One Equal World


Despite the recent leaps and bounds (and a few bad stumbles) of progress for LGBT visibility and acceptance, mainstream editors, particularly in the locker room environment of superhero comics, are still saying that they don’t think it’s ‘time’ for a gay lead in major titles.

Joe Glass, writer, bisexual, and comic fan, disagrees. And in the vein of becoming the change he wants to see in the world, he’s been spearheading a team of artists from around the world in creating The Pride, a multi-title series about a super-team with real diversity, both of ethnicity and sexuality.

So far, the series has run for nine issues between two titles, and they have just completed a kickstarter to raise funds to publish a hardcover edition of all nine. Raising nearly double what he asked for, Glass sees himself ready to continue building on his idea, making it as representative as possible.

Story-wise, The Pride follows Fabman and his team, heroes chosen to fight for representation as much as justice in their community. It doesn’t shy away from using gay and queer stereotypes.

“Because we deserve a voice and representation too,” says Glass, who calls himself “pretty darn camp.”

Fabman, a muscled man in a pink super suit with a rainbow cape, definitely can be described as camp. But that’s part of his point. Glass didn’t want a character whose queerness was only if you knew their rarely mentioned backstory, or pushed to the background. There’s nothing secret about that side of the hero’s identity.

Contrary to those mainstream editors who killed titles like DC’s Midnighter, which also featured an openly gay hero, Glass is certain this is the time for characters like Fabman. When he was a teenager, he needed these stories, and readers today need them just as badly.

Close-up of gay pride flag

Close-up of gay pride flag

In late March, online payment giant PayPal announced plans to open a $3.6 million operations center in North Carolina. They called the plans a done deal, a solid investment. Now, two weeks later, they’ve entirely pulled back and canceled those plans. And they have not been reticent about sharing the reason why – it is entirely due to North Carolina’s new state law that prohibits cities from banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people.

Moving into a state “where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law is simply untenable,” said PayPal’s CEO and president Dan Schulman as a part of the announcement on Tuesday, April 5th.

It’s a substantial loss to Charlotte, where the new center would have opened, and Mecklenburg County. PayPal itself would have invested $3.6 million there by the end of 2017, and the new business would have created at least $20.4 million in income per year to the county. And it is just one, if the largest, of over twenty companies to react to the new laws by leaving. Other companies include Lionsgate films, which has moved the production of an upcoming TV series to Vancouver, Canada, and Braeburn Pharmuticals, who are reconsidering the placement of a new research and manufacturing company.

Under the new ‘religious freedom’ laws, companies are still allowed to have policies against discrimination, but that does not protect their LGBT staff, customers, or partners, from being turned down for service at the business next door, and PayPal and those like them find that unacceptable.

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center has just made history as the first American Armed Forces hospital to earn a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” rating from the Human Rights Campaign.

HRC, the massive civil rights advocacy group, issues an annual report called the Healthcare Equality Index which lists the health care and employment policies of medical centers nationwide as they are related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health and treatment. In 2016, they listed 496 hospitals as leaders. A few of the benchmarks are nondiscrimination employee clauses, equal visitation rights, and employee training in LGBT patient care.

Five years ago, not a single military or VA installation was on the Index due to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that barred queer people from serving openly. (Trans people, however, still find themselves mostly unprotected). This year, 99 VA medical centers were designated ‘LGBT-friendly’ along with WRB.

While the HRC’s Index is not a perfect rubric (being rather heavy on the G in LGBT and putting a low priority on all other configurations), it’s still heartening to see hospitals in unprecedented numbers committing to more inclusive policies for patients and employees alike. It’s one more step on the path to making health care accessible to all.

High points of the Index:
-An unofficial review of hospitals found that more than 50% of medical centers nationwide have nondiscrimination policies that include sexuality and gender identity.
-93% of the 2,000 hospitals officially surveyed have equal visitation policies.
-46 states (All but Alaska, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wyoming) have medical centers that qualified as Leaders.



North Carolina recently passed a “bathroom bill,” one of several such bills being considered around the country that requires people to use the bathroom of locker room corresponding to the gender they were assigned at birth. Although proponents of such bills claim that they are to protect women from men who claim to be transgender so that they can prey on women, the bills are really written to discriminate against transgender people. There is nothing to support the moral panic logic these bills are founded on, and not even a week after the bill was signed by the governor of North Carolina (the same day it was introduced, no less), it has already been challenged in court.

Transgender activists have decried the bill because, by forcing them to make known the fact that they are transgender, they face the potential for violence. Transgender people face some of the highest suicide, murder, and sexual assault rates of any group in the world.

The bill was created specifically to stop one municipality from granting transgender people the right to use the bathrooms associated with their gender identity, and includes language that prevents any municipality in the state from enacting anti-discrimination laws based on gender identity or sexual orientation. So in North Carolina it is now illegal to protect people against discrimination.

The bill has a lot in common with one which has very slowly been working its way through the Georgia legislature, and which that state’s governor has implied he will reject. The idea that protecting the rights of LGBT people is somehow a violation of other people’s “religious freedom” is a recent development in the conservative war against human rights. Realizing that the tide has turned against them and they can no longer blatantly discriminate against LGBT people, conservatives have constructed the absurd farce that their religious rights are under attack by their being expected to treat other people as people.

Image: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Image: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that repealed every local LGBT anti-discrimination law and requires individuals to use the bathroom that matches with the biological gender written on their birth certificate.

Because of this, the state of New York just joined other cities in the nation including Seattle and San Francisco in restricting non-essential public-employee travel to North Carolina. Backlash also includes the NBA threatening to pull next year’s All Star game out of Charlotte. Companies including American Airlines, Facebook and Paypal are also against the law.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive order bans “all taxpayer-funded trips trip to North Carolina, unless they’re essential to public health or law enforcement.”

“In New York, we believe that all people—regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation—deserve the same rights and protections under the law. From Stonewall to marriage equality, our state has been a beacon of hope and equality for the LGBT community, and we will not stand idly by as misguided legislation replicates the discrimination of the past. As long as there is a law in North Carolina that creates the grounds for discrimination against LGBT people, I am barring non-essential state travel to that state,” said Governor Cuomo in a statement.

This isn’t the first time Cuomo instituted a similar ban on nonessential state travel. This also happened to Indiana in 2015 following the passing of SB 101, a “religious freedom” bill.

What are your thoughts on Cuomo’s decision?


2016 is the second happening of a very special film festival, held in the grounds of the French Institute in Myanmar. In November 2014, the &Proud Festival became the very first LGBT film festival to ever happen in that country. Even though homosexual sex remains illegal under a law called Article 377, more than 2,000 people attended the films and communal festival.

This year, they want to expand, and to become more public. The festival wants to be more accessible to the nation’s queer community. They currently can’t move into public cinemas, because government censors control those, so they are still seeking venues. So long as they stay in international screens, and as long as the films are not translated into Burmese, the common language of the populace, they are allowed to be invisible.

Article 377 is being fought in the halls of Myanmar’s governments, but while those wheels grind slowly, the LGBT citizens of the country are slowly, for the first time, beginning to build communities amongst themselves. &Proud is proud to be part of this.

The festival also hosts the Rainbow Reels workshop, where young people can learn to create their own movies and tell their own stories. To many, this is the entire point of the film festival. There is a desperate need in Burmese media for these stories.

“There’s not even a neutral word for gay in Burmese, all terms used to describe us are just insults,” Ko Latt, a gay performer, explained.

In such an environment, pride must take extra effort. But it is so much more important.

Image: "Bootycandy": Robert O’Hara’s play stars, from left, Lance Coadie Williams, Phillip James Brannon and Benja Kay Thomas at Playwrights Horizons. Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Image: “Bootycandy”: Robert O’Hara’s play stars, from left, Lance Coadie Williams, Phillip James Brannon and Benja Kay Thomas at Playwrights Horizons. Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

If you remember the ’90s show “In Living Color,” you might have a feel for SpeakEasy Stage Company’s upcoming production of “Bootycandy.” It’s comical, wild, a little rude, plays heavily with stereotypes of the black LGBT community, and always circles back to the poignant personal story of Sutter, the central character.

Sutter is played by Maurice Emmanuel Parent, where he and four other actors work under the aegis of Director Summer L. Williams to bring alive the play written by Robert O’Hara.

Director Williams feels it’s important that this is not a coming-of-age story, nor a coming-out story. Sutter (and O’Hara, as this is heavily autobiographical) never has questions about who he is. It is more a retrospective, an inventory of a life. It features vignettes of Sutter as a child, a teen, and a man, with four other actors filling in the orbits of supporting roles. Some of these vignettes are true from O’Hara’s history, some are not, but no one is telling which.

“Bootycandy” — the title is slang for penis — “has a heightened comedic sense and style,” says Director Williams. “Some of the jokes are bawdy, some are offensive, but there’s a layer of hurt and a layer of ugly truth present just below the surface.”

Parent is about the same age as O’Hara, in his mid-40s, and he finds that valuable in his sense that they’re touching on the same cultural touchstones. He also feels that his day job as a drama teacher feeds into his ability to tell the story.

“Bootycandy” will be playing at the Robert Studio Theater in Boston Center for the Arts through April 9.


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