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.”

Trans kid left in the open during mass shooter drill at school

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During a lockdown drill at a middle school in the state of Virginia a trans kid sat on the bleachers as teachers prioritised refusing to let her into the girls’ locker room over assuring her safety in a crisis.

The drill is designed to ready students in case of a mass shooting, the kids practised finding shelter in sex-segregated locker rooms, local LGBTQ group Equality Stafford reports in a Facebook post. However, the transgender child was forced to remain on the gymnasium bleachers throughout the drill rather than prepare for a potential emergency.

“The student was forced to watch the adults charged with her care debate the safest place (for the other students) to have her shelter,” Equality Stafford wrote. “During this debate, she was instructed to sit in the gym with a teacher until the drill was complete, away from her peers and identified as different.”

Teachers eventually decided that the trans teen should sit in the locker room hallway, a door away from her peers – a place unlikely to offer much protection during a mass shooting. Why kids need to be divided by gender in the case of a mass shooting to begin with remains a mystery to everyone.

Mi mejor amigo (My best Friend)

milkboys Films, Films & Cinema 2 Comments

Living with his loving, liberal parents in Argentinian Patagonia, a sensitive high schooler named Lorenzo has to make way for the arrival of Caito, a troublemaking son of his dad’s best friend who’s only a year older. Lorenzo takes on the responsibility of keeping Caito in line and getting him to open up about his troubles.

In the process, both boys bond, but their friendship can only go so far. The movie is a smart, aching look at the ways young people can fall in love, even when they know the object of their affection doesn’t feel the same way. 

Submitted by Franco

Matthew Shepard died twenty years ago but his legacy lives on

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Twenty years ago, on October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard was assaulted and then left for dead in a vicious hate crime that transformed the way America thinks about the abuse endured by queer people. After the devastating crime Matthew’s family worked tirelessly to create a legacy of safety and acceptance, pushing for a hate crime bill that took a decade to pass — and that could now be undone by the Republican party.

Matthew was studying politics and language in Laramie, Wyoming, when he met the two men who would eventually murder him. They offered Matthew a ride home after becoming acquainted at a bar. But on their car ride, they stopped to beat and torture him before tying him to a fence where he was left to die. A description of the crime scene detailed Matthew’s face completely covered in blood except for the streaks left by his tears.

The killers didn’t get far. That same night, they got into a fight with a group of people and police were called, quickly finding evidence of the assault. Meanwhile, Matthew was found by a cyclist passing by the fence early in the morning. He was still alive, and was brought to a trauma centre in Colorado. There, he was found to have suffered extensive brain injuries, leaving his body unable to regulate his heart. He passed away a week later on October 12.

In their defence, the killers’ attorney claimed they were driven into a murderous rage after learning that Matthew was gay. This is the so-called “gay panic” defence, by which the perpetrators of violence seek to defend their actions by claiming they’re unable to control themselves in the presence of queer people. Such defences are still employed by people in the U.S., even to this day.

The country was horrified by the violent killing, but also galvanised to action. After enduring the loss of their child, Matthew’s parents formed a foundation to advocate for an end to violence as well as services to ensure the safety of queer youth. Friends and family pushed hard for new hate crime laws, but faced intense resistance from Republicans who sought to protect anti-gay violence. State and federal Republicans did everything in their power to block hate crime laws from taking effect.

It took a decade of hard work, but finally, in 2009, Democrats were able to push through the roadblocks and pass The Matthew Shepard Act in 2009. The bill expands hate crime laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

But many Republicans still oppose protections for queer people, and the law could be undermined by determined anti-LGBTQ extremists. In particular, Donald Trump‘s pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, has been tied to efforts to undo progress. Kavanaugh worked in the Bush White House at a time when the administration was doing everything in its power to sabotage hate crime laws. Now that he was appointed to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh might find a way to roll back what protections we now have. The work of honouring Matthew Shepard’s legacy is still not finished.

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Study finds people who are trans are likely “born that way” indeed

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A new study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that there may be a link between being transgender and a person’s genetic makeup. Researchers looked at 380 trans women as well as 344 non-transgender men in Australia and the United States, studying connections between gender dysphoria and a dozen sex hormone signalling genes.

They found a “significant association” between several genes and gender dysphoria, implying a strong likelihood that transgender people are different from non-transgender people at a genetic level. The research backs up other studies that point to a biological component to transgender identity, including a study from May that shows that brain activity in transgender adolescents is strongly similar to that in those of the sex they identify with.

Studies like this also reinforce the point that transgender activists have long put forth: trans people are not “mentally ill,” but are indeed the sex they identify with, not that which their physical body may display.

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