Russia’s first gay married couple had to run for their lives

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Yevgeny Voitsekhovsky and Pavel Stotsko aren’t just a married gay couple — they were the first married gay couple in Russia after their January marriage was officially recognised by a government official. But their bliss was short lived, and they were quickly forced to flee the country in fear for their lives. The couple has been staying ever since in a small town in the Netherlands.

Although gay marriage is illegal in Russia, Voitsekhovsky and Stotsko took advantage of a loophole earlier this year after discovering the government recognises foreign marriages. They wed in Denmark in January, seven years after they first started dating. On their return to Russia, they took their internal passports to a government office to be officially registered. To their surprise, registering at the municipality office went off without a hitch.

“They just took our marriage certificate and stamped our passports. At the time, the woman that did it saw that there are two men before her, but she wasn’t in any way shocked. She acted by the order they have that marriage registered abroad is recognised in Russia”.

The trouble came afterwards, when the couple went on television to talk about their status as Russia’s first married gay couple. Over the next few days, they say, they were harassed by police and had their domestic passports containing their marriage stamps confiscated and cancelled.

On the advice of lawyers — and with the financial support of LGBT activists — Voitsekhovsky and Stotsko fled to Amsterdam, without even saying goodbye to their family. They declared themselves as asylum seekers to police at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, and have been living as refugees ever since. Last week, after six months of uncertainty and adjustment to life in a place very different to Russia, they received their permanent resident cards.

“We went to gay parade in Amsterdam and there we could hold hands in public for the first time in the street because we saw same sex couples — females, males — who were also walking holding hands without any problems,” said Yevgeny Voitsekhovsky. “No one was abusing them by shouting insults behind their backs. No one was threatened physically. We know that we are in a safe environment.”

Are Bert & Ernie queer? Let’s ask their actual target audience.

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All hell broke loose after an interview with a gay former writer for Sesame Street who said he wrote the characters Bert and Ernie as if they were a gay couple. From Stephen Colbert to a cartoon in the New Yorkeradults had their say about the muppets’ sexual orientation for days.

But what do kids think of the idea? Do they like the idea of the two muppets as a gay couple? Do they care?

Grindr kicks of Kindr campaign

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Grindr wants to take a step to combat racist and shaming language on user profiles. RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant The Vixen, former Queer Eye host Jai Rodriguez, Joel Kim Booster, Malcolm Robinson, Rakeem Cunningham, Ray (Emilio Amador), and Jasmine are featured in the “kindr” campaign from Grindr against sexual racism, speaking about their experiences of racism on- and offline.

“If you don’t put ‘no Asians’ in your profile, it doesn’t mean you have to f**k Asians now,” says Booster. “It just means I don’t have to see it….For you to say ‘I know what every Asian guy looks like and I know for a fact that I would not be attracted to any of them?’ That comes from a racist place. Because you don’t know what we all look like. That’s ugly.”

“You don’t know what the person on the other side of the phone is going through,” adds Rodriguez. “You have no idea what their experience is, or what else they have going on, or what that comment might do to them.”

Grindr, also released a statement further elaborating on the Kindr initiative:

Sexual racism, transphobia, fat and femme shaming and further forms of othering such as stigmatization of HIV positive individuals are pervasive problems in the LGBTQ community. These community issues get brought onto our platform, and as a leader in the gay dating space, Grindr has a responsibility to not only protect our users, but also to set the standard for the broader community that we serve.

Online discrimination has reached epidemic proportions affecting not only Grindr but other social networks. Our ‘Kindr’ initiative is a rallying call for Grindr and our community to take a stand against sexual racism and all forms of othering.

Trans Girl speaks about brutal Hate from her Schoolmates’ Parents

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Maddison, a 12-year-old girl living in the U.S. state of Oklahoma was the target of extremely hateful and violent comments from adults in her town.  The disturbing comments on Facebook drew national attention a couple weeks ago because of their casual brutality.

“If he wants to be a female make him a female. A good sharp knife will do the job really quick,” one parent wrote. “Just tell the kids to kick ass in the bathroom and it won’t want to come back!” wrote another. It got so bad that the whole school district had to shut down.

Now Maddison is speaking out against the hate, while her family gets ready to leave the town. But her trouble in the small town started well before that discussion. Maddison’s family moved to Achille, Oklahoma, several years ago, and she presented as a girl. In fifth grade, a teacher outed her after looking up Maddie’s old school records, and then the whole town knew.

School administrators called in her parents and told them that their daughter would have to use the staff bathroom. “To be honest, Maddie didn’t care,” her mother Brandy said. “They had already shown Maddie the staff bathroom and she was like ‘Oh, it’s bigger, it smells better.’ She was happy.”

But people in the town talked and the issue went beyond bathrooms. Maddie had a confrontation with Burney Crenshaw, a adult man, when she attended a father/daughter dance with her stepdad Cory this past April. Crenshaw asked her repeatedly if she was a boy, and she kept on saying that she was a girl, until her father intervened. “My personal opinion is when you’re asking somebody if you’re a boy or a girl, you’re asking what their genitalia is,” her dad said. “My daughter’s genitalia? None of your business.”

When she started middle school, no one showed her where the staff bathroom is, so she went to the girls room. Crenshaw heard about it, posted about it on Facebook, and that’s when the violent comments started. “Who would do that? To a 12-year-old?” Maddie said in an interview with Vice News Tonight on HBO. “They can be hateful and rude about it, but they ain’t dragging me down.”

Despite her brave front, the family is too scared to stay in Achille. Even during the interview, someone in a truck slowed down in front of their house and the police warned Vice about doing an interview in their town. “This is why we’re moving,” Brandy said.

After the threats, the family started a GoFundMe page to move away from the town where they no longer feel safe. They have raised almost $54,000 so far and the family said that they have found a new home in Houston.

41% of Americans who are transgender tried to kill themselves at some point in their lives, compared to 4.6% of the general public. 

Gaybusters

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United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a “religious liberty” task force for the U.S. Justice Department  The purpose of the task force is to ensure and implement broad religious liberty guidelines issued last year.

Numerous people and queer groups condemned the task force. They said religious liberty is often used as an excuse to justify discrimination against marginalised groups.

Comedian Stephen Colbert mocked the task force in the opening of his show with an animated segment about the Gaybusters.

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.

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.

Gay Teen gets kicked out by Parents, still finds Success

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For almost all kids the senior year of high school is fraught with stress, obstacles and challenges. But its safe to say most teens don’t have the year Seth Owen just faced: In the middle of his sophomore year in Jacksonville, Florida, his father decided to take an unapproved dive into his son’s cell phone, and in doing so realised Owen was gay.

His Christian parents gave him an ultimatum: submit to so-called “gay-conversion therapy” and attend their anti-queer church or leave the house. Speaking to News4Jax, Owen explained, “They made it clear the intention was to make me straight.”

While he continued to live with his parents, Seth found reasons to stay away from home. From after-school programs to swimming, Owen says he felt like he was “doing something good with the struggle instead of doing something damaging.” When he finally put his foot down about the anti-LGBTQ church, he was forced to move out this past February with no financial or emotional support from his parents.

“I was really, really upset,” Owen shares. “It was extremely hurtful to know that I was walking out that door not knowing what lay ahead and feeling I don’t know how to explain it, it was devastating, absolutely devastating.”

Sleeping on friends couches and holding down jobs to support himself, Owen did what seems almost impossible: he maintained a 4.16 GPA becoming the co-valedictorian of First Coast High School’s class of 2018.

Owen had already been accepted to Georgetown University receiving a $50,000 scholarship. But, the remaining $27,000 of the $77,000 annual tuition was to be covered by his parents. With no support in sight from his parents, one of Owen’s teachers created a crowd funding campaign that received more than twice as much money as needed.

“I don’t think thank you is good enough,” Owen says. “Of course I am extremely grateful, but I think thank you doesn’t say it. Now it’s time to pay it forward.” With an inspiring attitude, Owen says he plans to become a defence attorney for neglected teens who find themselves in situations like his.

Research found that American kids & teens that are queer are twice as likely to face homelessness than straight youth, and those who are homeless are at a significantly higher risk of violence and death compared to straight youth.