By Martin MoranTommy and I were on the outskirts of Johannesburg, zooming past vacant lots and former gold mines on our way to a large cheetah preserve. It was our third day together and I was especially excited. This being Africa, I had to squeeze in a safari! I’d found out about a large animal preserve not far from the city that offered excursions promising large cats and wild dogs, zebras and ostriches and all manner of wildlife. Since I’d made my reservation for the tour, a vision kept washing over me—a perfect moment tripping upon primordial Africa, a glimpse of a nature-filled Eden.
By Melinda ChateauvertThree decades before “Nothing about us, without us” became the axiom for policymaking by the sex workers’ rights movement, the national prostitutes’ rights organization COYOTE conducted a “Prostitute Study” which demonstrated that community-based participatory research had the power to revolutionize scientific paradigms. At the start of the AIDS epidemic, almost no one used community-based research to study critical health issues. But San Francisco sex workers, working as peer researchers interviewing and testing marginalized women like themselves, mapped the epidemiology of HIV in 1985. This forgotten study by sex workers on HIV/AIDS was an essential element of their political activism, using evidence-based research for making public policy, designing future medical research and changing public attitudes about the sex industry.
By Michael BronskiThe HIV/AIDS epidemic and the success of the battle for marriage equality have been, over the past thirty-five years, the two events that have most affected LGBT lives. These two phenomena—first the spread of a deadly virus that has killed thirty-four million people worldwide and close to 660,000 in the United States, and second a prolonged, well-funded, culturally bitter fight to grant a basic right of legal contact to same-sex couples—are rarely linked in the political or public imagination. Yet, numerous cultural and social interconnections, resonances, and ramifications link these events.
A Conversation with Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman and Deborah Jian LeeRev. Elizabeth Edman: Queer people model a kind of courage that is very similar to what Christians are supposed to model. Christians could learn a lot about who we Christians are supposed to be simply by paying attention to queer lives and queer experience, and this is a prime moment for Christians to listen hard to what LGBTQ people are made of.
A Conversation with Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman and Deborah Jian LeeDeborah Jian Lee: For Rescuing Jesus, I’m speaking to a range of people including Evangelicals, ex-Evangelicals, progressive Christians, the spiritual but not religious, and the Nones, who don’t ascribe to any particular religion. I write about those on the margins of Evangelicalism, namely people of color, women, and LGBTQ Christians. Oftentimes people from these communities feel disqualified from the faith and feel like they must choose between their faith and other important aspects of their identity.
By Eileen TruaxJust as with every Dreamer I meet, I found out about Jorge through someone else, who had met him through a friend. I met him in El Hormiguero, a community center in the San Fernando Valley in northern Los Angeles, where students, activists, and other members of the community hold meetings on various topics. The meeting where I met Jorge had such a provocative title, I had no choice but to go and see what it was all about: “Undocuqueer Healing Oasis.” It was a space where gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, and transgender people could share their experiences and talk about what it’s like to live with not just one but two identities that go against the accepted norm. They share how they struggle to get ahead or just keep going, even though it takes more work, and sometimes you just feel tired and overwhelmed.
By Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini, and Michael Amico“Oh, he is such a homophobe. He’s probably really gay. That explains it.” How often have you heard this? How often have you thought it? Ironically, appeals to common sense are usually made when logical explanations fail or when the explanation is just too confusing to make immediate sense. That is the case with this myth, and, perhaps, with the idea of homophobia itself. Society, culture, economics, power structures, family relationships, prejudices, religion, and so many other factors enter into the creation and maintenance of homophobia. Isolating any one factor, such as a person’s supposed sexuality, and singling it out as the chief cause overlook this complexity. More important, with this myth, it also risks de-politicizing homophobia by turning it into a matter of one individual’s warped psychology.
By Kay WhitlockWhen I am filled with pain, and seeking change in my life but unclear, uncertain, or even ambivalent about new directions and possible choices, I spend time in quiet reflection and meditation. Then I head for The Crossroads. I go to make an inchoate plea for insight, revelation, and guidance—what some folks would call a prayer. I go when the daylight language of “issues” and politics as usual sounds like meaningless gibberish and possesses such a profound aura of lifelessness that even zombies cannot arise and lurch toward us in its presence.
By Ginny Gilder“I don’t mind being gay, but I’m never gonna fly that rainbow flag,” I protested to my girlfriend, Lynn. We were on a California beach near Santa Cruz celebrating my friend Camille’s fiftieth birthday, a group of a dozen lesbians, most of whom were dancing, clapping, prancing around the beach with big rainbow flags held high. Lynn and I stood on the edge of the group, shoulders hunched, our hands noticeably empty of any sticks hoisting multi-colored fabric, thrust deep in our pants pockets.
By Caroline LightThis week we shoulder the weight of our grief and outrage after yet another mass shooting by a heavily-armed gunman, this one directed at patrons of an LGBTQ night club in Orlando on Latin night. Forty-nine innocent people are dead and more than fifty wounded. Once again we struggle to make sense of the senseless, asking how we keep following the same nightmarish script. But just as the loss feels most raw, and some of us may be tempted by reductionist appeals to xenophobia, it is urgent for us to take stock of the cumulative effects of our nation’s violent past.
By Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini, and Michael AmicoAttempts to explain what causes homosexuality have a long, and often ugly, history. Various medical theories that pathologized homosexuality have caused and justified outright violence against LGB people, most notably, the use of electroshock treatments as part of therapeutic attempts to cure homosexuality in the 1950s. As terrible as this history is, it does not mean that attempts to consider what causes homosexuality—or how it evolves—are necessarily bad or dangerous for LGB people.
“Nice is OK. But let’s admit it: anger is awesome.” That’s what playwright and actor Martin Moran says in his one-man play All the Rage during a scene in which he recounts the time he watched a well-dressed woman on a Manhattan corner scream murderously at an aggressive Humvee driver. “That woman is full of poison,” he goes on to say, “and I need to drink some of that.”
By Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman and Michael BronskiThe words “queer” and “virtue” hardly ever appear together. Like alpha and omega, sin and grace, and wrong and right, they are always seen as opposing ends of a spectrum. Elizabeth Edman’s Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity brilliantly, succinctly, and with enormous empathy and insight argues that these terms, far from being oppositional, are wedded in ways that make them distinctly unique. Indeed, brought together they are the quintessence of Christianity.
By Melinda ChateauvertOver the last week and before the print edition appeared, Emily Bazelon’s cover story “Should Prostitution be a Crime?” for the New York Times Magazine, sex workers and their allies were sharing and discussing it widely through Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs. I was thrilled to see people I know, activists I’ve admired and worked with, being given a national platform to have their say. This was and is a phenomenal media moment for the sex workers’ rights movement.
A Q&A with Andrea RitchiePublic awareness of police brutality is growing, spurred by stories about individual Black men who have been murdered by police across the country. But Black women and women of color have been rendered largely invisible in discussions about state-sanctioned violence, even though they too are targeted and killed by police officers. What can we learn from their experiences of injustice, and from their resistance and activism? Black lesbian police misconduct attorney and organizer Andrea Ritchie, co-author of Say Her Name: Resisting Police Violence Against Black Women and Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States, takes on these issues in her forthcoming book, Invisible No More, due out next spring. With Women’s History Month still fresh in our mind, we caught up with Ritchie to ask what to expect in her eye-opening account.
By Laura A. JacobsTo pee or not to pee: That is the question facing transgender and gender nonconforming people in North Carolina. I first wrote on this a year ago when only a few states were considering anti-transgender bathroom statutes which seemed unlikely to pass. In hindsight, that time seems almost quaint. Now North Carolina and other states are enacting legislation that criminalize transgender and gender nonconforming people for using the bathroom aligned with their identity and/or expression. Behind the rationalizations are two main goals: to scapegoat us for political power, and to punish our community’s nonconformity by creating an environment in which it is impossible—or at least extremely challenging—for transgender and gender nonconforming people to survive.
By Rashod OllisonOut of the thirteen events on my eleven-city tour in support of Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl, I was most nervous about the one that would take me back to where it all started. On Feb. 9, I returned to Little Rock, Ark., where I grew up, and to Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing, among the first places where I performed spoken word poetry as a teenager. Back then, in the early ’90s, the old location was downtown on Main Street. The new one, a sleeker, brighter and more expansive place, is over on Wright Avenue, in the heart of a historically black section of the city.
A Q&A with Rashod OllisonHappy Publication Day to pop music critic and culture journalist Rashod Ollison and his memoir Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl! In Soul Serenade, Ollison tells his story of growing up gay in central Arkansas, searching for himself and his distant father, and how the consoling power of soul music guided him through the tough times. We caught up with Ollison before he geared up for his book tour, beginning today in Virginia Beach, VA, to ask him what writing the book meant for him and the inspiration that went into it. Check his event calendar to see his tour dates. And once you settle down with his book in your hands, put on his playlist featuring the songs that brought his memoir to life.
When I was fifteen, I stepped into a warm bath on my church's sanctuary stage. I was a bit of an outsider—the occasionally bullied Chinese-American kid in the white suburb—and I had found a place of belonging at this Chinese immigrant church. I made a joke about how I felt the same way about my new faith as my sixteen-year-old friend felt about her new driver’s license: I had no idea how I ever lived without this. Even my pastor chuckled as he clasped my hands, preparing to dunk me. Then I heard the splash of the warm water, the muffled underwater silence and the burst of cheers as my body broke through the surface. Smiling through currents of water, I saw the congregation beaming back. I had begun my new life in Christ.
People often ask if it was hard for me, as a journalist, to write a memoir. It wasn’t. In many ways, the people I interviewed over the years for news stories—many of them immigrants, many of them poor—taught me to trust the power of personal stories. One of them was Alaaedien. He drove cabs in New York City, and one day, he picked up a man outside of Grand Central Station. The man was young, and he wanted Alaaedien to take him to upstate New York. The cab ride would cost almost a thousand dollars, Alaaedien explained. That was fine. The young man’s new girlfriend lived upstate. He would pay Alaaedien when they got there.