We the Animals

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Jonah crawls beneath the crowded bed he shares with his brothers, his flashlight suspended between the pages of a journal. His legs splay half into the room as the camera flickers over the scrawl of his pencil beginning to draw. A blank page envelops the screen like a promise.

In We the Animals, a vivid and restless queer coming-of-age film in theaters August 17, the raw feelings that Jonah spills onto the page aren’t the sort he’s able to articulate aloud. In fact, Jonah hardly says much at all as a 10-year-old growing up in a small, volatile home with two older brothers and combative parents. Based on Justin Torres’ semi-autobiographical novel about his childhood in upstate New York, the film plunges into the mind of its young protagonist through his frenetic and expressive drawings.

It’s more than a stunning visual technique; Jonah’s escape into the blank pages of his journal illustrates the particular value of artistic expression for queer youth. “Art assists with identity formation,” says Daniel Blausey, PhD, a practicing art psychotherapist in New York City. “It is a safe place free from social judgement.” Jonah’s empty journal offers freedom from external rules and expectations that attempt to set limits on who he might imagine himself to be. If self-determination outside of social strictures is the basic liberty that all queerness demands, We the Animals demonstrates that sometimes, art can be one’s only means to achieve it.

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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.

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Ryan Beatty writes Pop about Boys

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If we didn’t already know that pop songwriter Ryan Beatty (interview) is “proud to be a raging homosexual” (according to his Instagram), his finally released debut album, Boy in Jeans, would definitely confirm it ;)

Once dubbed “Justin Bieber 2.0″ — probably because he came up on YouTube, looks like a clean-cut twink and has a penchant for modern R&B — the California native is equal parts middle-of-the-road pop tart and hip-hop outlier (he sings the hook on Brockhampton’s Bleach). Though Boy in Jeans has its sights set on the charts, Beatty isn’t afraid to get a little freaky from time to time.

Ryan abandons his prom date to get busy with a guy in Bruise while, pretty much like everybody else, he gets high to Pink Floyd while searching for the dark side of the moon. He likes money and foreign guys (mais oui) on Euro and worries about his reputation throughout the single Camo. And he isn’t coy about sex. God in Jeans celebrates the beauty of his partner and the joys of sleeping “naked with the radio on.”

In other words, it’s business as usual for a young, healthy, hot-blooded American male who just happens to be gay. In a world where Troye Sivan and Years & Years are breaking glass ceilings everywhere, Ryan Beatty is what pops out.

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.”

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Good Job, Good Girls

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Izzy Stannard as Sadie in Good Girls

NBC‘s new comedy Good Girls (also available on Netflix) is about three women who, in the midst of financial emergencies, decide to rob a supermarket. The show has its central characters being unwittingly pulled into an even bigger criminal operation. The writing is smart and sharp, funny and a bit dark, and the chemistry between the leads is amazing.

As we are introduced to the characters, we learn that their primary incentive for the crime is supporting their family, more specifically, their children. Annie is the youngest of the trio. She is a single mother, though her ex-husband is very much in the picture, and the primary caregiver to Sadie, her 11-year-old daughter that has begun exploring their gender identity.

And, this might be the most exciting part, Sadie is portrayed by an actor that actually is non-binary himself. A refreshing decision in today’s TV business.

The FostersShamelessBillions, and Madam Secretary are among the shows currently featuring adult non-binary characters. What is unique about Good Girls‘ take, however, is that Sadie, at 11, is still figuring themselves out, and hasn’t expressed whether they identifies as female, male, or otherwise.

While a large part of the show highlights the struggles of everyday life for the main characters, that Sadie is non-binary or potentially trans is not one of Annie’s problems. The fact that Sadie is wearing boy’s clothes or has short hair is irrelevant, and Annie’s dedication to her child is such that she doesn’t miss a beat in completely shutting down her ex-husband’s suggestion to enroll Sadie in Catholic school, or that Sadie should be in therapy, as if there is anything about them that needs to be fixed.

Though Annie is portrayed as being the least responsible one of the Good Girls, it’s refreshing to see her become resourceful when it comes to her child. She enlists a dangerous criminal to go to Sadie’s school in order to scare the living daylights out of her bullies for pulling Sadie’s pants down, where he promptly breaks one of the kids’ fingers (like I said, it’s a little dark). Most of her money goes to hiring an attorney to help with maintaining full custody.

It would have been so easy for Good Girls to have taken the lazy route by making Annie’s dilemma that her kid is being difficult and won’t just put on a dress to make things easier for everyone. Instead, Annie’s distress comes from seeing Sadie navigate childhood, which is often times more cruel than adulthood. Her greatest struggle is making sure she’s doing all the right things to bring up Sadie in a safe space that will allow them to be strong and confident.

If the writers continue their approach in season 2, Sadie’s journey promises to be a satisfying one. Seeing a child who is non-binary on network television not have a completely miserable home life is the future. Let’s have more of that, more happy home life, more of Annie bringing Sadie to expensive stores and having her fitted for awesome suits. More of the Super Mom all kids deserve, when she’s not partaking in clumsy criminal activity.

 

Grindr wants people to be Kindr

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Grindr, a premiere sex and dating app for queer people (though men comprise the platform’s predominant user base), has launched what appears to be a new initiative, according to a slightly cryptic post to the brand’s official Instagram account. The post features audio messages of intertwining various voices. One such message is someone saying, “When [someone] says to me that I don’t date black people… that can be referred to as sexual racism.” There’s a logo reading “Kindr,” using Grindr’s logo.

*sound on* 🔊 It’s time to play nice. Dropping September 2018.

A post shared by Grindr (@grindr) on

Grindr has faced criticism from users since its inception from those who have been subjected to types of mistreatment — including, in some cases,violent anti-gay hate crimes — based on the notions of individually defined sexual preferences, usually by cisgender men.

Some users have sworn off the app completely due to experiencing discrimination, and, as mentioned, Grindr is no stranger to criticism, or even lawsuits, around what constitutes acceptable free speech, and best internal practices for monitoring forms of hate speech without censoring sexual preference.

It’s tricky, and only time will tell how this all shakes out, but if Grindr pulls off its Kindr campaign with tangible results, it may actually be something of a revolution in the queer community. This also comes on the heels of trans model and activist Munroe Bergdorf’s announcement of her involvement with Grindr, after publicly acknowledging the platform’s need to call out racists and transphobic users.

(German users might face some uncomfortable questions once people see an app called Kindr on their phones though…)

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