One Equal World

A photo of trans activist Marsha P. Johnson. The words, "Nice girls don't make history" are written across the bottom of the photo.

Marsha P. Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Glaurung Quena via Flickr Creative Commons.

It’s about time that Marsha “pay it no mind” Johnson had a modern documentary about her life. The legacy of this black trans woman and activist is writ large across American LBGT history. And it should be cause for celebration that “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” is trending on Netflix this week. But there’s ugliness just under the surface.

David France, the filmmaker releasing the new Netflix documentary, is a white, cis, gay man with a history of writing about the dramatic and tragic in queer history. He has books on sexual abuse and Iraq’s death penalties, and a book-turned-documentary about the AIDS crisis, titled “How to Survive a Plague.” He’s undeniably a part of the queer community, but not always a part of the stories he chooses to tell.

Now, another filmmaker, Reina Gossett has spoken up to say that France has stolen from her years of work on Johnson. She alleges that France stole her language and research, got websites to remove her work, stole her contacts and hired away her research adviser. Gossett, who is black and trans, took to social media to air her grievances, which France has claimed are baseless.

“This kind of extraction/excavation of black life, disabled life, poor life, trans life, is so old and so deeply connected to the violence Marsha had to deal with throughout her life,” Gossett said on Instagram.

In the wake of the terrible 2015 movie about the Stonewall riots which completely erased Johnson and the other non-white, non-cis originators of that iconic event, it is tone-deaf to pretend to be blind to these identities. The pool of funding for a documentary on a trans woman of color is not bottomless, and Gossett’s production, titled “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” is stalled in the cradle after three years of work. Whether or not France has done what Gossett alleges, the controversy stands—which of these two artists should have the multi-million dollar Netflix deal?

A shattered rainbow heart.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Like more than half the country, Michigan’s current state laws don’t include protections for sexuality in employment or housing law. Same-sex marriage may be legal under the federal umbrella, but if you invite your boss to your Friday wedding, it’s perfectly legal for him to fire you on Monday. Drive your can-and-streamer-decorated car home to enjoy seeing “just married” in your driveway for a few days, and you can wake up to a 30-day order to vacate.

Attempting to address this injustice, pro-LGBT advocacy group Equality Michigan requested a review of the state’s existing laws by the Civil Rights Commission to see if there was a way to extend anti-discrimination protection to LGBT citizens. Whether or not such a re-interpretation is up to the commission has been a controversial matter, but they did intend to put it to a vote.

But instead, Attorney General Bill Schuette brought down the hammer by sending law enforcement to the commission hearing to inform them that his office had unilaterally decided they did not in fact have that authority.

Schuette’s input is far from unbiased. He defended Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2016 all the way to the Supreme Court (and lost), claiming he had no choice but to “defend” his constituents in that manner. Who is he defending?

Certainly not the estimated 30% of LGBT Michiganders who experience workplace discrimination, or the 20%  of trans individuals who report housing discrimination (from a 2013 study). Nor is he defending local business. Large corporations across the nation are cutting ties with states who persist in remaining in the stagnant back-eddies of progress, costing states who dig their heels in billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Hopefully, while Schuette runs for governor of Michigan in the current election year, his voters will remember his backward thinking, and ensure that he does not gain even more authority to keep Michigan state in the dark ages.

A pregnant businesswoman working at her computer.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Wall Street firms don’t exactly have a reputation for being family-friendly work environments. The stereotype is often true, that employees are expected to work long hours and forego their personal lives. But that’s all changing, thanks to evolving attitudes around work-life balance.

Perhaps the biggest improvement can be seen in how Wall Street views childcare. Once upon a time, it was virtually unheard of for a company to offer paid maternity leave. Now, high finance companies are offering gender-neutral paid parental leave. Take investment firm KKR, for example.

While KKR has had separate maternity and paternity leave policies in place for quite some time, the firm only recently decided to revamp their policy to be more gender inclusive. Their new policy, called “parental leave,” has been expanded to include 16 weeks of paid time off for the primary caregiver.

This radical new approach to childcare comes with approval from KKR co-CEOs Henry Kravis and George Roberts, who for years have been pushing to make the finance industry more family-friendly. The firm also hopes that this new policy will attract more female talent, resulting in more gender diversity.

But KKR isn’t the only investment firm making changes to its childcare leave policies. In November 2015, Swiss financial services holding company Credit Suisse became the first major bank to offer 20 weeks of paid parental leave.

Asset management company The Blackstone Group has also followed suit. After reevaluating their childcare leave policy, the private equity firm now offers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave.

Even Goldman Sachs, which is notorious for having a demanding workload, has upped its paid leave for “secondary caregivers” from two to four weeks.

Keep in mind that there is no federal law that requires U.S. companies to offer paid paternity/maternity leave. These companies are genuinely trying to create more diverse and inclusive work environments, and in doing so, will hopefully inspire other companies to do the same.

An image of a rainbow-colored rose with the words, "Stop homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia" above it.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Planned Parenthood Toronto is on a mission. Via their project, the LGBTQ Youth Initiative, they are out to improve the lives of queer youth. And with the Send the Right Message campaign, they’re targeting straight and cisgender youth to do their part: to stand up and be the force of the solution.

With a slogan of “Think of your impact. Rethink your words,” the poster and postcard campaign challenges all youth not only to remove anti-gay and anti-trans pejoratives from their casual language, but gives them scripts to speak up when company uses slurs or passes along stereotypes.

For example, one shows a skateboarder texting.

“Sure she came out as bi, but we both know she’s a lesbian,” says a text they’ve received.

“I love you, but I think that she knows her identity better than you do,” is their response.

The lessons focus on transphobia, gender essentiallism, biphobia, and identity policing with short, lightweight text exchanges. They call out microaggressions that might be easily dismissed, and that is what they want their youth targets to do.

Many young people want to be good allies, but where do they learn how? It’s more than going to Pride or wearing a rainbow pin. Being a good ally is about removing a burden from your LGBTQ friends, and one of the largest burden is that of educating others.

When a queer person challenges someone’s use of a slur or a stereotype, they get accused of beating people over the head with their identity, and their concerns brushed off. But if greater and greater numbers of people, cisgender, straight, and queer made it clear that these microaggressions were unacceptable, they would fade from common use.

It’s worth taking a look around Send the Right Messages’s website: it features a Privilege 101 FAQ that is written very kindly, and they want feedback on it from the LGBTQ community.

The British flag in rainbow colors.

Image credit: Shutterstock

“Queers” aired in the U.K. as part of Gay Britannia, a season of LGBTQIA-themed programming meant to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offenses Act of 1967, which (partially) decriminalized gay sex. Which is to say, the new laws made it so you couldn’t send an English or Welshman to jail for having sex with another man, if both were over 21 and neither was a service man or a merchant seaman. Scottish and Irish citizens of the U.K. still had until the early 80s before their laws would change, and any man could still be fined or given a court appearance for kissing another man in public, but it was still a large step, and largely put an end to the trend of chemically castrating gay men which had begun in the 1950s.

So Gay Britannia was not quite a celebration so much as a retrospective. And “Queers,” an eight-part series of monologues on being queer in the U.K., spans not only that fifty years, but the fifty before as well.

LGBT British actors, most of them well-known, perform the pieces in character. Ben Whishaw embodies a soldier returning from WWI to find more trauma at home. Alan Cumming plays a man in today’s world reflecting on gay marriage and its place in the fight for civil rights. Other actors, including Fionn Whitehead (“Dunkirk”) and Gemma Whelan (“Game of Thrones”) will cover the HIV crisis, and the impact of the Sexual Offenses Act itself.

Mark Gatiss, writer of BBC’s drama series “Sherlock,” is the lead of this project, and wrote one of the monologues himself. Each short, written and filmed independently, runs for about 15 minutes. They were aired on BBC4, the arts and culture channel, earlier this year and were also performed live at London’s Old Vic Theater in July.

BBC America will be airing the series beginning October 14th, though without the greater context of Gay Britannia.

An asexuality activist holding a sign that reads, "If sex without love can exist, love without sex can too!"

Photo credit: Shawn Goldberg / Shutterstock

Frigid. Distant. Cold. Unsharing. Incapable of love. Not relationship material. Robotic.

Most asexual people have run into all of these misconceptions by the time they’ve been through an adult relationship or two. Like most sexualities, asexuality is a spectrum, and unless one is rigidly careful to only date people exactly as ace as they are, they’re going to run into a mismatch of sexual needs.

That’s not as unusual as it gets made out to be. Allosexuals (people who experience sexual attraction) run into differing needs all the time. Differences in frequency, in kink, in stimulation—these can all be part of a healthy sexual partnership. And so can differences in attraction and need.

The key is communication, and sharing the work of compromise.

Some asexuals want no part of sex, and others are neutral on the topic. Some like sex as a fun activity, but don’t experience any yearning for it when it’s not on offer, or like sex quite a lot for itself but don’t experience any sexual attraction to any people, even their romantic partner. All of these are facets of asexuality.

In most mixed ace/allo relationships, sex is still on the table, though of course it’s up to the individuals involved. It’s vital that both sides be honest about what they need, what they enjoy, and where they need boundaries, and that they communicate that without pressure.

There’s no denying that sex is an important part of many romantic relationships. It is an intimate and bonding act to most people. But strong relationships will have more pillars than just sex, and if there isn’t room for compromise, in either direction, the partnership has other issues to work on.

Working together to find mutually satisfying solutions shouldn’t be a chore—rather, it should make a couple stronger.

A photo of Hudson River Park taken at sunset.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

In June of 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo established a commission to seek out a design for a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida that had happened earlier that month. Submissions were accepted in October, and on Sunday, June 25th 2017, the winning design was announced

Anthony Goicolea, the victorious designer, was perhaps destined to win it. A Cuban-American who grew up in the south and now shares a Brooklyn home with his husband, he is a part of the communities hit hardest by the shooting, which stands as the deadliest civilian incident of gun violence in the United States.

His design is an arrangement of nine boulders, most of them bisected by thick, polished layers of refractive glass. The glass slices will act as prisms, using any available light to throw rainbows in all directions. The boulders, in their loose circle, will remind visitors to the space of ancient sites, like Stonehenge and burial mounds.

“This monument will serve as a communal space filled with light, color, and hope where the visitors can sit, mourn, love, and remember for years to come,” Giocolea stated. 

The site of the new monument, Hudson River Park, is Giocolea’s home turf. He often runs there. And it is an important place to the LGBT community as well; the Stonewall Inn is only a short walk away.

“It feels like there are certain shapes and patterns that are encoded in our DNA as humans that transcend any particular culture and speak to how we are unified in the larger scheme,” Giocolea added. “I wanted to create a space that feels familiar, even though it is new.”

While the announcement of the winning design was timed to coincide with NYC Pride festivities, there is currently no official date for the completion of the installation.