LGBTQIA+ History Coronavirus The World

50 years later, the legacy of Pride lives on

The New York City Pride parade has been cancelled for the first time since its origin 50 years ago. In-person events that were scheduled to take place June 14-28, 2020 are in the process of being reimagined virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pride is a staple in New York City, as it has been since the Stonewall Riots prompted a revolution in June of 1969. The fight for gay-rights as we know it was born and catalyzed here. America in the 1960’s, and in the decades that came before it, was not at all welcoming for those in LGBTQIA+ community. In New York, any inclination of sexual activity between people of the same sex in public was considered illegal. That is, hand holding, kissing, or even dancing. This antiquated and ridiculous law was not overturned until 1980 when the People v. Ronald Onofre case was decided. 

These times were also riddled with discrimination and a series of raids among other forms of abuse on prominent gay bars and clubs in Greenwich village. Such spaces were some of the only places where members of the community could seek refuge and were finally able to express themselves openly without worry. Nonetheless, police brutality on the basis of sexual orientation and just plain bigotry was awfully common during these raids.  

On the night of June 28, 1969 obvious tensions arose between the two groups, and the patrons bravely decided to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar that was one of the few of its kind that opened its doors to drag queens. Notably, the first bottle of the uprising, which lasted six whole days, was thrown by a Black transgender woman, Marsha P. Johnson. The protesters were met time and time again with tear-gas and physical altercations with the police, but they persisted. Those in the street are said to have been singing slogans similar to the ones that we hear today like “gay power” and “we shall overcome.” 

It would be an injustice to ignore the contributions of the Black community to this iconic moment that started a resistance.

This moment sparked the beginning of a modern resistance that is beautifully laced with love and versatility. 

It would be an injustice, however, to ignore the coincidences of this past that align with the current civil rights demonstrations happening across the world, declaring defiantly that Black lives matter. Both movements continue to feature a spotlight on recognizing basic human rights while also condemning police practices that terrorize the communities they are meant “to serve and protect.” So much of American history is patterned with this same struggle, consistency, and perseverance. Not to mention that it was, in fact, Black women who spearheaded this revolution 51 years ago, and 51 years later Black women are again at the forefront of a movement seeking to eradicate systemic inequality. We must not let this go unnoticed.

The year after what has come to be known as the Stonewall riots, June of 1970, marked the first ever Pride parade in New York City. Though it took a long time to come, the LGBTQIA+ community has certainly overcome much of the hate and marginalization that has been thrown its way. But, they’re still fighting. To this day, new non-discrimination protections are being fought for and passed all because of their constant effort and strength. 

Since then, New York City and its Pride parade has been a proven safe-haven for vulnerable and battered communities alike. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate themselves as phoenixes who have risen way above the ashes while also acknowledging the slashed history that they are eternally attached to. 

Just last year, New York City hosted world WorldPride and some 2 million people were in attendance. This in and of itself is a testament to the impact that the revolution has had, and continues to have, all over the world. Such ever-clear and unrelenting perseverance is nothing less of an inspiration. 

Today, as the coronavirus runs its raging course throughout the United States, New York City has been noticeably hit the hardest. With nearly 212,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 deaths thus far in the City alone, New Yorkers are being urged to remain full of the hope and drive that makes us so thick-skinned in the first place. But, this is not an easy feat, especially given the turmoil that seems to be slowly encapsulating every bit of our daily lives. Once again, we have set out in a movement that looks to challenge history and change it for good. For the LGBTQIA+ community, that anxiety is heightened tremendously. 

The absence of the iconic Pride parade will certainly have a dramatic financial impact on the people and businesses that have come to rely on it. Not to mention the mental toll that will surely come along without a break from mobilizing, resource, or strategy efforts concerning the ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, fight for equal rights. It is certainly an all-hands-on-deck sort of thing. This fight is fought every single day, with the smallest actions sometimes making the most noise, and none of it should go unnoticed. 

The contributions that the LGBTQIA+ community has made to both the City and to the greater struggle for equality are undeniable. So, the decision to cancel Pride this year was not easy. But, it was definitely necessary. However, just because the pandemic prevents us from physically coming together this year, it does not mean that the spirit of Pride in New York City won’t be felt just the same.

An online Global Pride will be broadcasted for 24-hours straight on June 27, starting in the east and moving west. Each local or participating pride chapter is hoped to have an allotment of 15-minutes of airtime each, depending on individual time zones, for performances and speeches by grand marshals. This is a community that has always come together in the face of adversity and this year is no different. My wish is for this to be yet another example of the LGBTQIA+ communities resilience that should be honored and remembered, especially in a context of human rights.


Colorism in South Africa tore away at my self-esteem

In 2019, Oscar-winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o, referred to colorism as the “daughter of racism”. With this simple but poignant statement, Nyong’o summarized an often overlooked form of discrimination: darker people in many racial and ethnic groups are seen as lesser than their lighter counterparts. Her particular use of the word ‘daughter’ could allude to the idea that women suffer from this discrimination more than men – a notion I agree with.

The closer you are to whiteness, the better.

The word ‘colorism’ was first publicly used by author and activist Alice Walker. She defined it as, “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.” Its roots are widely agreed upon: colonization and white supremacy. These led to the introduction and adoption of a Eurocentric beauty hegemony by communities of color; the closer you are to whiteness, whether it be having straighter hair, lighter eyes, or fairer skin, the better.

As a South African Indian who was raised in an Indian community, I have had my fair share of encounters with colorism. A country previously colonized by Europeans, South Africa has a long and sordid relationship with racism. Hence, other forms of bigotry were sidelined in popular discussion.  But being brought up in a same-race community, racism was never really the issue. Instead of judging me for my race, people took to judging me for my skin tone.

In my little brown bubble of Tongaat, a town that was built by the first Indian settlers who were brought to work in the sugarcane plantations, colorism was a subtle tool used to oppress the dark and glorify the fair. In my experience, the main perpetrators of this form of discrimination were older women or ‘Indian aunties’ as the stereotype calls for. I was constantly told (by women I barely knew) to use fairness creams or to avoid staying in the sun for too long. Ironically, many of these women were also considered dark-skinned women.

European “norms” have lingered in our societies and have taken away from various cultures’ own values of beauty for far too long.

The Association of Black Psychologists has labeled colorism as a form of internalized racism, the process whereby ethnic minorities absorb the racism of dominant ethnic groups to their own detriment. This phenomenon of internalization was clearly present here.  Reinforced over generations, it was now a part of the social lenses we viewed our world through.

What made it worse was having an older sister who was taller, thinner, and lighter than me – a direct (and personal) point of comparison. People in our age range were not largely complicit in such discrimination, but when they were, it was blatant. In high school, my sister and I had an unwanted joint nickname, “Top Deck”, referring to a Cadbury chocolate which had a bottom layer of milk chocolate and a top layer of white chocolate.

[Image description: Two girls, the one on the left with a darker skin tone than the one on the right, sit smiling together.]

Older people were more subtle in their deliveries. “You’re very beautiful,” my grandmother would say to my sister. “So slim and tall, and such fair skin. ..You’re pretty too!”, she’d say as I walked past. There was no escaping it – I was objectively shorter, fatter, and darker than my sister. It dawned on me that to many, I was automatically less attractive than my sister due to those factors. And because they thought it, they thought that I thought it too. But I didn’t…until then.

Colorism can largely be considered a feminist issue in the wider context of our patriarchal world. Women already have certain beauty standards forced upon them – shave your entire body but have voluminous hair on your head and wear makeup to “enhance your natural beauty” – but not too much or you are “falsely advertising”! Even my sister, praised for being tall, was often told not to get too tall “or else boys will feel intimidated and won’t marry you”.

Colorism is only one example from a very long list of criticisms allocated to the female body. Through arbitrary social constructs, women are conditioned to tie their self-worth to their level of attractiveness. What I saw occur in my town were efforts to become lighter (an attribute synonymous to being more sexually desirable) in the hopes of one day having a man choose you as a wife.

European “norms” have lingered in our societies and have taken away from various cultures’ own values of beauty for far too long. I have not been back to my home town for three years now. I can only hope that some progress has been made and that women are allowed to feel comfortable in their skin, no matter the shade.

LGBTQIA+ Gender Inequality

The hypocrisy of Muslim parents protesting LGBTQ education

Since January in the English city of Birmingham, some parents have been protesting and boycotting their children’s schools.

The conflict is over the award-winning LGBTQ acceptance lessons known as the ‘No Outsiders’ program. The parents, mostly from the Muslim community, argue that that the lessons are ‘not age-appropriate,’ with some even going further to say that the lessons encourage their children that being queer is okay and that it goes against their religious teachings.

‘No Outsiders’ was created in 2014 by Andrew Moffat, the then-assistant headteacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham at the center of the protests. He was awarded an MBE in 2017 by the Queen for his services to education and was shortlisted for the Varkey Foundation’s “best teacher” prize.

He states the program aims to teach children about the Equality Act and the characteristics protected under it – such as sexual orientation and religion. It helps children understand that there are different familial dynamics and also teaches them respect and tolerance of others in a world with hatred for ‘different.’

Moffat has said that feedback by parents has always been positive and the protests a small minority who are using the situation to push forward their homophobic beliefs.

These parents have taken to pulling their children out of the school, protesting outside the school and spewing death threats to the teachers and other parents who refuse to stand up for what they believe is ‘discrimination against their religion.’ Staff at the schools are distraught, and the fear that runs through the country’s LGBTQ community has increased too.

Many of these parents argue it is not a case of ‘homophobia’ but more of ‘age-inappropriate’ teaching of subjects that are sensitive and controversial and that they are better taught in the home to reflect their religious beliefs.

And to that, I say, poppycock!

Islam is a religion that is greatly misunderstood. Our community is adamant about telling the world that we are peaceful, tolerant, and accepting of all. We tell everyone that we are not here to change your way of life but to live freely with you for a better life for ourselves in cohesion with yours. We would never change your traditions, cultures or anything that is associated with you – we respect you, and we hope you can do the same for us.

But when you have narrow-minded parents like the ones boycotting and protesting lessons on LGBTQ tolerance, the eye rolls from the masses and ignorance starts to make sense.

How can Muslims be demanding respect and tolerance when they are not willing to do the same for others?

Teaching your children about equality for all, including different familial dynamics which could be two mothers, two fathers, etc, does not make your children queer. And even if they are, that is who they are, and if you were a decent parent, your child’s sexuality wouldn’t matter.

If these parents are boycotting the school and threatening staff because the lessons go against ‘Islamic principles’ then they are not actually practicing the Islamic teachings themselves.

Islam promotes equality, respect, and tolerance for all, regardless of orientation, race, or religion.

So the usage of so-called ‘Islamic teachings’ as a reason for bigotry is a) wrong and not even Islamic and b) plays into the hands of the bigots searching for any reason to condemn and criticize Islam further.

As the lessons begin in Reception classes (four and five years old), parents are arguing that the lessons are not ‘age appropriate,’ which is also ridiculous. If sexual relationships of any kind were deemed not ‘age-appropriate’ for four- and five-year-old children, adults should not be asking children, if their friends of the opposite sex are their ‘boyfriends’ or ‘girlfriends,’ regardless of whether it is in a teasing manner.

If children can understand heterosexual relationships such as ‘mummy and daddy love each other,’ then why are they too young to understand queer relationships? Relationships are relationships – regardless of gender.

Using a child’s age to protest against these lessons is masking the homophobia clearly at play.

Muslims and the LGBTQ community are no different from each other in one critical way: we are both enemies in the eyes of bigots and criticized for our ways of life.

So why are the Muslims joining the same bigots who wouldn’t think twice to verbally and physically abuse us, too?

Children are the most loving, understanding and accepting humans on the planet. The innocence of children is not threatened by learning about the LGBTQ community – a community still considered criminal in many parts of the world.

What will destroy that innocence is teaching young children to hate.

Hatred grows as time goes by and when things go wrong, fingers will be pointed at the same parents who will argue that they had nothing to do with it. Families socialize children from a very young age – if you are teaching your children to hate others, you cannot be surprised if they react with that hatred in the future.

Maybe it will do some good for the parents themselves to attend these classes.

Race Policy Inequality

When will politicians and influencers finally start calling anti-Muslim bigotry by its name: Islamophobia?

Last week’s terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, have left 50 Muslims dead and a further 34 injured. On social media, public figures – among them politicians, activists, artists and journalists – have offered their condolences to the people of New Zealand, along with their thoughts and prayers.

Two things are different about the online responses to this attack, however. One is that the number of people speaking out about hate crimes against Muslims is disproportionately lower than the numbers that speak out in response to any other display of violence and hatred. This is unsurprising – Islam and anything to do with it has become so deeply politicized that any declaration of solidarity with or sympathy for the Muslim community is perceived as some sort of radical political statement.

To say that Muslims shouldn’t be murdered for their faith is, judging by the few who are saying it, a controversial move in a way that saying it of any other religious group would not be.

The second difference in the social media response to the massacre is that well-meaning as they may be, public figures simply refuse to call it like it is.

There are a lot of mentions of ‘condemning hatred’, of ‘fighting all forms of bigotry’ – vague terms, and, in this case, empty ones. In not mentioning by name the Islamophobia that fuelled the attack and the Muslims that paid for it with their lives, these statements render us invisible. They group the fifty Muslims killed in worship with the victims of countless other attacks, all of whom are denied the right to their individual identities and the acknowledgment of the specific breed of hatred and bigotry that killed them.

Activist Shaun King, in a tweet, described this as “basically ‘All Lives Mattering’ the issue of Islamophobia.” When the motive behind an attack is so blatantly obvious and its victims so deliberately chosen, it is not enough to attribute it to simply ‘hatred’ or ‘bigotry’.

The Christchurch attack was inspired and fuelled by a widespread Islamophobic ideology perpetuated by mainstream media rhetoric, political figures, and social media. It was carried out with the intention of hurting the Muslim community specifically, in their place of worship, on the holiest day of the week.

There is profound power in language.

Vagueness, euphemisms, ambiguity – these are all detractors. They hide the real issues and protect perpetrators. They are of no substantial value, and all they do is prolong the pursuit of justice and accountability.

In not verbalizing the root cause of an attack, in being vague about what fuelled and continues to fuel this hatred, you are doing Muslim communities everywhere a grave disservice. It is not enough to condemn ‘hatred in all its forms’ or to ‘send love to those affected’. The hatred is in the form of Islamophobia, so mention that. The victims are Muslims, mention that too.

There is no ambiguity here, no gray area. In not naming us, in refusing to acknowledge the ideology that is killing us, you are failing us.

Tech Now + Beyond

Online therapy is revolutionizing mental health care for marginalized people

When we talk about technology, the internet, and mental health, we often discuss the down-sides. Cyberbullying, for one, is an example of how the internet can be a site of trauma and abuse.

However, the internet has also brought us something good, online therapy – something which has made mental healthcare way more accessible for many people.

Let’s face an unfortunate fact: mental healthcare isn’t always accessible to everyone. Healthcare can be expensive, and those of us who don’t have health insurance or access to money to pay for it can be put off by the high costs of therapy. In certain countries, you might be able to get mental healthcare for free – but this could mean jumping through a lot of administrative hoops.

Like many other queer people, I’ve struggled to find therapists that are tolerant, open-minded, and accepting. My first counselor, who I saw when I was thirteen, made homophobic remarks when I told her I thought I was bisexual. As you can imagine, this was super traumatizing: someone I trusted believed a core part of me was deviant and immoral. Instead of helping me process the bigotry and oppression I faced, she perpetuated it. It made me ashamed of my orientation, and it also made me afraid of therapy.

Many marginalized people, including queer and trans people, struggle to find therapists that don’t discriminate against them. Psychiatry has a history of pathologizing queer and trans people, which means that we are poorly catered for by many mental healthcare professionals. This is particularly concerning because queer and trans people are more likely to suffer from psychological distress, mental illnesses, and suicidal thoughts than the rest of the population. Queer and trans people of color might particularly struggle to find therapists with the additon of racism to look out for.

When the world meets your identity with intolerance, it’s hard to cope. The discrimination marginalized people face is traumatizing. Therapy is meant to help you process the hurt that comes with trauma but for us, it’s virtually inaccessible.  

This is one of the instances where online therapy can be helpful. Online therapy websites like BetterHelp and Talkspace can connect people with counselors all over the world, which means that users get to choose between therapists. On these sites, you get matched with a therapist based on your specific needs – and if that therapist isn’t great, it’s really easy to switch to another one. For marginalized people, online therapy isn’t simply convenient. It’s a lifeline.

Depending on where you’re located, your health insurance, and other factors, online therapy might also be cheaper. I estimate that BetterHelp’s cheapest package would cost 50% of what I’d pay for non-online counseling. It could also be difficult to access traditional, face-to-face therapy if you don’t have a car, for example. This wouldn’t be an issue if you were speaking to a counselor online. This means that more working-class or poor people can access therapy.

While I’m not currently using an online therapy portal, technology is also a huge part of my mental healthcare. My current therapist lives halfway across the country. If it weren’t for Skype, I wouldn’t be able to speak to her. The town I live in is really small, and many of the therapists here are out of my budget. Skype means that I have more options to choose from in terms of the therapists I see.

There are also informal forms of therapy that exist, thanks to the internet. Online support groups and forums are incredibly helpful to those who have struggled with trauma, mental health issues, grief, and other difficulties. These forums have helped me process my experiences, and while they don’t replace therapy, they certainly complement it. Talking about our experiences and exchanging stories is healing. Not only does it help us feel less alone, we also exchange tips, ideas for self-care, and healthy coping mechanisms.

Of course, the existence of the internet doesn’t mean therapy is fully accessible to everyone. After all, many people don’t have access to a quality internet connection, which means that online therapy and support groups aren’t accessible to everyone. Other people might also struggle to communicate with people when they’re not face-to-face – for them, online therapy isn’t preferable. There are some limits to the abilities of online therapists, too. For example, online therapists usually can’t provide you with a diagnosis or prescribe you medicine. 

But one thing’s for sure: technology helps a lot of people gain access to therapy and that’s something worth celebrating.

Love Life Stories

How Bob Ross helped me mourn the death of my grandfather

Mourning doesn’t only involve missing those who have passed on – it also involves a lot of introspection and thinking about the meaning of life. At least, it did for me.

When I lost my grandfather earlier this year, I was prepared for his death. I knew he was going to die – but I never could wrap my head around the fact that all the love that flowed through him was gone. It wasn’t just tragic. It was confusing.

I was his only grandchild, and I lived with him and my grandmother while my mom worked. My earliest memories are of him teaching me about the world, reading to me, or taking me on adventures.

My grandfather was born in South Africa in 1934. He wasn’t like many people his age. Despite his age, and despite the fact that he was indoctrinated into accepting apartheid, he was surprisingly receptive to learning about concepts like white privilege, oppression, and feminism. When I called him out on having harmful views, he listened to me, apologized and made an effort to adjust his thinking.

Engaging with older people on political matters can be tough. It can be incredibly frustrating when your own relatives hold bigoted opinions. It was in these conversations that I realized how different I was: few of my friends had grandfathers – or indeed, parents – who’d engage with their ideas instead of condescending to them.

[bctt tweet=”Mourning doesn’t only involve missing those who have passed on – it also involves a lot of introspection and thinking about the meaning of life.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Men are often socialized to be stoic, cold, and violent. In feminism, we often talk about ‘toxic masculinity’ – that is, harmful norms about masculinity that hurt men and everyone around them. In many families, toxic masculinity means that men feel compelled to condescend to the children and women around them.

Luckily for me, my grandfather didn’t buy into those ideas. Instead, he was gentle, nurturing, kind, and sensitive. He encouraged me to think for myself, and respected my ideas and beliefs. One seldom sees examples of men being unashamed of their genuinely nurturing and compassionate nature.

I struggled to process that such a remarkable, loving person was only a temporary inhabitant of the world. Did his life now mean nothing?

In the few days after my grandfather died, everything felt sunless: there was no warmth or light anywhere. My brain was buzzing with questions about the meaning of life. All I wanted to do is lie in bed, eat, and watch YouTube videos.

I watched a lot of Bob Ross videos during that period of mourning. Bob Ross is a painter who famously hosted a show called ‘The Joy of Painting’ in the 80s and 90s. In the show, he’d teach viewers to paint landscapes. Since his voice is so soothing, the show is relaxing – like an ASMR video.

Bob Ross wasn’t just a good art teacher: in his show, he has the sort of aura that makes me think children loved him. He seemed calm, content, and warm. He encouraged everyone to paint, believing we all have inherent artistic talent. He rescued small animals and nursed them to health, often showing them off on his show. He was well-known for his sweet catchphrases, where he spoke about painting ‘happy little trees’ to house small wildlife, often saying that ‘We don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.’

Something that struck me about Bob Ross was how similar he was to my grandfather. Having never met Bob Ross, I can’t speak about his personality, but it was hard to watch his videos without remembering my grandfather’s kind and warm nature. Coincidentally, both my grandfather and Bob Ross were examples of what men could be if they shook off toxic masculinity and embraced their innate compassion.

Bob Ross passed away many years ago, but he keeps on giving to the world through his videos. They teach people not simply to paint but to practice kindness – kindness to nature, kindness to those around them, and kindness with themselves. It goes to show that the things that survive for generations are not just toxic ideas and inhumane systems of repression: kindness has a legacy too.

People pass on, and somehow, the personality that inhabits their body disappears into thin air.

Except it doesn’t. Whether we plan on it or not, we teach people through our words and actions – and that impact remains after we die. My grandfather has passed on, but that doesn’t mean his life counted for nothing. It was surely not meaningless, because he brought meaning to those around him.

Famous or not, we leave a legacy by affecting each person we meet. We have to decide whether that legacy is one of kindness or not. Mourning has not taught me the meaning of life, but it has reminded me of the importance of choosing compassion in an unkind world.

Tech Now + Beyond

As a kid figuring out my identity, playing The Sims gave me a world free to be myself in

As a confused, queer kid, I found solace in an unlikely place: The Sims. I don’t think any other game – or any form of media – was as comforting to me as what The Sims was.

I spent a great deal of my weekends in my brother-in-law’s shed-turned-office in our backyard, creating families, downloading mods, and building dream houses. My cousin and I even took videos of our Sims and edited them together on Windows Movie Maker to create a soapie called ‘Days of our Sims’. It was equal parts cringey and damn awesome.

The bottom line is that I loved The Sims. It was a huge part of my childhood. It helped me imagine myself as an adult, one with a happy career and a beautiful house. More importantly, it helped me imagine a world where I was allowed to be queer.

Sims were never coded to have an orientation, which meant they could be romantically and sexually attracted to anyone in their age group. In simple terms, all Sims were potentially bisexual. For someone who grew up thinking that heterosexuality was the only option, this detail blew my mind.

When I got into The Sims 2, I was around 11 years old. I kind of knew what it meant to be gay. I was already exploring the idea that I might be queer. I was in primary school, and while I could imagine a life with a husband, I could also imagine a life with a wife. I didn’t know what bisexuality was until much later, and even then, I struggled to imagine myself being bisexual.

Remember, this was 2005. This was an era before Pretty Little Liars, Glee, and even Skins. I was too young to watch The L Word, and queer celebrities seemed to be pathologized by the tabloid magazines I read. There were no blueprints for me, no celebrities or characters that helped me imagine what my life could be like as a bisexual person. I felt like my feelings were invalid. I felt alone.

The Sims was one of the only forms of bisexual representation that was available to me.

Many people used The Sims to act out fantasies. They could be rich, have a dream career, own a house, have children, and get married. For me, The Sims allowed me to act out the fantasy of being bisexual. 

In my universe in The Sims 2, things were wild. Mary-Sue Pleasant, a pre-made Sim, left her cheating husband for Cassandra Goth, her childhood best friend. They had a happy life together in a beautiful home with Mary-Sue’s teenage daughters. Both of those teenage daughters grew up to date both male and females Sims. I created many simulated versions of myself, some of which dated men, some of which dated women, some of which dated both. I nearly always had children, and I nearly always pursued a creative career path. It was pure bliss.

What’s more? Nobody in The Sims cared if one woman dated another. In this fantasy world, where I could escape and create a life that was anything I wanted it to be, I could also be free. Discrimination wasn’t something that existed in this universe.

I’m not saying that games should never touch on real-world issues like heterosexism, racism, or sexism. However, I learnt something by creating a life in a world where oppression didn’t exist. It made me realize that the world we live in – that is, an oppressive one – didn’t have to be this way.

The Sims is moving with the times. In an update in The Sims 4, gender becomes more customizable. One can effectively change their Sim’s from one gender to the next, basically making the Sim transgender. You get to choose a Sim’s physique, voice, fashion preferences, based on your own ideas and not the gender binary.

It’s so queer- and trans-friendly, it was given an ‘adults only’ rating in Russia. For kids who are gender non-conforming, trans and/or non-binary, this sort of representation can be amazing. It’s still not perfect in terms of representation, but it’s certainly way better than many other games.

The greater lesson here is that representation matters. Games influence us, and as a queer kid, it meant the world to me to have some kind of representation in the games I played. The Sims showed me what the world could be like if we rejected heteronormativity and oppression.

Sims are simple, and humans are unfortunately less so. We can’t type ‘motherlode’ into a cheat box when we’re broke, and we can’t put our arch-nemesis in a ladder-less pool to make them disappear. We certainly have inherent biases, conscious and unconscious, which means that discrimination and oppression exist. 

But we can learn from The Sims.

I have hope that my generation, who grew up with The Sims and other queer-friendly media, will create a world where things are a little easier for queer people.

Politics The World

Trump just proved just how dedicated he is to white supremacy, and it’s disturbing

President Trump was the first sitting president to address the 2017 Values Voter Summit, a conservative political conference held annually in Washington, D.C. The Values Voter Summit is a space for conservative and white nationalists to rail against LGBTQ+ equality, abortion and women’s rights, and Islam.

It’s a gathering also dedicated to the promotion of church over state, reiterating the false claim that the “war on Christianity” is somehow damaging America.

The conference is hosted by the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled as a hate group in 2010. The Family Research Council promotes “family values,” and opposes LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, and comprehensive same-sex education. The group champions abstinence-only sex education, prayer in public schools, and a federal conscience clause which allows medical workers to deny some treatments (such as abortion or blood transfusions) base.

Additionally, Josh Duggar, part of the infamous Duggar clan and the sexual predator who molested several of his sisters, is the former executive director of FRC Action, the legislative branch of the Family Research Council.

It’s easy to see how Trump’s validation of and involvement with this conference is a train wreck.

In what resembles a madman’s incoherent gibberish, Trump addressed the crowd dozens of problematic and tyrannical-like statements. He insisted that “in America, we don’t worship the government, we worship God.” Several times, he promised that under his administration, religious liberty would not be threatened and condemned the attacks on “Judeo-Christian values.” He lauded his decision to reinstate the global gag rule.

He assured the crowd that “Merry Christmas” is a phrase that will be freely used instead of more inclusive statements, such as “Happy Holidays,” because, you know, the war on Christians.

He announced his decision to make Sept. 3, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer; but we all know that this is really a day of prayer specifically created for white evangelical Christians, not Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, or any other followers of different faiths. His National Day of Prayer is also detrimental because it is a way for him – and his administration – to duck any real financial responsibility and avoid doing the difficult labor of rebuilding communities devastated by the recent hurricanes. Trump’s promises and remarks at the Values Voter Summit reek of converging church and state, and indeed, positing the church and its followers over the government.

This is a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, and excludes and discriminates against anyone who isn’t white and Christian.


He’s concerned with “Christian values” being attacked, but what about the burning and vandalism of mosques in the United States?

He’s worried about the celebration of Christmas, but what about the multiple religious holidays practiced by people around the world of different faiths that fall in December and January?

If you want more proof that he was using his position at the Summit to pander to his white, so-called Christian base, consider the fact that he called Iran a “terrorist nation” and alleged that Pakistan has been “taking advantage of the U.S. for years.”

Additionally, he riled up the crowd by reaffirming that the American flag deserves respect, an obvious dig at all the African-American athletes who have recently been taking a knee during the national anthem to protest inequality and police brutality.

Trump’s remarks were disturbing, but not completely surprising, given he was attending a conference created for people who condone and encourage transphobia, homophobia and Islamophobia.

Once again, President Trump made it clear in no uncertain terms what direction he plans on taking this country in, and who he views as worthy of his time, praise, and support.

He is dedicated to his bigoted, cult-like white Christian following and refuses to address the concerns of immigrants, African-Americans, gays, lesbians, transgender individuals, people of color, women, or any oppressed group.

The promises he made at the Values Voter Summit are so terrifying because they are soaked in white supremacy and white nationalism. They narrow the gap between church and state and actively trample on the freedoms of others.

Politics The World

How do we determine when we’ve done “enough” for Puerto Rico?

On Oct. 12, 2017, President Trump announced via Twitter that “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” This comes as a disturbing revelation seeing as 90 percent of the island is without power and medicine, clean drinking water, and fuel is running low. In so many ways, Trump has already failed Puerto Rico: he sluggishly responded to the needs of the island immediately after Hurricane Maria, publicly bashed San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz repeatedly, joked about the natural disaster and subsequent relief efforts throwing the budget out of whack, claimed Puerto Rico was receiving more federal help than it actually was, and pathetically threw out paper towels to a crowd of people last week when he finally visited the island.

Trump also displayed gross victim blaming, claiming that Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and infrastructure were a “disaster before hurricanes,” and insisted that “a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.”

This level of contempt and disregard President Trump is expressing is nauseating, but unsurprising since he’s made it clear, time and time again, how little he cares about anyone who isn’t perceived as white and American, even though Puerto Ricans are United States citizens. His abandonment of Puerto Rico simply reflects his racism and hatred toward people of color. He’s not only an inept president, but one who unabashedly continues to promote bigotry and intolerance. Puerto Ricans don’t look like Trump’s Nazis, so he isn’t worried about their well-being.

If Trump does indeed want to make this an issue of finances and available funds, it is easy to pick apart this bogus concern because Trump can’t even afford to pay his secret service agents, some reports claim. He’s supposedly spent over $6.6 million in security costs traveling to and from Mar-a-Lago. How is it that Trump has (or at least had) money to fund his endless golf excursions, but is now frantically trying to pull precious resources out of Puerto Rico, when the damage has barely been assuaged to begin with? Back in Sept. 2017, the Senate passed a bill that allowed $700 billion to be allocated to the military, in the form of the National Defense Authorization Act. U.S. military spending is more than the next nine countries combined, but Trump believes that sending necessary, life-saving support to those in Puerto Rico is extreme.

Additionally, Trump hasn’t made a fuss over ending rebuilding projects in Florida and in Texas; probably because he sees those living in these states as “true Americans” (but probably not if they are black, brown, immigrants, or undocumented). He has been stubborn from the start about giving any sort of relief to Puerto Rico and now it seems he can’t wait to leave the territory in despair while simultaneously blaming the country for its own financial troubles. He is attempting to deflect any blame or negativity from himself and project an image that Puerto Rico was woefully unprepared and had conditions that made the island susceptible to a damaged economy and infrastructure – all while ignoring the fact that a hurricane just decimated the island.

Trump has been roundly criticized for his handling of the crisis in Puerto Rico. He made a colossal fool of himself when he claimed that it was difficult to get supplies to Puerto Rico because of the “ocean” that had to be traversed. He is stooping to disgusting levels of blame and oblivion to avoid doing his job. Puerto Rico is nowhere near recovery; the death count has risen to 45 and more than 100 people are still unaccounted for.

President Trump, much like his awful supporters, does not care about Puerto Rico because he doesn’t view them as Americans; most of the people who voted for him probably don’t even know that Puerto Ricans hold U.S. citizenship. He is setting a precedent of casting aside those that white America sees as “other” or foreign. His attacks on immigrants, Muslims, and Hispanics and Latino/as are solid proof that if you are not a white Christian on the U.S. mainland, Trump doesn’t have time for you. If you speak a language other than English, you are unworthy of recognition, government aid, and compassion.

Puerto Rico is in a state of desperate crisis, with seemingly few options being offered by the Trump administration. Now, Trump is threatening to take those small amounts of help away from those who have literally less than nothing.

BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture Gaming

“Dirty Chinese Restaurant” is a racist’s dream come true – but Apple hasn’t done anything

Dirty Chinese Restaurant, a racist smartphone game created by Big-O-Tree Games, is making waves on social media for its blatant bigotry and disrespect toward Chinese and Asian Americans.

The game features Wong Fu as the main character, who inherits a Chinese restaurant from his brother.

The video game is rife with disgusting stereotypes and offensive language and exists solely to make fun of Chinese culture and cuisine.

For example, the game allows the player to hunt cats and dogs with a butcher knife in the restaurant’s alley with the understanding that these animals will be served as food.

In another racist instance, players can select the speed at which the workers perform as “sweatshop.” And, of course, the name alone, Dirty Chinese Restaurant reinforces the (false) stereotype that Chinese restaurants are filthy and that Chinese food is dirty and not fit for consumption.

Although millions of Americans enjoy Chinese food, Chinese cuisine is generally seen as “less than” and rarely viewed as a delicacy, the way some Italian or Japanese dishes are, for instance.

These ideas about Chinese dishes arose out of racism and xenophobia: Chinese immigrants were paid abysmally low wages in America in the 19th century and felt the effects of discrimination, such as scapegoating, from white Americans.  Then, in the early 20th century, Chinese Americans started opening up restaurants to earn better lives.  The very reason why Chinese restaurants even exist is because of the rampant hatred against Chinese people.

An effective way to discredit an ethnic group’s culture and background?

Demonize their food and spread the notion that it is unsanitary.  This has the dual result of presenting that culture as “other” and untrustworthy while damaging business and livelihood. Both Dirty Chinese Restaurant and its creator, Big-O-Tree Games, reflect not only hatred but an unabashed enjoyment of celebrating racism.  On Big-O-Tree’s (bigotry, anyone?) website, the creators market their game by proudly asserting that “being politically correct is so…boring.” The site describes Dirty Chinese Restaurant as an “unorthodox” game while claiming their goal is to make games that are “shockingly humorous and full of satire inspired by the mad world we live in.”

Excuse me, what?

Racism is not satire.

It’s only humorous to bigoted and hateful individuals who think that someone else’s culture and lifestyle exist for the sole purpose of derision.

The game itself is wholly disturbing.  Using the word “oriental” and depicting restaurant workers in bamboo hats degrades the concept of the Chinese restaurant to an otherworldly, parody-like space.  In this way, the Chinese restaurant is not seen as a legitimate establishment, but as a commodity defined by others (read: white supremacists) for the purpose of profit and entertainment.

However, the insidious language on Big-O-Tree’s website is as alarming as the game itself.  The company attempts to normalize racism by painting it as something humorous and socially acceptable.

The attitude of the company is, “Sure, we know Dirty Chinese Restaurant is racist as fuck, but we are totally going to spin it as satire and harmless fun.”

They are proud of the fact that they aren’t politically correct.  It’s right there on the homepage.

This rhetoric has been present in America since it was founded, but after President Trump moved into the White House, we’ve seen a violent resurgence of this type of language and intolerance.  There has been a clear backlash against political correctness, with the far-right claiming that their divisive hate speech is simply “free speech.”

We have seen, time and time again, a blatant disregard for and contempt of immigrants, people of color, and anyone who does not look white and “traditionally” American.

Dirty Chinese Restaurant and its founders continue to add to this pushback against diversity and inclusiveness by twisting racism and hatefulness into an opportunity to give the middle finger to communities who are seen as “other,” different, or unwanted in America, all while selling it as harmless fun.

The good news is that Apple and Google are not likely to allow the game on their respective app stores, due to various anti-discrimination policies.  The bad news, of course, is that this game exists in the first place.

There are undoubtedly people who would purchase it in a heartbeat.

The Tempest Radio Mixes Audio + Visual

#ShePersists: The Fighting Ignorance Mix

It’s 2017 and the world is definitely changing, seemingly for the worse.

Thankfully, though, there are some pretty amazing people who are kicking butt every single day- by fighting ignorance and injustice with grace and poise. This playlist is for all you women; when you’re taking down the patriarchy with a simple walk to your desk. Or when you’re tearing down walls of ignorance, as if they were built by a 5 year old’s LEGO-loving hands, and not thousands of years of pent-up prejudice. You are part of a legacy of world-changing women. Here’s a mixtape you can listen to while you flip peoples’ worlds upside down. You’ve got this.

1) Run The World (Girls) || Beyoncé

It’s hard not to feel Beyonce’s “Run The World (Girls)” song coursing through your body as you march and persist with your fellow sisters (and brothers) around the world. And if anyone tells you that you can’t do something because you’re a girl, play this song and remind them how powerful you are!

2) History Has Its Eyes On You || Christopher Jackson


Hear that America? It’s not just the world that’s waiting for you to pick yourself up and fight back against the ignorance you seem to be showing lately; history has its eyes on you. Will you move back in time to darker days or race to a brighter future?


3) My Shot || Lin-Manuel Miranda

The time to fight is now when the world seems to be crumbling a little more every day, so don’t throw away your shot at making a difference. Listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda pump you up for what’s about to go down!


4) Castle || Halsey


If you’ve ever wondered what song would be playing in the background as you take down the patriarchy, then look no further! “Castle” is the song you want as you stand up to all the people *cough old, straight white men cough* that try to tear you down.

5) Warrior || Ke$ha

Critic of Music
Critic of Music

“Warrior” is the song you want to play when you’re about to kick the doors down with your squad right behind you. Be unafraid to lace up your boots, grab your girls (and guys) and march down the streets crashing down ignorance and hate with the swipe of your foot!

6) Raise Hell || Dorothy

Wonderland Magazine
Wonderland Magazine

There are a couple things that a girl always needs with her at all times: a phone and its charger, maybe some makeup and an insanely hellish song to listen to as you stride into a place, about to tear it up. “Raise Hell” is that awesomely insane song you need in your life as you flip people’s worlds upside down.

7) That’s My Girl || Fifth Harmony

Shine On Media
Shine On Media

This is the song to listen to when it all gets too much and it feels like it’s easier to just stay down. Just pick yourself up with your head held high and your fists at the ready <3

8) Never Give Up || Sia

Sometimes the fight gets a little too much and you wonder if what you’re doing is even worth it. Sia and I are here to tell you that every little thing you do adds up to a huge movement so play “Never Give Up” and keep on going; you’ve got this!


9) Superwoman || Alicia Keys

Let Alicia Key’s raw voice wash over you as you fight both the big and small injustices life throws at you. Don’t forget, no matter what, you are a Superwoman and you can get through anything!


10) Fight Song || Rachel Platten

LA Weekly
LA Weekly

Okay, we all knew this song was going to be in here, I mean it literally has the words “fight” in it! It’s also in here because “Fight Song” is a really good song to play in the faces of the people you have taken down after they’ve told you that you couldn’t do it.


Because we love you, we compiled all your new favorite songs in one playlist. Enjoy!

[cue id=”45141″]

Politics The World

7 powerful acts of self-care that are absolutely acts of resistance

The world is really overwhelming right now. There’s a lot of awful stuff happening as a result of President Cheeto and his fascist regime. During these times, it’s really important to take care of yourself. Self-care manifests in a lot of different ways.

Sometimes, it’s about taking a step back and taking a break from all of the insanity. Other times, self-care means taking uncomfortable actions that set boundaries. Setting these boundaries is an act of resistance against the oppressive regimes that are surrounding us right now.

Here are some ways that self-care can intersect with resistance:

1. Taking some time to decide what it is you believe in and how hard you’re willing to fight

Woman Thinking

Everything is really confusing right now. There is so much happening so quickly that it’s hard to know what you think about each issue. It’s hard to identify where to put your time and energy. It’s hard to decide what you’re willing to fight for and how hard you’re willing to fight.

But you need to decide now if you’re going to help the resistance. Taking the time to figure out which issues are most important to you will allow you to focus your efforts, which will help prevent you from spinning in despair and from burning out trying to do everything.

2. Empowering yourself through education

Reading the newspaper

Once you’ve decided which issues you want to focus on, take the time to educate yourself. Without taking the time to educate yourself, you won’t be able to make informed decisions about your resistance and you won’t have the knowledge required to confront bigotry and oppression when you encounter them. Many people are feeling to overwhelmed to take action right now, but education is just as important as action.

If you are new to these issues, you can read books, look at articles on the Internet, watch documentaries on YouTube and Netflix, listen to podcasts. There are so many ways to absorb information that will arm you for the resistance. Empowering yourself through education gives you the tools to protect yourself while confronting the awful world outside your walls.

3. Making it publicly known what you stand for and what you believe in

Woman being interviewed about her identities

It’s time to take sides. I hate to have to say that, but it’s true. The country is crumbling, with us inside it, and it’s time to let people know where you stand. This is scary because it almost always comes with some sort of backlash, be it in person or on social media.

But making it clear to everyone you know what you believe will let them know what you find acceptable and unacceptable, which sets you up to set boundaries that will allow you to take care of yourself.

4. Confronting people who say unacceptable things

Black woman holding up a sign that says

When you hear someone say something racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or otherwise problematic things, it’s much easier to roll your eyes and dismiss them. If staying safe means not saying anything, then stay quiet.

Your safety always comes first. But if you’re in a relatively safe situation, say with friends or family, calmly confront the person about their comment. Point out why their comment is problematic and then try to educate them.

Realistically, you probably won’t change their mind, but speaking up is an act of self-care. You are publicly setting a boundary about what is and is not acceptable in your presence, and if that boundary is respected it means that you will be in safer spaces in the future.

5. Knowing when to cut a toxic person out of your life

Unfriend button from Facebook

This is one of the hardest forms of self care there is, especially in times like these when people’s true colors begin to show. Someone you have known and loved for years may feel empowered to say things now they never did before. You may find that someone you love is not who you thought they were. If you have confronted someone about their problematic views, beliefs, or comments, and tried to educate them, but they continue to be problematic, it may be time to cut ties.

This is painful and sad every time it has to happen, but cutting out bigoted people is the ultimate form of self care. It shows that you love yourself enough not to be poisoned.

6. Using your voice to speak out against oppression

Black woman writing and reading from a notebook

I have found incredible comfort in being a writer. I am gifted at both of these things. When I feel like I’m going to explode from all the negativity inside, I sit down in front of my laptop or with a notebook and pen, and I write. I let words flow over the page until I feel like all the feeling has come out. When I’m done, I feel amazingly cleansed.

Since I have been published, I have also found that my words have a power to reach people and connect them. You don’t have to be a professional writer, or even a very good one for your words to reach and connect people, you just have to be honest. Start a blog or write Facebook posts, whatever medium work for you. Get the negativity out and share it with others so the resistance can spread.

7. Knowing when you need to rest – and doing just that

Hispanic woman telling herself to breathe

Standing up to oppression is an exhausting, daily battle. You will be overwhelmed, you will be upset, you will be angry, and you will be oh, so tired. Activism burnout is really high. People throw themselves in to the work hard and fast, get too overwhelmed and just as quickly back away. Most people never come back and then resistance starts to fade because there are not enough people to sustain it.

If you don’t take care of yourself then you can’t be any help to the resistance. Instead of throwing yourself in to activism hard and fast, pace yourself. Take on commitments in a way that allows you to take days off for yourself. Don’t over-commit yourself.

Know when to reduce the number of commitments you’ve taken on, but make sure to keep the commitments you can. You are valuable to the resistance as a person, not a cog in a machine. Bring your whole, healthy, committed self, not a burnt-out shell.

The activist icon Audre Lorde called self care an “act of political warfare.” Self care is essential to being a member of the resistance. Doing the hard work of protecting yourself by setting boundaries and standing up for what you believe in is the act of political warfare that Audre Lorde talked about. Take care of yourself and join the resistance.