Thursday, January 30, 2014

92-Year-Old Transwoman and WWII Vet Fighting For Equality

Ninety-two-year-old Robina Asti, a transgender woman and WWII veteran, is fighting with the Social Security Administration to receive benefits after the death of her husband Norwood Patton. After Patton died, Asti filed for survivor benefits, but SSA denied her request, claiming "her marriage does not meet the requirements under Federal law for payment of survivor benefits" and she was "legally male" at the time of her wedding in 2004.

If you think this is whole thing reeks of hot messiness, you're right. Asti has legally lived as a woman since 1976, and has a passport, FAA pilot's license and driver's license that all list her as female. Back in June, Lambda Legal filed a request with SSA to take another look at Asti's case, but they have yet to receive a response.

"I am so insulted that the Social Security Administration refused to recognize me as a woman and treated my marriage to Norwood in such a disrespectful way," Asti said in a statement released by Lambda Legal. "I have lived a very private life, but the SSA is forcing me to speak out. I don't want other people to have to experience this."

Watch Lambda Legal's video about the case below

Barneys New York Launches Campaign Around Trans Models

Barneys New York is taking their spring 2014 catalog in a new direction. The campaign, entitled "Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters, will feature several transgender models. Instead of the usual catalog, the company will be releasing photos of models and their stories, along with a series of videos. Models taking part in 'Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters" include Arin Andrews, Katie Hill, May Simon and Gisele Xtravaganza.

Barney's creative director said his inspiration for the campaign had "a lot to do with the realization that such extraordinary progress has been made in the last few years for the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community, but it's striking how the transgender community has been left behind. It's disturbing and upsetting to see that."

Ten percent of all sales made on February 11 will go toward the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. After all that recent racial profiling mess, this definitely a positive development. Watch the first video from the series below.

John Boehner Says 'No Way' ENDA Will Pass This Year

ENDA has little chance of passing this year, says Speaker of the House John Boehner. Boehner told the LGBT Equality Caucus there was "no way" ENDA would pass during his first meeting with the group last week.

“A number of us did meet with, actually the caucus met with Speaker Boehner,” openly gay congressman and co-chair of the Caucus Rep. Mark Takano said. “He said no way was it going to get done in this session.”

Though Takano called the meeting with Boehner "historic," this doesn't come as a complete surprise. Last November he called the act "unnecessary." “I am opposed to discrimination of any kind in the workplace or anyplace else, but I think this legislation … is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits,” he said in a press conference that month. “People are already protected in the workplace.”

ENDA, which would provide anti-discrimination protection for LGBT workers nationwide, passed in the Senate 64-32 last April, but with Boehner's "no way" attitude, it's unlikely the bill will be brought up for a vote in the House.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Food For Thought: Patti Labelle

"That word is used so loosely that I don't even consider myself a diva. I always considered myself a woman who sings her heart out and who gives 120 percent. "Diva" is a word that I wouldn't wanna call myself because it's so loosely used. It's not cute anymore...all these little heifers who can't sing are called divas!" 

Read Ms. Labelle, read. She didn't name any names, so YOU fill in the blanks.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

'Looking' Series Premiere 'Looking For Now' Recap

Photo: HBO

Go over to to read my recap of Looking's series premiere. In case you've been living under a big rainbow rock, the new HBO show follows the lives of three gay men living in San Francisco.

An excerpt of the recap:

“It’s San Francisco. It shouldn’t be that hard to meet cool people in this town.” So is the exasperated lament of our hero Patrick, expressed in the midst of what is shaping up to be a horrible date. Awkward banter quickly devolves into pretentious quote corrections (it’s “work is love made visible” FYI) and remarks about careers—Patrick’s a video game developer while his date is a cancer doctor—that are by turns foot-in-mouth and outright condescending. In the end, the good doctor dismisses Patrick as relationship material and departs, leaving him stuck with a bad taste in his mouth, which he washes down with the wine he foot most of the bill for.

Welcome to the world of Looking, the new HBO series created by Michael Lannan and executive producer Andrew Haigh, the force behind the 2011 indie hit Weekend. Set in San Francisco, the series follows the misadventures of three gay men at different places in life and love. Patrick, played by Jonathan Groff, is a 29-year-old video game developer bruising from a recent breakup with his now engaged ex-boyfriend Jason. The recent turn of events has him bumbling through the hookup/dating scene, displaying a naiveté that, although sweet and endearing, borders on Shoshanna-levels of cluelessness. What else could you call babbling through a hand job in the woods with a “gym teacher” hairy guy, then fleeing mid-jerk when his cell phone goes off?

Read the rest HERE.

Gay Comedy Series Starring Ian McKellen To Air On PBS

PBS has given the green light to Vicious, a sitcom focusing on the long-term (like 50 years long-term, which we all know is like 200 years in gay years:) relationship of two gay seniors.

Vicious, which stars out actors Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, has already been airing in the U.K. since last April and has been renewed for a second season. The show's first season will start airing here on July 6 for six episodes.

Six episodes? Pretty short for a season, but the idea of watching Magneto throwing shade and British queen reads sounds fantastic. Watch a few clips after the jump

Ex-Yale Divinity Dean To Be Tried For Officiating Son's Gay Wedding

United Methodist minister and dean of divinity at Yale University Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree will be tried by a church council because he officiated his son's same-sex wedding in October 2012. Presiding over the wedding violated rules that bar Methodist clergy from blessing same-sex unions.

A complaint was filed against Ogletree with a regional church body, and he was notified last week charges had been filed. The minister said he could not refuse to officiate his son Thomas's wedding to William Haddad.

“I could not with any integrity as a Christian refuse my son’s request to preside at his wedding,” he said in a press release from Methodists in New Directions. “It is a shame that the church is choosing to prosecute me for this act of love, which is entirely in keeping with my ordination vows to ‘seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people’ and with Methodism’s historic commitment to inclusive ministry embodied in its slogan ‘open hearts, open minds, open doors.’

The trial will take place in Connecticut on March 10.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Thoughts On Madonna And #DisInstagram

Madge, girl what am I gon' do with you? If you haven't heard, Madonna has stirred up controversy after posting the above pic of her son Rocco boxing and typing "No one messes with Dirty Soap! Mama said knock you out#disnigga." After being (deservedly) criticized, she released a statement apologizing (also posted above) for using the word and saying she is not a racist.

Do I believe Madonna is a racist? No. Aside from her adopting two African children (and getting unfairly vilified in the process) and her oldest offspring being the result of a relationship with an undeniably Hispanic man (i.e. he can't "pass"), she has employed/worked with and continues to employ/work with black backup singers, dancers, producers, video directors, songwriters and musicians. My point? Madonna is and has long been in a position where she could insulate herself in an all-white world, if that's she truly wanted to do. The woman is clearly not racist. Of course, you could argue it has all been for show, but aside from this latest flap, there has been no documented history of racially insensitive remarks or charges of racism by former collaborators/employees, a la Paula Deen.

Secondly, she used 'nigga' not nigger (hey, since we're talking about race and instances of racism, why use the "N" word?). This is an important distinction in my opinion, particularly because the word was used in a pop cultural context. Let me explain: I have been called both a nigger and nigga by white people in my lifetime. The former occurred courtesy of a drunken rant by girl whose boyfriend had been beaten up by a black guy at a club, and who decided to direct her rage at all the black men in attendance; the latter when I was 15 and in P.E., when a random classmate exchanged dap with me and quipped "thanks my nigga" before scurrying off.

And honestly, hearing 'nigga' come from a white guy's lips was more disorienting. As much as 'nigger' could sting, at least I knew where I stood with the person who uttered it--they thought I was less than human, and I knew they were a bigoted asshole.

But with nigga it was different. Though I didn't hang out with the guy in question (or anyone in P.E. for that matter), he had no problem hanging around the other black guys in our class--he definitely fell in the wigga category. He'd likely heard the word uttered hundreds of times, both by those around him and in countless rap songs. And if we're being real, the exchange between me and the white classmate was no different than the ones between me and my own group of friends at that time. I'd be lying if I said I have never said 'nigga' before, or won't at some point in the future, despite a conscious effort to cut back on my usage. I'm not of the view we should (or can) ban 'nigga.' But at the same time, I don't believe uttering it as if we have Tourette syndrome is doing us any favors. But I digress.

All of this is to say that while my white classmate may not have thought of me as inferior or subhuman (wonder how his opinion might have changed if he'd known about my sexuality?), his actions were stupid and thoughtless. He presumed since I was black (and young--I doubt he'd say that to someone my parents/grandparents' age) that I said 'nigga,' and therefore it gave him the right to use it. In my case he was right, but being we barely knew each other, it doesn't change the fact he was presumptuous and offensive.

And that is how I view Madonna using 'nigga.' Though she may not be racist, using #disnigga as an Instagram hashtag was INCREDIBLY stupid, insensitive and galling, especially coming from a woman so shrewd, intelligent and progressive in her work. How could she post this and not think twice about how it would offend people? Kissing a black saint in "Like A Prayer" or creating a book of erotic fantasies are one thing. They were provocative works that may have pissed folks off, but had a clear intention to open minds. This Instagram mess was an error in judgment at best, a terrible attempt to be hip and edgy at worst.

To sum up: Madge girl, stop tryin' be down with the kids, lay off social media for a bit (or forever) and save the controversy for the important topics--LGBT rights, artistic expression, sexuality, gender, religion--as you've down so brilliantly for the last three decades. 'Cause this ain't cute. I want to get my life to your upcoming Grammy appearance, not have to read you for filth. M'kay?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Trans Woman Dares Anti-Gay Shreveport Councilman To Stone Her To Death

Talk about calling a blowhard's bluff. A city council member in Shreveport abandoned his push to repeal an LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance, after an outcry that included a transgender woman who dared him to stone her to death.

The ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in housing and employment within city limits based on sexual orientation and gender identity, passed 6-1 in December after a successful campaign by pro-LGBT group Be Fair Shreveport. The solo "no" vote came from Councilman Ron Webb, who said "The Bible tells you homosexuals are an abomination," adding he didn't socialize with LGBT people.

After Webb drafted a repeal, dozens gathered to voice their , but none were so effective as transwoman Pamela Raintree, who dared the councilman back up his Bible quotes and stone her to death.

"Leviticus 20:13 states, 'If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, they shall surely put him to death,'" Raintree began. "I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb, in case that your Bible talk isn't just a smoke screen for personal prejudices." Webb withdrew his repeal just minutes later, not evening calling for a vote.

Watch Raintree shut that ass down like a boss below.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

WATCH: 'Looking' Episode 1 Clip

Just a few more days until HBO's new series Looking debuts, and the subsequent praise, criticism, dissection and shading begins. FYI, I'll be doing all of the above in weekly recaps for, plug! Anyway, watch a short clip from the first episode below.

NBC Orders Pilot For Bisexual DC Character

NBC has given the green light for a TV series based on DC Comic's John Constantine. Constantine will follow the dark sorcerer and detective as he is forced to protect the world from evil. The antihero first came out as bisexual in an early 90's issue of the long-running John Constantine: Hellblazer.

The Constantine pilot is being headed up by executive producers Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer, the latter of which was a script writer for Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy and Man of Steel.

Looks promising--especially with a Batman trilogy alum like Goyer attached--but I hope they don't shy away or water down Constantine's sexuality.

Duck Dynasty Ratings Take Dip In Season 5 Premiere

Hmmm, now isn't this interesting? After all the brouhaha, backlash, and backlash to the backlash over Phil Robertson's anti-gay comments in GQ,  Duck Dynasty's season five premiere pulled in 8.5 million viewers Wednesday. A big number for a cable show, but almost 30 percent down from last season's premiere, which attracted 11.8 viewers last August, and less than its season three premiere last year.

Maybe all that fool talk comparing homosexuality to bestiality and terrorism, happy and singing Jim Crow-era black folks, marrying teenage girls and saying all Muslims and Chinese are controlled by the devil had something to do with it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

'GIRLS' Premiere and 'Good Intentions'

Photo: HBO

Head over to to check my two latest pieces, "10 Things We Learned From GIRLS Season 3 Premiere," where we catch up with Hannah and the gang's latest self-involved exploits. There are links to both episodes as well. Also, check out "The Road To Hell Is Paved With Resolution," where I muse on why most New Year's resolutions are doomed to failure.An excerpt from the GIRLS piece:

2. Shoshanna has transformed into a powerful Miranda/Samantha hybrid.
At least that’s she’d like her friends to believe when detailing her plan to hit the books during the day and hit the sheets at night. It’s not the worst move in the world; judging from the substantial upgrade in her makeup/clothing choices—along with the man greeting her face-to-face in her bed bunk first thing in the morning—this is not the same girl who didn’t know what a butt plug was. Though the monstrously dense naïvete she displays in viewing Jessa’s whirlwind, self-destructive lifestyle as  glamorous, E! True Hollywood Story window dressing would make even Charlotte wanna smack some sense into her.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Katie Couric Responds To Transgender Question Controversy

During her "Follow Up Friday," segment Katie Couric responded to the controversy surrounding Orange Is The New Black's Laverne Cox and Rupaul Drag Race alum Carmen Carrera's appearance on Katie to talk about their accomplishments and issues related to the transgender community.

If you ain't up on thangs a quick summary: during the first segment with Carrera, Couric asked about her "private parts" in relation to her transition, to which Carrera balked and Cox responded that the focus on transgender people's bodies distracts from issues such as high unemployment, discrimination, and violence, that affect the community. Along with the flurry of op-eds and blog posts, other prominent transwomen like Janet Mock have weighed in on the controversy. Watch the original clip and Katie's response below.

Now I know this may not a popular opinion, but I really don't feel Katie's question was offensive. While I have much respect for Mock, Cox and Carrera, they weren't being harangued by some random idiots in the street. The question, clumsily as it may have been framed, was asked in the context of an interview about topics related to the transgender community.

While Cox is correct in that the conversation about transgender issues shouldn't stop or only be about the transition process, many people both in and outside of the LGBT community are genuinely ignorant about what it is like--many of whom likely make up the demographic of Katie and similar shows like The View and The Talk. She refers to sharing the "lived experiences" of transpeople. But wouldn't that also include your transition experience, something that others like Chaz Bono and Mock have publicly shared previously? As a gay man, I consider my coming out story/process as part of my lived experience, and would share it with those who were truly interested in learning.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying any of these women should suffer fools gladly. There are douchebags out there who are content in their bigotry and ignorance, and who don't deserve our time or energy. But too often it seems LGBT folks assume someone has always a hidden prejudice or slick comment to say whenever they ask a question about our sexuality or gender identity. And it's not a good look. When we treat everything like a stupid or offensive question, we stop the much-needed dialogue that needs to take place around these issues.

Just my two cents of course. Cox, Carrera, Mock and Couric are all intelligent, formidable women. However,the scorn being heaped on one of them is, in my opinion, undeserved.

What do you think?

Friday, January 10, 2014

B.Scott Responds To BET's Discriminatory E-Mails Being Exposed

Well well well, the tea is spilling out now isn't it? Read B. Scott's full statement about BET's awful internal e-mails about his appearance and the even weaker attempt to cover them up below.

"The leaked email exchange between BET/Viacom personnel is both shocking, and hurtful. While I’m disheartened by the blatant and intentional attempt to stifle my gender identity/expression way before the day of the event, I’m also thankful that the truth is starting to surface.

This email exchange not only corroborates everything I said to be true, but it shows that BET/Viacom tried to cover-up and spin that truth with lies.

The BET Awards 106th and Park Pre-Show was recorded in front of a live audience, media personnel, etc. — many of whom can attest to my prompt arrival and utmost professionalism.

It’s a shame that a company such as BET/Viacom would rather focus energy towards slandering my reputation in an attempt to further humiliate me instead of learning from their mistakes. The time & energy spent creating a ‘spin’ could have more effectively been used to help create a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ employees."

All I can say BET better get their coins together 'cause B. Scott's got good grounds for a lawsuit. Why hire him and expect to get some banjee boy with baggy pants and his hat to the back? Being feminine/androgynous is who B. Scott is and it's what he's built his brand on. What exactly did BET expect?

See the internal BET e-mails HERE.

'Grimm' Character About To Come Out Of The Closet?

If you love NBC's Grimm tonight's episode will give you have another reason. "Eyes of The Beholder" will give an allegorical, fairy-tale spin on the classic coming out story of many LGBT folks, as two of the main characters, Nick Burkhardt and Juliette Silverton help a friend come out as a wesen, a mythological being.

Of course, some commentators over at The Advocate have made the (IMO) good point that it be really great if the show featured a recurring LGBT character in its cast. What do you think? Watch the preview below.

Federal Government Will Recognize Utah Same-Sex Marriages

The federal government will recognize the marriages of 1, 360 gay couples in Utah who wed during the 17 days same-sex marriage was legal. The announcement was made by attorney general Eric Holder, who cited last June's ruling in U.S. vs Winsdor, which ruled gay and lesbian couples are entitled to legal protection and equal treatment.

"I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Holder said in a video posted to the Justice Department's website. "These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds."

Good news. Unfortunately it's still unclear how Utah views gay couples' marriages, even after a memo sent out today.

"Based on our analysis of Utah law, the marriages were recognized at the time the ceremony was completed," wrote Utah attorney general Sean Reyes, according to Equality on Trial. "While the validity of the marriages in question must ultimately be decided by the legal appeals process presently working its way through the courts, the act of completing and providing a marriage certificate for all couples whose marriage was performed prior to the morning of January 6, 2014, is administrative and consistent with Utah law. Therefore, it is recommended that county clerks provide marriage certificates to all persons whose marriages were solemnized during this period as an administrative function and not a legal function. This would allow, for instance, same-sex couples who solemnized their marriage prior to the stay to have proper documentation in states that recognize same-sex marriage."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

WATCH: House of Lies Season 3 Trailer

Marty Kahn and crew back to wheel, deal and destroy starting this Sunday. Check out a teaser below.

No Tea, No Shade And All That Gay Ish

In anticipation of HBO's new series Looking, which premieres January 19, comedian Eliot Glazer has gifted the uninitiated with a guide to modern gay slang. While it doesn't look the show's characters will be dropping "chile," "fierce" and "bitch pleases" left and right, it's always good to expand one's vocabulary. So gurl, into this clip hunty, and get your life.

New Mexico Governor Won't Push Anti-Marriage Equality Amendment

Take a lesson Utah. New Mexico's governor Susana Martinez says she won't push for a constitutional amendment to stop gay couples from marrying after her state's supreme court ruled in favor of marriage equality last month, reversing her earlier stance that it should be put on the ballot .

“I think what I said before was that yes, the people should have decided on it, but the Supreme Court has decided,” she said, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. “And it’s now the law of the land...the Supreme Court has spoken.”

Nevertheless, state senator Bill Sharer has proposed an amendment limiting marriage in the state to opposite-sex couples. But Martinez's reversal definitely tips the scales in our favor.

Ugandan Prime Minister: Gays Are 'Abnormal' Like 'Mongols'

Missing your periodic dosage of bigotry and/or misinformation from the motherland? This should tide you over for a minute.

When defending himself against the backlash over his parilament's passage of a bill that would impose a life sentence LGBT people, Uganda's prime minister claimed 'abnormal' people, such as LGBT people or those with Down Syndrome, shouldn't be persecuted. During a speech at Foreign Affairs Ministry, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi said those with "abnormalities" should not be the cause for abuse.

 "I think in our traditions, this is what I believe. Homosexuality is treated as an abnormality," said Mbabazi, according to U.K. LGBT site PinkNews. "Given that as a fact, how do we treat abnormalities in our society? Do you kill them? If you identify an abnormality and you say ‘let’s kill these abnormals,’ my conclusion is that you are the one that is abnormal. They need help. How do you treat your children who are born as, I don't know the word to use, mongols? Do you execute them, imprison them for life?"

Um, you like us? Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda but the pending law seeks to outlaw the "public promotion of homosexuality," including discussion by LGBT rights groups. The bill is currently awaiting a signature from the country's president Yoweri Museveni, whose spokesman said he won't rush to sign it into law.

Watch the video below.

Arizona Couples Sue For Marriage Equality

Four gay couples in Arizona have filed a lawsuit in federal court to strike down the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. A lawsuit filed Monday named Governor Jan Brewer, state attorney general Tom Horne and Maricopa County Superior Count clerk Michael Jeanes as defendants.

Two of the couples married in California, but Arizona's constitution prevents the state from recognizing their unions. The lawsuit contends the state's constitutional amendment violates the U.S. Constitution, citing the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. U.S., invalidating the portion of DOMA that kept the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

"We’re saying, ‘Look, follow that rationale and make the same declaration as to the law in Arizona,’” Shawn Aiken, one of the attorneys representing the couples, told The Arizona Republic. “It’s that simple." Simple indeed, especially when two of the couples are raising kids.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kevin Smith To Pit Mankind Against Giant Rapturing Jesus In 'Helena Handbag'

Looks like Silent Bob is not ready to go gently into that good night just yet. Despite his proclamations of retirement from movie-making, Kevin Smith, currently at work on a horror film Tusk, is planning another project, entitled Helena Handbag.

Helena Handbag (get it? Say it slowly lol)," written by Smith and partner-in-crime Scott Mosier, spins a tale of “mankind teaming up with Hell to save existence from extinction at the hands of a Rapturing giant Jesus.” Definitely sounds like this will be a religious comedy/satire in the vein of Smith's own Dogma or last year's Rapturepalooza. Hell and mankind joining forces to fight the Almighty? I'm in!

Before "Helena Handbag," which is a ways off, we can plan on Clerks III, which is slated to start production in May.

WATCH: Don Lemon On Why Coming Out Still Matters

I don't always see eye to eye with Don on things, but this was on point.

Happy 2014!

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