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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Pocket

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Imagine you’ve hacked into someone else’s phone and are consuming all his texts, videos, Snapchats, and Instagrams in real time. Now imagine that someone is a 15-year-old boy, and you’re watching his life unfold entirely through the lens of an iPhone.  That’s the premise behind Pocket, a captivating new short film starring the former Nickelodeon actor Mace Coronel.

The film, which was shot vertically and is designed to be consumed on mobile, follows Jake as he navigates school, home, and social life. Parts of Jake’s days look familiar to anyone who has gone through puberty: the awkward social interactions with classmates, a history test, flirting, masturbation.

Throughout it all, Jake’s phone plays an outsize role and acts as the lens through which we see his world unfolding. Jake uses his phone during school to make memes and videos mocking one of his classmates and share them in a group chat. He cradles it between his legs when he attempts to cheat on an exam. He uses it to escape confrontations with his mother, to frequently watch porn, and to creep on models’ Instagram photos.

To Jake, the phone is an extension of his body. It’s with him 24/7—at one point, he even pauses a shower to check a text. After Instagram-stalking and befriending his crush, Farrah, Jake exchanges sexts with her via Snapchat. But when he sees Farrah in person and finally gets the opportunity to have a conversation with her unmediated by a screen, he can’t.

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Aloud

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Arden is an introvert kid growing up in a strict Catholic orphanage during the 1960s. After joining the choir to boost his chances of getting adopted he is so insecure about his voice that he just pretends to sing during practice.

With the arrival of Mr. Stevens, the new music teacher, his farce is discovered but instead pf punishment he gets support from his new mentor. As Arden becomes more confident with his singing, a friendship is formed.

But a stern Mother Superior notices changes in Arden´s behaviour and, concerned with his attachment to the teacher, breaks them apart. Abandoned once more in his life, Arden will struggle to find his own voice.

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

Star vs. The Forces of Evil shows boys it’s OK to enjoy makeup

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Over the last decade we started seeing more cartoons trying to appeal to kids and adults alike. Disney’s Star vs. The Forces of Evil is no exception to this trend.

It follows Princess Star Butterfly from Mewni, a planet in an alternate dimension. In order to train her magic properly, her parents send her to Earth (because it’s ‘less dangerous’ there). She becomes the foreign exchange student living with Marco, a human boy, and his family. Throughout the course of the show, Marco learns about Star’s magic and life on Mewni. He becomes her ally in driving away evil forces that seek to destroy Star’s family and the Kingdom of Mewni.

Season 4 of of the show premiered earlier this month. In the first episode, Star, Marco, and Star’s father River Butterfly attempt to find Queen Moon, who mysteriously vanished. In their searching, they come across a local play parodying Mewni’s royal family. They are momentarily convinced that the actor playing Queen Moon was, in fact, the real queen.

We soon discover they are wrong, and that the actor (a man in drag) just has really awesome makeup skills. Marco is the one most impressed by this. ‘I’m not the real Queen Moon,’ the actor, Eric, tells the group after taking off his wig. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, I was trying not to break character.’

While Star and River cry over being ‘so close’ to finding Queen Moon, Marco, mouth agape says, ‘Oh my gosh’ as he approaches Eric. ‘You have a gift,’ Marco exclaims with a smile. ‘This is the most flawless contouring I’ve ever seen,’ he continues, rubbing Eric’s face.

‘I used my new illuminizer to highlight my cheekbones,’ Eric gleefully replies. ‘Sometimes Turdina likes to highlight with glitter,’ Marco responds, referencing his own princess character from an earlier season.

‘I like to use glitter on my eyelids to make them pop,’ Eric remarks. ‘Sometimes I’ll put a little bronzer on and then blend it with my…,’ Marco begins before being cut off by a distraught Star.

Although this is not the first time we’ve seen queer representation in Star vs. The Forces of Evil, this short scene couldn’t come at a better time. There is a rising popularity of drag kids, like Desmond is Amazing, who are becoming famous drag queens in their own right. Other famous drag kids include Violet Vixen and Lactatia.

There is also a huge interest across the United States in Drag Queen Story Time, where professional drag queens come to public libraries, community centres, and bookstores to read storybooks to kids. One recent Drag Queen Story Time event in San Francisco had an estimated 500 attendees.

With the rising normalisation of and interest in drag culture, it’s great that Star vs. The Forces of Evil did its part in referencing this phenomenon.

via GSN

Heile Gänsje

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Artist and filmmaker Matt Lambert splits his time between London and Berlin, creating dark and twisted works. The title for his is film, Heile Gänsje (translated Heal, Goose), is taken from an old German song in which the mother sings rather ominously ‘don’t worry child as in 100 years we will all be dead’.

Presented as a youth portrait of kinds, Heile Gänsje has a “fragmented and abstract narrative built around the subtle sensations experienced through deconstructing oneself and allowing the primal and visceral in.” With a soundtrack from artists such as Patrick Wolf, Le1f and Black Cracker and proving to be as sensual as it is sinister.