Rest in Peace, Jamel

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Jamel, a 9-year-old in fourth grade at an Elementary School in Denver, Colorado killed himself last week, only four days after coming out to his classmates. He told his mom during a summer car ride that he was gay. “He looked so scared when he told me. He was like, ‘Mom I’m gay.’ And I thought he was playing, so I looked back because I was driving, and he was all curled up, so scared. And I said, ‘I still love you,’”

His mother said Jamel also told her he’d rather dress as a girl than a boy. She told a local news channel that Jamel was being bullied: “Four days is all it took at school. I could just imagine what they said to him. My son told my oldest daughter the kids at school told him to kill himself. I’m just sad he didn’t come to me. I’m so upset that he thought that was his option.”

Denver Public Schools said it is providing crisis counselling to students and support to Jamel’s family. According to research, 40% of queer teens seriously considered suicide at least once in their life.

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Rolling back America’s cultural Hatred of Foreskin

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Throughout the course of human history, wars have been fought and lost for seemingly trivial things. Whether it’s a patch of land between two countries or the Second Amendment, there’s no end to the limits that people will go in order to defend an abstract concept or physical place they’re attached to in some way.

The foreskin is admittedly not exactly the same as the West Bank or the right to bear arms, but the issue of circumcision has still ignited a fierce internecine war that has swirled for decades. The ins and outs of the circumcision debate cut to the core of the cultural differences between Britain and America—nations with very different approaches when it comes to how we treat our infant males.

In an increasingly globalised world, the foreskin is so much more than just a piece of skin or the plotline in a Friends episode. It’s the cultural dividing line that separates Yanks from the Brits.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a uncircumcised penis,” says 27-year-old New Yorker Olivia. “If I saw one in the wild today I would probably not recognize it.”

Read on…

My Name is Josie Totah — And I’m ready to be free

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Yesterday Josie Totah came out as transgender in an essay for Time. Josie, who starred in the sitcom Champions and appeared in Other PeopleGlee, and Spider-Man: Homecoming, explained she felt “like I let myself be shoved into a box: ‘J.J. Totah, gay boy’” in her acting roles, and in the discussions of herself in the press.

That description did not match her actual identity and “has never been the way I think of myself,” she explained. “My pronouns are sheher and hers,” Totah writes. “I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female. And my name is Josie Totah.”

Totah says she came to terms with her identity when she was 14, watching the show I Am Jazz about a transgender girl who is transitioning. Days later, she started meeting with specialists and taking a hormone blocker.

She will start college this week, but she plans to continue acting. “I plan to play roles I haven’t had the opportunity to play. And I can only imagine how much more fun it’s going to be to play someone who shares my identity, rather than having to contort myself to play a boy,” she writes. “I’m going to gun for those roles, be it a transgender female or a cisgender female. Because it’s a clean slate — and a new world.”

You can read her powerful essay here.

Austria deems Teenage Boy not gay enough to deserve Asylum

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Austrian officials rejected an Afghan gay teenage asylum seeker because aggression isn’t ‘expected from a homosexual’, according to the report written on him by the responsible officials. The official found no grounds for fear of persecution for the 18-year-old, according to the Falter Newspaper. Homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan and can be punishable by death.

The assessment contained many concerns. It reportedly stated that, because the teenager got into a fight with roommates in his accommodation, he had ‘potential for aggression’. This ‘wouldn’t be expected from a homosexual’.

The report also noted: ‘The way you walk, act or dress does not show even in the slightest that you could be homosexual. Astonishingly, the report used having only a few friends and spending time alone against him. The assessment noted: ‘Aren’t homosexuals rather social?’

The 18-year-old also noted he kissed straight men. The official rejected this, saying that no straight guy would allow this to happen and would have beaten him. The Falter reported that the man came to Austria as a minor and is appealing against the decision.

This comes days after it was revealed an Iranian asylum seeker was rejected because he couldn’t explain what the six colours of the Pride flag stand for.

According to the Federal Office for Aliens and Asylum (BFA), not knowing the meaning behind the global LGBTI flag was reason enough to block his asylum request. Luckily, Austrian LGBTI group ‘Queer Base’ were able to support him through the process, and he has now been given asylum in the country.

The vast gap between how the US and Europe think about teens & sex

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Eighth Grade is a highly-acclaimed coming-of-age movie about a 13-year-old American girl enduring the trials and tribulations of modern adolescence. But while teenagers in the US might well relate to the movie’s heroine, they won’t be able to see the movie in theaters—unless they’re at least 17 or accompanied by a parent or guardian. That’s because the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the film an R rating for “language and some sexual material.”

There aren’t many other ratings to compare that against. The movie has only been shown overseas in two countries–the United Kingdom and Canada. But in Canada, Eighth Grade was given a 14A rating, meaning that everyone older than 14 can see it without an adult. Meanwhile, the movie played at the London Sundance film festival, but hasn’t yet been released for commercial viewing in the UK. The British equivalent of the MPAA, the British Board of Film Classification, hasn’t yet rated Eighth Grade, but it’s a good bet that, when it does, the movie will be rated more leniently.

Scene from the Swedish teen film The Ketchup Effect

The discrepancy in Eighth Grade’s Canada and US ratings is symbolic of the difference between the US and the rest of the world, according to the movie’s director Bo Burnham. “There seems to be a strange double-standard between sexuality and violence,” he tells Quartz. “It’s a little weird how much violence you can have in a PG-13 movie.” That’s because, as Charles Bramesco argues in a recent piece for Vox, movie ratings reflect what a culture deems acceptable content for children. And the US and Europe are on very different pages about what they view as child-appropriate.

Read on…

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First Russian Teen found guilty under Gay Propaganda Law

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On August 7, a 16-year-old Russian teenager became the first minor found guilty under the country’s absurd “gay propaganda” law. The boy was accused of publishing homoerotic pictures on the Russian social network VKontakte. But the Russia LGBT Network suspects that his conviction is actually connected to the teen’s LGBTQ activism rather than the photos themselves.

According to the Russia LGBT Network, a July 24 report filed by the Commission on Minors and the Protection of Minors’ Rights said that the teen published “some pictures of young men whose appearance (partly nude body parts) had the characteristics of propaganda of homosexual relations according to the expert opinion.” The teen was fined 50,000 rubles ($762 US) as punishment.

The Network suspects Russian law enforcement agencies of paying special attention to the teen because last May he helped stage a public performance entitled Gays or Putin. The performance attracted public attention and was even discussed in the Russian federal legislative assembly.

The boy had submitted 12 applications to city administrators for permission to stage the performance. The city refused to grant him a permit. He also tried to organise a local Pride parade.

He was reportedly denied access to a lawyer after his arrest and, as a result, refused to testify at his trial. The Network says that the trial failed to prove that he posted the photos in question. They also add that an appeal is under consideration.

In 2013, Russia passed it infamous national law banning any public displays of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships.” The gay propaganda law caused a massive outcry as Russia began to crackdown on LGBTQ activism online and off.

In addition to the gay propaganda law, Russia has an ongoing campaign of kidnapping, torturing and murdering occurring against LGBTQ citizens in Chechnya.

Tender Friends

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What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room, but what happens in the dugout stays on national TV if the camera happens to be pointed that direction.

While battling it out with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves players Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies took a breather off the field, sharing an adorable cuddle and tender head caress.

The clip began to circulate on social media with many users critiquing the “uncomfortable” embrace. The negative feedback prompted a dialogue around toxic masculinity and why some men are unable to express emotions positively and healthily.

The religious Right appears intent on criminalising Gay Sex again

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With Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings coming up, it’s important to underscore that some anti-LGBTQ leaders appear to be going for the brass ring, far beyond just dismantling marriage equality. They’re signaling they want to see the Supreme Court allow states to once again ban sodomy.

The reality of that may sound crazy and horrifying, but just a year and a half ago, many things sounded crazy and horrifying. The U.S. is separating children from their parents at the border (and dragging its feet on reuniting them, even under court order) and the president of the United States publicly sided with a longtime adversary over American intelligence, which he continues to attack. And it appears Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

So anything can happen.

Banning gay sex is something he likely believes is constitutional. Unlike Justice Anthony Kennedy, the leader on gay rights on the court, Gorsuch is, as the respected NPR Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg and her colleague Lauren Russell described him, a “self-proclaimed disciple of [the late Justice] Antonin Scalia’s crusade” of originalism: taking the Constitution literally as those who wrote it in its time presumably intended.

Gorsuch revered Scalia, who, drawing upon originalism, wrote a blistering dissent from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which threw out sodomy bans ― for which Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.

Kavanaugh, who sits on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is an originalist too, and he’s someone the Christian right is counting on to halt in its tracks a Supreme Court that, as Bryan Fisher of the American Family Association wrote after Kavanaugh’s nomination two weeks ago, “just in the last two decades alone … has dramatically reversed its own precedents on the criminalization of homosexuality [and] the legality of same-sex marriage.” Fisher wrote another column this week solely focused on sodomy, claiming that “it has become obsessively important to gay activists to pretend that God actually approves of their behavior.”

Read on…