the answer isn’t straightforward? Even today, in our supposedly broad-minded age, you’d feel a bombshell had been dropped if the proud parent were to reply simply: “Both.”

In Annabel, an intersex baby – one testicle, a penis, one ovary, a womb and a vagina, since you ask – is born to Jacinta. It’s 1968, and she lives in a remote Canadian hamlet with her husband, Treadway, a trapper of few words but strong principles. It is he who decides that the child will be brought up as a boy, to the eternal sorrow of Jacinta, who, unlike him, is quite capable of encompassing her baby’s male and female identities in her love. She feels she has lost a daughter, and a friend secretly christens the baby Annabel behind the minister’s back. So, with a little help from the doctors, young Wayne unwittingly starts life as a boy with, as he puts it later on, a girl curled up inside him. Read on…

Welcome to the Future, Germany

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German chancellor Angela Merkel barely ever misses an opportunity to highlight Germany’s exemplary function when it comes to social values and tolerance–often conveniently ignoring that other European countries are frequently ahead in ensuring that laws are passed to curb discrimination of women, minorities and other groups too often left behind.

This is not to say that everything is bad in the EU’s largest member state. Germany did, for example, take in the second largest amount of war refugees per capita after Sweden. But in other areas Germany is still a rather slow-moving creature:

For more than a decade now conservative  powers in the country voiced their concern about the prospect of marriage equality and the right for same-sex couples to adopt children. The arguments mostly being the same fear mongering that you’ll find all over the world as soon as these subjects are brought up.

From gay marriage leading to bestiality to gay couples not being able to provide a stable family for kids (while 40% of straight marriages in Germany getting divorced doesn’t seem to be an issue).

Meanwhile it would be as easy as just taking a look at Germany’s neighbours to figure out that society did not dissolve into an anarchistic mess after gay marriage was legalised nor are children being eaten alive by the loving same-sex couples who were allowed to adopt them. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, France and many other countries are doing just fine despite achieving marriage equality in some cases over a decade ago.

But things are finally getting in motion it seems. With general elections happening in less than three months campaigns are in full swing and within the last few days something interesting transpired.

German politics usually go like this: Merkel’s party, The Christian Democrats (CDU) win the elections and the only question after is which other party gets to join them in a coalition to form the government. Currently three parties are likely candidates to partner up with the CDU: The Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party (Grüne) and the Liberals (FDP).

All three of these parties recently announced that they will not be available for a coalition unless marriage equality will be part of the new government’s program thereby forcing Merkel and her party to give up their longstanding resistance against same-sex marriage unless they want to look like damn fools after the elections.

So while Merkel is reaping much praise right now for turning around on the issue, she basically did what she always does: Waiting for the very last, opportune moment to change her mind when party politics demand it.

Better late than never; better with the bitter aftertaste of political opportunism than not at all. Germany is arriving in the future and that’s a good thing.

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Adrian Mayfield

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Rarely has a book for young adults been so eagerly anticipated as Tricks of the Trade, the third book by the popular young author Floortje Zwigtman. She understands better than many that adolescents aren’t looking for a neat book of instructions for the future. These are stories that tell it like it is, historical novels about surviving in conditions where the laws and morals of polite society no longer seem to apply.

Adrian Mayfield is born in the poor East End of Victorian London, the son of a pub landlord and a seamstress. However, a different career lies in store for him. It’s not a scenario that the street-hardened lad could have envisaged: a wealthy older gentleman falls in love with him and takes him home. The man is Augustus Trops, a second-rate artist from Flanders. He introduces Adrian to the flamboyant circle of Oscar Wilde, where he meets other men like Augustus and finds work as an artist’s model. The work pays well and he meets the most interesting and powerful people of his time. Adrian is very pleased with his new life at first. Everything appears to be going swimmingly. Until, that is, London’s beau monde decamps to Europe for the summer holidays, as happens every year. Adrian, by now accustomed to luxury, ends up without any income.

In a male brothel he discovers the flip side of his new life in the twofaced London of the nineteenth century, where gossip, blackmail and brutal police violence make homosexuality a highly dangerous way of life. Then he faces the choice of whether to put his integrity and his friendships on the line so that he doesn’t have to live in a mouldy, cockroach-infested garret.

Tricks of the Trade is an intense book that is difficult to put down. It draws the reader in without resorting to cheap sensationalism. This is a result of Zwigtman’s unique ability to combine critical distance with open intimacy. The raw, breathtaking writing of this sharp, historical portrait really makes the reader think about life. Zwigtman is one of the great modern writers of books for young adults.

This is the first book in a series of three and was published in Dutch under the title Schijnbewegingenand in German as Ich, Adrian Mayfield. There is no English translation yet because all interested publishers asked the author to remove some of the explicit sex scenes considering the age of the target audience but Zwigtman, luckily one could argue, refused to do so.

Skirts for Shorts

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Breaking gender norms, especially for practical reasons, is not just for queer activists. With temperatures sometimes close to 40°C currently plaguing many parts of Europe, there are school boys who also wanted in on the action.

Some had borrowed from girlfriends, others from sisters. A few had gone the extra mile and shaved their legs.

About 30 boys in  in Devon, England wore skirts to school in protest at being told they were not allowed to wear shorts to school. Head teacher Aimee Mitchell said shorts were ‘not part’ of the school uniform.

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