Am I Queer?

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Here’s How To Tell

By Caroline Colvin

So, you’re not sure if you’re “bisexual,” “pansexual,” or “lesbian” to be exact, but you have an inkling you’re not strictly straight. If you’ve been wondering, “Am I queer?”, there is no simple answer to that question. On one hand, you might be able to pinpoint exactly which childhood female celebrity crush sparked a sexual awakening. Or maybe you distinctly remember a K-12 Valentine made with extra special care for a girl in your class. On the other hand, maybe you’ve shared a curious, impulsive kiss with a girl. Or maybe you’ve hooked up with another woman, either one-on-one or in a threesome, and have elected to ignore those implications. Whatever your case may be, there are def some aspects of your sexual and romantic attractions you can reflect on to answer that question.

Data from the Pew Research Center shows that more and more Americans are identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community. As of 2017, a little more than 10 million people in the U.S. or 4.1% of Americans identified as LGBTQ+. That’s up from 8.3 million people or 3.5% of Americans in 2012, according to the same researchers. Interestingly enough, millennials lead the pack when it comes to identifying as queer. In 2017, LGBTQ media organization GLAAD found that 20% of 18- to 34-year-olds identify as LGBTQ+ in the U.S.

If you’re curious about whether you’re queer, here are some aspects of your desires to consider.

“Queer” can be how you identify

It’s important to know that “queer” can be an umbrella term. For example, you’ve possibly heard people use “the queer community” and “the LGBTQ+ community” interchangeably. It’s also important to know that “queer” can be the specific label you identify with — that’s the “Q” in “LGBTQ+!” The queer community includes people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and pansexual — so, anyone who isn’t straight. (This also includes folks who are transgender, non-binary, or two-spirit, so anyone who isn’t cisgender or the gender they were assigned at birth. But for the purposes of this article, we’re just going to focus on sexuality, which is separate from gender.)

When it comes to using “queer” as your label, sex and relationships therapist Courtney Watson, whose practice works specifically with LGBTQ+ people of color, says, “‘Queer is a term that offers the most fluidity in definition. [It also] allows for a sexuality identity that transcends discreet gender and sexual orientation categories.”

What you’ll notice romantically is…

One thing sexuality educator Jamie J. LeClaire emphasizes is that there isn’t just one way to be queer, especially when it comes to romantic orientation. You might be:

  • aromantic, which means you lack of romantic attraction completely,
  • biromantic or panromantic, meaning you feel romantically attracted to more than one gender,
  • or homorantic, meaning you feel romantically attracted to people of the same binary gender that you identify as.

Do you have warm and fuzzy feelings for a woman at work? Has romance just never been your jam? Do you dwell on how nice it would be to cuddle, hold hands with, and raise a dog with one your hot, charming non-binary friends? Queerness looks different for everyone, but LeClaire says, “If you find yourself developing romantically-fueled, crush-type feelings outside of the scope of heteroromanticism, you might be queer!”

What you might notice sexually is…

As LeClaire puts it, one of the main signs you might be queer is you catch yourself “fantasizing or desiring sexual intimacy, in any way outside of strict heterosexuality.” You might be:

  • asexual, meaning you lack sexual attraction completely,
  • bisexual or pansexual, meaning you’re sexually attracted to two or more genders,
  • or lesbian or gay, meaning you’re sexually attracted to people of the same or similar gender as you.

This might look like an interest in lesbian porn, or sexual fantasies with people of the same gender or similar genders. It could be as tame as daydreams of kissing a cute someone of the same gender (or a similar gender presentation) from one of your classes. This might be having zero or only a passing interest in sex at all. Queerness differs from person-to-person, but these are some things to consider about your sexual desires.

And don’t feel pressure to come out

“Generally speaking, ‘coming out’ is a never-ending process in today’s world, where people are harmfully assumed to be cisgender and heterosexual/allosexual,” LeClaire says.(Allosexual is term for folks who experience sexual attraction, unlike asexual folks.) “Do what is right and feels comfortable for you and your situation.”

Especially if you feel like your parents, guardians, or community will react badly (or even violently) to your newly acknowledged queerness, wait until you feel safe to do so.

“If you have the financial privilege to go to therapy, it can be an incredible tool for navigating the coming-out process,” LeClaire suggests. Cultivate a support system of friends or “chosen family” to have your back as you figure your queerness out. “Support can very well come from online queer communities if that’s all you can access, which are incredible resources as well.”

Whatever the case may be, don’t stress about labels

No matter what label you end up sticking with, Watson explains, “It’s also important to know that your attractions and identities can be fluid and change.” It’s why Alfred Kinsey, a famous sexologist, invented the Kinsey scale — a numbered spectrum between completely homosexual and completely heterosexual — to help queer people express how they felt. Because even in 1948, people were realizing that no two bisexuals loved and desired people in the same exact way, and that sexuality evolves.

“As for how to find a label that works for you, think about what you feel most deeply resonates for you right now,” Watson says. You can identify as bisexual today, but pansexual a year from now. You might feel comfortable with the lesbian label at first, but then realize you’re also asexual — so then you feel good about “gay and asexual” or “homoromantic asexual,” or no labels at all.

The word you pick for you identity is not a “life-long stamp.” Keeping that in mind can help take the pressure off.

What’s more, Watson says, “You can have an identity regardless of your current partner’s gender/sexual orientation.” You might be dating a man and still have sexual desires for women. You might be dating a lesbian woman and feel genderqueer. Who you’re dating at any given time doesn’t take away from who you are and how you feel comfortable identifying.

At the end of the day, LeClaire says, “Gender and sexuality are more than a spectrum. They are a universe of opportunities to live, love, and be loved.” Keeping this in mind can help you embrace and celebrate your queerness in a positive, reaffirming way.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘Gay gene’ theories belong in the past – now we know sexuality is far more fluid

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Gender norms imprison us all, dictating our behaviour for fear of abuse – and that extends to who we sleep or fall in love with

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It turns out that genetics is almost as complicated as love and sex. New research has shown that the long fabled “gay gene” does not exist; that a variety of different genes contribute to same-sex attraction, and that several other factors are in the mix too.

For many LGBTQ people – myself included – the very notion of this study sets off big queer alarm bells, though it should be noted researchers worked closely with LGBTQ groups. As early as 1993, the Daily Mail – and mock it all you like, it’s one of the country’s main newspapers – published an article under the headline “Abortion hope after ‘gay genes’ findings”. In the age of supposed “designer babies”, what if the hatefully inclined chose to make sure their unborn child wasn’t gay or bisexual?

Then there’s the old homophobic trope that people “choose” to be gay, and that falling in love with someone of the same gender is a “lifestyle choice” – a perverse myth long used to punish LGBTQ people and fuel the horror of so-called gay conversion therapy. It is reassuring, then, that the study isn’t suggesting that how children are raised by their parents determines their sexuality: one environmental factor that’s been previously researched is that foetal development in the womb may have a significant impact, for instance.

But while the research may be interesting, it is surely irrelevant. Believing that LGBTQ people choose their sexuality belongs in the same bin as flat-Earthism and climate emergency denial. All LGBTQ people grow up in homophobic societies, whether that bigotry is imposed by coercive social attitudes or by the state. Almost all of us endure agonising periods marked by fear and shame, and struggled to come out to ourselves, let alone our family, friends and society: the idea we opted out of heterosexuality for a bit of a laugh is clearly fantasy.

What is more interesting is that we will not know how fluid sexuality truly is until homophobia – and its parent, sexism, because it’s really about enforcing gender norms – is vanquished. Of course there are many who believe their sexuality is effectively fixed as straight or gay. Not so for bisexuals – and for others, their sexuality is more fluid still. The experiences of men and women differ markedly here. Although younger men are more comfortable showing feelings for each other, many men still fear that even expressing affection for another guy will have them pejoratively labelled as exclusively gay. Women who have attraction towards other women, meanwhile, are objectified and sexualised: it’s a crude sexual fantasy for men.

The polling shows that younger people are increasingly less likely to identify as heterosexual, a symptom of growing emancipation. According to YouGuv survey this year, while 83% of 18 to 24-year-olds in Britain identified as heterosexual just four years ago, now only 75% do, with 16% now self-describing as bisexual, an astonishing 14 points higher than 2015.

Sexual and gender norms imprison us all, dictating our behaviour for fear of reprisal – abuse or even violence – and that extends to who we sleep with or fall in love with. When the struggle for freedom succeeds, those boundaries will finally be overcome.

Complete Article HERE!

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What straight people need to know about going to gay bars

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It’s great you want to support your queer friend, but all those looking for a GBF: listen up.

By Grace Walsh

As a gay person, knowing my straight friends want to come to LGBTQ+ bars and spaces fills my heart with joy. I appreciate the accepting atmosphere that these spaces create, and I love that my friends want to show their support of me and my community so openly in them.

I came out just before starting university, having made wonderful (and very straight) friends during my time at college. I was worried they would treat me differently after I came out, or be freaked out thinking I either hated men or fancied one of them. Luckily, neither one of those age-old stereotypes came true, and actually I didn’t give them enough credit. It turned out most of them knew I was gay long before I did.

But recently, when I took a group of them to Soho in London for a night out, I realised even the most well-intentioned, supportive straight/cis friends can miss the mark entirely. One of my male friends came back from the bar carrying drinks and a phone number, written on a napkin. He loudly demanded to know why the bartender had thought he’d be interested because after all, he didn’t “look gay”. Sigh.

Later on, we went to dance at another bar. On a small side stage, men in cowboy costumes were dancing. Before I knew it, another friend was dancing between them and trying to take a hat from one of their heads. Awkward side glances and a request for her to get down followed.

After another friend who was feeling queasy and asked me (the only actual LGBTQ+ person in the group) to go outside with her, I left feeling let down and a little pissed off. They’d been so supportive of me for so many years, yet they’d made me – and others around us – feel uncomfortable, in a space that I had invited them into.

I could go to “straight” bars with my friends, and I often do. But there’s something quite special about being able to hold my girlfriend’s hand or kiss her without double takes from passers-by (or the horrifying offer of a ménage à trois). That’s why queer spaces and bars are important to me and many other members of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s where we can be in the majority for once, where we can feel the most comfortable and protected, and where we have the most access to music by early noughties queer icons – an integral element for survival. These spaces give people who can’t be “out” publicly for whatever reason somewhere they can truly be themselves. These are places where trans and gender nonconforming folk can hopefully feel physically safe and recognised, away from a world that isn’t always so accepting.

For Meg-John Barker, author of Life Isn’t Binary and expert on gender, sex and relationships, queer spaces are vital. “LGBTQ+ people often become used to having to come out repeatedly, to being asked intrusive questions about their bodies and sex lives and being treated as an object for people (the weird one in the office, or the gay best friend, for example). It’s understandable that they might want some spaces where they don’t have to worry about that stuff. Where they can assume that everyone will ‘get it’, relax and breathe easy,” they say.

How to behave as a straight person in an LGBTQ+ space

So, you want to support your queer friend in the space they love and have a boogie to Whitney Houston? That’s fabulous. But here’s how to do it while being respectful and considerate of the space you’re in.

Think about your motivations for going

If you’re there on safari and looking “to see something strange and exotic to you or you’re there to exploit the coolness of LGBTQ+ culture in some way” as Meg-John puts it, then maybe take your night out down the road instead.

“I’ve tried to buy a drink for/ask for a number from several women in queer spaces, who have turned out to be straight. Instead of politely declining, I’ve often been made to feel like a gross pervert for even suggesting they might be queer and interested,” says 22-year-old Becca, a bisexual student from Oxford. “I’ve also taken straight friends to queer clubs and been horrified and embarrassed when they react inappropriately when someone has assumed they’re queer

Meg-John says your reason for wanting to go to a queer space should be to “support your LGBTQ+ friend who is keen for you to go along.” They add it’s fine “if you want to learn something, or it’s an event that’s particularly looking for allies to support it and the people going.

Check whether you’re actually welcome there

For straight, cis people, the world really is your oyster! You can pretty much go anywhere and everywhere without worrying that you’ll be physically or verbally assaulted because of your sexual or gender orientation. Meg-John explains, “Don’t go to [a queer space] with your straight, cis partner and get off together very publicly. Remember that everyday spaces are safe for you in a way they aren’t for the rest of the people there.”

Luke, a 27-year-old gay writer, says queer spaces have become somewhat of a tourist attraction for hen dos. And this can cause a lot of problems. “If you’re thinking of going to a queer space as a primarily straight, cis hen do – just don’t do it,” he says. “I’ve been to numerous nights were a group of be-sashed, wasted white chicks show up and start shrieking. It really changes the vibe. Having a hen party there makes everyone feel that they’re a spectacle on display for someone else’s enjoyment and entertainment, which isn’t much fun

When hen parties invade queer spaces, they bring the gaze of the outside world with them. This means we have to go back to monitoring the way we behave, in spaces that are supposed to belong to us.”

Educate yourself before you go

Even if you think you know everything about every identity under the LGBTQ+ acronym, do your homework Meg-John says. “There are plenty of videos out there about things LGBTQ+ people are sick of hearing, or what not to ask them, as well as easy 101 introductions to language,” they add.

There’s no shame in not knowing something about a community unfamiliar to you, but there’s plenty of shame in asking a same-sex couple an ignorant question steeped in stereotypes like, “Who’s the man in the relationship?” Believe me, it still happens.

“I was once at a gay club with some straight friends celebrating our friend’s 21st. Perhaps trying to be supportive and ‘in touch’ with the birthday boy’s sexuality, they started throwing phrases like ‘Yaaaaaas queen’ around to all the camp men, assuming they’d respond positively,” says Ellen, a recent graduate who identifies as bisexual. While you may think this referencing of queer culture by straight people is totally harmless, not all LGBTQ+ people agree.

“Many queer folk are tired of hearing such over-used drag queen lingo,” Ellen adds. “And they don’t owe it to you to respond if they aren’t comfortable, especially in their own safe spaces.”

Treat people queer people like you would anyone else

Meg-John says you should avoid going to queer bars if your intention is “to flirt or get off with somebody LGBTQ+ because you’re curious, or want to have a story to tell. This involves treating people as objects for your pleasure, not full human beings.”

Ed, a 22-year-old bisexual teacher, has experienced this kind of behaviour first hand. “I have experienced problems with straight women using me a bit like a shiny new handbag. They just pull me over and are very tactile. They randomly dance with me before ushering friends to take pictures of us dancing without asking me. Then they can get frustrated when I try to walk away!”

Pansexual sex educator Topher, 30, agrees that although this behaviours is common, it can be really harmful. “I was in a very famous gay pub in Soho, resting on my boyfriend’s chest when a drunk, straight-presenting lady informed us of how attractive we were as a couple,” he says. “I said, ‘Thank you’, and turned my head away back to him.

“This is when I felt her hand run up the back of my T-shirt and down my back, before attempting to squeeze my bum. We shoved her off, and she acted very shocked to have been corrected while sexually assaulting me in public. I felt invaded and we left. One of my biggest issues with it, other than the assault, was that this was my boyfriend’s first experience of a proper gay bar and what he’d witnessed was unpleasant.”

Don’t take over the space

“Don’t go with your straight, cis mates and take up a lot room in the venue with your bodies or your noise,” Meg-John says. “Many people will feel less safe if you’re doing that. Be considerate of places with a maximum capacity that are already pretty full, too. It’s better to let LGBTQ+ people be the people who get to use the space,” they add.

So, maybe trying to get you and six of your friends into G-A-Y on Pride weekend is an idea to rethink

The morning after my night out I was presented with a bacon sandwich and some sheepish looks. Hopefully my next trip to Soho will be more successful, with a lot less eye rolling and quick escapes out of the side exit

Complete Article HERE!

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Pride Month Too Often Overlooks LGBTQ Members With Disabilities

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Why we need to make Pride Month celebrations inclusive of people with disabilities.

By Sarah Kim

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots. Since then, June has been recognized as Pride Month, dedicated to celebrating the resilience, perseverance and unity of the LGBTQ community.

During a time when diversity and inclusion are the main pillars of Pride, people with disabilities are still left out in the discussion and celebration of sexual and gender diversity. Just last year, the historic Stonewall Inn bar denied entrance to a blind queer person because they didn’t provide paperwork for their service dog — a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states no paperwork is needed for the entrance of a service animal.

That is only one of many examples of how Pride remains mostly inaccessible to the disabled, deaf or hard-of-hearing, blind and people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Accessibility issues are present in gay bars, parties, big parades, as well as protests and rallies.

The physical spaces of many of these events present obstacles for people with physical disabilities or with sensory sensitivities. For example, parades can often be difficult for people with mobility issues because of uneven, long routes, extreme heat and tight, narrow spaces. Even if there is a designated wheelchair path, often times the parade coordinators underestimate the amount of space needed, or the path becomes overcrowded.

Even intimate gatherings often lack disability accommodations. Events with speakers, more often than not, do not have accompanying ASL interpretation, film screenings do not have closed captioning and spaces do not account for participants with noise or light sensitivity or who are on the autism spectrum.

However, these physical barriers and obstacles have a more significant implication. People with disabilities have been viewed as asexual beings, or incapable of having other identities other than being disabled. The mainstream population too often feels squeamish about someone who might need help in the bathroom, also having a fulfilling sex life.

Activist points out that Pride is too often inaccessible.

The Atlantic recently released a short documentary following the hurdles a married couple had to face when trying to convince a group home to allow them to live together. They both have intellectual disabilities, but that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of understanding their sexuality or of being in a marital relationship. The couple had to legally prove that they can consent to their sexual relationship, and thereby earning their right to live together. The mere fact that the couple had to go through this process speaks volumes on the social and cultural perception on the sexuality of people with disabilities.

The fundamental meaning behind Pride is for everyone to be proud of their bodies, sexuality and physical appearances. However, the same invitation is too often denied to LGBTQ folks with disabilities. Instead, they are reminded that they don’t belong in such spaces and that they can’t have sexual or gender identities. They want the exact same things that non-disabled LGBTQ people want in life: acceptance and not being “othered.”

People have multiple facets of their identities — a concept that is often referred to as intersectionality in academic and research settings. To ignore, or not account for, one aspect of a person’s identify — say, their disability — penetrates the notions of exclusion and discrimination. In turn, this can eradicate the histories of members of the LGBTQ community with disabilities.

Disability accommodations and inclusivity should not be an afterthought, but rather a priority when planning LGBTQ events and celebrations. Pride should strive to honor and recognize the lives of all people who identify as LGBTQ, and that certainly includes people with disabilities.

“As long as trans disabled people like me exist, disability issues are trans issues, and trans issues are disability issues,” Dominick Evans told them. Evans is trans, queer and disabled filmmaker and advocate.

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Living and dying in the shadows

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Louis Kenneth Neu, 26-year-old cabaret singer of Savannah, Ga., left, is pictured on trial, Dec. 15, 1933, in New Orleans for the slaying of Sheffield Clark Sr., a Nashville, Tenn., businessman, in a New Orleans hotel. His attorneys set up an insanity plea for defense but Neu, claiming to be “perfectly sane”, has repeatedly expressed the wish that “they would hang me quick and get it over with.” He confessed to beating Clark to death just a week after he had similarly killed Lawrence Shead, a theater manager of Paterson, N.J. Others are unidentified.

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The world treated them like criminals. And that made them victims.

In an America where their very existence was illegal, gays were forced into dangerous shadows. At a time when being out meant being arrested, lonely men looked for love in dark parks, public bathrooms, and Times Square bars.

Often, they only met their murderers.

James Polchin’s “Indecent Advances” tells the grim tale. Advertised as “A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall,” it focuses on what it meant to be a gay man in the first half of the 20th century: A target.

Polchin begins his story after World War I, as millions of American soldiers and sailors returned home, ready to celebrate. The Jazz Age was starting, and young men were eager to join the party.

Author, James Polchin

Having defeated a foreign threat, though, the American establishment now turned its attention to domestic ones. While the government hunted down political subversives, police departments and the armed forces searched for “sexual deviants.”

That crusade pushed the propaganda that gay men were dangerous perverts, eager to molest children and recruit innocent youths. It fed a paranoia that justified almost any action against them, from legal entrapment to brutal vigilantism.

In 1919, worried about corrupting influences, the Navy asked sailors to catch off-base seducers by going undercover. Some were even urged to go under the covers. In Newport, R.I., sailors were told that just going home with a man wasn’t enough. Only a “full act” would guarantee a conviction.

The practice was eventually dropped, but only because of public outrage at what good clean American boys were being asked to do. Ridding the streets of homosexuals was still seen as a moral crusade.

Ernest Kehler, right, 24, Canadian-born boxer, is shown as he was brought to New York police headquarters from Toronto, Dec. 20, 1939, to face charges in of slaying Dr. Walter Engelberg, first secretary of the German consulate in New York. Man at left is an unidentified police officer.

It was a growing one, too. In New York in 1918, there were 238 arrests for homosexual solicitation. Within two years, that number more than tripled. Police regularly raided bars in Greenwich Village. Sweeps of Bryant Park, a popular cruising spot, were common.

Being gay in public was a crime. But being gay in private could be fatal.

The stories were grisly. In 1933 in Paterson, N.J., Lawrence Shead, a movie-theater manager, was found in his apartment, beaten to death with an electric iron. When the killer was nabbed, he claimed self-defense. Shead had made a pass, the killer explained.

New Jersey declined to prosecute, allowing the suspect to be extradited to Louisiana, where he was wanted for killing a wealthy businessman. In that case, though, robbery, not sexuality, was seen as the motive. The suspect was convicted and hung for that crime. Getting away with murder was possible.

The message was clear: Gay lives don’t matter.

In 1945, ballroom dancer Burt Harger disappeared from his Manhattan apartment. Then his body started showing up, in pieces. Police arrested his roommate, who confessed to killing Harger with a hammer and cutting him up in the bathtub. He said he’d just thrown the last piece, the torso, off the Staten Island ferry.

The reason for this gruesome crime? Harger came on to him, the roommate said. Convicted of manslaughter, his sentence was 10 to 20 years.

It practically became a pattern. In 1948, there was a rash of hotel room murders in New York: a merchant seaman in Times Square, an NBC executive in Albany and a Canadian businessman in the Waldorf-Astoria. Nothing connected the crimes, except the perpetrators’ excuse: Self-defense. The other guy made a pass.

Some prosecutors pushed back, insisting these were premeditated crimes. Robbery was the underlying crime; smart thieves knew that gay men were reluctant to go to the police. Prosecutors argued that these were cold-hearted killers, taking advantage of their victims’ own isolation.

Yet juries sympathized with the killers.

For example, the victim at the Waldorf-Astoria, Colin MacKellar, always stayed at the posh hotel when he was in town. He also always drank at the bar, known as a discreet pick-up joint. One night the middle-aged MacKellar befriended a hunky 19-year-old patron. After several rounds, the older man invited the younger one to his room.

The teenager beat MacKellar to death. Then he went to the movies.

When arrested, the suspect’s defense was the older man propositioned him. He was just protecting himself, the teen insisted. That might have gotten him released, too, if the prosecutors didn’t discover the kid had a long history of haunting bars, meeting older men, and robbing them.

Even then, he, too, was only convicted of manslaughter.

The homophobia grew, convincing many Americans that the scariest problem wasn’t gay bashing, but gays. In 1954, a handsome airline steward, William Simpson, was found in a lover’s lane in North Miami, shot to death. His wallet was missing. Police eventually arrested two young men.

They admitted to “rolling” gay men, first hitchhiking along Biscayne Boulevard, then robbing whoever gave them a lift. “Getting money from perverts,” they called it. The defendant who shot Simpson said he panicked, thinking the man was going to rape him.

The press and public couldn’t help but sympathize – with the defendants.

“Third Sex Plague Spreads Anew,” Brevities (November 2, 1931)

“Good Guys – Not Toughs” the Miami Daily News editorialized. “5,000 Here Perverts, Police Say” the Miami Herald reported. Other stories warned of a secret colony of sexual deviants. Politicians vowed to “run them out of town.”

Once again, the defendants were convicted only of manslaughter.

Even when people worried about crimes against gay men, they weren’t concerned about the victims. No, people were far more concerned with gays in the neighborhoods bringing down property values. And they feared how homosexuals endangered heterosexuals.

In 1955, in his syndicated column “Dream Street,” Robert Sylvester churned out hard-boiled prose about a rapidly decaying Times Square, home to sleazy bars and short-stay hotels. “The Bird Circuit,” he called it, were gay hangouts where thugs waited for gay men to pick them up, go back to their rooms and rob them.

It was a terrible thing, Sylvester wrote because it put truly innocent people at risk. “It probably isn’t important if a homo is roughed up by some hoodlum,” he concluded. “The important thing is that when there are no available homos, any unprotected citizen makes a satisfactory substitute.”

By the ’50s, some gay activists, notably the members of the Mattachine Society, began to push for acceptance. The movement


Illustration from Psychopathology by Edward Kempf (C.V. Mosby Company: St. Louis, 1920)

grew. In 1967, after the police raided the Black Cat Tavern in San Francisco, supporters politely protested. Two years later, when cops tried the same thuggish tactics at the Stonewall Inn, patrons fought back in the streets.

Times were changing. When the Supreme Court ruled, in 1972, that state governments could refuse to employ homosexuals, a Daily News editorial agreed but made a modest plea for tolerance from private employers. “Fairies, nancies, swishes, fags, lezzes – call ’em what you please – should of course be permitted to earn an honest living,” the editorial stated.


Ralph Edward Barrows, 20, formerly of Grand Rapids, Mich., smiles and waves his hand, which is handcuffed to that of another prisoner, in a train at Hoboken, N.J., March 7, 1950, as he leaves for the state prison at Elmira, N.Y. Barrows was sentenced to 40 years on a manslaughter conviction for killing wealthy Canadian businessman, Colin Cameron MacKellar of Montreal. MacKellar was found dead in his Waldorf Astoria suite on Nov. 5, 1948.

Compared to some attitudes, this was practically liberal.

The cries for real liberation were growing louder. As Stonewall proved, gay people were no longer worried about what was permitted. Instead, they were intent on what was owed.

They were no longer going to be quiet and ashamed, they were determined to be loud and proud. And that pride, already on display, will be on the march next Sunday.

Complete Article HERE!

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If your sexual orientation is accepted by society you will be happier and more satisfied with your life

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Lesbian women are mostly happier with their lives than straight women.

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In recent years LGBT+ rights have improved dramatically. Same-sex marriage is now legally performed and recognised in 28 countries. Equality laws protect LGBT+ people at work and increased media coverage is improving knowledge and awareness of sexual orientations. More to be done, however, to ensure equality for all, and researchers have been looking into how different factors like these contribute to the happiness and life satisfaction of people with minority sexual identities.

Studies have shown that, on average, homosexuals and bisexuals report lower levels of life satisfaction than heterosexuals. This has been linked to homosexuals and bisexuals experiencing heteronormativity (the assumption that heterosexual orientation and binary gender identity are “normal”, which has led to the world being built to cater to the needs and desires of heterosexual life), which leads to stigmatisation. For our new study we looked deeper into the links between sexuality and life satisfaction, and found that people with an “other” sexual identity – such as pansexual, demisexual, or asexual – also experience lower levels of life satisfaction than heterosexuals.

Well-being differences

Using 150,000 responses collected over five years as part of the Understanding Society survey, we analysed whether the happiest heterosexuals are happier than the happiest sexual minorities, and if the least happy sexual minorities are less happy than the least happy heterosexuals. When looking at the data, we controlled for a number of things – such as age, employment, personality, and location – to make sure our results focused solely on sexual identity.

While other studies have looked at the “average” effect of sexual identity on happiness (where it has been shown that sexual minorities report lower levels of life satisfaction), my colleagues and I considered the whole well-being distribution. That is, we looked at the differences between heterosexuals and sexual minorities at the lowest, average, and highest levels of self-reported life satisfaction.

Our results are clear that sexual identity is correlated with life satisfaction, but it is a nuanced picture. We found that homosexual males are less happy with their lives than heterosexual males, except for at the very top of the well-being distribution (where they are happiest). We also saw that homosexual females are happier with their lives than heterosexual females. Although interestingly that is except for at the lowest levels of well-being.

Facing ostracisation on the basis of your sexual identity has a large negative impact on how satisfied you are with your life.

Bisexuals – irrespective of gender – report the lowest levels of life satisfaction, and the loss to well-being associated with being bisexual (rather than heterosexual) is at least comparable to the effect of being unemployed or having ill-health. In fact, out of all the sexual identities analysed we found that bisexuals are the least satisfied with their lives.

“Other” sexual identities are associated with lower levels of life satisfaction in the bottom half of the distribution, but higher life satisfaction in the top half. This means that the least happy people with an other sexual identity are less happy than their heterosexual counterparts. But the happiest people with an other sex identity are actually happier than their heterosexual counterparts.

While our findings highlight the importance of gender (or more precisely its interaction with sexual identity), this is only relevant for homosexuals. As noted above, the results for homosexual males and homosexual females are drastically different This makes sense considering that other research has highlighted that societal attitudes towards lesbians are more preferential than to gay males. So it is likely that the higher life satisfaction reported by lesbians (compared to heterosexual women) is associated with these more positive societal attitudes.

Identity and acceptance

Looking to our findings for other sexual identities, we believe that growing awareness (for example due to increased representation on television) is likely to have reduced the need for some people to “explain” their identity to others. This will have made reaffirming the validity of their sexuality to themselves easier too. If we couple this with increasing self-awareness of an identity that gives meaning to attractions (or lack thereof), the positive well-being identified for this group is understandable.

While it could be argued that the same should be true of bisexuals, there is a significant difference between bisexuality and “other” identities. Bisexuality is an identity that has existed significantly longer and was part of the original LGBT movement. And yet the greater minority stress experienced by bisexuals is likely a reflection of how they experience stigmatisation from both heterosexual and homosexual communities through bi-erasure and lack of acceptance of bisexuality.

Overall our research shows that people with a minority sexual identity are on average less satisfied with their lives, but across the distribution of well-being a more positive picture emerges. If we look at other research into the different societal attitudes and growing acceptance towards certain sexual identities, it is clear that being accepted is important. Facing ostracisation on the basis of your sexual identity has a large negative impact on how satisfied you are with your life.

Complete Article HERE!

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How the Nazis destroyed the first gay rights movement

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In 2017, Germany’s Cabinet approved a bill that will expunge the convictions of tens of thousands of German men for “homosexual acts” under that country’s anti-gay law known as “Paragraph 175.” That law dates back to 1871, when modern Germany’s first legal code was created.

It was repealed in 1994. But there was a serious movement to repeal the law in 1929 as part of a wider LGBTQ rights movement. That was just before the Nazis came to power, magnified the anti-gay law, then sought to annihilate gay and transgender Europeans.

The story of how close Germany – and much of Europe – came to liberating its LGBTQ people before violently reversing that trend under new authoritarian regimes is an object lesson showing that the history of LGBTQ rights is not a record of constant progress.

The first LGBTQ liberation movement

In the 1920s, Berlin had nearly 100 gay and lesbian bars or cafes. Vienna had about a dozen gay cafes, clubs and bookstores. In Paris, certain quarters were renowned for open displays of gay and trans nightlife. Even Florence, Italy, had its own gay district, as did many smaller European cities.

Films began depicting sympathetic gay characters. Protests were organized against offensive depictions of LGBTQ people in print or on stage. And media entrepreneurs realized there was a middle-class gay and trans readership to whom they could cater.

Partly driving this new era of tolerance were the doctors and scientists who started looking at homosexuality and “transvestism” (a word of that era that encompassed transgender people) as a natural characteristic with which some were born, and not a “derangement.” The story of Lili Elbe and the first modern sex change, made famous in the recent film “The Danish Girl,” reflected these trends.

For example, Berlin opened its Institute for Sexual Research in 1919, the place where the word “transsexual” was coined, and where people could receive counseling and other services. Its lead doctor, Magnus Hirschfeld, also consulted on the Lili Elbe sex change.

Connected to this institute was an organization called the “Scientific-Humanitarian Committee.” With the motto “justice through science,” this group of scientists and LGBTQ people promoted equal rights, arguing that LGBTQ people were not aberrations of nature.

Most European capitals hosted a branch of the group, which sponsored talks and sought the repeal of Germany’s “Paragraph 175.” Combining with other liberal groups and politicians, it succeeded in influencing a German parliamentary committee to recommend the repeal to the wider government in 1929.

The backlash

While these developments didn’t mean the end of centuries of intolerance, the 1920s and early ‘30s certainly looked like the beginning of the end. On the other hand, the greater “out-ness” of gay and trans people provoked their opponents.

A French reporter, bemoaning the sight of uncloseted LGBTQ people in public, complained, “the contagion … is corrupting every milieu.” The Berlin police grumbled that magazines aimed at gay men – which they called “obscene press materials” – were proliferating. In Vienna, lectures of the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee” might be packed with supporters, but one was attacked by young men hurling stink bombs. A Parisian town councilor in 1933 called it “a moral crisis” that gay people, known as “inverts” at that time, could be seen in public.

“Far be it from me to want to turn to fascism,” the councilor said, “but all the same, we have to agree that in some things those regimes have sometimes done good… One day Hitler and Mussolini woke up and said, ‘Honestly, the scandal has gone on long enough’ … And … the inverts … were chased out of Germany and Italy the very next day.”

The ascent of Fascism

It’s this willingness to make a blood sacrifice of minorities in exchange for “normalcy” or prosperity that has observers drawing uncomfortable comparisons between then and now.

In the 1930s, the Depression spread economic anxiety, while political fights in European parliaments tended to spill outside into actual street fights between Left and Right. Fascist parties offered Europeans a choice of stability at the price of democracy. Tolerance of minorities was destabilizing, they said. Expanding liberties gave “undesirable” people the liberty to undermine security and threaten traditional “moral” culture. Gay and trans people were an obvious target.

What happened next shows the whiplash speed with which the progress of a generation can be thrown into reverse.

The nightmare

One day in May 1933, pristine white-shirted students marched in front of Berlin’s Institute for Sexual Research – that safe haven for LGBTQ people – calling it “Un-German.” Later, a mob hauled out its library to be burned. Later still, its acting head was arrested.

When Nazi leader Adolph Hitler needed to justify arresting and murdering former political allies in 1934, he said they were gay. This fanned anti-gay zealotry by the Gestapo, which opened a special anti-gay branch. During the following year alone, the Gestapo arrested more than 8,500 gay men, quite possibly using a list of names and addresses seized at the Institute for Sexual Research. Not only was Paragraph 175 not erased, as a parliamentary committee had recommended just a few years before, it was amended to be more expansive and punitive.

As the Gestapo spread throughout Europe, it expanded the hunt. In Vienna, it hauled in every gay man on police lists and questioned them, trying to get them to name others. The fortunate ones went to jail. The less fortunate went to Buchenwald and Dachau. In conquered France, Alsace police worked with the Gestapo to arrest at least 200 men and send them to concentration camps. Italy, with a fascist regime obsessed with virility, sent at least 300 gay men to brutal camps during the war period, declaring them “dangerous for the integrity of the race.”

The total number of Europeans arrested for being LGBTQ under fascism is impossible to know because of the lack of reliable records. But a conservative estimate is that there were many tens of thousands to one hundred thousand arrests during the war period alone.

Under these nightmare conditions, far more LGBTQ people in Europe painstakingly hid their genuine sexuality to avoid suspicion, marrying members of the opposite sex, for example. Still, if they had been prominent members of the gay and trans community before the fascists came to power, as Berlin lesbian club owner Lotte Hahm was, it was too late to hide. She was sent to a concentration camp.

In those camps, gay men were marked with a pink triangle. In these places of horror, men with pink triangles were singled out for particular abuse. They were mechanically raped, castrated, favored for medical experiments and murdered for guards’ sadistic pleasure even when they were not sentenced for “liquidation.” One gay man attributed his survival to swapping his pink triangle for a red one – indicating he was merely a Communist. They were ostracized and tormented by their fellow inmates, too.

The looming danger of a backslide

This isn’t 1930s Europe. And making superficial comparisons between then and now can only yield superficial conclusions.

But with new forms of authoritarianism entrenched and seeking to expand in Europe and beyond, it’s worth thinking about the fate of Europe’s LGBTQ community in the 1930s and ‘40s – a timely note from history as Germany approves same-sex marriage and on this first anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges.

In 1929, Germany came close to erasing its anti-gay law, only to see it strengthened soon thereafter. Only now, after a gap of 88 years, are convictions under that law being annulled.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Gay Culture Blossomed During the Roaring Twenties

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During Prohibition, gay nightlife and culture reached new heights—at least temporarily.

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On a Friday night in February 1926, a crowd of some 1,500 packed the Renaissance Casino in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood for the 58th masquerade and civil ball of Hamilton Lodge.

Nearly half of those attending the event, reported the New York Age, appeared to be “men of the class generally known as ‘fairies,’ and many Bohemians from the Greenwich Village section who…in their gorgeous evening gowns, wigs and powdered faces were hard to distinguish from many of the women.”

The tradition of masquerade and civil balls, more commonly known as drag balls, had begun back in 1869 within Hamilton Lodge, a black fraternal organization in Harlem. By the mid-1920s, at the height of the Prohibition era, they were attracting as many as 7,000 people of various races and social classes—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight alike.

Stonewall (1969) is often considered the beginning of forward progress in the gay rights movement. But more than 50 years earlier, Harlem’s famous drag balls were part of a flourishing, highly visible LGBTQ nightlife and culture that would be integrated into mainstream American life in a way that became unthinkable in later decades.

A portrait of a couple, circa 1920s.

The Beginnings of a New Gay World

“In the late 19th century, there was an increasingly visible presence of gender-non-conforming men who were engaged in sexual relationships with other men in major American cities,” says Chad Heap, a professor of American Studies at George Washington University and the author of Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940.

 

In addition to these groups, whom social reformers in the early 1900s would call “male sex perverts,” a number of nightclubs and theaters were featuring stage performances by female impersonators; these spots were mainly located in the Levee District on Chicago’s South Side, the Bowery in New York City and other largely working-class neighborhoods in American cities.

By the 1920s, gay men had established a presence in Harlem and the bohemian mecca of Greenwich Village (as well as the seedier environs of Times Square), and the city’s first lesbian enclaves had appeared in Harlem and the Village. Each gay enclave, wrote George Chauncey in his book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, had a different class and ethnic character, cultural style and public reputation.

A 1927 illustration of three transgender women and a man dancing at a nightclub.

Gay Life in the Jazz Age

As the United States entered an era of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity in the years after World War I, cultural mores loosened and a new spirit of sexual freedom reigned. The flapper, with her short hair, figure-skimming dresses and ever-present cigarette and cocktail, would become the most recognizable symbol of the Roaring Twenties, her fame spreading via the new mass media born during that decade. But the ‘20s also saw the flourishing of LGBTQ nightlife and culture that reached beyond the cities, across the country, and into ordinary American homes.

Though New York City may have been the epicenter of the so-called “Pansy Craze,” gay, lesbian and transgender performers graced the stages of nightspots in cities all over the country. Their audiences included many straight men and women eager to experience the culture themselves (and enjoy a good party) as well as ordinary LGBTQ Americans seeking to expand their social networks or find romantic or sexual partners.

“It gave them many more possible places they could go to meet other people like themselves,” Heap says of the Pansy Craze and accompanying lesbian or Sapphic craze, of the ‘20s and early to mid-‘30s. “At its height, when many ordinary heterosexual men and women were going to venues that featured queer entertainment, it probably also provided useful cover for queer men and women to go to the same venues.”

At the same time, lesbian and gay characters were being featured in a slew of popular “pulp” novels, in songs and on Broadway stages (including the controversial 1926 play The Captive) and in Hollywood—at least prior to 1934, when the motion picture industry began enforcing censorship guidelines, known as the Hays Code. Heap cites Clara Bow’s 1932 film Call Her Savage, in which a short scene features a pair of “campy male entertainers” in a Greenwich Village-like nightspot. On the radio, songs including “Masculine Women, Feminine Men” and “Let’s All Be Fairies” were popular.

The fame of LGBTQ nightlife and culture during this period was certainly not limited to urban populations. Stories about drag balls or other performances were sometimes picked up by wire services, or even broadcast over local radio. “You can find them in certain newspaper coverage in unexpected places,” Heap says.

A cross-dresser being taken away in a police van for dressing like a woman, circa 1939.

“Pansy Craze” Comes to an End

With the end of Prohibition, the onset of the Depression and the coming of World War II, LGBTQ culture and community began to fall out of favor. As Chauncey writes, a backlash began in the 1930s, as “part of a wider Depression-era condemnation of the cultural experimentation of the 20’s, which many blamed for the economic collapse.”

The sale of liquor was legal again, but newly enforced laws and regulations prohibited restaurants and bars from hiring gay employees or even serving gay patrons. In the mid- to late ‘30s, Heap points out, a wave of sensationalized sex crimes “provoked hysteria about sex criminals, who were often—in the mind of the public and in the mind of authorities—equated with gay men.” 

This not only discouraged gay men from participating in public life, but also “made homosexuality seem more dangerous to the average American.”

By the post-World War II era, a larger cultural shift toward earlier marriage and suburban living, the advent of TV and the anti-homosexuality crusades championed by Joseph McCarthy would help push the flowering of gay culture represented by the Pansy Craze firmly into the nation’s rear-view mirror. 

Drag balls, and the spirit of freedom and exuberance they represented, never went away entirely—but it would be decades before LGBTQ life would flourish so publicly again.

Complete Article HERE!

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How the homophobic media covered the 1969 Stonewall uprising

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The New York Daily News and the Village Voice used slurs in their reporting about the police raid that galvanized the gay rights movement

A sign at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, a gay bar and national historic landmark where a police raid and riots in 1969 galvanized the gay rights movement.

By Gillian Brockell

The most striking thing about the media coverage of the Stonewall riots — the 1969 uprising that was a turning point in the gay rights movement — is how offensive much of it was.

“Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad” blared the headline on the front page of the New York Daily News. “Lilies of the valley” “pranced out to the street” when the cops showed up, the paper said.

“The police had difficulty keeping a dyke in a patrol car,” reported the Village Voice. And from inside the bar, where police and the Village Voice reporter were briefly trapped, “the sound filtering in doesn’t suggest dancing faggots any more.”

And if you’re wondering if those words were as derogatory then as they are now — “Yeah, these were not friendly words,” said historian Hugh Ryan after reading both articles. Ryan is the author of the book “When Brooklyn Was Queer.”

Both the Daily News and Village Voice stories were long and detailed, but the focus is on prurient descriptions of gay and transgender people meant to highlight their difference.

Consider the decidedly non-news lead in the Daily News:

“She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.”

We know now that most of the participants in the Stonewall Riots were gay men, though transgender women and lesbians also played vital roles. But more often than not in the Daily News story, the rioters are referred to as “lad[ies]-in-waiting,” “spokesman, or spokeswoman” and “girls.” Stonewall is described as a bar where “they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do.”

Ryan says this may be shocking to read now, but he can’t say definitively whether the reporter is being intentionally offensive. Nowadays there is growing understanding of the difference between transgender women, like Laverne Cox; gay men who sometimes dress in drag, like RuPaul; and other people who just like to mess with ideas about gender by, say, wearing a dress and growing a beard.

For example, one of the rioters was a gay man named Martin Boyce who told Ryan that at the time of the riots, he was a “scare queen” — someone who “wore just enough drag to freak out the straights.”

“What does that mean in terms of how he would have been covered?” Ryan asked. Reporters may not have seen or known the difference between Boyce and transgender activists like Marsha P. Johnson. (Many newsrooms and journalism groups now have guides on how to cover LGBT subjects.)

Jerry Lisker, who wrote the Daily News article, died in 1993. Howard Smith, who wrote the Village Voice article and was a noted chronicler of the hippie movement, died in 2014. His New York Times obituary says many people first heard words like “Stonewall” from his reporting, without mentioning that Smith used gay slurs in the same report.

Coverage of Stonewall in the Times was certainly less salacious — and just less, in word count. A few hundred words describe the first night of the unrest under the headline “4 policemen hurt in ‘Village’ raid.” And the next day, when protests continued, a few hundred more words were printed under the headline “Police again rout ‘Village’ youths.”

The Washington Post was even more spare; toward the back of the July 1, 1969, edition, just 60 words follow the headline “N.Y. Homosexuals Protest Raids.” The Post didn’t mention Stonewall again for 10 years.

But according to Ryan, the fact it was covered at all is significant.

“Part of what is important about Stonewall is that it gets a certain amount of straight recognition,” he said.

That recognition was not accidental. Stonewall participants such as Jim Fouratt were actively seeking media attention.

Ryan said that when he spoke with Fouratt, the activist recalled, “The first thing I did when I got home from Stonewall is I picked up my Rolodex and I called everyone.” Fouratt, who was well-connected in the antiwar movement and music industry, called reporters and activists to amplify the impact of the riots.

Some of that coverage wasn’t exactly accurate. One of the long-standing myths of Stonewall — that it was sparked by the death of gay icon Judy Garland — springs from that coverage. While a few of the participants have told historians that, yes, they did stand outside Garland’s funeral earlier that day, Garland’s death had nothing to do with why they were rioting. Plus, most of the rioters were young street kids, not the older gay men more associated with Garland fandom.

In fact, the only mention of a Garland connection appears nearly two weeks after the police raid, in an insulting Village Voice column that began: “The combination of a full moon and Judy Garland’s funeral was too much for them.” The columnist then calls Stonewall “the Great Faggot Rebellion.”

“I think [the Judy Garland myth] persists because it’s a good story, because it’s easy to pass on … and that makes it survive,” Ryan said, “But I do think it trivializes” Stonewall to repeat the myth.

The most important thing about Stonewall, though, wasn’t that it happened or that it made the newspapers. Three days into the unrest, Fouratt and his friends founded the Gay Liberation Front, a gay rights group that took a much more assertive approach than its forebears.

The next year, with other groups including the Gay Activists Alliance, the GLF organized the first pride march on the anniversary of the riots.

But the GLF held its first protest the previous year on Sept. 12, 1969 — against the Village Voice for using gay slurs in its coverage of Stonewall.

Complete Article HERE!

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American Theater After Stonewall | STONEWALL @ 50

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KNOW YOUR HISTORY!

In celebration of Pride month

Patrick Pacheco, the one and only.

Join us at Chez Josephine Restaurant where Patrick Pacheco and Donna Hanover explore “American Theater After Stonewall,” from 1969 to the present. Donna asks Patrick about the four seminal plays he has chosen that helped shape American Theater – Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band,” Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song,” Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart,” and Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.”

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5 Things Straight People Can Learn from Queer Sex

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By Ariana DiValentino

Being queer, in some ways, is a blessing. If there’s one thing the queer world is good at, it’s having really, really good sex.

Of course, there’s no such thing as “the” queer world — it’s a multitude of communities, localities, subcultures, and identifications. Within queer spaces, there tend to be prevailing attitudes of sex positivity and adventurousness that are hard to come across elsewhere.

While things like consent, communication, and kink have entered conversations about sex on a grand scale, some aspects of these things are just baked into queer sexuality. When there’s no set script for a standard sexual encounter — who does what and to whom — it’s liberating. And it makes communication, exploration, and mutual comfort absolutely fundamental.

The first time I had sex with a woman, my partner asked if I enjoy penetration. I was taken aback, because I realized I had literally never thought about it. No previous partner had ever asked me. It had never occurred to me that as a woman, I couldn’t like penetration.

Simply being asked about the very basics of what you like can be powerful, because it centers your actual preferences and experience over the assumptions that go along with whatever social categories you’ve been assigned due to your gender identity, presentation, or having certain body parts. It gives you permission not to like whatever it is you’re supposed to like, and to like whatever you’re not supposed to.

But these moves shouldn’t be exclusive to queer sex by any means — anyone, including cishet (cisgender heterosexual) people — can learn a lot from queer sex. Here’s some advice from queer folks* that’s good for everyone.

*Some last names have been omitted in the interest of privacy.

Sex doesn’t have to follow the same basic hierarchy of acts

If you’ve been through middle school, you’re probably familiar with the baseball metaphor for sex: First base is kissing, second base is feeling up (usually boobs) or sometimes handjobs or fingering, third base is oral sex, and a home run — going all the way — is vaginally penetrative sex — typically with a penis.

But if both partners have a vagina or a penis — or they don’t ascribe to the gender roles typically assigned to those parts — the script sort of goes out the window. For queer people, going all the way can mean whatever we want it to.

“Sex doesn’t always have to happen a certain way,” Isaac Van Curen, an artist based in New York City, says. “You should check in on how you’re feeling that day, what will give you pleasure in that moment. I first and foremost think sex should be for pleasure.”

The main event doesn’t need to be vaginal penetration, or any kind of penetration at all. If oral sex or digital stimulation gets you there, perfect! A sexual encounter isn’t any less valid if it doesn’t follow an arbitrary progression of acts. Just focus on doing whatever gives you and your partner(s) pleasure.

Mutual safety, comfort, and enthusiasm come before all else

This one point was echoed by everyone I spoke to for this piece. Because sex isn’t necessarily expected to happen one particular way, communication is extremely necessary to find out what each of you likes and definitely dislikes.

Sam Smith, a storyboard artist based in NYC — and my partner — explains that his transness makes boundaries crucial to intimacy for him, even in relationships.

“I don’t like to remove my shirt, with or without a binder. I’ll only allow you to put your hand on my chest if I’m wearing a binder,” Smith says.

“In the heat of the moment, people think that anything is up for grabs, like literally up for grabs, but that’s not true.” When he explains to other people that these lines remain even after being with a partner for any amount of time, he says, they often express disbelief.

“They’re like, ‘What do you mean? Why not?’ Because that’s my boundary.” Many trans people have firm rules regarding where they do and don’t like to be touched and which clothing articles they don’t want to remove during sex, often because they experience dysphoria pertaining to sexualized body parts. Talking about these boundaries before sex is necessary to having a good time.

But by no means should this respect for boundaries and tendency to ask questions — not make assumptions — be exclusive to trans and queer folk. Any individual may need to put boundaries in place for any multitude of reasons, ranging from past traumas to simply feeling uncomfortable with certain parts of one’s body.

Absolutely everyone should feel secure in setting limits to protect themselves from emotional distress. Knowing your partner’s preferences and boundaries — not guessing them — is the foundation of any good sexual experience.

“There should definitely be a level of trust between partners. I should be able to stop in the middle of sex and say hey, this isn’t for me, and not feel weird trying to communicate that I’m uncomfortable,” says Van Curen.

In addition to consent, safety and comfort pertain to other factors involved in sex as well. Van Curen points to the existence of medications like PreP, which can prevent the transmission of HIV, as something that a person might require to feel safe during sex. For others, that might mean one or more other tools, like condoms, dental dams, or oral contraceptives.

Good communication creates room for trying new things

BDSM, when practiced properly, involves lots of boundary setting and advance communication, for the sake of the physical and emotional well-being of everyone involved. All that talk might seem exhaustive, but it shouldn’t feel that way — limits and terms are as important as pleasure.

Tina Serrano, an art director based in NYC, describes her first experience with a femme domme: “She asked if I was into BDSM and I said yes without thinking — so we sat and talked about it. She asked me a lot of questions, we talked about consent and limits, about our lives, who we’d loved, she talked about her field research,” Serrano says. “We didn’t even have sex that night, we sat and drank and talked until we fell asleep on the couch.”

Communication shouldn’t feel an obstacle to sex — it’s a kind of intimacy that happens before clothes come off. Talking openly and genuinely caring about your partner’s limits, even in a casual context, can be romantic and sexy.

Claire and Katja, a newlywed couple who have been together for six and a half years, iterate that feeling safe and comfortable enough to talk with your partner means not only avoiding bad experiences, but laying the groundwork for interesting, new, good ones.

“Provide space for your partner to bring up things they might want to try sexually with you. Listening doesn’t mean you have to do or try anything, but it does mean that you are building trust,” they tell Greatist.

It’s easiest to voice your desire to try out new toys, positions, or kinky behaviors in a situation that feels safe and comfortable for experimentation. And if things don’t go porno perfectly? No sweat.

“Embarrassing things happen. Laugh about them,” the couple says.

Don’t be constrained by gender or appearance

Just like men are so often positioned to be dominant and women to be submissive, even non-heterosexual pairings can sometimes be subjected to gendered assumptions. Van Curen emphasizes that his appearance, down to whether or not he has facial hair at a given moment, leads people to make assumptions about his preferred sex positions — i.e, whether he’s a “bottom” or a “top.”

In sapphic or lesbian settings, the butch-femme dichotomy can function similarly. Katja and Claire point out the tendency of other people to identify them as the butch and the femme, respectively, when in reality they don’t feel that this binary describes them very well.

Attached to both of these scenarios is the assumption that the more masculine partner “performs” the sex act while the more feminine person “receives” it. But here’s the secret that queer people know: Gender doesn’t have to mean anything more than you want it to.

Gender doesn’t have to determine what you do in bed — but it can function as a sex toy in and of itself. Gender play can involve heightening or swapping typically gendered roles and behaviors.

“Performing gender roles during sex is a kind of kink,” according to Claire and Katja. Lots of queer people strongly identify with labels like butch or femme, twink, bear, sub, dom, and so on — Isaac mentions having friends who proudly call themselves dom bottoms, sub tops, bratty tops, and more — and some people think of themselves as verses or switches. Sometimes dabbling in behavior you otherwise wouldn’t, in life or in the bedroom, can be sexy.

And finally, don’t neglect the basics of having a body

Whenever, wherever, and however you’re having sex, stay in touch with your body — not just what it likes, but what it needs. “Sex is a physical activity,” Van Curen advises. “I take water breaks. Sometimes I make sure I have a snack on hand.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How Better Sex Education Supports LGBTQ Kids’ Mental Health

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By Kelly Gonsalves

We know sex education in America needs a lot of work. Not only do most states lack comprehensive, medically accurate, and pleasure-positive sex ed programs, but they also tend to leave out or outright antagonize LGBTQ kids.

And according to recent research, sex ed that excludes sexual and gender minorities can have a severely damaging effect on these young people’s mental health: A new study published in the American Journal of Sexuality Education found a lack of inclusivity in sex ed was associated with more anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies in LGBTQ people both in high school and later in life.

Current LGBTQ sex education policies.

When it comes to American sex ed, the sorry stats speak for themselves: Just 24 states require sex ed be taught in schools at all, 27 states require abstinence be stressed in any sex ed programs provided, and just 13 states require all school sex ed programs to be medically accurate.

But if that picture looks grim, it’s even worse for LGBTQ kids. According to GLSEN, a national organization that promotes inclusive education, seven states still have laws prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” in classrooms. Three states (Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas) require “only negative information” on sexual orientation be provided in sex ed programs. For example, here’s a snippet of Alabama’s law on the matter: “Classes must emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

There are nine states that require inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly sex education, thankfully. (You can find out more about each individual state’s education policy from the Guttmacher Institute.)

Why LGBTQ sex education is important.

Researchers surveyed 263 people between ages 18 and 26, all of whom identified as sexual minorities (meaning they identified sexually as something other than straight). About 21 percent of them were also trans or nonbinary. They were asked about their experiences in their school sex ed classes, their mental health during high school and after presently, their substance use, and their sexual behaviors.

As expected, the results showed most sexual minority students received “highly heteronormative and exclusive sex education.” The greater the level of exclusion in the program was, the greater their rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide risk were as well. “Many of these associations persisted among the sample even after graduating high school,” the researchers noted. “Although poor mental health outcomes generally lessened over time, those reporting greater levels of exclusion endorsed lingering mental health consequences.” And students who were trans or nonbinary in addition to identifying as a sexual minority reported even worse mental health outcomes compared to cisgender sexual minority students.

But the flip side was also true: LGBTQ people who perceived their sex ed program to have been more inclusive tended to have less anxiety, less depression, and fewer suicidal tendencies.

“More inclusive sex education may fulfill a protective role, providing normalization and visibility of sexual minority orientations in the curriculum,” the researchers write. “These results highlight the potential power of sex education policies and laws at the national, state, and local level on sexual minority youth.”

The study found LGBTQ kids were not more likely to practice safer sex just because a program was inclusive, suggesting comprehensive, medically accurate sex ed is still paramount to protecting young people of all stripes in addition to increasing inclusivity. But in general, research shows inclusive classrooms benefit sexual and gender minority students in many tangible ways, including making them feel safer, encounter less bullying in middle and high schools, be less likely to engage in risky sexual or substance-related behaviors, and have better academic outcomes.

Inclusive sex ed as a mental health issue.

Why would sex ed have such a powerful effect on mental health, in particular?

“The immediacy of sex education during the process of sexual identity formation may help to explain these associations,” the researchers explain. Indeed, the major milestones of sexual identity formation tend to happen during middle and high school, around the same time kids are learning about sex in general and experiencing school sexual education programs. Gay kids, for example, tend to have their first experience with being attracted to someone of the same gender around age 11; by age 18, they’ve usually told at least one non-family member about their sexual orientation.

A large body of research shows denying or invalidating a person’s sexual and gender identity can harm their physical and mental health. These effects might be especially devastating during these vulnerable and formative adolescent years: “Minority stress and internalized homophobia appear to be powerful negative influences on sexual minority youth, and exclusion in education and particularly sex education may contribute to these forces,” the researchers write. “As students develop a sense of social and sexual identity, they receive messaging from their education about the acceptability and normality of their experiences. The connection between perceived inclusivity of sex education and mental health outcomes is unsurprising given these dynamic and powerful influences.”

The effects of an inclusive program were associated with better mental health even after graduation and into their adult years. Considering LGBTQ youth are much more likely to struggle with mental health than their cis and straight peers, often due to the discrimination they experience, the fact that a school sex ed program can have such a lasting impact on their mental health matters a lot.

Clearly, providing quality sex education for kids is a matter of health and wellness, which is why it’s vital that we push our schools to institutionalize better sex ed programs. If you’re a parent, call up your kid’s school and ask about how they do sex ed. Go to school board meetings, rally other parents, and make your voice heard. Parental buy-in can dramatically influence what kinds of sex ed curricula school administrators feel comfortable using.

Sex education classrooms have the potential to become sites of empowerment, both for LGBTQ kids and for everyone, as long as we’re willing to invest in them.

Complete Article HERE!

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Exploring the different sexual orientations

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Gender symbols, sexual orientation: heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality.

By Logan Metzger,

Sexuality and sexual orientation is one topic not often brought up in the average American household.

It’s a taboo, hush-hush subject left somewhere on the fringe of socially acceptable.

“I think in general, America has a really weird relationship with sex,” said nicci port, project director and LGBTQ+ initiative for the office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Things such as television ads are sexualized but as a society people are uncomfortable talking about sexuality, port said.

Twenty-two states require sex education in their schools, and only 12 states require discussion of sexual orientation within those sex education classes.

Three of those states require teachers to impart only negative information on sexual orientation to students.

“I think at the basis we think we have to be a puritanical society and care about purity by viewing sex as procreation instead of realizing we are sexual beings,” port said.

According to reachout.com, sexuality is about who a person is attracted to sexually and romantically, but “is more complicated than just being gay or straight.”

The Kinsey Scale, developed in 1948 by sexologists Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin, organizes sexuality into a gradient scale which demonstrates that sexuality is a spectrum and not everyone fits into one specific definition.

The Kinsey team interviewed thousands of people about their sexual histories.

Their research showed that sexual behavior, thoughts and feelings toward the same or opposite sex were not always consistent across time.

Instead of assigning people to three categories of heterosexual, bisex0ual and homosexual the team used a seven-point scale. It ranges from zero to six with an additional category of “X.”

A person’s sexuality can manifest in many ways and forms that only the identifier truly understands, but there are quite a few umbrella terms that encompass the currently defined sexual orientations.

The most common and widely recognizable sexual orientation within the United States is heterosexuality, with an estimated over 90 percent of the population not identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to Gallup.

Heterosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attractions to persons of a different sex than themselves. More commonly referred to as “straight” in everyday language,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

On the opposite end of the Kinsey scale is homosexuality, with an estimated 4.5 percent of the United States population identifying as lesbian, bisexual or gay.

Homosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attraction to persons of the same sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

The term is often considered outdated and potentially derogatory when referring to LGBQ+ people or communities.

Within the homosexual umbrella lies at least two sexual orientations, these being gay and lesbian. Gay is used to refer to men who have an attraction to other men, but not all men who engage in sexual behavior with other men identify as gay.

Lesbian is used to refer to women who have an attraction to other women, but not all women who engage in sexual behavior with other women identify as lesbian.

Under the homosexual umbrella “about 4 to 6 percent of males have ever had same-sex contact.”

For females, the percentage who have ever had same-sex contact ranges from about 4 percent to 12 percent,” according to the Kinsey Institute.

In between homosexuality and heterosexuality on the Kinsey Scale are at least two sexual orientations. The most heard of and talked about of the two is bisexuality.

Bisexuality is when “a person is emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to both men and women,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

The other orientation is pansexuality.

Pansexuality is “a term used to describe a person who can be emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to people of various genders, gender expressions and sexes, including those outside the gender binary,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

Though both pansexuality and bisexuality are similar in that identifiers have attractions to those of multiple sexes, they are inherently different — but are often confused and assumed to be the same sexual orientation.

The “X” on the Kinsey Scale refers to either those who have not yet had sexual contact with another person or those who identify as asexual.

“In its broadest sense, asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction and the lack of interest in and desire for sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website. “However, some asexual people might experience emotional attraction or other non-sexual attractions.”

Asexuality is one of the less-heard of sexual orientations and the smallest group within the LGBTQIA+ community, with the CDC finding in 2014 about one percent of the population identified as asexual.

Homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality and asexuality all fall under the umbrella term of queer, which essentially is anyone who identifies as not heterosexual in the broadest sense.

Queer is “an umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual desires, identities and expressions of the not-exclusively-heterosexual and/or monogamous variety,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

Complete Article HERE!

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When Brooklyn was queer: telling the story of the borough’s LGBT past

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In a new book, Hugh Ryan explores the untold history of queer life in Brooklyn from the 1850s forward, revealing some unlikely truths

The cover of When Brooklyn Was Queer.

By  

For five years Hugh Ryan has been hunting queer ghosts through the streets of Brooklyn, amid the racks of New York’s public libraries, among its court records and yellow newspaper clippings to build a picture of their lost world.

The result is When Brooklyn Was Queer, a funny, tender and disturbing history of LGBT life that starts in an era, the 1850s, when those letters meant nothing and ends before the Stonewall riots started the modern era of gay politics.

The book grew out of Ryan’s other project, The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, a sort-of travelling museum that creates installations celebrating the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Ryan and his friends had done shows about local queer history in other cities but never in Brooklyn, where many of them lived. When they decided that they should do a Brooklyn event, they put out a call for information and got little reply. “People just didn’t know Brooklyn’s queer history,” says Ryan. “I thought I’d just go to the library, get the book about queer Brooklyn history. It’s probably from the 1970s and all of 10 people have read it. There wasn’t one.”

Ryan started collecting information and then got a grant from the Martin Duberman Fellowship in LGBT studies at the New York Public Library. “They said to me when you are done with this grant you should have your book proposal written.”

One recurring theme in his research that fascinated Ryan was how Brooklyn’s rise from rural backwater to New York’s second city mirrored the rise in interest in sex and gender studies and – sadly – the rise in homophobia, bigotry and abuse.

Construction on the Brooklyn Bridge started in 1869, the same year that human rights campaigner and journalist Karl-Maria Kertbeny first used the terms homosexual and heterosexual.

Shortly before that, the Erie Canal finally connected the city to the Great Lakes, bringing jobs and the urbanization that allowed queer life to flourish – especially along Brooklyn’s waterfront.

“Brooklyn’s growth runs along the same timeline as the evolution of our modern ideas about sexuality,” says Ryan. “You could chart the two against each other. I used Brooklyn as an example of how things were developing in the world and America generally.”

The poet Hart Crane.

The book is studded with the stories of Brooklyn-based A-list gays of yesteryear: Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Truman Capote. Then there is The February House – a Brooklyn townhouse that was once home to WH Auden, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee and which also hosted Salvador Dalí, his fearsome wife and muse Gala, and the writers Paul and Jane Bowles (a cast that would make the most cerebral Celebrity Big Brother house ever).

But the book also excels in uncovering what life was like for “ordinary” queer folk such as Loop-the-Loop, a trans woman and sex worker from Brooklyn at a time when “trans” was not part of the vocabulary (Loop preferred “fairy”) and Coney Island’s working-class gay bath houses.

Much of the information Ryan gathered was from sources who hated the LGBT community – and increasingly so as it was studied and categorized.

One of those groups was the Committee of 14, a group of morally righteous New Yorkers who drove for prohibition, then against (straight) prostitution and, on discovering the queer community, went after them, too.

“They were crazy,” said Ryan. “On the one hand I am glad they existed because otherwise the records they kept wouldn’t have existed but at the same time it’s shocking. They were a very strange group of people.”

One of the fascinating aspects of the book is how accepted the queer community was in Brooklyn at certain periods (and by certain people). During prohibition, gay and straight bars merged while during the war, queer life flourished as sailors poured into town, categories were looser than today and – again with caveats – there was acceptance.

Hugh Ryan.

“Before World War II, especially in 1920s, there were a lot more spaces where queer and non-queer people mixed,” says Ryan. “There was even this period ‘the pansy craze’ where it was fashionable to have limp-wristed men in movies who may have been gay or trans or entirely outside that in movies.”

But as queer profiles rose, so did the backlash. The repeal of prohibition drove gays and straight apart and the queers went underground where the police – and the mafia – came after them.

America’s love affair with eugenics, the “science” of improving the population by controlled breeding, caught up with the queer community as it had with people of color. Queers were dangerous to the health of the nation, easily blackmailed, not to be trusted. They were driven out of public life, academia, the movies; society turned against them.

By the 1940s, thousands of men would be arrested each year for “degeneracy”. In 1942, Senator David Ignatius Walsh’s career was destroyed in a sensational sex scandal that involved rumours that he had frequented a gay Brooklyn brothel that was being used by Nazi spies. The New York Post, which had fought for the US to join the war against Germany when Walsh was set against it, broke the story which became known as “Swastika swishery”.

Ryan thinks Walsh was probably gay but that the claims he attended the brothel were dubious.

The brothel’s owner, Gustave Beekman, and several others were arrested. Beekman cooperated with the authorities but still received a 20-year sentence in Sing Sing for sodomy and wasn’t released until 1963.

“The legacy of all of this is when we get this turn towards homophobia – 45 to Stonewall or the early 80s – there is this really negative idea that gay life is sad, small, limited, dirty, painful, persecuted. And I think that we have internalized that. Anytime before Stonewall that was what gay life was, when really it was just what gay life was like when gay life was becoming speakable in most of America and was getting its history written,” says Ryan.

“We have this ahistoric idea that what life was like in 1957 was ‘What Life Was Like’ for gay people.

An image from Brooklyn Pride 2015

“Well, it’s not like that now. Today Brooklyn is arguably the epicenter for queer New York culture, vibrant, diverse, out and proud. It’s awesome,” says Ryan. “It’s exciting, it’s more diverse than it’s ever been. More powerful. I think people are paying attention. what happens in Brooklyn sets the tone – and not just in queer culture.”

But is it sustainable? Can we keep the gains we have while we strive for more?

“It’s very hard to tell. There is an amount of retrenchment that happens anytime there is progressive gains. We are always on a pendulum. I worry about that but I do think that some things have changed forever.”

There’s probably no better time for us to relearn Brooklyn’s queer history.

Complete Article HERE!

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