Many banned books in the U.S. challenged for queer content

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More than half of the top 11 most frequently challenged and banned books of 2018 include LGBTQ content, according to a report released Monday by the American Library Association.

“Books for youth with LGBTIQ+ content are consistently on our list of most challenged books; this trend goes back to the mid-1990’s, when Nancy Garden’s ‘Annie on my Mind’ was banned by a school board in Texas,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, interim director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said in a statement. “That said, we are noticing a greater number of challenges to books with LGBTIQ+ content, especially those that have transgender characters and themes.”

In 2017, four of the top 10 banned books were challenged for LGBTQ content, and in 2016, five were challenged for this reason.

George,” a coming-of-age story by Alex Gino, topped this year’s list. The award-winning, young-adult novel is about a transgender girl coming to terms with her gender identity. This is the third consecutive year “George” made the ALA’s “Most Challenged Books” list, which is part of the association’s annual “State of America’s Libraries Report.”

According to the report, “George” has been repeatedly “banned, challenged, and relocated” because it’s “believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones.” The ALA also noted there were complaints about the book for “mentioning ‘dirty magazines,’ describing male anatomy, ‘creating confusion,’ and including a transgender character.”

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Bud Sex: When (mostly) straight guys fuck (each other)

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A University of Oregon sociology doctoral student named Tony Silva interviewed American men to ask them about their sexual habits and identities and published his findings in the journal Gender & Society.

All the interviewees identified as exclusively or mostly straight and they all lived in rural areas of Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Oregon and Washington known for their “social conservatism and predominant white populations.”

In his background, Silva came across several not-completely-straight terms like “dude sex” (sex between white, masculine “bros” in urban and military contexts) and “heteroflexible” (same-sex encounters of men who predominantly identify as heterosexual).

But his interview also uncovered a new term: “bud sex,” a type of encounter that reaffirms the participants’ heterosexuality by framing their same-sex sexual activity as “helpin’ a buddy out,” relieving “urges” or having sex without sexual attraction (if that makes sense).

He found that these men re-contextualised their same-sex encounters in ways that reaffirmed their own heterosexual identity. Predominantly, they tended to go for other straight-identifying men that didn’t behave effeminate or “flaming.” This way, the men could talk about women together and avoid romantic/emotional entanglements that might involve them more in each other’s daily lives.

That being said, some of these men also did other activities with their same-sex partners — like shopping, having coffee, hiking and hanging out — activities that would imply friendship if not some deeper emotional connection between them.

He reportedly didn’t ask his interviewees how they can have “bud sex” without identifying as gay (though some of his interviewees did identify as “slightly bi”). But Silva says these men may avoid identifying as gay because of “internalized heterosexism, participation in other-sex marriage and childrearing [which could be complicated if they came out as bi or gay],” while benefitting from the enjoyment of straight privilege and culture.

Homosexuality: It’s about survival

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When James O’Keefe’s 18-year-old son Jimmy came out as gay, he felt like he’d failed him and regretted that Jimmy wouldn’t have kids of his own. While he now realises that Jimmy could someday still have kids, as a medical doctor O’Keefe wondered about the genetic and evolutionary factors that made his son gay, and if there really was something like the ‘gay gene.’

“Viewed in the light of evolution,” O’Keefe said during a TED Talk (watch the video below), “homosexuality seems to be a real self-defeating, non-productive strategy. Gay people have 80% fewer kids than heterosexuals. This is a trait that ought to go extinct in a few generations, yet down through recorded history, in every culture and many animal species as well, homosexuality has been a small but distinct subgroup. If this were a genetic error, natural selection should have long ago culled this from the gene pool.”

Most people use the “guncle theory” to explain the evolutionary benefit of homosexuality, the idea that, lacking kids of their own, gay uncles contribute to their family’s overall well-being by helping care for their siblings’ offspring. O’Keefe more or less agrees with this but takes it two steps further.

He points to two studies suggesting that if a mother gives birth to a high number of male offspring or experiences severe prenatal stress, the likelihood of her giving birth to a gay son increases. The underlying reason has something to do with an emerging science known as epigenetics.

Epigenetics basically states that similar genes can express themselves in different ways based on external circumstances. For example, epigenetic studies of ants have shown that if the colony is hungry, the queen will give birth to more worker ants, but if the colony is under attack, she’ll give birth to more warrior ants. In both cases, ants’ genetic makeup are exactly the same, the only difference is how they get expressed. Warrior ants will be bigger and more aggressive, whereas worker ants will be smaller and better at finding food.

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What’s Autosexuality?

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“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?!” has by now become a pop-cultural knell, co-opted by all the straight girls in Clapham and sundry along with ‘YAAAAASS KWEEN!’ around season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

But, in spite of the ubiquitous cawing it’s birthed, it would seem that Mama Ru’s message of amorous introspection is increasingly being taken in earnest. As reports would have it, the demand for Eat-Pray-Love-esque self-marriage ceremonies is at its highest, with some service providers charging north of £2500 to those looking to sign up to a life of ‘sologamy’.

Though this particular practice of self-marriage might better be viewed as an extreme extension of #selfcare, there is, in fact, an elusive sexual demographic that professes to experience legitimate sexual and romantic attraction to themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been rare moments when I’ve caught myself in the mirror and thought damn, but on reflection it’s mostly down to whatever I’m wearing, and I’m not sure if a fleeting appreciation of the enhanced self I’ve expensively curated through material possessions really matches up to what might fairly be described as inflected sexual attraction.

I first thought that autosexuality might have something to do with that thing where conventionally attractive white gays date their effective twins, but it turns out it covers those that experience sexual attraction to themselves. There’s also autoromanticism, which speaks to a desire to experience a romantic relationship with oneself.

The shade of difference between the two was admittedly a tricky one for me to grasp, though that changed when I considered my own love life as a sort of Venn diagram, with one circle comprising people with whom the interactions I seek are solely physical, and the other containing those with whom the relationship I’m looking for predicates on something more profound, and isn’t fuelled by the same primal desire — a romantic crush on a close friend, for example. There is, of course, a pretty significant overlap between those two groups, but there are still a fair few people that straggle in one or the other.

American Christians spend millions fighting queer rights in Europe

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Several Christian groups based in the United States donated millions of dollars to fund campaigns against queer rights in Europe. An investigation by the media platform OpenDemocracy into the financial accounts of conservative organisations revealed that they have funnelled $51 million dollars towards the activities of anti-queer and anti-abortion causes in European countries.

Some of the groups have direct links to Donald Trump’s administration. The Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family have both received donations from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family, as ProPublica reported. Earlier this week, DeVos refused to say that she opposes discrimination against queer students.

Alliance Defending Freedom told OpenDemocracy they champion causes related to freedom of speech and do not disclose “any recipients of funding in order to protect their personal safety and livelihoods.” They did not explain how oppressing queer people is a matter of freedom of speech.

The investigation found the ADF tripled its annual spending in Europe between 2012 and 2016, to more than $2.6 million a year. The ADF has offices in several European cities, including Brussels and Strasburg, which host the European Parliament. Alliance Defending Freedom is listed as a hate group by the monitoring organisation Southern Poverty Law Center due to their anti-LGBT ideology.

One of the places the group has been active in is Romania, which in October 2018 held a referendum to ban same-sex marriage by changing the definition of marriage in the constitution—which ultimately failed due to low turnout. More than a year ahead of the vote, in April 2017, Alliance Defending Freedom co-hosted a “referendum for the family” conference at the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest along with the local group Coalition for Family.

At least five of the groups analysed by OpenDemocracy also partner with the World Congress of Families, another organisation the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as an anti-queer hate group.

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More Happy Than Not

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Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s debut More Happy Than Not confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

More Happy Than Not is, in the simplest interpretation, a novel of self-acceptance, a description that surely attaches to 90 percent of all young adult fiction ever written. But it also tells us something else: that misery, while it is always available to be romanticized (and, of course, romanticizing misery remains a default position for countless 15-year-olds), is at the same time something that cannot be disposed of.

That sounds as if it might lead to trite messaging along the lines of “All that makes us suffer makes us stronger.” But what Silvera is saying is different, and profound: Hardship should always be kept close, so that we know happiness when we find it.

The New York Times

J.K. Rowling can’t stop spilling tea about Dumbledore’s sex life

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J.K. Rowling just can’t stop making her wizarding world seem more diverse and progressive than it really was in her books and films. In her latest attempt she said Albus Dumbledore and Fantastic Beasts villain Gellert Grindelwald had a ‘passionate’ love affair. Something that was barely hinted at in her works.

Even long-time fans are tired of Rowling shenanigans. And they’re letting her know as you can see in some of the tweets below…

Rowling’s comments come after Fantastic Beasts picked up criticism for skirting the subject of the romance between the two characters. In the film, Dumbledore hints that the pair were “closer than brothers,” and one flashback sequence featured a homoerotic moment between the lovers.

However, the plot was largely sidelined in the film, leading to accusations that it was being downplayed to allow the blockbuster’s release in overseas markets that forbid depictions of same-sex relationships.