LGBTQIA+ History Gender Inequality

The history of non-binary genders is longer than you know

When Joan of Arc dressed for church, they wore men’s clothing.

When they took the sacraments, they had their hair short and wore pants.

When they fought for their God, they wore armor.

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it. The newness of a label is often used to allude to the idea that it is an invention – something that is not true, but rather made up. This is the criticism that many people are applying to non-binary genders.

However, something that has been around since the 15th century cannot be rejected by society’s supposed perception of its “newness.”

As people assigned female or male at birth celebrate their androgyny, the patriarchy is fighting back, declaring gender identity a new construct that is fabricated by those who strive for a difference. It’s important to acknowledge that the newness of the term “non-binary” is not an indictment on its existence, but rather a celebration of its acknowledgment. 

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it.

History is no stranger to the tales of people who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) who dress in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

For many people, the Disney adaptation of the myth of Hua Mulan might be the first time they consider nonbinary identities. While the term “non-binary” is never used in the family-friendly flick, in the title song, “Reflection,” Mulan proclaims, “I will never pass for a perfect bride or a perfect daughter…That if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart.”

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A 20-year-old movie certainly doesn’t indicate the newness of betraying gender roles, nor does the 1700-year-old source material.

Even earlier, in 1400 B.C.E., Hatshepsut ruled as Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. Often regarded as one of the few female pharaohs to take the throne, the statues that survive her celebrate the strength of her rule.

She is depicted in a few different ways, from a woman wearing men’s clothing to a feminine face upon a man’s body. Hatshepsut defied the strict gender roles of ancient Egypt, and the statues that still stand are evidence of their defiance.

These examples are anecdotal, and often follow a common theme, of a person assigned female at birth (AFAB) defying the gender roles assigned to their sex to achieve something greater. However, even these examples hardly hold a candle to the rich history outlining people of a third gender.

History is no stranger to tales of people who are assigned female at birth dressing in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

This third gender, sometimes defined as neither a man nor a woman, is present in several ancient cultures, including Mesopotamia, the progenitor of written history.

During that time, people of the third gender, or Hijra, were in service to the gods they celebrated. In various cultures throughout history, from Hijra priests to eunuchs and virgins in the temple of Artemis, holiness has transcended gender.

It’s easy for detractors to rebut this by pretending that nothing of the sort took place in our current understanding of Western society. The notion of a third gender or “Mahu” is part of Polynesian culture. It can mean a gender between male and female, or gender fluid. In Hawaii and Tahiti, the Mahu people were highly respected in the indigenous culture as keepers of oral traditions and historical knowledge.

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Mahu people exist not only in the past but are an important part of queer culture in Hawaii today. 

The Navajo are a Native American people of the Southwestern United States. The Navajo people have a gender category called Nadleeh, which can refer to transgender people who have transitioned in one direction along the gender binary (having been assigned male at birth, and now identifying as female, or assigned female at birth and now identifying as male), gender-fluid people, and, of course, those whose gender presentation falls “outside” of the gender identity norms imposed by society at a large. The Nadleehi have a spiritual function and are inherently respected as tribal members within the Navajo culture. 

This stark difference in acceptance and perception was noted by Anglo-Saxon American anthropologists as early as the 1920s. In fact, Author William Willard Hill was surprised that Navajo society considered a transgender person “very fortunate,” unlike his understanding of Western culture, for which gender fluidity caused anxiety in mainstream society.

Gender has been used as an oppressive instrument for centuries.

It’s been used to highlight the difference between people, rather than highlight the inherent strength in us all. Strength of character is not something that is defined by maleness or femaleness. Strength is an attribute of the human condition to thrive when tested and fight for what we believe in.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself.

That human condition is what drives people to discover what gender means to them. They are able to transcend the baggage of strict gender roles to achieve greatness.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself, which leads one to question why people are so threatened by the nonbinary identification overall.

Why is it that the rich history of gender fluidity needs to be constantly torn down by censors and patriarchs of today’s “binary” culture, and rejected because of its newly-found public acceptance?

Perhaps, Joan of Arc and Hatshepsut knew something that everyone else did not.

Perhaps it’s important for us all to remember the wisdom they passed on through their life stories:

That to transcend gender is to harness the power of the gods themselves.


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TV Shows Pop Culture

Season two of ‘Love, Victor’ is a handbook on how to show up for people

As much as most of us want to be good allies, it’s easy to get caught up in the label. Sometimes we add a rainbow flag or a raised fist emoji to our social media bios and call it a day. But labeling ourselves as an ally isn’t the same as being an ally.

There’s a lot of work involved, most of which comes down to showing up — politically, economically, and socially — for the communities we’re trying to support. If you’re still iffy on how to make the jump from calling yourself an ally to being one, the second season of Love, Victor provides an excellent handbook on how to show up for the people in your life.

Love, Victor takes place in the same universe as the Love, Simon film adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. In the first season of the show, Victor comes to terms with his sexuality with Simon’s help — amongst other shenanigans and drama. The start of the second season picks up at the cliffhanger, with Victor coming out to his family. Their responses set the tone for the season and made it clear that the writers aren’t steering clear of hard topics like religious acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community.

This makes the second season of Love, Victor very painful. I spent the majority of every episode sobbing and occasionally laughing through my tears. When I say the second season is traumatic, especially for those of us raised in religious households, I don’t use that word lightly. I honestly wasn’t sure if the second season would end happily.

Thankfully it did … kind of.  Though the journey to get to the happy ending was hard to watch at times, the second season of Love, Victor was authentic in its depiction of the messiness of human relationships, familial, romantic, and platonic.

After Victor comes out to his family, we see three very different responses from his sister, mom, and dad. Pilar, his sister, instantly hugs him and confirms she loves him. Armando, his dad, is visibly confused and asks questions. Isabel, his mom, flees the scene and puts off talking to Victor. Each of these reactions foreshadows the characters’ relationship with Victor for the rest of the season.

Pilar is one of the best examples of allyship on the show. Despite her rough exterior, she intrinsically knows how to be a good friend to those around her. Like any good ally, Pilar isn’t interested in solving others’ problems for them. She’s there to listen, empathize, and even open up her wallet if needed. These actions can sometimes be the hardest parts of allyship to grasp, specifically because we don’t always consider them to be active actions.

How Pilar shows up as a friend contrasts with Lake’s take on friendship — and remember being a good friend is often similar to being a good ally. Rather than ask Felix how she can support him during a manic episode, Lake takes on Felix’s problems as her own and steps in with a solution she thinks is best: enlisting her mom to help. But this isn’t what Felix wanted.

Throughout the season, we watch the communication between Felix and Lake break down because of this misstep. Many of us as allies have good intentions, and yet we make mistakes because the actions we take aren’t always the most helpful.

Pilar, on the other hand, knows sometimes the best thing you can do is just be there for others. She knows that fighting other people’s battles for them isn’t the way to go and does what she can to make herself available to her friends and family. Pilar is the blueprint, and we should all take notes.

However, allyship isn’t always a seamless transition, and that’s okay so long as we make an effort to learn and grow. Armando admits he doesn’t understand Victor’s sexuality, but he doesn’t let this stop him from learning how to support Victor. Armando’s arc throughout the second season shifts from, “I don’t understand but I’m trying, and I love you” to, “my understanding isn’t the point, and I will always be here for you because your sexuality doesn’t change our relationship.”

Most importantly, Armando puts in the work. He starts with Google, and then eventually attends a support group for parents with children in the LGBTQIA+ community. His ally journey isn’t without a few bumps in the road, which I think is relatable.

Despite being outside of his comfort zone, Armando knows giving up isn’t an option. His storyline is another good one to take notes from, especially because Armando encourages those around him, namely Isabel, to embark on the same journey without pressuring, rushing, or villainizing them.

Isabel’s arc is the root of this season’s pain. As someone who grew up in and has since parted ways with the church for the very reasons depicted in Love, Victor, I have to admit I was hoping we could skirt the issue entirely in favor of showing how religion doesn’t exclude the LGBTQIA+ community. However, this isn’t always the case in most churches, so Love, Victor does take a more honest approach.

Isabel clearly loves Victor, but his sexuality contradicts the religious beliefs she was taught from such a young age. We see her battling with what she knows to be true and what the church has told her to be “true.”

Ignorance can be unlearned, and season two shows how confusing, emotional, and harrowing that process is for everyone involved. Isabel’s ultimate acceptance of Victor showcases how religion can (and should) accept and love the LGBTQIA+ community.

Notably, Isabel doesn’t renounce her religious beliefs at the end of the season. Instead, she tells off the bigoted priest for preaching hate. While Isabel does not set a good example for allyship this season, her storyline is important, especially for any LGBTQIA+ people and allies with religious affiliations. And here’s to hoping we get to see her show up as an ally in season three!

While we’re on the topic of religion, I would have liked to see more of Rahim’s coming out experience this season. Rahim also lives in a religious household, but unlike Victor, his family accepted his sexuality instantly.

Seeing that scene play out on-screen would show that religion doesn’t always mean homophobia — which is something we had to wait until the end of the season to see made clear with Victor and Isabel’s storyline.

Beyond Victor’s family, almost all of the characters offer up case studies on how to be good friends (and allies) to the people they care about. Felix is always there for Victor. Andrew is always there for Mia — Andrew also had his own ally journey once he realized he had to be vocal about supporting Victor. Lake and Mia are always there for each other.

Rahim and Victor are there for each other. Benji and Victor were there for each other — until the second half of the season, but that’s a different topic entirely. No matter their sexuality or gender, the Love, Victor characters support each other because that’s what it means to be a good friend. This is what allyship is as well. In fact, allyship is kind of just another word for being a good friend to everyone.

Season two of Love, Victor was a reminder that we’re not always going to be the perfect ally, just like we’re not always going to be the perfect friend. Life is messy and so are our familial, romantic, and platonic relationships.

If one thing is for certain it’s that giving up is not an option, especially if we’re insistent on trying to be good friends and allies. And just like the title sequence says, we all need someone to tell us it will be alright — so why not be that person for the people in our life? Or, as I like to call it, being the Pilar.

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Sexuality Dedicated Feature Love + Sex Love

Even experimenting with my sexuality seems like a step too far

My whole life, not being straight wasn’t an option I allowed for myself. I knew it was just so much easier to what was expected by my family, friends, and society. A remnant of my upbringing, sexuality in general carried a lot of stigma and pressure. But now that I am on the cusp of adulthood, I wonder how different everything could have played out if I allowed myself to explore. 

I can’t even recall the first time a girl had caught my attention, that’s how far back it was. I must have immediately justified it as liking her hair, or the way that she dressed. Perhaps, I reasoned that I just wanted to look like her, and maybe I did. But then, as I went through my teenage phase, I would often fantasize about girls. I didn’t develop any crushes on anyone I knew, but I wondered what it would be like. 

Scrolling through Tumblr, a haven for young people questioning their sexuality, I found myself wandering over to those pages with the artsy nudes. Appreciating them just for their artistic merit, of course, I would say to myself. But afterward, I would feel such shame that my chest grew tight. What was I doing? Who was I? I never brought it up to anyone else, but I remember being on the verge of tears as I reasoned to myself that all girls were like this. I was just young and curious. From then on, my sexuality became a tough cycle of self-denial and censorship. 

But it didn’t always feel that way to me. Even after I started questioning my sexuality, I was still okay with moving on as I always had, being straight. I normalized it to such an extent that for a while, I stopped questioning it. I pursued relationships with guys and it felt normal, if still controversial to the conservative community around me. When I got older and went on an exchange program for a year, I did the same. On the dating apps, I didn’t hesitate to click ‘men’ as my preference. During my last week there, I swapped phones with a friend to swipe through a dating app for fun. On her screen, a woman’s profile popped up. I knew that she was bisexual, but for a second, it felt like the world was playing tricks on me personally. “She’s cute,” my friend said, peering over. She was.

I felt regret. It was my last few days away from home, so I felt that I had missed my chance to try going on a date with a girl. Although even the thought made me feel nervous, I still regretted never trying and now the door to experimenting with any of that seemed firmly shut. I already planned in my mind how I wasn’t going to tell any of my friends, how I could downplay it if they found out. It was crazy, that I was already prepared to keep it a secret. It struck me that day that I was afraid of experimenting because what if I really was bisexual? Just placing that term anywhere next to me felt earth-shattering.

Perhaps it was fear, or just a desire to avoid conflict. I had always been a non-confrontational person and would rather choose to avoid tension even if I have to give some of myself up. Already in a precarious relationship with my cultural identity and family because of my so-called liberal ideas and forward-thinking when it came to feminism and gender, I didn’t want to seem even ‘stranger’ in their eyes. I didn’t want to be rejected. Every move I made caused ripples, even that year away from home was a scandal. If I dared to experiment, who knew what would happen? It seemed like whether or not I was bisexual, just experimenting had the potential to complicate my life. 

I was afraid of that uncertainty. So I never put myself out there. The fact is that I might have tried it out and found that I actually wasn’t romantically or sexually attracted to women. I could find out that I was. If I had known then that sexuality could be fluid, that it could change over time even without the pressure of labels, would experimenting have been any easier of a choice to make? 

But I still wonder, what if? I think I’ll always wonder about that. I also think about other things I am afraid of exploring because of culture, family, friends, and other external factors. Hopefully, as more awareness is brought to experimenting and sexuality, things will change for the better, and more people will feel comfortable exploring important parts of themselves. As for me, I’m not sure where my life will take me. I wouldn’t rule out anything in my future. This is only the first step, confronting my internal ideas of ‘normalcy’, and I suppose it’s okay to not know if and what comes next.

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Music Pop Culture Interviews

Billy Blond’s new EP ‘Glow Up’ is a therapy of the heart

Broke: Growing up

Woke: Glowing Up 

Growing up isn’t always fun nor comfortable, but thankfully we’ve got music to get us through it.

Billy Blond’s new EP Glow Up is what you need right now. Born and raised in the UK, Billy Blond has been writing music for a while. If you’re picturing an American poster boy gone wrong? You’re on the right track to Billy’s aesthetic. 

I’ve had the pleasure to interview him recently. Music helped me save myself,” he told me. Billy is a spiritual man, he believes words are spells and melody is magic. “A song is pretty fucking powerful you’ve got be careful what you say,” he continues, “thoughts are very powerful, then to speak and chant it is powerful.” 

For Billy, putting the rights words and desires to the Universe matters. Glow Up is about that: trusting the Universe and healing from heartbreak. This is how he approaches music: with respect and honesty for a craft that has the power to change the world. 

Inspired by Gospel singers, and with an idealist look on the industry, Billy thought everything would be fine once he got a publishing deal but, like many of us, he realized that your first job isn’t what it seems. “It was too early days, I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ and I didn’t know how to put my boundaries up.” Job descriptions versus reality can sometimes be worlds apart. 

Heavily directed, Billy started taking on everyone else’s opinion about him, so much so that he lost his own perspective on his music. “I thought music wasn’t for me and that I was never going to be making it again.” So he did what he had to do: disappear from the industry, retire and take care of himself. Initially scared to put himself out there again, Billy told me “now it’s my second time around and I have learned from my mistakes, I know how to look after myself, I know about self-care.”

Self-care is today inherent to his music. Describing it as positive and inspirational, he wants to help others pick themselves up: “I want to make music which brings light to people.” Inspired by his everyday life Billy translates his emotions into music to inspire others. Musically, Amy Winehouse is his biggest inspiration. With a similar upbringing as well as attending the same music school, she has a massive influence on his work. 

Billy Blond
Billy Blond

The dark and at times uncomfortable aesthetics of Glow Up is somewhat reminiscent of the works of David Lynch. The song was inspired by American Honey, a coming-of-age movie about a teenager running away from a troubled home. Glow Up tells a similar tale, acknowledging Billy’s sexuality and the fact that ‘life gets you down but love brings you round again’. Love is at the heart of Billy’s music. One of his biggest dreams is to open a trashy drive-thru wedding venue on the British seaside. 

Billy confessed that “if I like someone, he will mean the world to me and nothing else matters and I would do anything for that person I am so over the top.” His song Without Warning narrates the story of sudden love. It’s a catchy melancholic melody that Billy says was inspired by his lover at the time. He confides that this man continued to inspire him for other songs, even after their breakup. Following from Without Warning, a new track called You Killed Me First is in the works and set to be released next year. 

Billy’s approach to music is very visual, which he says is funny’ because he is losing his eyesight. Diagnosed with a hereditary degenerative eye condition, Billy struggles with night-time vision but this doesn’t prevent him from creating a strong visual aesthetic. He knows a song is complete when he can see the full visual experience, and when all the senses connect.

As for new music, Billy has got an entire movie playing in his head already. Now in control of his own destiny with the freedom to write and express himself, his focus is to get a team together and to keep writing.

Editor's Picks LGBTQIA+ Music Pop Culture

We have to stop making straight celebrities our gay icons

Every year I attend Pride, a place for so many of us to feel safe and loved and free to be whoever we want to be. It is a time for celebration, for joy and love. It is a time to cheer at how far we’ve come, and often to protest what is still denied to us.

Music plays a big part in Pride, and I am still appalled at the kind of music that I hear every time.

I can only speak for the parades that I have attended of course, but I am sad and angry that I rarely or never hear a song by an artist that is actually LGBTQ+.

Why are we so quick at clapping at straight allies who do the bare minimum?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying, “Pride is a gays-only party!” That’s not at all what I’m saying. The point of my indignation is that while we’re out there celebrating ourselves, we may as well be dancing and singing along to artists who put themselves out there and write about the same struggles.

A poster encouraging to vote for Ariana Grande as the best straight ally
[Image description: A poster encouraging to vote for Ariana Grande for Celebrity Straight Ally] Via British LGBT Awards
There is this tendency to hail some straight artists as gay icons, probably because they’re campy. Salon Magazine’s explanation for this phenomenon was that “Drag queens imitate women like Judy Garland, Dolly Parton, and Cher because they overcame insult and hardship on their path to success and because their narratives mirror the pain that many gay men suffer on their way out of the closet.”

According to this logic, any artist with a sad story can be a gay icon.

The only queer singer that I’ve heard at a Pride recently is Lady Gaga, but the DJ wasn’t even aware that she identifies as bisexual. He admitted he just thought of her as a gay icon, “like Madonna and Beyoncè and Barbra Streisand.”

This was said to me by a gay man who works in an organization for the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights.

Similarly, the internet hails Ariana Grande as the gay icon of her generation. I love Ari, and I adore her voice, but she’s been known to purposely perform ambiguity (also when it comes to race and ethnicity) to create mystery and speculate on her identity. Essentially, she likes to queerbait (BUWYGIB music video, anyone?).

If we’re choosing contemporary straight allies to represent us, I’d rather hear from somebody like Alessia Cara, who doesn’t speculate on her sexuality, but sings of naturally being one’s true self while often wearing what traditionally is considered male clothing because she’s never cared for the norm.

According to this logic, any artist with a sad story can be a gay icon.

Again, everyone is welcome and free to march to whatever songs they wish to at Pride. It would just be nice if it was a celebration of the people who are actually providing some representation. I would love to hear some Janelle Monàe, Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan, and Halsey, especially their songs narrating the struggles and joys of being queer.

And there are hundreds, thousands of lesser-known queer artists who are not mainstream and deserve to be heard. What better place than Pride to introduce them to a wide audience? What better place to promote unknown gay talent?

This is not a rant as much as it is a suggestion and plea from somebody who is sick and tired of still hearing Katy Perry’s incredibly biphobic “I Kissed A Girl” at Pride in 2019.

We can do better.

In more recent years, there have been so many other mainstream songs where a female singer will talk about having “illicit” feelings for another girl that are not “bisexual anthems” but only harmful to the community. (A couple of names that come to mind are Rita Ora and Demi Lovato.)

Taylor Swift’s new single “You Need To Calm Down” clearly wishes to be the gay anthem of the year, and you can tell that her heart is in it. The video truly is a triumph of self-expression that celebrates everyone’s individuality in different shapes and colors.

With a petition to support the Equality Act and an Instagram feed full of rainbows everywhere, Taylor is gracefully presenting herself as a saving hero to the LGBTQ+ community this year. She’s probably ensuring she’ll win the Vanguard Award 2020, which is a prize GLAAD presents to a cis straight member of the entertainment community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for LGBTQ+ people.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful to all these famous people for supporting the LGBTQ+ community. I appreciate that they go out of their way to call out homophobes and to support their queer colleagues and fans.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying, “Pride is a gays-only party!”

Regardless of whether it’s just a pandering marketing move to gain access to the gay community and widen their fanbase, I’m sure their words and gestures mean so much to so many people, and I see with my own eyes that they do influence many for the better and accelerate acceptance.

They’re not the problem. They’re doing their duty as decent human beings.

It’s just that, I would like for a gay icon to actually… you know, be gay.

Why are we so quick at clapping at straight allies who do the bare minimum but we’re so slow at accepting fellow queers and promoting them for their talent? The older generation might not have had (openly) queer artists to turn to, but we do.

It is time we started to lift them up.

Nails Hair Fashion Beauty Lookbook

At Brazil’s 2019 Carnaval, sequins and golden showers stole the show

The newly appointed Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, is not a fan of Carnaval. Nevermind that it is the most noteworthy and lucrative celebration in Brazil, Bolsonaro is upset about sexual acts he can’t even name. “What is a golden shower?”, he tweeted after posting a viral video of someone peeing on another person’s head. Brazilians all over the country dressed up in fabulous outfits to give him a visual answer to his question.

These “golden shower” Carnaval costumes are both glorious and poignant, mainly because they draw attention to how seriously out of touch Bolsonaro is. As the leader of a country with the 6th most Twitter accounts and the 3rd most Instagram users, he should know to avoid public humiliation by just asking Google. But I guess that’s what we get with baby boomers on social media. The good news is these partygoers looked fierce in their satirical ensembles. And yes, that’s a literal shower head.

In addition to these more politically inclined outfits, we saw sequins, glitter, and more glitter! We love these over-the-top, shiny looks because they are bold and celebratory. And Carnaval is a time to celebrate. Period. People celebrate sexuality, music, politics, fashion, and so much more. Regardless of orientation, race or creed, the hundred of blocos (block parties or parades) that take place during this holiday are for relaxing, dancing and enjoying the days off.

Celebration can be just as important as other types of activism. When our bodies and rights are constantly under scrutiny, joy can be read as a sign of defiance. Outfits that call attention to a ridiculous president are powerful and important—after all, fashion is political. It’s equally imperative that we claim these joyful moments as completely our own. We need to believe that we deserve to feel joy. We need unapologetic glitter and bodysuits and dancing in the rain just as much as we need protests and hashtags. The magic of Carnaval is that it blurs the lines between fun and politics. 

All that being said, here are our favorite trends from this year’s Carnaval.

Popping rainbow colors


One word: glitter.


Flower power

Curve-hugging bodysuits

Facial beads (and glitter)–BRgCtX/


These lunar-inspired looks

And, of course, the golden shower

The Tempest Radio Music Pop Culture

5 pop artists from Europe that are changing the game

Pop music is infectious. Don’t get bogged down by anyone who says it’s too generic for their taste. The sounds are constantly evolving, though most pop songs these days still manage to have those catchy choruses you seem to hum at random moments (looking at you, K-Pop!) Right now, I’m enjoying the added twists that European artists are adding to the mainstream. If you’re feeling bored with the American pop scene or just need some fresh sounds to your playlist, here’s five artists from across the pond you absolutely need to know better.

1. Charli XCX

Charlie XCX
[Image description: a gif of Charlie XCX wearing a pink jumper]
Charli is sort of a big name already – remember that big hit a few years ago with Icona Pop called “I Love It” or her feature on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy?” Or how she recruited pieces of Hollywood’s eye candies for her “Boys” music video last summer? Charli has established herself as a major songwriter and collaborator since her early hazy electropop days, and now she seems to drop the best pop bangers whenever she feels like it. She’s all about starting the party and having a good time.

Check out: Focus, Roll With Me, Femmebot (ft. Dorian Electra and Mykki Blanco)


It’s pronounced exactly how you see it and is a play on his surname, Emenike. Along with his chart-topping duet with Zara Larsson, “Never Forget You,” MNEK has written for some of the most buzzed about names in pop including Dua Lipa, Kylie Minogue and the queen herself, Beyoncé! His debut solo album just dropped full of infectious dancehall R&B that includes his own writing and production credits. Try not to pull a muscle dancing from song after song!

Check out: Colour (ft. Hailee Steinfeld), Tongue, Paradise

3. Christine and the Queens

Christine and the Queens
[Image description: a gif of Christine and the Queens] Via Apple Music.
French performer Héloïse Letissier sings and dances under the name Christine and the Queens. Along with her personal dance crew, you’ll find Letissier grooving to the style of theatrical inspired visuals in their performances. In 2016, she had the biggest selling debut album in the United Kingdom. With her recent release, Chris, she embraces an edgy alter ego under the same name. Her catalog of music holds a range of funky pop songs about gender roles and embracing sexuality.

Check out: Girlfriend (ft. Dâm-Funk), iT, Half Ladies


Scotland-born but Los Angeles-based producer Sophie has crafted experimental pop collaborations with Charli XCX, Vince Staples and Madonna. Her small presence on social media and rare interviews may seem mysterious, but she doesn’t consider herself to be anonymous. In an interview with Teen Vogue, she stated she’s always been honest in the work she puts out. That honesty shone through last October in her video for “It’s Okay To Cry” when for the first time, she performed her own vocals and showed her face on-camera. For many viewers, it also helped us realize Sophie’s identity as a transgender pop star.

Check out: Ponyboy, LEMONADE, VYZEE

5. Raye

If you’re a fan of the hot house-pop and Afrobeats sound today, you’ll love Raye. Atop these sizzling beats lie her air light vocals crooning lyrics that have been described as confident yet vulnerable. Raye’s success has shown through in reaching No. 3 in the U.K. charts last year and features on two Top 20 charting songs in 2016. Plus, she’s collaborated with Charli XCX twice, so that should give you an idea of how fun her music is!

Check out: Decline (ft. Mr. Eazi), Friends, Crew (ft. Kojo Funds and RAY BLK)

Uncategorized Life

My tattoos are a reminder that my body is my own

I got my first tattoo when I was 25 years old, but I had been more or less obsessed with the idea of getting one since I was in middle school. So what held me back for the seven years between when I could legally let someone inject ink into my skin to permanently mark my flesh and when I actually did it?

There are two answers. One was other people’s opinions, and the other was discomfort in my body.

My mother is in many ways a liberal woman, but on the subject of tattoos, her views are old-fashioned: basically, she views them as something sailors and members of biker gangs get. While I was in awe of the artistry of some of the tattoos I saw, I knew that it was something she wouldn’t understand. And even though I disagreed with her, my mom was one of the smartest people I knew, someone I looked up to and respected, and someone whose opinion mattered to me, even when we disagreed.

Then, too, there were the questions people always seem to ask about tattoos: how will you get a job with that? What will it look like when you’re older?

I worried about prospective employers judging me for my tattoos, even though I also knew logically that I could get them in places that I could cover up easily. And as I struggled to be comfortable with my own body, its shape, and the space it took up, I easily bought into the logic that any artwork drawn on my skin would warp into something ugly over time.

After college, I dated a girl with tattoos. I loved them, loved tracing my fingers or my lips over the swirling ink. But even she made me doubt myself when I talked about getting one, saying things like how she worried I would regret it later, basically implying I wasn’t decisive enough to know what I would want on my body. And maybe while I was with her I wasn’t.

But in the second year of my Master’s program, something finally clicked. I thought about the fact that we get to choose so little about what our bodies look like. So much is determined for us through genetics. And I thought about how we can’t control how other people will perceive our bodies.

I, and most people who are socialized as female, have wasted untold time and energy on others’ perceptions and have dealt with untold numbers of men who felt entitled to my body in some way. I have dealt with everything from strange men telling me to smile to them grabbing me to them following me down the street, making extremely detailed sexual threats.

I was tired of it, of moving through the world feeling like my body wasn’t entirely my own. And I was ready to decorate it in the way that felt good to me.

A good friend recommended a local artist to me. By then, I was dating a different partner, one who was as excited for my first tattoo as I was, and was also itching to get a new one for themself. We booked consults one right after the other, so we could go together.

Our artist was warm and welcoming to a first-time tattoo customer, and obsessive about making every tiny tweak to the design she drew to make sure it matched perfectly with my vision. A week later, I was lying facedown on a padded table, listening to the buzzing hum of the needle as hot, sharp pain bit into the back of my shoulder, eating the closest thing to eternity one can achieve onto the canvas of this corporeal form I inhabit.

It hurt, and for a minute when the pain was the worst I wondered why on earth I, or any person in their right mind, would do this to themselves.

Then I looked at my tattoo, and all I wanted was to dive back under the needle again. Because it’s mine, a design dreamed in my mind and brought to fruition on my skin, and it is a proclamation of my ownership of this body. No matter how I am feeling on any given day, seeing it boosts my mood, as does the second tattoo I got a little over a year later. And not a day goes by that I’m not thinking of the next one I want.

Gender & Identity Life

Portland’s drag scene taught me how to see myself

“Can I get an amen?”

The crowd whooped and cheered. They got even louder when the MC called out, “Can I get an a-women?” And then, “Can I get an a-them?” More raucous cheering. The rational part of my brain knew that the “men” in “amen” wasn’t a gendered term. The two words don’t share an etymological root. But something warm and hopeful fluttered in my chest when the MC said “a-them.” Something that felt like recognition.

It was the summer of 2017, and I was on a packed dance floor at a club with H.P. Lovecraft-themed gothic decor, complete with a tentacled papier-mache Cthulhu erupting from one wall, waiting to watch a drag show. (Welcome to Portland nightlife. It’s amazing.) The MC was wearing a dress and heels, their cheekbones glistening with glitter above a full beard.

When the show started, it was like no other drag performance I’ve ever seen before. Performers in flawless makeup wore leotards without tucking or padding their chests or hips. They danced with an athletic grace that frankly boggled my mind. Most drag I had seen before in the cities I’ve lived in on the East Coast fell into one of two categories. Either queens went for full emulation of women, trying to appear as authentically female as possible, or they played up the masculine elements of their appearance for laughs.

These performers were different. Their clothes, makeup, and hair were feminine, yes, but an edgy, fierce femininity. And their flat chests and scruff and other more masculine attributes were presented as equally beautiful, compatible with femininity.

Drag always rebels against gender essentialism. That’s the very nature of the art. But these drag performers were playing with gender in a way that I had never seen. And in a way that made me feel seen. I recognized something I had been longing for in some inarticulate way when I watched their joyous, defiant blend of gender performances and presentations.

I had always felt a vague sense of unease describing myself as cisgender, a term that refers to someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. I downplayed my own discomfort though, because I assumed that it was rooted in an ingrained transphobia that I should be working to eradicate from my mind. I thought that I didn’t like calling myself cisgender because, as some cisgender people do, a part of me thought I was just “normal” and didn’t need the descriptor.

Yet there were signs that this was not the case. As I had grown more comfortable with my queer sexuality, I had started cutting my hair shorter and dressing in more conventionally masculine ways, both common among some queer women who do nonetheless still identify as women. I knew I didn’t think of myself as a man. But I loved the times when I encountered people who seemed to struggle to identify my gender, the times when the barista or the restaurant host or the person on the bus oscillated uncertainly between “sir” and “ma’am.” It filled me with a strange elation to be seen as existing somewhere between the two most commonly recognized genders. My experience as a person who was socialized as female felt important, and the identity of woman still does resonate with me. But it feels incomplete, and generating confusion in the people who tried to gender me felt like some sort of triumph.

I knew in the abstract that nonbinary identities existed before I witnessed Portland’s drag scene. But until I was immersed in the queer community in this very queer city, I somehow always felt that my gender identity somehow wasn’t queer enough to count. I had to see the riotous celebration of existence beyond the binary that is present here to start learning to truly see myself.

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.

USA LGBTQIA+ Gender Policy Inequality

Never forget that the first-ever Pride was a riot against police brutality

Pride Month is a time of celebration for the queer community.

While the joy of Pride might still be struggling to gain a foothold in some places, in most major cities across the United States this month will be marked with parades and parties. Brands are rolling out rainbow-stamped merchandise and sponsoring parade floats. But Pride isn’t just a time of revelry; it’s also a time of remembrance.

We celebrate Pride in the month of June because it marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

In 1969, queer life was decidedly not something that could be celebrated by mainstream culture. Police regularly raided gay nightclubs, arresting people who were wearing clothing that didn’t conform to their assigned gender or were suspected of “soliciting” same-sex relations. Up until 1966, the New York State Liquor Authority would shut down or otherwise punish bars that sold alcohol to members of the LGBTQ+ community, arguing that a group of queer people was somehow inherently more disorderly than a group of straight people.

In 1969, homosexual acts–kissing, holding hands, dancing together–were still illegal in New York. So on the night of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar that is still open in Greenwich Village. 

In 1969, queer life was decidedly not something celebrated by mainstream culture.

Stonewall was one of the few bars that welcomed drag queens, who were often shunned from other LGBT spaces.

The police started arresting bar patrons and employees who were violating the law about gender-appropriate clothing. When an officer clubbed a Black lesbian named Stormé DeLarverie over the head for complaining that her handcuffs were too tight, the crowd that had gathered outside the club had enough.

Marsha P. Johnson, a Black drag queen, and Sylvia Rivera, a Latinx queen, were two of the first to actively resist the police that night, throwing bricks, bottles, and shot glasses at officers. Their actions sparked six days of riots in the neighborhood surrounding the Stonewall Inn and galvanized the nascent gay rights movement in the United States.

Johnson and Rivera later started Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR,) an organization dedicated to serving young, homeless drag queens and trans women of color. Sadly, today queer people of color and especially trans and gender nonconforming people of color continue to be the most vulnerable members of the queer community, despite the fact that we have Johnson and Rivera to thank for so much of our achievements since 1969.

Transgender people of color face the highest rates of violent crime.

Today, 60% of the victims of anti-LGBTQ violence and anti-HIV
crimes are people of color, despite the fact that people of color make up only 38% of the U.S. population. Likewise, while only about 3.5% of the U.S. population is composed of undocumented immigrants, they made up 17% of the victims in this study. It’s hard to get definite numbers on hate crimes, so there is certainly a margin for error in these numbers, but the trends here are clear and disturbing. 

Despite the rising acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in many parts of the country, rates of homicide against our community are also rising. And as you may have guessed by now, those rates are especially high for trans and queer people of color. Transgender people of color face the highest rates of violent crime of all queer people. The majority of victims of anti-LGBTQ violence said that police were “hostile” or “indifferent” when they reported the crimes.

As a result, many choose not to report, so the numbers are likely worse than we know.

While we have achieved marriage equality, other legal battles still remain. So far, only two states–California and Illinois– have banned the use of the “gay panic defense” in court. Essentially, the gay panic defense is used when someone has committed violence against a queer person because that queer person’s alleged sexual advances made the perpetrator so scared they lashed out.

While we have achieved marriage equality, other legal battles still remain.

Some people argue that the defense is uncommon and unlikely to succeed, so banning it is unnecessary, but one study found that it has been used in about half of U.S. states, with a mixed record of success–a man in Texas was acquitted of murder based on his lawyer’s successful use of the gay panic defense. More importantly, though, advocates for the ban argue that it is important not to allow queer identity to ever be sufficient cause for violence.

That seems especially important amid the increasing rates of homicide against queer and trans people.

In 28 states, it is still legal to fire someone based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Since there are no federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, there are limited ways for people in those states to fight back.

Likewise, 28 states have no protections for the queer community against housing discrimination. Three of those states (North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas) have even passed state laws that block local governments from enacting housing protections for LGBTQ+ people. About 50% of queer Americans live in states that lack these kinds of protections.

And despite our gains in recent years, the rollout of “religious exemption” bills in states controlled by Republican lawmakers threaten our access to all kinds of services and rights, from adopting kids to receiving medical care.

I love celebrating Pride. As an introvert, it can feel like I save up all my energy for socializing to expend it this month at parades, demonstrations, drag shows, and dance parties. But now is a time to not only remember, but also revive Pride’s revolutionary roots.

Our rights and our very lives are still under attack, and the most vulnerable members of our community need not only solidarity but action.

Gender & Identity Love Wellness

This is the true cost of acting like nonbinary people are invisible

June in the U.S. is a time for celebrating LGBT Pride, and for reflecting on the challenges our community still faces. For many of us, our reality as nonbinary people – those who don’t fully identify as either male or female – ensures that one of those challenges is invisibility in mainstream society and the way that invisibility impacts our health.

Most people today believe in a concept called the gender binary: the idea that there are two genders. However, the gender binary doesn’t actually capture some people’s experience of their gender.

Nonbinary is an umbrella term for anyone who identifies outside the gender binary. Under that term, people can also have other more specific identities. For instance, someone who doesn’t identify with any gender could use the term agender, while someone whose gender identity varies over time might use genderfluid.

Despite progress in recent years, queer identities are still underrepresented in media.

Most people today believe in a concept called the gender binary: the idea that there are two genders.

Only 6.4 percent of regular characters on primetime broadcast TV last year were LGBTQIA+, according to GLAAD’s annual report on LGBTQIA+ media representation, and almost none were nonbinary. We’re often left out of mainstream discussions of LGBTQIA+ rights and history. That invisibility can make it hard to feel confident in our identities.

And while some countries and American states are starting to recognize a third gender on official documents, most of the time our legal identification has a binary gender on it, meaning our government is officially pigeonholing us into an identity that doesn’t fit.

Being nonbinary means living most of your life carrying an invisible weight: you’re almost constantly misgendered, deliberately or accidentally, and faced with the many expectations society has of your perceived gender. Being misgendered can contribute to gender dysphoria – discomfort associated with being perceived or assigned a gender that is different from your identity. 

Studies show that coming out in a supportive environment is good for LGBTQIA+ people’s mental health. That makes sense: carrying a secret about your identity is definitely mentally and emotionally taxing.

And it highlights the importance of social acceptance of LGBTQIA+ identities: it directly impacts our health.

Unfortunately, ‘coming out’ can be a scary, tiring, or even dangerous process for many nonbinary people. Correcting people can be lengthy and exhausting: not only do you have to tell them what your real gender is, but you face the possibility of having to try to convince them that your gender is real.

I avoid coming out, which leads to me being misgendered and experiencing dysphoria.

I joke with friends that I feel like I needed to carry around a projector and PowerPoint presentation to make coming out as nonbinary worth the effort.

For me, the cost of being nonbinary most often comes in a weird sense of preemptive exhaustion. I sometimes choose not to come out to people because the thought of having to deconstruct their understanding of gender to explain myself is so tiring. Plus, after all that effort, they might not really understand or respect my identity.

So I avoid coming out, which leads to me being misgendered and experiencing dysphoria. This dysphoria makes me feel ill at ease in my own body, self-conscious about its shape and space it occupies, and like it somehow doesn’t fit me.

I’ve almost exclusively only come out to friends who are queer because I know their journey towards understanding themselves probably already taught them a bit about the gender binary and the fact that people can exist outside it.

A study of 900 transgender youths in Canada found that nonbinary participants struggled more with their mental health than their binary trans counterparts. A study in Europe produced similar results.

That isn’t to minimize the challenges faced by binary trans individuals; it’s just that society is gradually coming to understand trans binary identities better, while nonbinary identities remain little known or understood outside the LGBTQIA+ community. Both straight, cisgender people and LGBTQIA+ people sometimes discredit nonbinary identities as some sort of fad, despite the fact that many societies around the world had nonbinary identities long before they experienced Western colonization.

People want you to fit into the gender binary, and even strangers feel entitled to try and police you to that end.

A day after I talked with a friend about how much I wished people would stop assuming my gender when they looked at me, I was leaving my gym and a stranger on the street (probably drunk) started shouting at me, “Hey! HEY! Are you a dude or a chick? A dude or a chick? I just wanna know!”

Technically, I wanted people to recognize that I was neither a man or a woman, but the way the stranger approached me was callous, disrespectful and scary.

People want you to fit into the gender binary, and even strangers feel entitled to try and police you to that end.

Nonbinary invisibility means I have to explain my gender experience to well-meaning friends (which I don’t always mind, but again, can get tiring), but I am also hounded by strangers who think that I am not adequately performing a gender I don’t identify with.

The person who shouted at me didn’t pursue me or pose a real threat, but that was a matter of luck, not a marker of genuine safety in our society for people outside the gender binary. That stress has real costs for our mental health.

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